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Tobago's economic recovery high on Govt’s agenda
Tobago's economic recovery is high on the Government’s agenda. Finance Minister Larry Howai gave this assurance in his maiden budget presentation on October 1. The budgetary allocation for fiscal year 2012/2013 for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) was $2.356 billion-$2.006 billion was for recurrent expenditure and $350 million for capital expenditure.
Additionally, Tobago will receive $874 million under the various other heads of expenditure. Howai said in his presentation: “The Government has capitalised the loan guarantee fund for the tourism-related sector, including hotels with a room stock of under 50 rooms, with an additional $100 million with two further annual injections of $50 million.”
He said the Government was addressing the financial needs of those hotels in excess of 50 rooms and that through public-private partnerships would seek to establish 1,000 new rooms through branded hotels. Construction of a new Scarborough Market and a new plaza at Roxborough, development of library and information services at public library facilities, a $73 million allocation to continue road rehabilitation and bridge reconstruction works, construction of pavillions and the upgrade of hard courts and recreation grounds island-wide and a $28.3 million allocation for agricultural projects are some of the plans for Tobago’s development in the next fiscal year.
This was outlined in the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) 2013. Under the PSIP, the focus will be on providing appropriate and adequate facilities, equipment and amenities for agencies involved in ensuring the safety of citizens and securing the national borders.
To this end, the sum of $11 million will be invested for ongoing works by the Coast Guard, Regiment and Defence Force in Tobago to be used as follows:
*upgrade of quarters at existing Coast Guard facilities;
*preliminary work, including site surveys for the establishment of a Coast Guard base at Charlotteville; the base will be located at the 22 acres parcel of land from the Hermitage Estate;
*construction of Guard Room and canteen at Regiment facilities;
*upgrade of Defence Force Reserves’ facilities at Granwood will commence; and
*construction of a dormitory and Detachment Headquarters at Camp Signal Hill.
A total of $28.3 million was allocated for agriculture in an effort to diversify and stabilise the island’s economy. Some of the projects included improvements to beaches and landing facilities and construction of fishing centres at Delaford and Pigeon Point; construction of jetty at Roxborough, agricultural access roads, commercial tilapia/prawn production and the establishment of processing facilities for coconut, bay leaf oil and pigeon peas.
To improve the delivery of healthcare services an allocation of $27.5 million was budgeted for fiscal year 2013, of which $7 million has been provided for the following activities:
• Purchase and installation of equipment and machinery for, and refurbishment of laundry and upgrade of the Dialysis Service Department at the Scarborough Regional Hospital;
• Upgrade of the Studley Park Waste Facility;
• Expansion of the Primary Health Care Programme;
• Continuation of the Integrated Data Network to link health facilities in Tobago and;
• Purchase of additional ambulances.
Construction and restoration of several historical sites in Tobago are also aimed at boosting domestic and international tourists.
The THA received $11 million to construct barrack three and restore guard hut at Fort King George Heritage Park; to construct lifeguard towers at Grange Bay, Grafton, Store Bay, Turtle Beach and Pigeon Point; to construct new staff offices and lifeguard facilities at Pigeon Point, to install island-wide signage and to demolish and construct a new wall on Carrington Street South through the Scarborough Beautification Project.
TOP leader: Ensure value for money
Political Leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People Ashworth Jack said in a brief telephone interview that while the allocation was a sizeable amount, the island still had a lot more to do in terms of development. He said for the past ten years Tobago was not getting value for money and that there were too many cost overruns in several projects.
He said the island could do more in the areas of education, health and sports. He said regardless of which administration was in office, it needed to ensure that it did all in its power to get value for money.
THA chief secretary: It’s about prioritising
Tobago has been significantly under-funded in the 2013 budget. THA’s chief secretary Orville London said the next fiscal year will be challenging. He said Tobago received 3.99 per cent of the national budget which was less than the absolute minimum of 4.03 per cent which the island should have received by law.
“We must find funding to continue some of our projects,” London said. He gave a breakdown of what the THA had requested for certain areas:
• Housing and Settlement-$285 million-received $28 million;
• Bacolet Indoor and Aquatic Centre-$3 million-received $200,000;
• Scholarship programme-$10 million-received $200,000;
• Young Professionals Programme-$20 million-received $300,000; and
• Major projects including the Scarborough Library and Shaw Park Cultural Complex-$49 million-received $8 million
In an interview on Friday, London said, “There is significant under-funding. “Monies that you save from the recurrent budget can be used for capital expenditure the next year so we cut and contrive to realise savings under the recurrent budget and that has saved us from embarrassment.”
He said the THA has to review all of its requests and make decisions to prioritise and determine what projects can be done. “We find ourselves with projects on the books for over six or seven years,” he said. He has requested a meeting with Howai to discuss funding for several projects and also the prospect of borrowing.
He said, “As a former baker he should be aware that we do have the capacity and the financial discipline that they will allow us that flexibility ad opportunity to be in the big league. “We should be given the option to borrow.” London said the THA had an excellent and cordial relationship with Howai since the THA’s bank was First Citizens.
Howai became the chief executive officer of the First Citizens Group in 1997. London said, “We had an excellent relationship before and so our relations have been cordial.” However, he said THA was disappointed that Howai wasn’t more generous in the development areas. “We will utilise the resources we have to ensure that the development momentum continues,” he added.
London said his information on the average allocation for the period 2001 to 2013 was 4. 11 per cent but the average under the People’s Partnership was 3.98 per cent.
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