Tobago gets $3 Billion

Tobago House of Assembly.
Tobago will receive $3.309 Billion or 5.39 percent of the nation’s 2013/2014 Budget.

However, Finance Minister Larry Howai stayed clear of giving the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) approval to source funds for off budget projects such as housing which was being sought by the Assembly during its meetings with the Minister over the past month.

In an immediate response Chief Secretary Orville London who was present in the Parliament Chamber with other Secretaries to listen to the budget address expressed disappointment at this and said he was hoping that in subsequent discussions with the Minister Howai this will be achieved.

Howai also announced that the Cove Eco Business and Industrial Park will be designated a Free Zone area while the Crown Point area will be designated a Special Development Area.

The full text relating to Tobago and its development, Howai told Parliament and the nation:

Mr. Speaker, I wish now to turn to Tobago. I am pleased to acknowledge that, consistent with the provisions of the Tobago House of Assembly Act, the required budget documents were transmitted once again by the Tobago House of Assembly within the time-frame specified under the Act. I must congratulate the Chief Secretary and the Secretary of Finance for their efforts. I am also pleased to report that, subsequent to our receipt of the submissions, two consultative meetings and other discussions were held with Assembly officials in Tobago, as well as in Trinidad, regarding the Assembly’s budget proposals for fiscal 2014. We also addressed the development challenges facing Tobago over the short- to medium-term period.

Mr. Speaker, as far as the Government is concerned, the significance attached to the tourism sector in the Assembly’s proposals is not surprising, given that sector’s importance to the Tobago economy.

We are heartened by the recent indication of some recovery in the tourism sector, with respect to both domestic and foreign tourist arrivals, even though we would have been much more satisfied with a faster and more widespread turnaround in the sector. We hold strongly to the view, however, that the Central Government’s recent initiative to provide additional support to the hotel and guesthouse sub-sector, in the form of loan guarantees, will soon begin to bear fruit.

This will increase the size and quality of the room-stock on the island and protect local investors from some of the volatility that is so characteristic of the tourism sector.

We shall support the revitalisation of the Tobago economy through a broad-based approach involving:

  • the resuscitation of the tourism sector through the allocation of a further $50.0 million to the Loan Guarantee Fund which had an initial capitalisation of $100.0 million;
  • the designation of the Cove Industrial Estate as a Free Zone for an initial period of 5 years;
  • the designation of the Crown Point area as a Special Development Area in order to attract foreign direct investment; and
  • the development and expansion of the ANR Robinson International Airport in the context of a Public Private Partnership.

Mr. Speaker, Caribbean Airlines Limited and the Tobago House of Assembly are in collaboration towards ensuring that the special airlift requirements of Tobago are met in a structured and efficient manner.

The budgetary allocation for the Tobago House of Assembly for fiscal 2014 is $2.477 billion of which $2.095 billion would be for recurrent expenditure, $363.0 million for capital expenditure and $19.0 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.

Furthermore, under the various other heads of expenditure Tobago would receive an additional $831.2 million.

Mr. Speaker, in total, Tobago would receive $3.309 billion or the equivalent of 5.39 percent of the National Budget.

I am pleased to say that this represents more than the minimum 4.03 percent of the National Budget, as recommended by the Dispute Resolution Commission; and is very much in keeping with the proposals made by this Government earlier in the year, regarding an appropriate share of the budget to be allocated to Tobago.

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