A meeting was held today at the Victor E. Bruce Complex between members of the Tobago House of Assembly and members of the Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the myriad of issues facing Tobago and the economy at this time.
With very frank and honest discussions, both parties agreed that the circumstances surrounding the Tobago economy are critical and in need of urgent collaboration, in an effort to bring practical and sustainable solutions in the short, medium and long term that will ultimately assist in the recovery of the Tobago economy. Included in the areas of discussion were the following:
• Current business challenges
• Revitalizing the Tourism sector/ Health and wellness Tourism
• Resolving issues re the Land License
• Safety and Security in Tobago
• Remuneration to suppliers
• Inter-island travel
• Cabo Star
Economist Dr. Vanus James was invited by the Chamber to make a presentation that addressed (in part) Tobago’s current business climate. Dr. James revealed some possible solutions to treat with the growing economic decline on the island. Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has given his commitment to explore the proposed solutions. It was agreed that a joint committee will be set up comprising THA and Chamber representatives to explore the solutions.
With regard to the way forward concerning the sea-bridge, the meeting agreed with the Chief Secretary’s proposal to have a joint committee comprising THA and Chamber representatives, to meet with Ministry of Works and Transport and the Port Authority regarding the operations. Additionally, it was unanimously agreed that the conditions of the Cabo Star are untenable and as a result, a vociferous call is being made on the authorities to desist from renewing the contract of the Cabo Star.
The Chief Secretary gave the assurance that following discussions he held with Airports Authority, CAL, PTSC, the Minister of Works and Transport and the Minister of Finance, closing hours of the ANR Robinson International Airport will remain between 1.30 a.m. and 5.45 a.m. until further notice.
On the issue of safety and security in Tobago, the Chief Secretary assured the meeting that he meets frequently with the TTPS and this has resulted in the posting of twenty extra police officers to the Tobago Division. He also noted that Senior Superintendent Joanne Archie recently commended the Tobago Division on the recent firearm seizures. The Chief Secretary has indicated that he intends to hold further talks with the Minister of National Security with regard to securing Tobago’s borders.
The meeting was updated by Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, Nadine Stewart-Phillips on the ‘’Three Year Road Map for Growth”, while Secretary of Health Wellness and Family Development Agatha Carrington gave updates on plans to encourage Health Tourism in Tobago, which included proposals for a Cancer Treatment Centre and a Stroke and Diabetes Centre.
With regard to the ongoing challenges of untimely remuneration to suppliers, both Secretary of Finance and the Economy, Joel Jack and Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, have made a commitment to ensure that upgrades to the accounting and payment systems of the THA are completed in a timely manner, to alleviate the existing tedious process that currently contributes to late payments.
Secretary Jack updated the meeting that with regard to the Land License challenges, the issue is currently being addressed by the Minister of Finance and his ministry and further updates will be provided by the end of March 2018.
The meeting concluded with both parties agreeing that it was important to have ongoing collaboration and communication between the THA and the Chamber, in an effort to restore Tobago to a level of normalcy (economically).