The internationally recognised and prestigious Moody’s Investors Service has assigned issuer ratings of Baa 1 (Global scale, local currency) to the Tobago House of Assembly. It also indicated that the outlook on the ratings is stable.
This was disclosed by THA Chief Secretary Orville London at a media briefing on Monday (12th November 2012) at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex. He said the rating to the THA was the first such “sub-sovereign” rating to be issued in the English-speaking Caribbean and was the same as that for Trinidad and Tobago.
Moody’s noted in a press release at the weekend that the THA’s financial performance was “relatively strong, in part due to the institutional constraints regarding debt issuance”, which included self-imposed limits, undertaken by the current administration, on the maximum share of the annual recurrent expenditures of the Assembly to be absorbed by interest and principal payments.
London said an Executive Council decision currently set this share at ten per cent, well below established international norms of 30 per cent or higher; and demonstrated the prudence with which the administration had managed Tobago’s financial affairs.
He recalled that about six months ago the Assembly started discussions with Moody’s with a view to having the rating. He said the exercise was a very rigorous process which stretched the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development to the limit.
Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Dr Anselm London noted that “this is a red letter day for Tobago” and said the result will be shared with the Central Government.
Chief Secretary London said this was all in keeping with where the THA wanted to go and where it wanted to take Tobago, it cannot be asking about autonomy except it was in a position where it can stand up to scrutiny locally, regionally and internationally. “I think that this particular rating has sent a very powerful signal that the THA is in fact conducting its affairs in accordance with established international policy and international procedures and international parameters,” London said.
London said the rating cannot be seen in isolation, it has to be related to the THA and Tobago’s position in relation to the relationship between Tobago and Trinidad and also to the definition of what is Tobago. He added: “I see this as a very important development, I see this as something in which Tobagonians can take comfort, but I also see it as a challenge for us to use this as a basis to continue to assert our autonomy, to continue to be more self reliant, to continue to be even more self-confident, to continue to place ourselves in a position where the concept of good governance is paramount in our deliberation and in our decision-making process.
Asked whether the last Auditor General’s report on the finances of the Assembly had any bearing on the Moody’s rating London stressed that at no time did the Auditor General refer to missing funds but missing warrants which were later found and reported on.
He said it was time those who were impartial checked the Auditor General’s report against the report of the issues raised in that report, both of which were tabled in the House of Assembly and also the Auditor General’s Report on the ministries in Trinidad to see whether there was anything that could have placed the THA in the position in which it had been placed.