The issues faced by Tobago are solvable with a shift in mindset toward positivity and productivity.
That’s the view of Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles during yesterday’s (June 27) budget debate at the Assembly Chamber in Scarborough.
“The people of Tobago have it within themselves to rise to the occasion and to treat with the issues that confront us,” Charles said at the debate, which followed Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack’s budget request for Fiscal 2017-2018 last Thursday (June 22).
The budget was themed “Unleashing the creative and productive capacity of our people”.
Charles said that within Tobagonians there are “attributes of industry, of resilience, of honesty, capacity for hard work, self-reliance, and a sense of independence,” which are prerequisites to surmounting the challenges the island faces.
In addition, the Chief Secretary, who came into office earlier this year, earmarked the “potential” of the Studley Park Quarry for development.
“Given its current configuration and method of operation, it will never operate at the level that is required,” he stated, adding that the quarry currently operates “in a sub-optimal manner.”
Charles also refuted the suggestion by Minority Leader Watson Duke that the quarry is going to be privatised.
“Consistent with our plans going forward, the decision would have been taken, to set up a special purpose company… a special purpose company under the purview of auspices of the Tobago House of Assembly,” he explained.
Regarding the sea bridge, Charles indicated that two vessels—a passenger/cargo vessel and a dedicated cargo ship—are being secured for the route. He said an agreement for a cargo vessel has already been reached.
“From day one, the position has always been that there will be a short-term arrangement (for the cargo vessel) to be followed by a longer-term arrangement. And the longer-term arrangement will relate to the purchase of a new boat.”
He added: “An agreement has been reached, due diligence has been concluded, and all that remains to be done is that the contract has to be executed. The light is at the end of the tunnel.”
The fiscal 2018 expenditure estimates for Tobago include a development request of $1.7 billion and recurrent estimates of $ 3.2 billion, totaling $4.91 billion.