The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) plans to request a meeting with Finance Minister Larry Howai to discuss Tobago’s $2.356B allocation in the 2013 Budget.
Chief Secretary Orville London said the request will be made following the debate of the budget in both Houses of Parliament.
In the meantime, he said, Secretaries and the Assistant Secretary will meet to discuss the various allocations to their Divisions.
London said in an interview that the Assembly was allocated $2.06B for recurrent expenditure and $350M for development and noted that the Assembly would have requested a development budget of $1.721B which was about 20 per cent of what it received.
He said he wanted the people of Tobago to put this allocation in context and did not want to get into any argument with the Central government. He added: “It did what it supposed to do by law but we in Tobago have got to understand that if you are playing in the big league you have to be able to manage as if you are playing in the big league so that in those circumstances you have to take responsibility to manage the development of Tobago with the limited resources.”
The Tobago Chief Secretary said there was no major project in Tobago for which the THA would have not even received 50 per cent and in most cases not even 20 per cent of what was requested.
Giving some examples of the allocations received for projects he said it was important that “we understand this so that people would know how daunting the challenges we face in order to institute and implement development in Tobago. We do not sit on our hands, we now have to take this information and be able to treat with it in a manner that the major projects will continue and reach fruition and therefore what we do is to make some hard decisions”.
London said there were certain projects which cannot be done so that all the money would be pooled for use in priority projects.
He said he agreed with Minority Leader Ashworth Jack that the Assembly did not spend not spend all the money it received. “Of course we cannot spend all the money because if we spend the money from the previous year it means that major projects would stall in the year after,” he said.
He added that according to the THA Act money that was not utilised in the current year can be utilised for capital projects the next year. “We try to ensure that we do not spend all the money especially under the recurrent and that money becomes available to us for capital projects because we know as a matter of fact that based on all that has happened in the past, we know that we are going to be inadequately funded where our major development projects are concerned.”
London said it was because of that prudent management why the Assembly has reasonable assurance that regardless of what happened it would be able to complete the library, cultural complex, build some houses, pay bills, complete community centres, continue work on the roads, do all the planned infrastructural works and construct the Scarborough RC School.
He said he wanted to put Tobago on notice that there were certain projects which have now been jeopardised among them the aquatic and indoor sporting complex, the Scarborough Market, the Roxborough Administrative Complex and the educational administrative building for which discussions were taking place with consultants to have a BOLT arrangement. However, he said the consultants have now become quite concerned about the kind of negative statements that were emanating from Tobago. “That concern is spreading through the financial sector. Ironically it is spreading at a time when Tobago’s stature in the financial sector has been improving,” London said.