Starting today until January 22, the day before the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, the Sunday Guardian will be featuring the four political leaders who are vying to become the Chief Secretary of the institution, which will be holding its tenth poll since the THA's first election was held on November 24, 1980.
Orville London, who is the outgoing Chief Secretary, was first elected in 2001, which was the first time the People's National Movement won the THA elections.
On top of the agenda for Tobago Forwards' political leader, Christlyn Moore is building over 800 homes for Tobagonians.
This is if she and her party win the hearts of Tobagonians to lead the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in its upcoming election on January 23.
Moore, a former justice minister under the People's Partnership and a practising attorney for over 20 years, told the Sunday Guardian it is the plan of her party to build homes using the Public Private Partnership model in the first term.
She said: "The top of my agenda and that of the Tobago Forwards is to stimulate the Tobago economy through Public Private Partnership initiatives in the housing sector."
She identified places such as Bethel, Castara, Parlatuvier and Adelphi Estate for the construction of houses.
Asked what were three of the biggest challenges facing the island and its people, Moore said they were housing, sustainable jobs/wages, and a lack of economic activity on the island, particularly in the tourism sector.
She said: "With regard to housing, there are currently 7,000 applicants for government housing but only 350 units built over the last 16 years. Even with this inadequate number of state-built houses, distribution has been fraught with irregularities, favouritism, nepotism and membership in the ruling political party, and not distribution according to need."
She said many Tobagonians were locked into low-wage, make-work programmes which barely provided a living wage. These programmes, she said had no job security, no paid sick leave, no vacation leave, no maternity leave and no pension or gratuity.
"In fact, a job letter is not even available to allow employees to access hire purchase or a bank loan," she added.
Regarding tourism on the island, she said it had "crashed."
Moore said even though $500 million had been spent on marketing of Tobago as a tourism destination, international arrivals were down by 80 per cent, notwithstanding growth in the sector in the Caribbean by seven per cent.
Cruise ship arrivals, according to Moore, has fallen significantly, while occupancy was down to 41 per cent. She said occupancy in the rest of the Caribbean was 69 per cent.
"In the high season this year, Tobago hotels were at under ten per cent occupancy."
Moore's plans to
She is hoping that the housing programme, along with the party's blueprint for tourism, agriculture, and fisheries will significantly improve Tobago's contribution to GDP.
She said from a tourism standpoint, getting it right" and resuscitating the industry will result in an increase in foreign exchange.
"Our proposal in this regard includes community-based tourism, the cataloguing and maintaining of all local sites and attractions, incentives for the improvement of rooms, mandatory adherence to set standards of hotel operation, and a room licensing regime."
She said it was also time for private sector involvement in the management of the marketing of 'Destination Tobago.'
Her party, she said, has proposed a new Tobago Marketing Committee comprised of private sector and THA participants.
On issues like agriculture and fishing, Moore said when provided with a sustainable environment, they will also make a mark on GDP.
She said, "We propose to create this environment by among other things by guaranteeing a market via a working marketing board, for all agricultural and fish produce so that our fisherfolk and farmers can concentrate on their true profession and not have to also look for markets or worry about distribution."
She added that the party will look into the identification and distribution of lands for agricultural use from among the 35 estates currently held unused by the THA and the installing of agricultural access roads and water where lands were not close to streams.
"We also propose the establishment of the Tobago Institute of Technical Marine Education, a Caribbean education centre dedicated all matters relating to seafaring and fishing including to seine repair and construction, boat building, engine repair, shipwright, propeller shaft calibration, as well as to ensure that all fishing villages are provisioned with appropriate ancillary facilities like cold storage, washrooms and lockers," she said.
1. Christlyn Moore - Tobago Forwards;
2. Kelvin Charles - People's National Movement;
3. Watson Duke - Progressive Democratic Patriots; and
4. Eudine Job-Davis - Movement for Transformation.
Tobago's 12 Electoral Districts:
1. Bacolet/Mount St George
2. Belle Garden/Goodwood
3. Bethel/Mt Irvine
4. Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden
5. Buccoo/Mount Pleasant
6. Canaan/Bon Accord
7. Lambeau/Signal Hill
8. Parlatuvier/ L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside
9. Plymouth/Golden Lane
10. Providence/ Mason Hall/Moriah
12. Scarborough/ Calder Hall
According to the 2011 census, the island's population was 60,874.