THA Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Dr Anslem London on Tuesday (June 21 2011) presented a $3.9 Billion Budget to the House of Assembly to be spent on the governance of Tobago in 2012.
Of this amount $1,666,943,400 is for the development programme and $2,104,240,373 for personnel expenditure, goods and services, minor equipment purchases and current transfers and subsidies in addition to $88,335,472 for URP and $36,000,000 for CEPEP. Total revenue to be collected in 2012 was estimated to be $139.9 million from taxes on income and profits, taxes on property, taxes on goods and services, taxes on international trade and other non tax sources.
In presenting the Budget with the theme “Protecting Tobago’s Heritage”, Dr London said the proposed gross amount of expenditures will likely fall well within the Dispute Resolution Commission’s 4.03 per cent to 6.9 per cent share of the national budget that will be submitted by the Finance Minister later this year. The Assembly has until June 30 to submit its budget proposals to the Finance Minister for inclusion in the national budget. Minority Leader Ashworth Jack will kick off the budget debate on Friday at 10 a.m.
He noted that although the Central Government did not release the $8 million approved by parliament for the 1011 CEPEP programme he had included funding of $36 million for the programme in fiscal 2012, while the $83.1 million requested for 2011 in the light of election promises, only $17 million was allocated, but he was requesting $83.3 million in 2012.
Dr London noted that financing of the expenditures of the THA cannot be divorced from the constitutional discussions in which the island was currently engaged. “Put simply,” he added, “a redefinition of Tobago, to include its true economic space, as defined by international norms, would significantly enhance Tobago’s revenue generating capacity.
“Indeed, with Tobago appropriately defined, this island would be in a position to contribute more to Trinidad and Tobago and even help the island of Trinidad, if circumstances so deemed,” Dr London said.
He urged the Prime Minister and her Cabinet to come to terms with the fact that there was a different political party in governance in Tobago, just as Tobago has recognised the change in Trinidad. “As a first step, the Central Government’s disrespect for this island, its people, its institutions, its culture and its traditions must stop,” he stressed.
Dr London also called on all Tobagonians, including the Minority Leader to set aside, if only for the time being, whatever political differences that may exist between them to take the high road of magnanimity and statesmanship; to join in a unanimous call for an end to the disrespect of Tobago; and so permit them to speak with one Tobago voice, in respect of these budget estimates that provide a foundation in which Tobago’s heritage can be preserved, enriched and protected for future generations.
He said: “Beyond economics and beyond finance, what we have seen over the past year is a deliberate calculated effort by the UNC-led Central Government coalition, of which the Minority in this House is a part, to disrespect, denigrate and destroy the people of Tobago, their culture and their institutions. The aim is to emasculate Tobago and colonise our homeland, in exchange for lavish cocktail receptions at public expense; photo opportunities at every turn; hampers for every occasion; and vacuous statements of support on the one hand, while they endeavour to destroy the ethos by which the people of this island have conducted their affairs for generations.”
Highlights of the recurrent expenditure being requested include $844 million to be paid to Assembly employees in wages and benefits, a $80 million enhanced tourism rolling plan with increased resources for marketing, a school feeding programme of $30.3 million and providing some 14,650 meals on a daily basis to primary and secondary school children.