THA adjusting to economic difficulties

The Tobago House of Assembly has met to reprioritise its projects in the wake of a seven per cent decrease in its parliamentary allocation for Fiscal 2016.

Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Assemblyman Joel Jack revealed yesterday that the Assembly’s overall allocation will be reduced by $192.416 million to $2.556 billion due to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s directive to cut allocations to all government Ministries and the Assembly.

“Today the Assembly met to reprioritise its projects and activities,” Jack said at Wednesday’s (January 6, 2016) weekly post Executive Council media briefing. “These are at present being reviewed, which could result in the postponement of projects pending identification of funding.”

Jack said he was not entirely surprised by Dr Rowley’s recent statement on the country’s current economic situation and the adjustments it requires. He added: “We in Tobago are not oblivious to what is required from all of us in these challenging economic times and we are prepared to do our part in helping our country respond and treat with our current economic circumstances.”

He said the Assembly will lead the way by reducing expenditure and enforcing greater expenditure controls. The THA will also take steps to enhance its revenue while continuing its economic diversification efforts. The Assembly will also stimulate the construction sector, strengthen its economic management and establish a Tobago Stabilisation Fund.

To complement the expenditure reductions, Jack said, the Assembly will intensify its efforts to upgrade its accounting systems. This measure, together with the move to give the Chief Administrator the authority to issue an executive order to improve and streamline the procurement processes across the Assembly, will help provide greater value for money.

The Assembly will also explore the possibility of implementing user fees for some of the island’s tourist attractions, starting at Fort King George.

Jack said the tourism sector in Tobago has a critical role to play in any national diversification strategy and will continue to provide the necessary support to improve the quality of the tourism product and to boost arrivals in Tobago. An accelerated housing programme will also stimulate the construction and other sectors.

He added that the THA will minimise the impact of revenue cuts on employment, and continue to support social programmes for the most vulnerable citizens.

And again, he reiterated the importance of Tobagonians contributing to the island’s productivity by providing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

“All of us should be prepared to point out and prevent wrongdoing wherever it occurs; all of us must collaborate in nurturing that environment in which productivity and ‘delivery with integrity’ govern our decisions and our actions,” Jack said.

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