Five government ministers spent yesterday (Wednesday 22nd February 2012) in a closed door meeting with officials of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) headed by Chief Secretary Orville London to discuss the way forward for Tobago’s economy.
Finance Minister Winston Dookeran who led the government team told a media briefing at the Coco Reef Resort that some time ago it was agreed that there was the urgent need for consultations among stakeholders especially in the present economic circumstances. He added that Tobago was linked very deeply with the Trinidad economy and when “we talk about Tobago we talk about the economy of Trinidad and Tobago”.
He said the long awaited meeting discussed a number of issues to arrive at an action plan which would come with immediate steps that would attempt to alleviate the number issues facing the Tobago economy at this point in time.
“We do so against the background of a need for the deepening of the dialogue and a paradigm shift in thinking with respect to Tobago’s development. Those paradigm shifts are reflected in our view that we must redirect the Tobago’s development from being a status approach to one that is market driven, and secondly one that is within to one which exploits the global opportunities available to it in the new world in which we live.” Dookeran said.
The Finance Minister said the meeting looked at five areas that included a strategy to de-risk the financing of the Tobago tourism industry and in so doing to sharing the risk between the private sector and the public sector; the synergy that was required in the planning process; the airlift and the marketing strategy for which action was required; and the foreign investment environment and how to move from a system that was going to allow predictability on the one hand and ensure that speculation does not arise.
Dookeran said a technical team was appointed to determine a specific action plan based on the discussions to agree on what can be dealt with immediately, while addressing the need for information as well as for a new perspective in order to shape the future development of Tobago in the context of Trinidad and Tobago’s development.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London said the discussions basically dealt with issues at two levels, an urgent or survival level and a developmental level, recognising that there had to be a relationship between what was needed to be done in the short term and how that was linked to the medium and long term initiative.
London, whose administration has a fighting battle with Caribbean Airlines over insufficient international services to Tobago said the Assembly has been having a long standing challenge with the airline and its commitment to the development of Tobago and its very critical role in ensuring that Tobago’s welfare and by extension the welfare of the rest of the country was paramount in its decision-making process. “We got the consensus around the table that that is an issue we have to treat urgently and decisively,” he added.
Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz told reporters that one of the issues affecting the economic development of Tobago was the lack of investment in the island. He said one of the ways to raise the level of investment and attract investment was the government loan guarantee to kick start the construction of high quality hotel rooms since Tobago was short of these by some 1,500.
Planning and Economy Minister Dr Bhoe Tiwari disclosed that approval had been granted to a group of investors to develop a multi faceted project at King’s Bay in east Tobago.
Participating in the discussions were THA Finance Secretary Dr Anselm London and Tourism and Transportation Secretary Oswald Williams while Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and Minister in the Finance Ministry Dr Delmon Baker.