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Analysts welcome self-govt for Tobago
Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath supports the idea of self-government for Tobago, but warns that transparency and accountability must be paramount. In a telephone interview yesterday, Ragoonath said it is a very good idea for Tobago to attain self-governance, which he said means that the Tobago House of Assembly would now have the authority to make policy decisions and will gain more autonomy in its decision-making processes in governing the island.
He said with self-government there will still be limits, as the central government in Port-of-Spain, in some instances, may still have the political power. However, Ragoonath said self-governance must be managed properly and there must be a greater accountability for how state funds would be used.
A realistic model
Meanwhile economist Indera Sagewan-Alli said self-governance for Tobago “cannot happen in a vacuum.” “While I agree that Tobago should have a stronger say, the model for self-governance must be carefully designed and implemented. “It must also be realistic, which is imperative for sustainable growth,” she said.
Sagewan-Alli said it was very instructive that the announcement by Tobago Organisation of the People leader Ashworth Jack for full self-government came on the heels of an election in Tobago due by January 2013. She advised that good governance must take precedence over political manoeuvering.
Sagewan-Alli said the ultimate objective is to enhance the island’s competitiveness, which must be the driving force with respect to how Tobago governs itself. She said the country’s ability to improve on its competitiveness could be affected by several issues. The right to determine policy must be matched with sufficient resources to implement those policies, Sagewan-Alli said.
“You can’t have one without the other or there would be just policy on paper alone,” she pointed out. On some level Tobago must have the capacity to implement and this requires resources, she stated. “Tobago is a small country compared to what its needs are on an annual basis. So are they going to consider subvention? And if so, the issue of efficiency is a major factor.”
She said Tobagonians still have to deal with accessing basic services such as health and education in Trinidad and not to mention its cost of living is higher. But Sagewan-Alli said if Tobago’s infrastructure and social needs are managed separately from Trinidad, she cautioned that there might be duplication in terms of administration, which would lead to increased costs.
“We would be immediately pushing up the cost of doing business, which would impact both islands’ competitiveness. We have to focus on how we reposition the country to be able to take advantage of the trade that is opening up.” She also questioned if there would be a synchronisation of policy between Trinidad and Tobago.
“There are several issues that require clarification in order to make an informed judgment about Tobago attaining self-governance. There are many variables that are uncertain that are still up for discussion,” she said. Sagewan-Alli said there must be a clearer model of this self-governance.
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