Members of the Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce say the 2019/2020 fiscal package is “Government’s ...worst budget.”
They say it lacked the “stimulation package ...necessary to take Tobago forward.”
At a press conference, just after Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented the $50.50 Billion National Budget on Monday, October 7, members of the Chamber said they needed “to clarify the figures presented on the Tobago situation.”
“What are we doing about the development of the island besides getting a cheque from Trinidad...It (budget) was a big lie low; full of air,” chairman of the Tobago Division’s Chamber Diane Hadad said.
Speaking at the meeting, Chris James, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, said the package did not contain measures to boost the island’s tourism industry which “remains in shock, having slumped over the past 10 years.”
“ We are way down on what we used to get (tourists arrivals) 10 years ago. This has been a long 10 years of a downward trend,” James said.
He said 18,000 international tourists visited Tobago last year and approximately 20,000 are expected this year.
He said the situation would have been better if the Thomas Cook winter flights had not been lost. He said the gains from the introduction of the Sunwing Airlines flights from Canada have been lost because of the cancellation of the Condor winter flights.
The tourism insider said the introduction of the Tobago Tourism Agency assisted in helping the industry but noted that the agency has been starved for funds to market Destination Tobago.
“We must ensure the agency gets the money it requested. We need to make sure they get the $140 million they need to do their marketing,” James said.
He lamented the absence of provisions for the in-transit desk at the Piarco airport to accommodate international tourists flying to Tobago.
Orwin Dillion, a farmer who also spoke at the meeting, said although the agriculture sector “is pleased with the tax-free measures to assist the agriculture sector, farmers need land.”
“My concern is for the land availability for agriculture production. It’s one thing to have the tax (incentive) but where will you implement production?” Dillion asked.
David Young, a member of the Chamber’s management committee, said more legislation is key for Tobago to develop.
“ Procurement legislation... needs to go in place... it levels the playing field and gives equity to all businesses in the country,” Wong said.