A special sitting of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will be held on Thursday (24th October 2013) to discuss the $2.477 billion parliamentary allocation in the Central Government’s $60.3 billion national budget.
It will be the first such sitting of the Assembly since its inception in 1980 and all Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries will speak on their areas of responsibility. In the past the Tobago budget would be presented to the Assembly and debated by the end of June before sending it to the Finance Minister. There was no post budget debate on the actual allocation.
This year Tobago requested $4.95 billion of which $1.98 billion was for its development programme and $70 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).
However, Finance Minister Larry Howai allocated $2.477 billion which was half of the Assembly’s request and 4.03 per cent of the national budget comprising $2,095 billion for recurrent expenditure, $363 million for capital expenditure and $19 million for URP.
Chief Secretary Orville London said in a statement that despite the 50 per cent shortfall in its request there were 19 priority projects which the Assembly was committed to fund in fiscal 2014.
The Chief Secretary reiterated his assurance that the Assembly will continue to pursue policies, enhance the quality of life of the residents, protect the most vulnerable sectors in the society and facilitate the development of individuals and communities, and strengthen the island’s economy.
London and Secretary of Finance Joel Jack have been meeting with various stakeholders including the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Tobago District Agriculture Society, Tobago Youth Council, the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association and Tobago-based trade unions to discuss the revised budget to be presented on Thursday.(24th October 2013)
The two also met Howai last Friday to discuss the allocation, financing options for the funding gap and the increasing need for data on economic activities in Tobago. Howai said in a statement that he used the opportunity to “reaffirm my belief that Trinidad depends on Tobago just as much as Tobago depends on Trinidad”.
Howai added: “Our partnership is equal and therefore the THA can be confident that its objectives for development are high on the Government’s agenda.”
The Finance Minister said he welcomed the Chief Secretary’s suggestion that Public Private Partnerships could be considered and disclosed that he had assigned a team from the Ministry of Finance to assist the Assembly in developing specific projects that could be considered under such an agenda.