Tobago Economic and Business Outlook Conference

THA Chief Secretary Orville London delivering the opening address at the Seventh Annual Tobago Economic and Business Outlook Conference at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, Lowlands, Tobago on Tuesday. Photos courtesy THA.
Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Orville London has stressed that the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago must be fixed.

“We must bring satisfactory closure to this tedious and frustrating process that consumes valuable time and effort that can be better spent advancing our development agenda” he told the opening of the Seventh Annual Tobago Economic and Business Outlook Conference on Tuesday.

He said in Tobago itself, there was need for greater democratisation, an ongoing process to which the Executive Council has given its full commitment.

London said the Assembly has sought to encourage and facilitate, as far as possible, a shift from the dominant state influence on the economy in Tobago, adding that it was unhealthy for political, social and economic development, as events in Greece, Ireland and Spain so starkly demonstrated.

He said government’s involvement in the housing market was even held liable for the financial meltdown that commenced in the United States in 2008 and even more debilitating for the economy was the drag on productivity caused by the non-tradable goods produced by this sector and the consequent sub-optimal performance of the economy.

“The challenge, therefore, is how we surmount these difficulties in an environment where it is necessary to have appropriate policies to address the dysfunctional elements but we do not have the authority and power to affect them, either nationally or internationally,” he added.

The conference was held at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort as part of Finance Week organised by the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development. Some of the speakers were Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Joel Jack; Professor Compton Bourne, Executive Director, Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance; Dr Shelton Nicholls, former deputy governor of the T&T Central Bank; Michelle Cross-Fenty, IDB Country Representative; Dr Ralph Henry, Chairman, Kairi Consultants; and Dr Sherma Roberts, Tourism Lecturer at UWI Cave Hill Campus.

London said in looking at Tobago one saw an island of tremendous natural beauty, rich in resources that had the potential to contribute significantly to the overall development of the twin island republic.

“The very definition of what is Tobago is one of the critical uncertainties with which we have to deal.  Is it defined by the six mile radius, eight miles, ten miles or is it the full extent of the boundaries that it brings to the republic as a constituent part of the state. The definition of the area that constitutes Tobago’s contribution to the national well-being is critical to determining its share of the national pie and the growth path on which it will embark.

“The hydrocarbon industry has been the backbone of economic development of the nation and Tobago’s true geographic boundaries has made it a substantial contributor. However, if we go by official Government accounting only the in-shore areas of Tobago within the six miles are considered Tobago, so we can arrive at the erroneous figure of 1% as the contribution of Tobago to the national coffers from the petroleum industry. Our figures are vastly different and we would engage the relevant authorities and institutions in further discourse to determine acceptable criteria to evaluate Tobago’s real contribution to the national pie,” London said.

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