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20 BUDGET STATEMENT 2023/2024 Part 1

Leader of Assembly   Business.

Thank you, Madam   Presiding Officer.

As a preacher of the gospel, I know that sometimes when   you preach, if you cannot say ‘amen’, you say ‘ouch’. That is for the   Minority.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the vision and commitment of my   Administration is to make Tobago ‘the greatest little island on the planet’.   As difficult as it may seem, I am confident that if we work together and work   in unison, putting our hands to the plough as one Tobago, as aptly depicted   on the cover of the page of this Budget Statement, the vision can be   achieved. What is required, is for us to coalesce around the values, principles and qualities that define and distinguish us as Tobagonians. This will allow us to harvest our inner strength as a people, to successfully overcome the challenges we are confronted with, to grasp the opportunities that will come as we will develop, and it will prevent us from ‘selling out’ to a political party in Trinidad.

    Madam Presiding Officer, this year, the Budget is deliberately themed “Building a Sustainable, Prosperous and Resilient Tobago”. This theme was chosen because of the critical and urgent need to reset, refocus and reinvigorate the island’s development efforts. In proceeding in this way, we must immediately de-projectize our approach to development and focus instead on building the institutional ecosystem and governance framework that will deliver sustainability, prosperity and resilience. This approach to development, is based on the simple but profound fact that development is driven by the quality of our governing institutions.

     My fellow Tobagonians - Tobagonians living abroad; Tobagonians by blood; Tobagonians by residency and Tobagonians by love, let us therefore focus on strengthening our institutions of governance and lay the foundation on which we will build a Sustainable, Prosperous and a Resilient Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, with that said, let me thank the Members of this House and the listening public, for journeying with me today. I hope that the essence of this presentation will ignite our passion, power our collective efforts and catalyze the development of our beloved island.

BE IT RESOLVED that this House approve the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure respecting all functions of the Tobago House of Assembly for the financial year October 01, 2023 to September 30, 2024, copies of which will be laid on the table at a later stage of the proceedings.”

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

I beg to move.

Members, the Chief Secretary is still making his presentation. You are guided by Standing Order 44. Continue.

1.30 P.M

Some of us do not seem to understand this. Many of us like to profess our love for this island, but the behaviour of some leads me to question their love for Tobago. If we truly love and care about Tobago and Tobagonians, we will not allow narrow, partisan political interests and selfish personal agendas to trump the interests of Tobago. [Desk thumping] [Interruption

1.20 P.M

It is my hope that the Minister of Finance will recognize and appreciate the importance of the proposed body of development works and provide for a more meaningful allocation consistent with the needs identified.

Further in Fiscal 2024, we intend to spend ninety-two point zero seven million dollars ($92.07m) and forty-four point four seven million dollars ($44.47m) for the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) respectively. These figures are programmed based on the increases in salaries for the workers in these programmes.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now present the financing options. For Fiscal 2024, the estimates of tax and non-tax revenues are as follows:

  • Taxes on income and profits - $ 132.25m;

  • Taxes on property - $5m;

  • Taxes on Goods and Services - $65.86m;

  • Taxes on International Trade - 2.7m;

  • Other taxes - $4.1 m;

Total tax revenue - $209.91 m - and that is taxes collected in Tobago.


  • Property income tax - $0.09m;

  • Other non-tax revenue - $ 1.45m;

  • Total non-tax revenue - $1.54m, with total revenue through taxes - $211.45m.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the total revenue projected to be collected in Tobago for fiscal 2024, is two hundred and eleven point four five million dollars ($211.45m).

    It must be noted here, that the revenue projections above do not represent Tobago’s true revenue-generating capacity. As you know, several entities are operating in Tobago and are illegally paying their taxes in Trinidad, notwithstanding the dictates of the law. This is in direct contravention of 49 (2) of the THA Act 40 of 1996, which requires that those institutions with subsidiaries operating in Tobago should pay the subsidiary taxes in Tobago. This situation must be comprehensively addressed in any constitutional and legislative upgrade designed to afford Tobago’s true Internal Self-Government.

    For instance, Madam Presiding Officer, (and I wish the Minority Leader was in the House for this) the Government of Trinidad and Tobago receives revenues from oil and gas exploration from four revenue streams - royalties; a supplementation petroleum tax; the petroleum profit tax and the unemployment levy.

     The revenue derived from oil and gas exploration amounts to about twenty-five percent (25%) of all oil and gas revenues. Using a rough estimate of twenty-five percent (25%), the revenue derived from the calypso field alone and which is in Tobago waters - let me say it loudly for those on the other side who do not know geography - the revenue derived from the calypso field alone and which is in Tobago waters, will put approximately nineteen billion dollars ($19b) into the Treasury of Trinidad and Tobago in the current fiscal year, based on our technical calculations. This is exactly what we mean when we stated above, that the two hundred and eleven million ($21 Im) collected in Tobago does not represent Tobago’s true generating capacity. [Desk thumping] When their numbskull friends down in the other place make it look as if Tobagonians are beggars and that we do not contribute meaningfully to the national purse, please point them to just one (1) alone, the calypso field, and show them that we are dignified contributors to the national economy.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Assembly has continued its engagement with various multilateral agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to access grant funding, loans and technical support for some of our infrastructure projects.

     In this regard, discussions continued with the Inter-American Development Bank for a repurposing of the Scarborough Renewal Programme and Riseland Housing Development. Additionally, this Administration continues to hold discussions and work with the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the Ministry of Finance to draw down the one hundred million dollars ($ 100m) that has been approved for coastal protection and restoration works on the island.

    Madam Presiding Officer, to drive our foreign direct investment strategy, this Administration has taken the policy decision to develop and publish a comprehensive prospectus that will highlight all of the available investment opportunities on the island, and the approximate timelines to obtain the required statutory approvals. This arrangement will make it easier for foreign investors to do business in Tobago. We are opening up Tobago for business. Let today’s budget presentation serve as a public notice, that we are calling investors far and wide to come and do business with the THA and Tobago’s private sector. We have received a few exciting and promising expressions of interest from the investors with whom we are working.

     Madam Presiding Officer, our diaspora investment strategy remains active. In this regard, we have completed the engineering and designing of our online diaspora registration platform as presented above. This platform will be the main vehicle by which members of the diaspora are targeted and encouraged to invest in their homeland.

Madam Presiding Officer, to continue to treat with our budgetary constraints, we will creatively and judiciously utilize the design, build, finance modalities to execute some of our housing development projects, as well as other major public infrastructure works.

     Long-term borrowing: Madam Presiding Officer, it has been said repeatedly in this Honourable House over the years, that the THA’s budget is significantly underfunded, especially as it relates to its Development Programmes. The cottage industry development budget that is allocated annually to Tobago will certainly not allow us to modernize and upgrade the island’s infrastructure. In the face of this debilitating reality, this Administration has been actively exploring the option of utilizing E-IDCOT to engage in long-term borrowing to fund critical infrastructure projects on the island. We are open to discussing this and any other viable option with the Central Government.

     Arrears of previous years: Madam Presiding Officer, as I indicated earlier, the THA is owed one hundred and fifty-two million dollars ($152m) in arrears from approved parliamentary allocations from fiscal 2017-2022, as well as an additional fifty-three million dollars ($53m) from the 2023 mid-year review in keeping with the Dispute Resolution Commission’s recommendations. I am again calling on the Central Government and in particular, the Prime Minister in this one instance, to mind Tobago’s business and to give the monies owed to us [Desk thumping]

  Madam Presiding Officer, as I conclude today’s presentation, please permit me to leave you with a few parting words. Allow me to share some reflections on where our beloved island is along the development curve, and the structural issues that we must collectively respond to. Tobago is our island - we live here, we work here and we play here, and most of us will die here

12.50 P.M

Therefore, let me take this opportunity to invite all of Tobago to come out and support the games and display our sweet Tobago love and hospitality. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to look at our strategy for infrastructure development, and to also take a drink of water. [Laughter]

    Madam Presiding Officer, early in our first year in office, we completed a reconnaissance and an assessment of our road networks, coastal and terrestrial retaining structures, and our drainage systems. What we have found was that the infrastructure generally speaking, outlived its useful life cycle, particularly design standards that were not aligned to changing climatic conditions. We also discovered significant deficits in our infrastructure requirements.

    Our initial assessment led to a two-fold response strategy, including the upgrade of maintaining existing infrastructure works where necessary, while at the same time executing new projects based on new environmental realities and requirements.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the response to our infrastructure challenges has been further exacerbated by the damage caused to road network and retaining systems in the North-east of the island by the unusual levels of rainfall in the latter part of 2022.

     Fixing Tobago’s infrastructure deficit is a multi-year, multi¬dimensional and multigenerational undertaking. Notwithstanding, this Administration recognizes the importance of green, modern and resilient infrastructure as a necessary prerequisite to stimulating economic activities, social development, safety and the general enhancement of the life of Tobagonians. Therefore, we must develop our infrastructure and do so at a scale and rate that can quickly (not slowly) transform the Tobago economy.

In Fiscal 2024, the Administration proposes to:

  • accelerate the restoration and upgrade of the island’s road network that was damaged by the unusually high levels of rainfall in the latter part of 2022. Some of the places where major works are scheduled to be done under this programme are: Bad Rock - that is in Belle Garden; the Roxborough

  • Bloody Bay Road, the Castara Road and the Charlotteville/ L’Anse Fourmi link road;

  • (No fault of mine that most of these are in my district).

  • The Division would:

  • conduct coastal protection and restoration works at Grange Bay, Black Rock; Pigeon Point, Crown Point; Lambeau and Roxboro ugh;

  • upgrade the drainage infrastructure in areas prone to flooding such as Carnbee, Lowlands, Canaan/Crown Point and Scarborough;

  • resurface and upgrade works to primary and secondary roads across the island;

  • accelerate work on the Friendship Bypass Road and the Bon Accord to Pigeon Point Road, which are critical to treat with growing traffic congestion in the Canaan/Bon Accord and Crown Point areas;

  • commence pre-construction works on the Scarborough Development Project, which will include overtime, a modern cruise port, an administrative complex, a hotel, a modern commercial plaza with connections to a parkade and transportation hub. This project also includes upgrading current green spaces, including the Botanical Gardens and Fort King George; and

  • the construction of a Utility Corridor in Scarborough to pass T&TEC lines and all other utility cables underground.

    Madam Presiding Officer, to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the management of our infrastructure projects, we envisage a greater role for E-IDCOT. The company has been mandated to enhance its project management and procurement management capabilities and capacities to take on this critical responsibility. This has become even more necessary given UDECOTT’s unusual decision to disengage from the projects for the Tobago House of Assembly.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn to the Environment, Climate

Change and Energy Transition.

      The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Administration remains committed to fully exploiting all opportunities for the conservation of our natural resources and the socio-economic development and marketing of Tobago that comes with the designation of the North-east as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve. Central to this effort, is the meaningful inclusion of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community-based Organizations (CBOs) and the business community in the Community-based Organizations (CBOs) and the business community in the rves  in accordance with democratic ideals. Accordingly, this Administration, has already put in place and intends to establish a Management Trust, through which a progressive and inclusive management arrangement will be implemented. The governance framework will provide the opportunity for representatives of the THA, civil society and the private sector to have an equal and meaningful influence on the management of the resources in the reserve, which is critical to the socio-economic well-being of our people.

    Investment in the blue economy is growing increasingly in small island developing states. The real promise of the pursuit of a blue economy agenda is rooted in the conservation of the ecology and resources in the blue space, while providing a sustainable socio-economic future, for our people based on the wise use of those resources.

     The potential of the oceans, coastal resources and other aquatic resources to help meet many of our socio-economic ideals, is significant. However, our oceans and coastal waters are under increasing pressure from many misuses and threats - threats that are both natural and anthropogenic in nature, threats that are local - and might I join with A1FA in highlighting threats that are international. I will not attempt to share an exhaustive list of threats, but offer instead three (3) of the most common, which are: climate change, marine pollution and overexploitation of resources rooted in less than an effective management.

    If we in Tobago are to unlock this potential and effectively pursue investment in the development of the blue economy in an effort to meet the diverse and growing needs of our people, it is critical that we commit to following an approach that integrates science-based environmental management directly with economic development and social development goals.

     This Administration intends to do exactly that by developing and rolling out a strategy for considered, restructured, long-term investment in the blue space. In this regard, the Tobago House of Assembly has collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in developing a Blue Economy Roadmap (BER) report geared towards identifying the most effective and sustainable pathway for us to use ocean resources and associated marine ecosystems in our development.

     Key recommendations coming out of the Roadmap are:

  • restoration of marine ecosystems, while providing local food security and resilient livelihoods;

  • development of resilient coastal infrastructure;

  • definition of Tobago’s Marine boundaries through adjustments to existing legislation; [Desk thumping]

1.10 P.M

It is our hope,   that the Prime Minister will demonstrate this resurged love for Tobago and   his sensitivity to the socio-economic realities of the island, and instruct   his Minister of Finance to break with the tradition of allocating the Tobago   House of Assembly a customary four dollars and three cents ($4.03) of every   one hundred dollars ($100.00) spent in Trinidad. Four dollars and three cents   ($4.03) is what they believe we are valued at.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Recurrent Estimates for   Fiscal 2024 totalling $3.40b are disaggregated as follows:-

Personnel Expenditure - $854.0m

Goods and Services - $1,042.Im

Minor Equipment Purchases - $125.5m; and

Current Transfers   and Subsidies - $1,424.8m

     Madam Presiding Officer, in Fiscal 2024, the recurrent   expenditure of the Assembly is programmed to increase by one hundred and ninety-three point two million dollars ($ 193.2m), or sixteen point three percent (16.3%) over the amount requested for Fiscal 2023, a six point three percent (6.3%) increase in the request for this year over last year.

     The disaggregation of the recurrent estimates by Divisions for Fiscal 2024 is as follows:

Assembly Legislature-$29.99m

Office of the Chief Secretary-$253.74m

Office of the Deputy Chief Secretary-$43.77m

Finance, Trade and the Economy-$323.27m

Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation-$243.26m

Education, Research and Technology-$574.3 Im

Community Development, Youth Development and Sport-$$ 162.84m

Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment-$517.14m

Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development-$263.84m

Health, Wellness and Social Protection; and-$933.92m

Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development-$41.9Im

Madam Presiding Officer - some major programme recurrent expenditures for Fiscal 2024. Some major highlights are as follows:-

Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) -$602.6m

School Feeding Programme$60.5m

Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL) -$60.0m

Studley Park Enterprises Limited (SPEL)-$60.0m

Project Financing Repayment-$60.0m

Development of Mega Farms (2) -$51.7m

Tobago Festivals Commission Tobago Agribusiness Development -$50.0m

Company (TADCO)- $27.5m

Development of Green Spaces -$20.0m

Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation  - $16.7m

Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC) -$ 15.0m

Information Technology Centre-$12.9m; and

Assistance to Sporting Organizations -$5.8m

     I will now present the Development Programme Estimates.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Estimates for the Development Programme for Fiscal 2024 amount to one point one five billion dollars ($1.15b). This represents an increase of two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250m) or twenty-seven point eight percent (27.8%) over the nine hundred million dollars ($900m) requested for Fiscal 2023. Across the Sectors, the Estimates are disaggregated as follows:

Pre-Investment-$ 1.00m

Productive Sectors-$1.50m

Economic Infrastructure-$403.55m

Social Infrastructure  - $563.38m;

Multi-sectoral and Other



Madam Presiding Officer, in keeping with our strategic objectives to drive the business development and stimulate the economy, the Development Programme Estimates provide support for:

The Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago (E-IDCOT)-$ 14.0m

Venture Capital Equity Fund Limited -$10.0m

Business Incubator Programme- $8.0m

Enterprise Development Loan Programme -$5.0m; and

Enterprise Assistance Grant Programme -$5.0m

      Madam Presiding Officer, as we move to build sustainability and resilience into our tourism sector, the Development Programme Estimates cater for:

Tobago Tourism Agency on the development side - $16.0m

Pigeon Point Infrastructure Works$7.0m

Store Bay Beach Facility -$6.0m

Restoration of Historical Sites - $2.7m

Construction of Tobago Cruise Ship Berths -$2.0m

Madam Presiding Officer, as we strive to attain food sovereignty, the Development Programme Estimates provide for:-

Construction of Abattoirs (2)-$20.0m

Livestock Production and Health-$ 10.0m

Improvement to Beach and Landing Facilities-$6.0m; and

Establishment of TARI-$3.0m

Madam Presiding Officer, as we continue the programme of modernization of our education system to deliver 21st century education and skills, our Development Programme Estimates make provision as follows:

Improvements to Primary Schools-$ 18.5m

Upgrade of Mason Hall Government Secondary School-$5.0m

Construction of Early ChildhoodCentres-$4.0m

Pre-construction Consultation on Scarborough Secondary-$4.0m;and

Construction of a Schoolfor the Deaf-$ 1.0m

Madam Presiding Officer, as we seek to provide affordable housing solutions and improve our housing stock on the island, our Development Programme Estimates provide for:

An Integrated Housing Development at Shirvan-$ 100.0m

A Home Improvement Grant and Subsidy-$ 17.0m

An Affordable Housing Project-$ 15.0m

Development of Adventure Phase II-$12m

A Housing Development Incentive Programme-$ 10.0m

A Village Expansion Programme for Charlotteville-$8.0m

    Madam Presiding Officer, we continue to upgrade and expand our

road infrastructure, and protect our coastline from the harmful effects of coastal erosion. Accordingly, our Development Programme Estimates provide for:

Major Improvement Works on Secondary Roads -$35.0m

Road Resurfacing Programme-$32.0m

Windward Road Special Development Programme (and that can be called country road)-$15.0m

A Scarborough Enhancement Project-$ 12.0m

Construction of Sea Defence Systems-$8.0m

A Turpin Bend Solution-$6.0m

Improvements to Milford Road Bridges-$5.0m; and

Rehabilitation of the Claude Noel Highway-$3.0m

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Development Programme Estimates are associated with the critical and strategic areas identified as necessary to start the building of a sustainable, prosperous and resilient Tobago.

1.00 P.M
  • oil and gas energy transition to marine renewables;

  • the development of a Centre for Maritime Research and Blue Economy Technology Development, and port expansion to support blue growth activities - all of these coming out of the report done with the Inter-American Development Bank.

We will continue to work with the IDB towards implementing these initiatives. Other environmental initiatives of this Administration for the next fiscal year include:

  • economic evaluation of our natural resources, including forests, wetlands and coastal resources like seagrass beds and coral reefs, to document our contribution to addressing the climate crisis more comprehensively, as well as support trading of green and blue carbon credits as a contribution towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

  • further developing and implementing strategies that help to build climate resilience at the community level, including a more focused exploration of nature-based infrastructural solutions to the challenges we face.

  • building on efforts over the last fiscal period regarding the

     installation of renewable energy infrastructure for use at public facilities on the island. The intention is to expand this drive to widen the use of renewable energy at public facilities, and incentives adoption at the residential and commercial levels.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the leading conversation emanating from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) was compensation for less-developed countries, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), for loss and damage arising from issues related to climate change.

    At COP 27, the leading nations in the world accepted that their economies were significant contributors to climate change. They also committed to contributing United States one hundred billion dollars (USS 100b) annually in climate financing.

    Madam Presiding Officer, we do not know how Tobago will benefit from this compensation because we were not involved in negotiations at COP. While we hope to benefit from compensation for loss and damage, we must do what we must to protect our environment. To this end, we will seek to allocate a budget of twenty million dollars ($20m) under the new line Item: ‘Climate and Energy Transition Financing’. This will allow us to:

  • establish a Climate Emergency Fund to finance our response to climate related disasters;

So we are putting in place our own insurance policy.

  • retrofit some of our existing buildings as we transition to more renewable sources of energy.

  • establish a pilot solar panel farm at the Cove Eco-Industrial Estate.

  • Establish an incentive programme for hotels and guest houses to transition to more renewable sources of energy; and

  • Establish electric vehicle charging stations in Scarborough, Canaan, Roxborough, Castara and Charlotteville;

Going forward, we will establish our Energy Transition Policy to guide a more targeted, coherent and robust net zero strategy, and our Biodiversity Protection Policy and our ‘No Net Loss’ biodiversity protection strategy.

    Taking a protected area approach to environmental management makes sense, Madam Presiding Officer, because invariably, we would be focusing on protecting more than four thousand (4,000) hectares of the land mass of Tobago, including the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, Little Tobago and Giles Islands, and perhaps other areas that we can designate as protected and marine space, including the Buccoo Reef Lagoon Complex and other reefs in areas such as Courland and Speyside, that contribute significantly to Tobago’s social and economic development

     In the meantime, Madam Presiding Officer, we have developed a proposal for establishing the Tobago Coastal Management Agency (TCMA). The agency will represent a significant upgrade from what exists currently as a Coastal Unit within the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development. This institutional upgrade and strengthening would result in the agency being staffed with expertise in not just coastal engineering as you have now, but coastal design and coastal modelling, giving us the institutional capacity to scientifically undertake the management of Tobago’s coastal areas fully. Given its design, the TCMA will be able to create approximately twenty-five (25) jobs for young professional Tobagonians.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the foregoing constitutes the programmes, projects and initiatives that are designed to meet our strategic policy goals of laying the foundation for a sustainable, prosperous and resilient Tobago. This is the framework that will ensure that we develop Tobago into the ‘greatest little island on the planet’.

     Madam Presiding Officer, while we acknowledge the need for and have started the work of preparing a comprehensive development plan, the world is not waiting for us. Therefore, we have to implement critical aspects of the development plan while we continue to work toward the completion of the plan. Some intellectuals among us don’t seem to have any appreciation for this tactical requirement. As the Executive head of this Administration, it is incumbent on me to have such an appreciation.

    With that said, Madam Presiding Officer, I now present the Draft Estimates of Expenditure for Fiscal 2024.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the total Estimates of Expenditure for Fiscal 2024 amount to four point five four billion dollars ($4.54b), of which Recurrent Expenditure Estimates amount to three point three nine billion dollars ($3.39b); Development Expenditure Estimates to one point one five billion dollars ($1.15b); URP expenditure to ninety-two point zero seven million dollars ($92.07m) and CEPEP expenditure to forty-four point seven-seven million dollars ($44.77m).

     Madam Presiding Officer, using historical trends, our forecast produced a national budget of around sixty-five point seven-eight billion dollars ($65.78b) for Fiscal 2024. We are forecasting that the national budget would be around sixty-five point seven-eight billion dollars ($65.78b) for fiscal 2024.

     In fact, Madam Presiding Officer, our forecast for fiscal last year was spot on. Accordingly, the Assembly’s total estimated expenditure is predicated on a national budget of sixty-five point seven eight billion dollars ($65.78b) for 2024, and a revenue share of six point nine percent (6.9%) in keeping with the upper end of the Dispute Resolution Commission’s (DRC’s) recommendation, which is at this point, the legal requirement of the Government.

     Let me add, that neither the Central Government nor the Minister of Finance are in need of no other action to be able to give us six point nine percent (6.9%), except to recognize that the DRC has already given it. [Desk thumping]

     Therefore, Madam Presiding Officer, any attempt to extort Tobago’s support for an incomplete legislative arrangement for Tobago’s autonomy in order to get six point nine percent (6.9%) will be soundly rebuffed.

    It will appear, Madam Presiding Officer, as if the party in charge in

Trinidad likes to extort things from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

12.40 P.M

Madam Presiding Officer, our first order of business, is to strengthen the institutional capacity and capability of the Youth Department to better serve our young people. In this regard, we are going to train and better skill the staff and develop new and more efficient ways of treating with the diverse needs of our young people.

    In fiscal 2024, we intend to elevate our youth interface with the aim of better meeting their needs. In this regard, we propose to deliver the following youth development projects and programmes:

  • a much more extensive Job Skill Training Programme than the one we have now, to prepare our youth for a more seamless entry into the world of work;

  • provision of financial literacy education and training with focus on digital currencies, savings, investment and business development;

  • the Financial Literacy Secretariat of the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy would spearhead this initiative with a set target of one thousand (1,000) participants in fiscal 2024;

  • •aggressive search for internship opportunities for our young and upcoming professionals at the national, regional and international institutions such as the Central Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the International Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank;

Madam Presiding Officer, as I speak, two (2) of our tertiary students are at the Central Bank on internship, but unfortunately, a third student declined the opportunity.

  • youth and technology development training geared towards equipping our young people with the soft, technical skills to function efficiently in this technologically-driven world are needed. This programme will be delivered by the Tobago Information Technology Limited, and we are aiming to have one thousand, two hundred young people participating in this programme in fiscal 2024;

  • a youth innovation/invention programme which would provide financial and technical support to young innovators and inventors

This programme will also be executed by TITL with a target   of at least five hundred (500) participants in fiscal 2024;

  • the institution of a   ‘Know Your Tobago History’ programme aimed at developing the civic-mindedness   and consciousness of our youth, about the socio-economic and political   history of the island;

  • in fiscal 2024, we   are aiming to have at least one thousand youths participate in this   programme;

  • a youth health   project designed to promote healthy living and life choices among the young   people, with easy and direct access to testing and screening through our   health care facilities;

  • in Fiscal 2024, we   propose to test and screen one thousand, two hundred youths, working in   collaboration with youth organizations and other community-based entities.

    Madam Presiding Officer, in Fiscal 2024, we propose to   intensify our ongoing efforts to create a sustainable, prosperous and resilient sporting sector in Tobago. In this regard, we propose to implement the following:

  • technical and financial support for our sporting organizations, with the aim of increasing the use of science and technology in their training and development programmes. This will be accompanied by the necessary institutional strengthening and system management development at the level of the organizations;

This is because we are witnessing far too many instances of sporting organizations in disarray, and having internal conflicts that they cannot seem to manage.

  • the upgrading and modernization of sporting facilities throughout the island to facilitate the seamless use of sport science and smart technology;

  • the sustainability and resilience of this programme will be built on a community-based maintenance and management model; (That was also in the mandate)

  • this model will operate on formal contribution agreements between our sporting organizations and the Division, which will keep the monitoring and evaluation functions in keeping with its policy directives, which is straight from the mandate upon which we campaigned;

  • the training and retraining of our coaches in 21st century skills and knowledge, with emphasis on sport science, health and technology;

  • support for our sportsmen and sportswomen to meet the academic standards required to obtain international sporting scholarships;

  • a recognition and reward system which will provide performance incentives to our sportsmen and sportswomen who excel at regional and international events;

  • an improved system of monitoring and evaluating coaches assigned to our school sports programmes;

  •  a sport internship   programme in which our sportsmen and sportswomen are sent on learning   journeys at high performance training centres regionally and internationally;

  •  a sport health   programme that provides medical and dietary support, and knowledge to our   sportsmen and sportswomen, to ensure that they will perform at their optimum.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in the area of sport   infrastructure development, we propose to move ahead with the construction of   the Bacolet Indoor Facility in a manner that would allow for international   events to be held there. My Administration has taken the conscious decision   to expand the scope of this project, and thereby giving it the chance of   being commercially viable to make it into a facility that would give impetus   to our sport tourism efforts.

     As for the Goodwood Pavilion that was being constructed   without proper consultation with the residents and other   stakeholder groups, my Administration has painfully decided to continue with the visibly vexing project because of the huge costs associated with relocation.

    Moreover, Madam Presiding Officer, my Administration is cuiTently in discussion with an international entity that is interested in establishing a modern cricket stadium in Tobago. This development will enhance Tobago’s sports tourism offerings. With such a facility, we can approach the Caribbean T20 franchise holders, for example, with a proposal to include Tobago in their annual T20 calendar. [Desk thumping] The proposal from the international entity has already been received by the THA and is currently being reviewed. Lands for motor sporting, motor racing and drag racing have been identified, and the survey works are almost at completion at the Friendship estate. That is another major opportunity for sports tourism.

    Madam Presiding Officer, as you know, we are in the process of getting a number of our facilities ready for hosting of the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games in August. Our approach is to ensure that Tobago sportsmen and sportswomen benefit from the upgrade works long after the games are finished. In this regard, we are building the first full size beach volleyball facility in the entire country at Black Rock. [Desk thumping] This is a significant legacy item. In keeping with this strategy, we are very deliberate with our purchasing of the equipment for the four (4) sporting disciplines to be hosted in Tobago, namely beach volleyball, netball, rugby and triathlon. We are also hosting the closing ceremony which we have taken the decision to use as global marketing event for our tourism efforts.

12.30 P.M

It would also free up much-needed income, which could be used to purchase other essentials, such as groceries and personal care products.

     We recognize that a major housing challenge is the lack of a coherent and comprehensive housing policy. We intend to fix this, and to this end, the Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development is currently working on its Tobago Comprehensive Housing Strategy.

    Madam Presiding Officer, our housing development strategy will focus on:

  • establishing the institutional framework for the implementation of the housing strategy; and

  • analyzing demographic trends.

They would look at:

  • determining housing demand and needs;

  • assessing the current housing stock;

  • locating available and suitable lands;

  • analyzing the financial 

  • conducting infrastructure and utility audits; and

  • determining future infrastructure 

     Madam Presiding Officer, in addition to our core public sector projects, programmes and strategies listed, this Assembly is committed to partnering and working with private housing developers to deliver affordable housing solutions to the market.

    I now speak to our strategy for building sustainable, prosperous and resilient communities.

    Madam Presiding Officer, in every sense of the word, Tobago is an island of tightly-knit communities. In fact, I have often quipped in Tobago, that our families are larger than our villages. Therefore, the building of sustainable, prosperous and resilient communities, “child by child, family by family and village by village”, remains a key development goal of this Administration. However, we must be mindful of the challenges we face at the community level. Our resources are limited, and demands for our services are increasing. We are witnessing the alarming consequences of environmental and societal degradation, with the stark realities of the changing global economic environment impacting every sector. I firmly believe that within every challenge lies an opportunity for growth and positive change.

     One of our sustainable Community Development Programmes for Fiscal 2024, is a comprehensive capacity-building programme called “Take Charge”, designed to have communities take responsibility for, and control of their human capital, as well as their physical and financial resources. Key components of this programme are:

  • Family Management training across all communities;

  • Mastering Aspects of Community Cohesion and Organization or M.A.C.C.O;

  • Community Leadership Training;

  • Spiritual Wellness 

  • after-school and Mentorship Programmes, including but not limited to have work centres; and

  • institutional strengthening of youth, sport and community-based organizations, including Village and Community Councils;

  • returning critical community infrastructure to the leadership and management of community organizations;

Madam Presiding Officer, another one of our programmes is the Skill-sharing and Exchange Programme, aimed at promoting self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. This Programme is designed to empower and encourage community members to ‘STEP UP’ and share their skills, knowledge and resources with each other, thereby fostering a culture of collaboration and sustainability. Key elements of this Programme are:

  • the Tobago Road Market Experience and Community Trade Shows - creating platforms for trade, product sharing and development of cooperative ventures;

  •  a Handicraft Training   and Exchange Programme, promoting inter-generational partnerships and   transfer of indigenous knowledge and skills;

  • MACHO (Male   Mentorship and Internship Programme) - it is a different kind of MACHO that   was inherited by the way, aimed at providing structured leadership, support   and guidance to our young males;

  •  Sport and Youth   Leadership Development training programmes.

Madam Presiding Officer, we have also programmed the   implementation of a number of community prosperity and empowerment   initiatives. These include:

  • the hosting of the annual Vocational Skills Training Programme to provide community-based introductory training and prior learning assessment and certification of skilled persons, through our network of Community, Youth and Multi-purpose Centres;

  • • the establishment of   the Tobago Skills Development Training Centre, which will offer level 1 and   level 2 CVQ (Caribbean Vocational Qualification) and TTNVQ (Trinidad and   Tobago National Vocational Qualification) that assess and certify   individuals’ competence in various occupational areas, thus integrating   literacy development and improvement;

  • • encouragement and   support of innovation and enterprise development through the hosting of   Targeted Apprenticeship Programmes in areas such as:

i. agriculture and Agro   Processing training;

ii. exploration and   implementation of initiatives in the blue economic sector, such as   aquaculture techniques and training, by embracing the principles of the blue   economy, our coastal communities will be empowered to harness the economic   potential of their marine parks while safeguarding their long-term health and   economic prosperity;

Madam Presiding Officer, through sustainable practices, responsible governance and meaningful community engagement, we will create a more prosperous and resilient future that balances the island’s economic growth with its environmental sustainability requirements.

Moreover, Madam Presiding Officer, to build resilience and social cohesion at the community level, we propose;

  • the activation of the community management systems and protocols embodied in the work of Community Councils and other civil society institutions. This will entail the active mainstreaming of the operations of the Village and Community Councils, Youth Councils and Sporting Associations based on the establishment of standards of operations, certification, contribution agreements and monitoring and evaluation;

  • the implementation of a comprehensive Volunteerism and Youth and National Service Programme, to foster community pride, strengthen community cohesiveness and encourage civic engagement for the betterment of our communities;

  • the implementation of a Tobago Community Safety Programme, as an initiative for enhancing the safety, security, and well-being of our communities. The Safe Community Competition Campaign emanating from this programme will represent the culmination of active capacity building, awareness and education, and implementation of people-centred policing and positive engagement;

     Madam Presiding Officer, these initiatives form part of a wider body of work to treat directly with the security and safety issues confronting our communities.

     Madam Presiding Officer, please allow me to turn to Youth and Sport Development.

     The holistic development of young people constitutes another top priority of my Administration. In this regard, we see the investments in our youths as a critical and necessary input towards developing a sustainable, prosperous and resilient society. Relatedly, our strategic goals are to create the socio-economic and institutional enabling environment that is populated with practical opportunities for our young people to exploit for their self¬ actualization.

12.20 P.M

The Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection will:

  • procure ten (10) new ambulances for use by the Tobago Emergency Medical Services (TEMS), at an estimated cost of twelve million dollars ($12m);

  • upgrade the Plymouth Health Centre to better service the needs of patients;

  • conduct an intensive educational health promotional campaign to treat with the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases. This will include well-being, counselling related to exercise, nutrition and early screening for lifestyle diseases;

  • develop a structured programme for continuous training and upgrading of our medical and support staff, with cutting edge medical knowledge;

  • undertake an educational drive to enlighten and empower persons with scientific facts on mental health, and to expand the capacity of the Mental Health Unit to better serve the needs of the population;

    Madam Presiding Officer, allow me to shift gears to our efforts at providing social protection to at-risk groups. We realize that as development occurs, whether we like it or not, there will be unintended consequences because of socio-economic and other factors. The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant stress on our social support systems, making it necessary for us to widen our safety net to protect the vulnerable. We have to take care of these people. In fact, a society is judged by how well it caters for its at-risk groups.

Madam Presiding Officer, as we move towards making Tobago the ‘greatest little island on the planet’, we are committed to building resilience, efficiency and effectiveness into our Social Protection Programme. In this regard, we propose to:

  • intensify efforts to fully digitize the social protection processes, as part of our “My THA” project, to ensure greater accessibility and more timely delivery of support to our most vulnerable;

  • restructure the Social Protection Department, to ensure that staff at all levels are provided with capacity-building opportunities in the areas of leadership, industrial relations, public service policies, performance management, report writing and social protection department policies;

  • review policies and streamline the processes of the Social Protection Department to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion, and more importantly, to ensure that no one is left behind;

  • institute a robust community engagement programme across the island where the staff of the Social Protection Department are available at our Health Centres, Community Centres and other community-based facilities, to deliver greater access to the services of the Department; and

  • review and streamline the processes for the Social Emergency Card and Food Card Unit, to ensure greater public accountability and transparency;

Madam Presiding Officer, let me now turn to housing.

     The availability of affordable housing is perhaps one of the most significant issues facing my Administration. While we acknowledge this, we also note that this is not a peculiar Tobago problem. It is obvious that it is now quite difficult for the average Tobagonian to realize their dream of homeownership.

     The average conventional three-bedroom house in Trinidad and

Tobago is somewhere in the vicinity of one point five million dollars ($1.5m). When we add the price differential for Tobago, we could be looking at a price closer to one point seven million dollars ($1.7m). To qualify for a mortgage for this amount will require a household income of more than thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) monthly, or three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) annually. In light of the fact that the majority of Tobagonians do not make that kind of money, any proposal for housing solutions for Tobagonians must include significant subsidies from the THA.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the question is, how much subsidy the THA can really afford, especially given its perennial underfunding by the Central Government? We inherited a database of approximately seven thousand, five hundred (7,500) applicants. We have to respond to the housing needs of all applicants with careful consideration of the available resources.

     Madam Presiding Officer, our response to the housing needs of Tobagonians is made even more urgent, given the increasing demand for housing in Tobago, the number of low-income households and the high price for reasonable accommodation on the rental market.

     The problem is further exacerbated by climate change related issues. Our response to this affordable housing crisis is by way of policy prescriptions with the objective of meeting the housing needs of applicants. The policy prescriptions speak to a basket of approaches. We have already begun the roll out of our policies. To this end, we have just completed a very successful pilot project entitled, ‘Home Ownership Made Equal’.

     The timing and launch of this programme are significant. What we are doing, is sending a strong signal to those who are least able to afford a home, that the Assembly is prepared to put them at the head of the line. In keeping with the lessons emanating from our recent mission to Jamaica, the Executive Council has mandated the Secretary of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development to supply twenty (20) low-cost housing units for Tobagonians before the end of current fiscal 2023.

     Madam Presiding Officer, at the same time, we have announced and launched the largest housing construction initiative in the history of Tobago. Our ambition is to deliver more than five hundred (500) housing units to Tobagonians. The Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development has already issued the Request for Proposals. We are asking Tobago contractors to come and join us. Go to your banks and begin to raise the finance and get registered with the Office of the Procurement Regulator.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we also intend to put about eight hundred (800) service lots across the island on the market. We know the success of this Tried-and-true’ formula of providing service lots to Tobagonians and their beneficiaries, and have produced some of the most beautiful homes on the island. The housing developments at Signal Hill, Sou Sou Lands, Calder Hall and Belle Garden provide the evidence that the provision of affordable service lots is one of the best solutions to Tobago’s housing affordability crisis.

     We intend to continue with this strategy, and provide service lots at Shirvan, Courland, Adelphi and Riseland. In Tobago East, we are targeting the Louis D’or Estate, Roxborough Estate, and other villages where there are appropriate lands to drive our village expansion project.

    Madam Presiding Officer, these new initiatives will be packaged with our existing programmes, including our home improvement grants. We are also exploring a Rental Assistance Programme separate and apart from the one across at the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection. We are actively designing a programme with the associated feasibility calculations of running a pilot involving low-income single mothers and single fathers. The pilot will tell us how sustainable the programme could be. The Rental Assistance Programme would immediately bring relief to many families struggling to pay monthly rent.

12.10 P.M

     In relation to our October Carnival, the newest addition   to the island's calendar of festivals, we have taken note of the lessons   learned from the introductory events last year. Our public officers,   technocrats and producers are actively working on improving the carnival for   this year - if only, Madam Presiding Officer, flights will be available this   year. While these festivals are not intended to produce a financial return to   the Tobago House of Assembly, our policy going forward is to ensure that they   are executed in keeping with the principles of value for money.

     Allow me to turn to Education.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we cannot develop a sustainable,   prosperous and resilient society without delivering 21st century education   and skills to Tobagonians. As stated before, we live in a very complexed and   digitally fluid world. Therefore, for us to participate effectively in the   new world, our students, our teachers and workers in Education, need to think critically; communicate effectively; collaborate with   diverse peers; solve complexed problems; adopt a global mindset and engage robustly with information and communication technologies.

     Madam Presiding Officer, to achieve this, we must create an education system based on established learning pathways that link knowledge systems, teaching methodologies and outcomes with real world problems. This model requires us to upgrade and modernize our learning and teaching infrastructures. It also presents the need for the ongoing retraining and upgrading of the capacity and capability of educators and instructors.

     I want to turn my attention now to the immediate and pressing need for changes in the Education System post-COVID-19. We have learnt valuable lessons from COVID-19 that can help us build a resilient education system. COVID-19 has taught us that at short notice we must be able to move seamlessly from an in-person model of teaching, to learning on an online model.

     Madam Presiding Officer, one key lesson we did not learn, however, is that the ideal response to a fast-moving and precipitous change such as those brought on by COVID-19, is an online system that is mainly asynchronous. Such a system involves the students working independently at mostly his or her own pace, and with his or her schedule that are different from other student’s. It also involves the teacher providing instruction intermittently. We cannot just move the classroom and go online with the same techniques and strategies. What we have done - not us - but those whom we succeeded, is to transition from an in-person, face to face synchronous system, to an online face to face synchronous system, and we need to move from synchronous to asynchronous.

     Madam Presiding Officer, while the latter has its benefits, it still retains many elements of the in-person synchronous system. Many teachers will argue that online face to face teaching and learning, is as demanding as in-person teaching and learning. What we need to develop, Madam Presiding Officer, is an online system that will allow students who can learn independently to do so with intermittent teacher supervision. It will also allow parents with the capacity and time to teach their children at home.

This component that requires parental assistance can be linked to an official THA “work from home policy” in the future.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the idea of an online education system, as I have articulated here, will lead to a decrease in synchronous teaching contact time online. Supporting an online asynchronous system will mean building an online education architecture to support self-directing and parent-assisted teaching and learning. This will also support those in the system who are deemed talented or fast learners - “the bright bulbs” as we call them. This is one of our core educational development projects for Fiscal 2024. We have done the research and are now in the design stage.

     Additionally, Madam Presiding Officer, we propose to execute the following projects and programmes in Fiscal 2024:

  • upgrading and modernizing our schools towards ‘smart’ school classification and certification;

  • special and targeted programmes to deal with the COVID-19 induced learning losses;

  • commencement of pre-construction works for the new Scarborough Secondary Smart School;

  • continuous teacher/instructor training and capacity enhancement towards the delivery of 21st century education and skills;

  • construction of a modern school for the hearing impaired at Signal Hill;

  • repurposing of our School Nutrition Programme into a significant component of a general school health programme. This is intended to address the rising levels of obesity and other Non-Communicable Diseases among our children;

  • introduction of a dual-track system of education and training by establishing at least two (2) technical training institutes. A strong policy consideration here is the conversion of the Roxborough Secondary School into one such institution;

We are also aware, Madam Presiding Officer, of the fact that we cannot develop a resilient and prosperous society in any sustainable manner, unless we protect and safeguard the health and well-being of our citizens. In this regard, we are aiming at developing our health care and social protection systems in ways that are innovative, responsive and positioned to deliver holistic, high-quality, client-centred health and social protection to the people of Tobago. This requires improvement in our health care facilities, improvement (and I say this one loudly) - in customer service at our health care facilities, and in the quantity and quality of health care practitioners and the deployment of more technologically driven and efficient management systems. Therefore, we will continue to invest in developing a modern health care system and promote and protect the interests of our vulnerable groups.

Madam Presiding Officer, in Fiscal 2024, the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection propose to:

  • expand the Neonatal Care Unit or ICU, at an estimated cost of one point eight million dollars ($1.8m) to increase its capacity for the treatment of newborns;

  • expand the Oncology Unit to provide more access to screening and long-term dignified care for our cancer patients at an estimated cost of two point five million dollars ($2.5m);

  • acquire an MRI machine at a cost of ten million dollars ($10m); and a sixty-four (64) Slice CT Scanner at a cost of seven million dollars ($7m);

  • upgrade the Canaan Health Centre to a District Facility. This will allow for 24-hour service; increased diagnostic services; the treatment of a wider variety of ailments and injuries and enhanced screening at the facility. The strategic goal is to promote health care delivery at the community level;

12.00 P.M

    Madam Presiding Officer, we are not waiting on the Bureau of Standards in Trinidad. It is time that we set our standards and force the sector to abide by them. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, as we continue to enhance our product offerings over the next fiscal year, we will see the construction of a three hundred million dollars ($300m) Water Park at Friendship Estate by Synergy Water, which will create hundreds of private sector jobs. Additionally, we propose to upgrade the Charlotteville jetty facilities without harming the environment, to accommodate safer docking for larger vessels, and to also include further service offerings to our cruise ship passengers.

     Other significant upgrades are proposed for the product offerings at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park; the Store Bay Beach Facilities; and the Bloody Bay Facility works will be completed. We also propose to develop a robust framework for the regulation of Touts’ and reef tour operators, and for the deployment of precepted Reef Rangers under our Department of Public Safety.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in order to improve the quality of our room stock, construction will begin on a five hundred (500) room, five-star resort at Kilgwyn in October 2023, which will create two thousand, six hundred (2,600) well paying jobs and inject United States one hundred million dollars (USS 100m) in capital into the Tobago economy. At this stage, the company, Apple Leisure Group, has submitted the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and has been given a date for the determination of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance. This is a private hotel development (allow me to go slowly) on privately owned lands. It is not the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) or Tobagonians’ land that were given to this development. [Desk thumping] Consultations and site visits were held with the following entities who actually registered and signed to say that they were present. I will list them:

  • The Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development;

  • The Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation;

  • The Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection;

  • The Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development;

  • Environmentalists and environmental groups on the island;

  • Residents of Kilgwyn, Tyson Hall, Canaan/Bon Accord/Crown Point;

  • The All Tobago Fisherfolk Association;

  • TEMA;

  • Land Management;

  • The Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service;

  • The Institute of Marine Affairs, Geoscientists;

  • UWI Archaeological Committee;

  • Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission;

  • Town and Country Planning;

  • The Committee for Sustainable Development of Canaan/Bon Accord;

  • The Bon Accord Sustainable Pioneers; and

  • The Environmental 

     These parties were all present for consultations and tours. We also expect, as per agreement, that a seven-man committee, with the THA appointing (five) of those members, will be put in place to monitor the development so that they do what they proposed to do.

     One of the requirements for this Administration’s support, is the rehabilitation of the mangrove or the wetlands situated on the estate. Additionally, this Administration proposed to the company, that steps must be taken to treat with coastal erosion, owing to the airport construction and expansion over the years.

     We also expect to see the start of construction of the Marriott Hotel at Rockly Bay and for that, Madam Presiding Officer, this Administration did the responsible thing. We brought the principals to Tobago; we brought the stakeholders on site. We walked the land and we said to the stakeholders, “Make all of your complaints and your issues known now”; and we made it clear to the developers that if those issues were not addressed, the THA will not be supporting the development. [Desk thumping]

     That is the responsible way of managing hotel development on the island - having the people involved every step of the way, and not just coming from Trinidad and saying, “I am building a hotel there” and you have to take it. In addition, operations at Manta Lodge Hotel, Speyside, are expected to commence in the coming months. Further, negotiations for a buyer and/or developer for Sanctuary Villas are in train.

     Madam Presiding Officer, closely linked to our strategy to develop the tourism industry, is our thrust to develop our cultural industries. We viewed the orange sub-economy as a driver of the economy, with significant untapped potential. Leading this Administration’s drive to monetize our potential in this orange economy, is a recalibrated and a much more focused and sensible Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC) and the Tobago Festivals Commission. In this regard, over the next fiscal year TPAC will:

  • host a series of workshops, mentorship programmes and master classes aimed at providing a holistic learning environment that romotes artistic growth and professional development for Tobagonians in the performing arts;

  • host a major Arts Festival aimed at showcasing the rich tapestry of talents across all our creative departments in areas such as dance, drama, music and film;

  • host a film production named “REEL Matrimony” aimed at captivating global audiences and piquing their interest in our island’s vibrant, unexplored, green spaces. The production will have deep technological cross-fertilization with the animation studio at Cove;

We will also:

  • develop state of the art rehearsal spaces, high-tech recording studios and a well-equipped production hub aimed at improving the performance spaces and improving the quality of performances;

No longer, Madam Presiding Officer, will we dump them in a big, empty building and hope for magic and miracles to happen. We will outfit the spaces properly. We will:

  • host a Children’s Arts Camp named “Creative Calabash” that will be an immersive arts camp designed for children to explore and express their creativity, thereby assisting to nurture the next generation of artistic talents;

Madam Presiding Officer, the Tobago Festivals Commission also has a crucial role to play, as we elevate our exploitation of the opportunities in the orange economy. This year, we have taken a deliberate decision to do a scaled down version of the 36th Tobago Heritage Festival. We intend to restructure the Festival - to widen and sweeten its attractiveness, its cultural appeal and its sustainability. If we are honest, we will agree that over the years, the Tobago Heritage Festival lost some of its sweetness, and that there is a need for us to return to the drawing board and give its first real update since its inception with Dr. J. D. Elder; likewise the Tobago Jazz Experience is being purposefully reviewed for economical viability and resilience.

11.50 A.M

     The mega farms will   also serve as research and demonstration facilities to our wider agriculture   and food security sectors, delivering knowledge and technological transfer   opportunities. It is hoped that this project will serve as a fillip to the   island's agriculture sector and as such, fifty-one point eight million   dollars ($51.8m) is budgeted for its implementation in Fiscal 2024.

     Madam Presiding Officer, another major initiative pertains   to the operationalization of the Tobago Agriculture Research Institute or   (TARI), at the Kendal Farm School, which will become Tobago's Centre of   Agriculture, Science, Research and Development. TARTs work and outputs will   form the evidence that informs our transformative policy prescriptions for   the sector. Relatedly, it will serve as the island’s main workforce development and training institute, delivering 21st century skills and  knowledge.

    In this regard, TARI will deliver our Tobago Youth and Agriculture Training Programme. We propose to train and equip a minimum of two hundred (200) young people through TARI in Fiscal 2024. The strategic objective is to create a continuously growing cadre of skilled young agri-entrepreneurs to drive the sustainable development of the sector and thereby infuse resilience into the labour supply. TARI will make greater use of virtual training, a more community centric face-to-face training as it seeks to make its offerings more accessible. It will also develop seed banks, thereby enabling us to preserve our indigenous varieties for future generations.

     Madam Presiding Officer, another critical initiative is the construction of two (2) additional food hubs - one in Mason Hall going North, [Desk thumping] and the other in Roxborough, aimed at giving greater opportunities to our farmers to market their produce in a dignified manner. [Desk thumping]

     The next initiative relates to the establishment of a Flour Factory to manufacture alternative flours such as sweet potato, breadfruit, plantain and dasheen flour.

     It was a great disappointment, Madam Presiding Officer, that the building we inherited that we thought would have allowed us to move speedily into the production of alternative flours, was far from being appropriate for this kind of manufacturing. The setback nonetheless has caused us to plan more efficiently, and this initiative will be spearheaded by the Tobago Agribusiness Development Company (TADCO), which has secured a space at Cove where the factory will now be located.

    TADCO has also been conducting viability assessments to inform decision making relating to the possible expansion of its fleet, and to aggressively develop value added products from its fish. Other initiatives of the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development to boost agricultural production over the next fiscal year include:


  • Upgrade of the livestock facilities at the various Demonstration Stations;

  • Upgrade and restructuring of the Tractor Pool Facility at Shaw Park to comply with Occupational Safety and Health standards, and to enable the provision of more timely services to farmers;

  • Clearing the more than decade-long backlog for services of tractor pool to farmers;

  • Transformation of existing fishing facilities to allow users to operate in conditions which comply with OSH requirements and meet the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP standards;

  • Completion and outfitting of the Parlatuvier Fishing Facility to provide adequate user space for fishers in the area;

  • Construction of the veterinary diagnostic laboratory to cater to the health needs of livestock on the island;

  • Establishment of two (2) abattoirs to allow for the slaughtering and dressing of carcasses; and

  • The expansion of the breadfruit initiative through the Tobago Reforestation and 

    Madam Presiding Officer, permit me to look at our strategies for building of a sustainable and resilient tourism sector and cultural industries.

     Madam Presiding Officer, because of its largely untapped economic potential, tourism remains the island’s most promising commercial sector.Therefore, the building of a sustainable and resilient tourism sector that will deliver prosperity to Tobagonians is of great urgency to this Administration. Tobago, by its defining environmental, cultural, historical and socio¬economic properties, can possibly be labelled “The Green Island of Festivals”. This is supported by the following facts.

•Tobago has the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps the oldest known parliamentary legislation that is environmental in nature;

  • Tobago has received the “Man and the Biosphere” designation;

  • Tobago has one of the largest brain corals in the region;

  • Tobago has the Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool.

  • Tobago has a Heritage festival, a Goat and Crab Race festival, a Blue Food Festival, a Jazz Festival, Harvests and two (2) Carnivals, and a festival every Monday morning.

    As we seek to develop a prosperous and resilient society, we must intensify ongoing efforts to exploit the potential resident in our tour tourism and culture industries. It is therefore incumbent on us to address some perennial challenges facing the industry. These challenges pertain to inadequate airlift arrangements; insufficient marketing and adequate product development and room stock.

     As it relates to airlift, the Condor Airlines out of Germany, resumes the service to Tobago in the winter season of this year. Building on this, the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited will continue ongoing negotiations to secure airlifts out of Western Europe and Scandinavia. We are particularly interested in the Scandinavian market, because in the past, it proved to be extremely lucrative to us. Proposed arrangements have been reviewed for direct airlift out of North America currently. The Agency is also seeking a low-cost carrier as a replacement for Virgin Atlantic, with the aim of building financial, sustainability over the longer term. Relatedly, Madam Presiding Officer, in order to boost our marketing efforts, we will seek to have representation in the Scandinavian market. We propose to set up a Tobago desk in two (2) Scandinavian countries, namely, Norway and Sweden. Further, with the recent appointment of a destination representative for US Market, and with established representation in the Canadian Market,we will intensify our marketing efforts in the North American market. Moreover, we will seek to exploit all the tourism marketing opportunities that will emanate from our co-hosting of the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.

    As it relates to product development, we will continue efforts to improve customer service in the industry. In this regard, TTAL will continue to collaborate with the Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute on a Customer Service Programme aimed at improving customer service throughout the tourism industry - that programme has already started.

    We also intend to establish through TTAL, a Tourism Services Bureau of Standards, which will be mandated to inspect the condition of resorts and food and beverage establishments, customer service output, and report data and findings to the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation for further assessment and recommendations for remedial actions.

11.40 A.M

    Establishment of an Animation Studio. The company will   officially launch its animation studio, e-Pixl Studios, in July 2023. The   venture which is owned by E-IDCOT and housed at Cove, is the first of its   kind in the island. ‘E-Pixl Studios’ cadre of young animators have been in   the development stage of the company’s signature production, Tobago Trek, for   more than two (2) years. With that experience and specialized trainers on   board, e-Pixl Studios is now poised to undertake animation work for external   clients around the world. [Desk thumping}

    Madam Presiding Officer, for more than two (2) years the   young people have been working and training, but we are building the studio   for them to market their services to the rest of the world.

    Development of Additional Built Spaces: Due to the demand   for built space by Tobago-based entrepreneurs, E-IDCOT is actively seeking to   construct additional buildings at Cove. These spaces will be specifically   earmarked and designed accordingly, for agro-processing and light   manufacturing, which have been the major areas of interest of businesses.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Studley Park Enterprises   Limited (SPEL), continues to present our greatest potential for enhanced revenue generation. In this regard, I have mandated SPEL to aggressively seek export opportunities for its products in markets such as Guyana and elsewhere in the region. The projected export earnings of the company is in the region of US one hundred million dollars (U$100m) in three (3) years, which would be a significant boost to the Assembly’s revenues and the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Therefore, it is our hope that the current challenges relating to the company’s application for an export license and licenses to operate are resolved in short order. SPEL has also been directed to explore the options for developing value-added products such as sandpaper, stone tiles and brake pads using the Public/Private Partnership modality. Critical to the company delivering on its mandate, is the need for it to strengthen its management; modernize its operational systems and build resilience in the physical plant. This will require a significant capital investment which we are committed to undertake. As such, we have budgeted sixty million dollars ($60m) in fiscal 2024 for the acquisition of a new crushing plant.

     Madam Presiding Officer, more than that, SPEL has been mandated to explore ways in which it can offer its products at a cheaper cost to anyone doing business in Tobago as compared to outside, or external clients. This is important as an incentive to drive the construction sector in Tobago and to ensure that the average Tobagonians participate and enjoy the benefits and the royalties of their resource. [Desk thumping]

    Madam Presiding Officer, as it relates to investment, my Administration is actively looking at different models and strategies to attract Foreign Direct Investment into Tobago. In this regard, we have recently commissioned the development of an investment prospectus which will provide information and data on all investment opportunities in the island, as well as the statutory requirements, incentives and the THA support.

     Additionally, we are also pursuing the development of a diaspora investment fund as a means of moving foreign investment capital into Tobago Further, we put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for phase 1 of the Tobago Infrastructure Development Programme. This initiative has attracted the attention of a number of potential investors who have submitted, and are still submitting proposals.

In this regard, we intend to have discussions with the Central Government towards making the legislative arrangements governing FDI more investor friendly, thereby improving the ease of doing business in Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I will now speak to agriculture and food security. The availability of healthy, safe and affordable food, is the number one priority of this Administration. [Desk thumping] Therefore, a critical element of our developmental strategy as it relates to agriculture and food sovereignty, is the building of safe, sustainable and resilient supply systems through the deployment and elevated uptake of science, research, smart agriculture technologies and institutional strengthening. Our food sovereignty strategy is anchored on the development of modern, sustainable and resilient agricultural systems and practices. Madam Presiding Officer, by food sovereignty, we mean the base level nutritional support to sustain a population, especially during a disruptive event like the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, our food sovereignty strategies are intended to deal with the rising food price inflation.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is estimated that about eighty percent (80%) of the fresh agricultural produce sold and consumed in Tobago comes from Trinidad, and the island’s agricultural sector contributes less than one percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our agricultural policy must address these issues frontally.

     Therefore, in Fiscal 2024, the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development proposes a number of initiatives aimed at boosting our agricultural production and food sovereignty agenda. One critical initiative is the development of two (2) mega farms. These farms will allow us to derive available benefits from economies of scale, thereby placing us in a position to make food available to Tobagonians at a cheaper price.

     Last year the farm was proposed, and during the fiscal year, the Division did all of its feasibility studies. Our mega farm policy objective is to put a minimum of two hundred (200) acres into productive usage under a scientifically and technologically informed engineering design to promote cross-fertilization effectiveness and efficiency.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the mega farm project is intended to be implemented using the Public/Private Partnership modality, where the Assembly will provide the lands as its equity holdings in the project and the infrastructure, production systems, smart technologies and knowledge capital, will be jointly supplied. The proposed start-up areas of productions are:


Fresh produce;

Small ruminants (goat and sheep);

Citrus, banana and other indigenous fruits;

(I might have to whisper this one)

Pork; and [Desk thumping] [Laughter]


Thank you, Madam   Presiding Officer. Let me indicate for clarity to this House, that the Court   matter is about the preliminary report and it is not about the final report.   That is just for clarity. We propose to:

  • Take legal and administrative actions against all persons that are culpable.

  • To renegotiate all claims that are overvalued to ensure that the THA gets value for money.

  • To ensure that all the THA procurement activities are in strict conformity with the New Procurement Act 1 of 2015.

  • Provide contract Administration and management training to the staff of the THA.

  • Strengthen the project development and the management capabilities of the Project Implementation Units (PIUs) across the Assembly

Madam Presiding Officer, corruption is an insidious plague with an extremely high socio-economic cost, especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like ours. As Chief Secretary, I am ready and prepared to deal decisively with any act of corruption [Desk thumping] or even the appearance of corruption.

     I will now detail some of our plans to stimulate the economy.

    Madam Presiding Officer, we recognize that to stimulate the Tobago economy and build resilience, we must create an enabling environment for business on the island to prosper and to provide incentives to attract investments in key growth sectors. It is in this way, that we will develop the high paying private sector jobs and improve the standard of living and quality of life for our citizens.

     Many of our businesses on the island are still grappling with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a 2022 study that I commissioned through the Economic Management and Research Unit in the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy, looked at what happened during the COVID-19 period, and we discovered that:

  • Approximately ninety-one percent (91%) of businesses in Tobago suffered a reduction in their revenue.

  • Forty percent (40%) experienced difficulties in meeting their payroll expenses.

  • Thirty-seven percent (37%) experienced difficulties in honouring their obligations to financial institutions.

  • Thirty-six percent (36%) faced challenges in paying their rent.

  • Sixty-three percent (63%) experienced cash flow shortages; and

  • Thirty-five percent (35%) experienced disruptions in their supply of raw materials.

Madam Presiding Officer, since coming into office and taking note of the report findings, I have been in constant communication with the various organizations representing businesses in Tobago about what is happening, and how as an Assembly we could improve the situation. What has become clear, is the fact that the existing THA financial support systems for businesses in Tobago, through the Business Development Unit (BDU) and the Venture Capital Equity Fund Limited (VCEF) are inadequate. A four- member Oversight/Technical Committee was established with the mandate to devise a programme to provide relief to the business community in Tobago to assist in their recovery for the debilitating effects of the pandemic. In keeping with its mandate, the Committee has developed a Loan Guarantee Programme which is being reviewed. The Loan Guarantee Programme is designed for implementation through an enhanced and strengthened BDU with cross-fertilization from the Venture Capital Equity Fund Limited and the commercial banking sector.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the policy which will provide the framework for the governance of the Loan Guarantee Programme, as well as the procedures for the management of arrears arising from any loan secured by a TEA guarantee, have already been developed and is currently being reviewed by the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT).

    Madam Presiding Officer, over the long-term, the Committee will take all the necessary steps for the establishment and registration of a Tobago Development Bank. The Tobago Development Bank will be a critical vehicle for driving development in the island through the sourcing and provision of medium and long-term development financing, coupled with cutting-edge, technical assistance to both the Tobago House of Assembly and businesses operating in Tobago. The Tobago House of Assembly is currently having discussions with persons with Central Banking and International Banking experiences to provide technical support for the initiative.

     Madam Presiding Officer, a repurposed Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago or (E-IDCOT), remains one of our primary vehicles to deliver enhanced economic and business development opportunities. In Fiscal 2024, E-IDCOT will seek to deliver the following projects and programmes designed to promote the business development in Tobago.

     Development of an e-incubator programme which will host the first of a series of workshops geared to assisting with mentorship, education and access to professional resources for small and start-up businesses and most importantly, the necessary handholding that is missing from our current systems. E-IDCOT will also offer current and prospective tenants, ad hoc business development services to assist in the preparation of their application for tenancy at the Cove Park.

    Provision of Land Campaign Incentives: The second item for E- IDCOT, and in order to stimulate interest in land tenancy at Cove, E- IDCOT has launched a series of incentives which include a wave of lease payments of up to five (5) years, as well as complimentary access to E- IDCOT’s Project Management Services. This marketing effort will be taken throughout the country and the region.

Minority Leader, I only recognize the Chief Secretary at this time.

Madam Presiding Officer, 45 (2).

11.30 A.M

Since last year, the Assembly has been demonstrating a   keen interest in advancing its efforts vis-a-vis the formal adoption of the   new Public Financial Management (PMF) system, and outlined the key   deliverables that have been achieved, indicating our readiness for this thing   to go live.

  • The selection and assignment of two (2) officers within each of the eleven (11) Accounting Units to act as Change Agents - done.

  • The execution of end-user training, capacity building and change management sessions for all users across the Assembly - done.

  • The provision and availability of adequate information, hardware resources and secure connectivity access - done.

  • A facilitated and supported hard data migration process - done.

  • Reform of the THA’s Cash Management System to conform to IFMIS - done.

  • The appointment of a THA representative on the National IFMIS steering Committee.

    Accordingly, Madam Presiding Officer, there is no doubt that the PFM reform strategy through the IFMIS project will redound significant benefits to Tobago in particular and the country as a whole. We are hopeful that later this year, the project will kick off successfully in the ‘Go Live’ phase as we continue to work with the Ministry of Finance throughout the implementation process.

     Notably, Madam Presiding Officer, we were able to secure the commitment of the IMF through the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), to provide additional technical assistance in the areas of fiscal and financial management, research, data collection and debt management.

     Madam Presiding Officer, before I conclude this section, permit me to treat with some of the Administration’s proposed policy and institutional responses to the findings of the forensic report without stating in great detail the items under the forensic report. ... [Interruption]

... with the institutional anomalousness that fuels the exodus of our senior public servants to Trinidad. Currently, Madam Presiding Officer, our Administrators are paid significantly less than a Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS). This situation has led a number of Administrators to leave the THA and go to Trinidad to act as Deputy Permanent Secretaries. A formal comparative study of the duties and responsibilities of a DPS and an Administrator revealed that the Administrator’s workload is about one hundred percent (100%) more than that of any DPS in any Ministry in Port of Spain.

In fact, every Administrator, by law, is an accounting officer and Deputy Permanent Secretaries are not accounting officers by law. With that said, Madam Presiding Officer, to address this brain drain, in Fiscal 2024, my Administration will continue to engage the Salaries Review Commission and the Chief Personnel Officer with the direct aim of getting them to bring the matter to the attention of the Cabinet for redress. This would build stability and predictability into the Administrative functions of the Assembly.

     Madam Presiding Officer, if nothing else, the delays in the appointment of a Chief Administrator to the Assembly have made pellucid the urgent need to change the process by eliminating the involvement of the Prime Minister as proposed in the Bill currently before the Parliament. [Desk thumping} So, there is an urgent need in the process for the selection of a Chief Administrator by eliminating the direct involvement of the Prime Minister as proposed in the Bill currently before the Parliament. Additionally, the time has come for us to give serious consideration for the establishment of the position of Deputy Chief Administrator of the Assembly. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, modern inclusive governance demands that the ideas and ideals of the people are embodied in the solutions to public problems. This is why we continue to engage Tobagonians in our town hall meetings from Charlotteville to Crown Point. These meetings will continue even after this budget presentation. Listening to the people is not enough; we must build the formal institutional structures that will enable us to translate the wishes and aspirations of Tobagonians seamlessly from talk, into action. That is why we took the action of issuing mandate letters to every Secretary early in our first year. This is our way of ensuring that the people’s mandate remains at the forefront of the work to be done.

      We have achieved quite a bit thus far. At the same time, we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. We also recognize that a significant challenge for us, is the limitations of the institutional environment for public engagement. Consequently, we intend in Fiscal 2024, to finalise a policy position on public engagement, which will lead to the establishment of a Public Engagement Framework based on the fundamental principle of public participation and related principles, including inclusion, transparency, deliberation and collaboration.

     Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me now to look at how this Administration intends to strengthen the THA’s fiscal and financial management systems.

     The Assembly continues to express a keen interest in this long-standing issue of the modernization and digitization of the public financial management landscape. We are taking all the necessary steps and making the required investments towards the successful implementation of the Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) project. This project is geared towards the enhancement of public sector efficiency in the delivery of public services transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.

      Madam Presiding Officer, the Administration is quite mindful that the formal adoption of IFMIS in the THA requires substantive partnership with the Central Government as it is a national project championed by the Ministry of Finance. I am well aware also, that implementation requires high-level commitment, training, implementation of new processes, amendment of the legal and regulatory framework and serious change management. Notwithstanding the requirements, I wish to place on public record my dissatisfaction with the pace of implementation and the level of setbacks experienced in preparation for several ‘Go Live’ dates set by the Ministry of Finance, to operationalize the system.

Members, I am only recognizing the Chief Secretary at this time. Continue.

11.20 A.M

This will require our public officers to have twenty-first century skills that go beyond reading, mathematics and science. Therefore, our workforce development, education and training initiatives will seek to build capacity in the following areas.

1. Thinking critically and making studied judgments which will empower them to assess the credibility, accuracy and value of information, analyse and evaluate information, and make reasoned decisions.

2. Solving complexed and multi-disciplined problems by identifying problems, thinking through solutions and exploring new options, if required.

3. Creative and entrepreneurial thinking: the ability to think unconventionally, question processes, and imagine and come up with new and more creative ways to get the work done.

4. Communicating and collaborating by interacting competently and respectfully with others because of the cross-institutional functionalities that come with an integrated and digitized public administration.

5. Making innovative use of knowledge, information and opportunities - to create new services and processes and find better ways of doing the public’s business.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in Fiscal 2024, we propose to fully operationalize the Tobago Public Service Academy (TPSA), using the already accredited Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (THT1) as the executing entity. The Academy was planned for the top floor of the Shaw Park Complex, but due to a long-standing leaking roof, the programme has been on pause. Given that the roof is finally being fixed, the Academy will soon be on its way. The Academy will be our main workforce development, reskilling, retraining and retooling institution. We view training as both an internal control and quality assurance mechanism.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the disparity between wages/salaries, allowances, and the performance of a significant number of workers in the THA could severely stymie efforts to build sustainability, prosperity and resilience. This is an issue we must collectively address. In this regard, my Administration will intensify efforts to strengthen the performance management and monitory systems with the introduction of electronic attendance recording technologies across the entire Assembly. Adjacently, where performance defects are identified, the necessary training and support will be provided. Where corrective action is required, it will be taken in keeping with the industrial relations laws and regulations. Our goal is to create a culture of “work for reward and not reward for work”. [Desk thumping]

     Relatedly, Tobago has to deal decisively...[interruption]

11.10 A.M
  •  There must be appropriate amendments to Section 75 of the Constitution to place a fetter on the Cabinet in relation to the matters for which the Executive Council of the Assembly will have the final constitutional authority.

     Finally, Madam Presiding Officer, Section 113 of the Constitution, must be amended to provide the constitutional guarantee of a minimum of seven percent (7%) of the National Budget or an appropriate rubric or formula for calculating Tobago’s budgetary allocation. [Desk thumping] It cannot be that a Minister of Finance will decide how much to give and to take back what was appropriated in the budget.

    Madam Presiding Officer, these basic constitutional improvements will strengthen the governance foundation of the Tobago Island Government. Moreover, they are proposed to provide clarity, predictability, peace, justice, fairness and accountability, and to protect and promote the human rights and entitlement of Tobagonians to determine their destiny. This is the constitutional foundation on which Tobago will strengthen and build strong governing institutions to deliver sustainability, prosperity and resilience to Tobagonians.

     Madam Presiding Officer, after more than fifty (50) years of struggles, the self-government project is no longer a guessing game for us. It is a project for which Tobagonians are now prepared with fuller knowledge and understanding of the minimum constitutional amendments that must be made for democracy to work for us in the twin island Constitutional Republic. Any refusal of one or more of these provisions will give Tobago cause to refuse the Central Government’s overtures.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we are going to lead the integration of all new ideas and previous works into a Tobago position paper. This paper will inform the critical minimum amendments to be made to the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill currently at the Committee stage of the Parliament. An expenditure of six million dollars ($6m) is programmed to fund this project in Fiscal 2024.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I now look to our strategies for

strengthening and digitizing the public administrative business processes and procedures of the Assembly.

     Madam Presiding Officer, strong, public institutions are essential for sustainable socio-economic development, prosperity, and also for resilience. Strong institutions play a lead role in reducing poverty; improving the rule of law; increasing economic growth; and managing environmental change. It is against the backdrop of the foregoing, that Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”. The stated aim of the sustainable development goals, Goal No. 16 is to improve people’s lives by reducing violence, improving access to justice, and promoting effective, accountable, strong and inclusive institutions.

     Madam Presiding Officer, without a doubt, this Administration is settled and nestled in the knowledge that strong institutions are a prerequisite for Tobago to move into a position of sustainability and resilience. Strong institutions will give birth to our future prosperity - “child by child, family by family and village by village”.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the warning signals across our institutional landscape are blinking red. As policymakers, we have a make-or-break opening and an obligation to invest the resources on the strengthening of the island's governing institutions and, thereby, build the foundation of a sustainable, prosperous and resilient Tobago.

    In Fiscal 2024, we propose to accelerate the strengthening and the digitization of the public administrative business processes and procedures into an e-government platform, called “Tobago Online”, of which “My- THA” is the first phase. The strategic goal is to bring all of the Assemblies, public service delivery functions into a high security, high speed, single digital space that will allow remote online access to Tobagonians wherever in the world they may be. The substantive, progressive outcome, Madam Presiding Officer, is that Tobagonians will stay in the comfort of their homes, log into “My-THA” and apply for and receive decisions on the applications with respect to issues such as:

  • Social Assistance;

  • Pensions;

  • Home Improvement Grants;

  • Housing Applications;

  • Financial Assistance 

  • Business Development   Loans;

  • Business Development   Grants; and

  • Application for State   Lands

among others.

It must be noted, Madam Presiding Officer, this is more than just putting an application form online. This is also about having the processing of these applications virtually.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the sustainability of My-THA e- government platform, will be dependent on three (3) critical factors.

     Firstly, the reliability and resilience of the hardware and software components of the “My-THA” digital infrastructure; the capacity and capability of public officers to discharge their duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently in the digitized environment; and thirdly, public sensitization, accessibility and capacity development.

    Madam Presiding Officer, in this regard, we have been having extensive discussions with the Minister of Digital Transformation, and have secured his commitment to provide technical and financial  initiative. Relatedly, fourteen (14) sites have already been identified across the island for the establishment of technology centres, which will provide support to members of the public in their interface with “My-THA”.

     Moreover, Madam Presiding Officer, the Ministry and the Division has also undertaken to work with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), and the service providers towards ensuring that every child, family and community has reliable connectivity and free Wi-Fi access in all government offices and popular public spaces. Currently, with the THA’s partnership with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and Flow, we are almost through with running fibre optics all the way to L’Anse Fourmi. So, the ones forgotten behind God's back villages in North and North-east Tobago, will finally be right in front of God's face. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, alongside the “My-THA” initiative, we propose to develop an operationalize our diaspora registration and mobilization online platform in Fiscal 2024. The online platform will provide a comprehensive and structured database of Tobagonians abroad that includes their skill levels and areas of development of Tobago that they are interested in. This project will enable Tobagonians residing abroad, to actively participate in, and contribute towards the social, cultural, political and economic advancement of their island.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as we computerize the public service processes and procedures of the Assembly, we must simultaneously equip our public officers with new skills and knowledge necessary products for them to operate efficiently and effectively.

11.00 A.M

These are more valuable measures than the traditional tools of per capita income and Gross Domestic Products used to indicate development.

    Madam Presiding Officer, it is wildly held that prosperity would emanate from the market that develop from the pursuits of individuals and their evolving need for goods and services that they cannot produce themselves. In promoting prosperity through effective, accountable and inclusive governing institutions at all levels, we expect Tobagonians to have deep and loving relationships, and a life worth living. We also expect Tobagonians to become more empowered and motivated towards making Tobago the greatest little island on the planet.

    Resilience: Madam Presiding Officer, the lessons learnt from the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods, and from the widespread damage and socio-economic displacement in our region, caused by the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters that themselves are powered by climate change, have deepened the necessity to mainstream resilience as a critically important, social development policy goal.

    Accordingly, we conceptualized resilience as a ‘system property’ that should be mainstreamed in the institutions of Tobago’s government. In this regard, resilience represents the mechanism that are designed and socially engineered into our governance arrangements that would allow our Divisions and Departments to seamlessly reorganize and continue to function in the face of events such as health pandemics, socio-economic disruptions and natural disasters.

    Therefore, Madam Presiding Officer, building resilience into our governing institutions is about developing and enhancing systems, processes, procedures, technology and the human resource capacity, and/or also capability to deliver results over time credibly, legitimately and quickly during precipitous and fast moving life changing events.

    Strengthening our Governance and Constitutional Framework: Madam Presiding Officer, we live in a digitally fluid world where there are many dangers and accelerating changes. The list of problems facing our island in this post-COVID-19 world is long, and it includes the lingering tail wind effects of the pandemic, food shortages, climate changes and the increasing inequality. We have only one (1) tool for collective action to meet these challenges. Madam Presiding Officer, that is our Tobago government, (the THA) and its constituents governing institutions.

    Our nation, Trinidad and Tobago, is a constitutional Republic by virtue of our 1976 Republican Constitution. What this means, Madam Presiding Officer, is that our Governments must operate and function in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Republic.

     It follows that the constitution and the THA Act 40 of 1996, represent the foundation on which the powers, authority and responsibilities of the Tobago government stand. They constitute the bedrock on which sustainability, prosperity and resilience are built and delivered to all of us as Tobagonians.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this takes me to the critical issue of Internal Self-Government, that is, the strengthening of the constitutional and legislative frameworks that would establish the Tobago Island Government. The current arrangements, notwithstanding the incremental improvements, are in large measure, still akin to what can be justifiably labelled as constitutional colonization, because the existing agreements give the Port of Spain based Central Government the constitutional power and authority to intervene, override and decide on virtually every exercise of the authority the THA has been given by Schedule 5. The Central Government behaves in this way without invitation by either good cause or reason, even in the face of Tobagonians having elected their own island government. In fact, the Central Government behaves in this way out of disrespect for the people of Tobago, and out of share bad mind for being voted out of power. [Desk thumping].

     As a result, Madam Presiding Officer, we have been experiencing and engaging in publicly displayed disagreement between the THA and the Central Government over time and more so now. It did not start in 2021, but it is continuing in 2023. They have certainly placed administrative impediments in our way. They have even taken us to court on some matters. There is no need for any further evidence and/or arguments to prove that these disruptive actions are manifestations of the colonial provisions of the colonial masters sitting at the Red House in Trinidad. Therefore, Madam Presiding Officer, for us Tobagonians to build a sustainable, prosperous and resilient economy, ‘child by child, family by family and village by village’, we must together ensure that the necessary enrichments are made to the constitutional and legislative foundations of our collective agency - the Tobago House of Assembly, and it cannot be the wrong side/inside out arrangements that were proposed by the current Government in Port of Spain.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in this regard, in the coming months and continuing in fiscal 2024, this Administration in concert with Tobagonians, would be relentless in its pursuit for the following basic enriching amendments to be made to the constitutional and legislative foundational governance relationship between the Central Government and the Tobago House of Assembly.

1.A constitutional definition of Tobago that is shaped by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and that references [Desk thumping] the social, cultural, economic and political histories of the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago “nah tek” no legislative upgrade without this constitutional definition of Tobago being in it. [Desk thumping]

2.The conferral of final constitutional authority and powers on the THA for all the matters or items listed in the Fifth Schedule, but perhaps more clearly, Madam Presiding Officer, the Constitution, must be amended to clearly state that the matters to which the THA has final authority and control over in Tobago, and likewise the Constitution, must be amended to state the matters for which the Central Government will have special authority in control in and over Tobago.

3.There must be appropriate amendments to section 53 of the Constitution to create the Tobago legislature with constitutional authority and powers to make laws and adjacent regulations for the matters to which the THA has final constitutional responsibility and control.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Madam Presiding Officer, the audit report is expected to form part of the affidavits in the Court, in the soonest possible time. None of the culprits will escape.

  • We exposed over one thousand (1000) Tobagonians to financial literacy training.

  • We provided COVID-19 relief to hoteliers and guest house owners to assist with repairs to, and upgrade of their facilities.

  • We paid the reserve electricity capacity bill for five (5) hotels in the amount of three million dollars ($3m) to keep them open.

  • We increased salaries and wages for CEPEP and URP workers by one hundred percent (100%) and eighty-eight percent (88%) respectively.

  • We provided one thousand, three hundred (1,300) temporary jobs in total. Five hundred (500) late last year and eight hundred (800) currently 

Madam Presiding Officer:

  • We employed three hundred and seventy (377) persons in the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, and one hundred and thirty (130) persons in the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment Sustainable Development. [Desk thumping]


  • We increased the wages of reforestation workers.

  • We successfully deliver the Lure Great River Experience Facility.

  • We completed the renovation upgrade of Manta Lodge.

  • We successfully hosted the inaugural Tobago Carnival in October 2022.

  • We launched the Tourism Industry Customer Service Programme and trained over two hundred (200) service leaders.

  • We successfully negotiated the resumption of the Condor flights from Germany to Tobago.

  • We successfully launched our diaspora engagement initiative in New York.

  • We improved operational efficiency at tractor pool with the acquisition of six (6) wheeled tractors, an excavator, a trailer truck, a bucket truck and a dump truck.

  • We distributed Smart Garden Units to fifty-seven (57) schools; upgraded the water quality lab through the acquisition of additional equipment to test for lead, sulphide, phosphorus and iron, and to do  advanced testing for nitrates.

In the area of physical infrastructure development, Madam Presiding

Officer, we delivered the following:

  • the Smithfield to Dutch Fort Connector Roads; [Desk thumping]

  • the St. Peter’s Bay Road, giving residents vehicular access to their homes; [Desk thumping]

  • the connector road from Lammy to Roxborough; [Desk thumping]

  • the Little Tobago Jetty, main house and pagoda rehabilitation projects; [Desk thumping]

  • refurbishment and upgrade of the prison in Tobago; [Desk thumping]\

  • which by the way, Madam Presiding Officer, is not a function of the THA, so, they might as well give me the work for National Security. [Desk thumping]

  • a bridge at Gru Gru Patch and other civil works giving residents vehicular access to their homes;

  • a restored and reconfigured physical Assembly Legislative Chamber to now accommodate fifteen (15) Members instead of twelve (12) elected Members. [Desk thumping]

    Madam Presiding Officer, the foregoing is only a snapshot of this Administration’s social and economic delivery to Tobagonians. There are many more achievements to talk about, but based on time constraints, I will end here. The other Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries will provide greater details in the debate which will follow.

    Additionally, a paper containing my original Statement with all the achievements will be laid in the House and will also be published for public consumption.

     I will now set out in detail my Administration's Strategic Policy Agenda for Fiscal 2024 and beyond.

     Madam Presiding Officer, our longer term strategic outlook for Tobago is one that speaks to a sustainable, prosperous and resilient society. Therefore, our budget for Fiscal 2024 is aptly themed: “Building a Sustainable, Prosperous and Resilient Tobago”. Please permit me to elaborate on the core elements of the theme.

     Madam Presiding Officer, sustainability and resilience in the context of Tobago's growth and development, speak to the strengthening of our governance institutions. More precisely, they demand the threatening and digitalization of the business processes, procedures, systems and human resource capabilities of institutions and agencies of the Assembly. Strengthening and modernizing the island's institutions will enable us to maintain and deliver enhanced prosperity and resilience continuously over time through improved effectiveness and efficiency in project and programme delivery.

    Madam Presiding Officer, this concept of sustainability has three (3) kinds of interrelated components: economic, environmental, and social. Collectively, they focus on the balance between social and economic prosperity, and the value of the ecological systems that serve to foster economic growth and social development. Sustainability includes serious consideration of the impacts of environmental, social and economic drivers on changes to the well-being and welfare of Tobagonians.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is only on such a system of sustainability and resilience that prosperity will be delivered. In this regard, building prosperity speaks to creating practical socio-economic opportunities for every child, family and community to be successful in the pursuit of self-actualization, wealth accumulation, good health and general happiness.

Again, Chief Secretary, I will caution you to be guided by the Standing Orders of this House. If this matter is indeed before the Court, this would be a sub judice matter. Please be guided accordingly. This matter is not for debate again. This is a budget presentation.

Chief Secretary, continue.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Madam Presiding Officer, everything I stated about the audit is very general in nature. I still have not disclosed any of the named contractors involved in this matter. Further to which, Madam Presiding Officer, we must at this juncture, note that not so long ago, there were calls to make the report public. So, it is quite bemusing the hypocrisy from the other side. [Desk thumping]

Minority Leader, [Crosstalk]

Members, I will remind you all that this is a budget presentation, nothing here is up for debate.

Chief Secretary, I will caution you - please be guided by the Standing Orders of this House. Please continue.

Madam Presiding Officer, 25 (2). The nature of the audit is a consideration of the Court, and therefore the contents that he has referred to cannot be lawfully put into this argument, in this House. [Interruption] [Crosstalk]

10.50 A.M
  •  The audit also   identified contractors who were paid tens of millions for projects on which   they did no work. It also points to an organized criminal conspiracy to steal   Tobago's money, which conspiracy seems to have involved Members of the   previous Executive Council.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. I know what is before the court, Madam Presiding Officer. Just as I have been careful in picking quite cautiously what to say to the public, I am doing so today, and it is also part of the reason why I am not giving the Minority a copy of the report. [Desk thumping]

Madam Presiding Officer:

  • We commissioned a Forensic Audit which revealed that the claims made by contractors were on average sixty percent (60%) overvalued.

Chief Secretary, continue.

Madam Presiding Officer, I rise on Standing Order 45   (2). This matter is in front of the court. There is an injunction, and   therefore, it is sub judice.

10.40 A.M

Added to this, the Minister of Finance increased the national budget by three point eight zero billion dollars ($3.80b) in the 2023 Mid-year Review, and allocated only one hundred million dollars ($100m) to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), and that is after a demand to pay a certain contractor, as opposed to one hundred and fifty-three million dollars ($153m) in keeping with the four point zero three percent (4.03%) minimum, of the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC), once again breaking the law. This now makes it a total of two hundred and five million dollars ($205m) owed to the Tobago House of Assembly by the Central Government.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this is a clear case in which the Central Government has been caught stealing from Tobagonians. [Desk thumping] In fact, if I should put on my old linguistic cap, the more appropriate expression will be the Central Government has been “thiefing” from Tobagonians. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, this grossly abusive, insensitive and unfair situation was formally brought to the attention of the Minister of Finance, who replied that he had the authority in law, to reduce Tobago’s meagre share of the national budget.

     What is even worse, is that the Minister of Finance went on in his letter to me, to quote an Act which he claimed was embedded in the Constitution. When I checked that particular section of the Constitution, it dealt with the hosting of elections and the filling of the Senate - nothing to do with an authority for the Minister to reduce Tobago’s meagre share of the national budget. The matter was also raised with the Prime Minister who disappointingly as usual, but not surprisingly, supported his Minister of Finance. Let me make it pellucid that my Administration would take all and every step to ensure that every penny, every red cent that was approved by the national Parliament for Tobagonians, come to the Tobago House of Assembly to do its business. [Desk thumping] I say no more on this matter for now.

     Madam Presiding Officer, even after the meagre allocation of four dollars and three cents ($4.03) for every one hundred dollars ($100) spent in this country for Tobago, and the numerous obstacles placed purposefully in our way, we were still able to deliver for our Tobagonians.

Some key highlights of our achievements over the year are:

  • In the social sector, we commissioned and commenced operations at the Roxborough Hospital taking tertiary level care directly to Tobagonians in the east and north-east of the island.

  • Three hundred and seven (307) cataract surgeries were successfully performed through the Cataract Backlog Programme, reducing the backlog by sixty-three percent (63%). [Desk thumping]

  • We (not they), increased the social grant from five hundred dollars ($500) to one thousand dollars ($1000) to families of five persons (5) or more. [Desk thumping]

  • We successfully completed upgrade and repair works to primary and secondary schools to the tune of thirty million dollars ($30m) under the annual school repair programme, which represents the largest upgrade of its kind in the history of Tobago. [Desk thumping]

  • We provided financial support to four hundred and fifty (450) families to purchase school supplies.

  • We provided financial assistance to seventy-one (71) new tertiary level students, and continued assistance to fifty-one (51) students under the Financial Assistance Programme to the tune of two point six million dollars ($2.6m), well above the seven hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) allocation we received from the Central Government [Desk thumping].

Madam Presiding Officer, you   need to listen to this. I know you worked for the THA, so you might jump up   in this:

  • We paid backlogged gratuity and increments to teachers and other employees of over twenty-five million dollars ($25m). [Desk thumping].

Madam Presiding Officer, 1 want teachers to note that the allocation to pay gratuities and increments was only at seven million dollars ($7m).

  • We outfitted our schools with furniture and furnishings at a value of seven point seven million dollars. ($7.7m). [Desk thumping]

  • We exposed two hundred and fifty (250) young persons to the World of Work Programme through the Youth Department and Youth Energized for Success (YES) Programmes.

  • We dispersed over six million dollars ($6m) to six hundred and forty-eight (648) beneficiaries under the Home Improvement Programme. [Desk thumping] Again, more was spent on this programme than what was allocated for it.

  • We launched the Social Housing Construction Programme with the successful construction and delivery of one of the model houses to a client in Bon Accord.

  • Twenty (20) more houses are to be completed with the second one nearing completion by way of repairs. All are expected to be distributed before the end of 2023.

  • We successfully trained one thousand (1000) persons in the Vocational Skills Programmes.

  • We successfully reconstituted and operationalized over twenty- one (21) Village Councils

Madam Presiding Officer, this is a critical step in the democratization of our governance. Village Councils have to move away from being geriatric wards for party groups and become Village Councils for the governance of villages -

  • over twenty-one (21) Village Councils we reconstituted and will be engaged in the THA as part of our community governance. [Desk thumping] That is democratization of governance on the island. Not one man trekking up and down in the media.

  • We constructed the Montgomery walk around track at a cost of one point one six million dollars ($1.6m).

  • We have started the project of lighting up the Patience Hill playground. [Desk thumping] The scoping is completed for Louis D’or, and it will start in short order.

  • We upgraded by way of our financial contributions, the swimming pool at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) across from the Turtle beach area and at the Kendal swimming pool - works are ongoing.

  • We restructured CEPEP to improve operational efficiency and productivity.

In our financial and economic operations:

  • We commissioned a Forensic Audit which revealed that   the claims made by contractors were on average, sixty percent (60%) overvalued.

10.30 A.M

     In April 2023, the rates of headline and food price inflation nationally, were six percent (6%), and eleven point two percent (11.2%) respectively, and core inflation was recorded at four point eight percent (4.8%) Notwithstanding, rising global interest rates, the Central Bank in December 2022, kept the repo rate at three point five percent (3.5%), guided by the pace of the domestic recovery and inflation rates.

    Generally, the domestic economy is still largely reliant on the fortunes of the energy sector. This sector, as we all know, is highly vulnerable to the vagaries of global market forces and speaks to the urgent need for diversification.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to the Tobago Economy.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the most recent data produced by the Economic Management Research Unit (EMRU) in the Division of Finance, Trade and Economy, indicates that Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product at constant prices for 2022, was approximately one point six five billion TT dollars ($1.65bTT). An examination of the composition of the island’s GDP points overwhelmingly to the need to diversify the island’s economy and develop new economic drivers.

     In fact, Madam Presiding Officer, the data indicates that the State sector was the largest contributor to Tobago’s GDP in 2022, accounting for approximately forty-six percent (46%) of the island's GDP. The second largest contributor was finance, insurance, real estate and business sector, accounting for about twenty-seven percent (27%). The tourism sector was the third largest sector, accounting for about fourteen percent (14%) of GDP in 2022. The transportation, storage and communication sector accounted for approximately four percent (4%) of the island's GDP; and construction and quarrying contributed about three percent (3%). Finally, the data suggests that the agriculture and manufacturing sectors were relatively small, collectively contributing about two percent (2%) to Tobago's GDP in 2022.

    Madam Presiding Officer, shifting my attention to labour market conditions in Tobago. The most recent labour market data available from the CSO for the fourth quarter of 2022, suggests that the rate of unemployment in Tobago was approximately one percent (1%) - a figure which is significantly below the national figure of five percent (5%). However, the reported one percent (1%) unemployment rate for Tobago must be interpreted with caution and subjected to deeper labour market analysis. Underemployment is still a real deal for us in Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the share of the labour force employed in the government sector stood at fifty-five percent (55%) with the private sector employing about forty-five percent (45%). Comparatively, the share of the national, that is Trinidad and Tobago’s labour force in the government sector, stood at twenty-six percent (26%), with the private sector employing about seventy-four percent (74%). That is nationally. In Tobago, fifty-five percent (55%) employed by the government sector, and forty-five percent (45%) by the private sector, with underemployment (not unemployment),underemployment still being a challenge.

The share of the island's labour force with tertiary education as the highest level of attainment was twenty-eight percent (28%). The share with secondary education as the highest level of attainment was sixty percent (60). The share with primary education as their highest level of attainment was twelve percent (12%).

     Madam Presiding Officer, the most recent data on prices available from the Central Bank, suggest that Tobago recorded headline and food inflation in April 2023, of six point two percent (6.2%) and seventeen percent (17%) respectively. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, was recorded at four point four percent (4.4%). This situation, particularly with respect to food price inflation, is of significant concern to us, and which we propose to address frontally with our food sovereignty and food security initiatives.

     Given the trends in the national and international markets, the forecast is for continued rising inflation in fiscal 2024. Madam Presiding Officer, there is a need for us to boost our defence against inflation and protect the population from the falling real standard of living it inevitably brings. As you know, given our current productive base, most of the food price inflation we experience in the island is imported from Trinidad and elsewhere. The foregoing analysis represents the economic context in which we do our budgetary estimates for Fiscal 2024.

     So, I now turn my attention to highlighting some of the key achievements of this Administration over the last fiscal year.

     Madam Presiding Officer, truth and science must be the foundation of everything we do. Therefore, a fair and material assessment of what was achieved thus far in Fiscal 2023 must be positioned against the level of funding that was actually allocated to the THA to provide public services to Tobagonians.

     Madam Presiding Officer, you may recall that in Fiscal 2023, I requested a total package of three point nine seven billion TT dollars ($3.97b) comprising three point zero seven billion TT dollars ($3.07b) for recurrent expenditure; nine hundred million TT dollars ($900m) for development programme expenditure; fifty-nine point five nine million TT dollars ($59.59m) and fifty-three point one seven million TT dollars ($53.17m) dollars for URP and CEPEP respectively. The unfortunate truth is that the THA was only allocated two point six billion dollars ($2.6b) comprising two point two billion TT dollars ($2.2b) for recurrent expenditure; four hundred million dollars ($400m) for development programme; and eighteen million dollars ($18m) and nine point two million TT dollars ($9.2m) for URP and CEPEP respectively. This constituted an underfunding of the THA by one point three billion dollars ($1.3b) or thirty- three point three percent (33.3%) of the monies requested to meet the expenses of our planned programme of works for Fiscal 2023. It is important to also note that we inherited over seven hundred million dollars ($700m) in debts owed to contractors and other service providers - some threatening to march every Monday morning for their monies.

     Madam Presiding Officer, thankfully most of them are not attempting to extort their monies from us. What is even more fiscally and financially abusive, is the illegal conduct of the Minister of Finance in single-handedly reducing the amount of money approved by the National Parliament for the Assembly. Our reconciliation exercise revealed that between 2017 and 2022 alone, the Ministry of Finance did not release one hundred and fifty-two million dollars ($152m) in approved allocations to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

10.20 A.M

Most importantly, Madam Presiding Officer, I want to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for His continued grace and mercies upon Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, for the remaining of the presentation, I will proceed as follows:

     Firstly, I will provide an outlook for the international, regional and domestic economies. Secondly, I will deliver a review of the fiscal operations and achievements over the last year. Thirdly, I will articulate the strategic policy objectives of Fiscal 2024. Fourthly, I will present the estimates of Fiscal 2024, and fifthly, I will present the Estimates of Expenditures and thereafter, the financing options. Finally, I will conclude this presentation and hopefully, it will be in shorter time than last year. No promises there.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I want to inform the listeners that this is my calculated decision not to go for four (4) hours as I did in last year’s presentation.

     I will now examine the outlook for global and regional economies, and then the outlook for the national and Tobago economies.

      The Global Economic Outlook: Madam Presiding Officer, the prospects for Tobago’s development must be seen in the context of current and future trends in the global economy. Global economic growth in recent years has been sluggish as the world continues to struggle with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russian/Ukraine war continues to disrupt global trade with spin-off effects on global inflation. The International Monetary Fund forecasts global economic growth of two point eight percent (2.8%) at the end of 2023, which will increase slightly to three point zero percent (3.0%) in 2024. Relatedly, global inflation is projected at seven point zero percent (7.0%) for 2023, and four point nine percent (4.9%) for 2024.

     While the advanced economies are projected to grow modestly at one point three percent (1.3%) and one point four percent (1.4%) in 2023 and 2024 respectively, emerging and developing economies are projected to grow by three point nine percent (3.9%) and four point two percent (4.2%) in the same periods. With respect to the advanced economies output in the United Kingdom and Germany, it is projected to decline by zero point one percent (0.1%) and zero point three percent (0.3%) respectively in 2023, but would increase by one point one percent (1.1%) and one point zero percent (1.0%) in 2024. Interestingly, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) foresees global tourism returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, and supports targeted investment in the sector. Compared with the first quarter of 2022, the first quarter of 2023 has seen a more than one hundred percent (100%) increase in international tourist travel.

     New trends in tourism in 2023 include multigenerational “ed- ventures” - a combination of awareness of children’s education needs, with holiday travel for the rest of the family - what is known as “bleisure” or the twinning with leisure travel sustainable tourism and luxury travel.

     Madam Presiding Officer, these are developments that we must continuously monitor because of their implications for Tobago’s economic growth and development.

     Furthermore, among the emerging and developing countries, China and India are forecasted to grow at five point two percent (5.2%) and five point nine percent (5.9%) in 2023, and four point five percent (4.5%) and six point three percent (6.3%) in 2024, respectively.

According to the United States Energy Transformation Administration or ETA, the West Texas intermediate price of oil is forecasted to average US seventy-seven dollars (US$77) per barrel by December 2023, but is expected to fall to US seventy-seven dollars (US77) per barrel by 2024.

     The Henry Hub price of natural gas is expected at an average US two dollars and ninety-one cents (US$2.91) per MMBTU by the end of 2023, and increase to US three dollars and seventy-two cents (US$3.72) per MMBTU in 2024. The projected movements in the prices of oil and gas have material implications for our national economy and our own economy.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in our Latin American and Caribbean regions, (we are looking at regional economic outlook now) growth is expected in our region at one point three percent (1.3%) in 2023, increasing slightly to two point four percent (2.4%) in 2024. Within the Caribbean region alone, projected growth rates are five point six percent (5.6%) in 2023 and five point seven percent (5.7%) in 2024. Tighter financial conditions have stifled investment in most of the islands which has made debt difficult to roll over and/or manage. This has resulted in lower growth rates in countries except notably Guyana, which is enjoying a petroleum- driven economic boom.

     The reliance on tourism, remittances and the export of commodities has made Caribbean economies extremely susceptible to negative economic shocks in advanced economies. Added to this susceptibility, are increased risks arising from natural disasters. These risks have been exacerbated by the negative effects of climate change such as sea level rise and rising sea surface temperatures.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the data suggests that there are significant development opportunities related to the diversification of Tobago’s economy - in digital competitiveness and connectivity and in the uptake of smart technologies. Development opportunities also exist in financing related to climate change.

     National Economic Outlook: Madam Presiding Officer, nationally, the outlook for the economy shows mixed fortunes within the energy and non-energy sectors. The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in its latest economic bulletin in January 2023, reported an expansion of domestic economic activity in the third quarter of 2022. This was fuelled by rapid economic growth in the non-energy sector which increased by ten point five percent (10.5%) offsetting the two point five percent (2.5%) decline in the energy sector.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the non-energy sector growth was led by developments in professional, scientific and technical activities; transportation and storage and accommodation and food services. The decline in the energy sector was driven by contractions in the petro¬chemical and condensate extraction sub-sectors. However, in the third quarter, growth in the energy sector was driven by gas production from the following projects: Colibri, Barracuda, bpTT’s, Matapal and De Novos’s Zandolie. This is contrasted with a decline of nine point two percent (9.2%) in petrochemical production in the second quarter due primarily to a drop in ammonia production, which outweighed a one point two percent (1.2%) increase in methanol production.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the country’s gross official reserves as at the end of December 2022, stood at United States six point eight billion dollars (US$6.8b), representating about eight point six months’ worth of import cover. The Central Statistical Office recorded a five percent (5%) unemployment rate - note that figure - in the fourth quarter of 2022, which is similar to the rate recorded for the corresponding period one year before.

[Desk thumping] Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     Madam Presiding Officer, Deputy Chief Secretary, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Minority Leader and other Members of the Tobago House of Assembly; Administrators of the Tobago House of Assembly; Senior staff of the Tobago House of Assembly; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen in the public gallery; Local and international audiences following this presentation on radio, television and other live streams; Members of the Media, good morning.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is a great pleasure for me to present the second budget of my Administration before this honourable House. The Budget Statement is a statutory obligation under Sections 41 of the Tobago House of Assembly Act 40 of 1996.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the Budget Statement is undoubtedly the most important policy statement of the Tobago House of Assembly. It constitutes the strategic objectives, the projects and programmes designed to achieve these objectives, and the estimated expenditure that is required to achieve the desired outcomes and the estimated revenues of the Tobago House of Assembly for the ensuing Fiscal year 2024.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is worth mentioning again, as I did last year, that the current fiscal and budgetary legislative frameworks denies the THA, the full transformative reach and powers that are inherent in a budget. More will be said about this later in the presentation.

     The Budget is being presented against the backdrop of a global economy that is still struggling to recover from the debilitating socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and from the increasing socio-economic displacement caused by climate-induced natural disasters and supply chain disruptions blamed on the ongoing Russian/Ukraine war.

     Madam Presiding Officer, here at home, we continue to be confronted by a rising tide of crime and violence; a national economy that is seemingly sluggish; a Central Government that is demonstrably unsupportive of the fiscal and financial needs of Tobago; and constitutional and governance arrangements that are less than ideal.

    Madam Presiding Officer, politics, like cricket, is a game of glorious uncertainties. Despite the political developments that have occurred in the last year, I want to seize this opportunity to say to the national community and more directly, the Tobago community, that this Administration remains committed to delivering on its mandate received from the people in 2021. [Desk thumping]

Madam Presiding Officer, we are pressing ahead towards building a sustainable, prosperous and resilient Tobago. Notwithstanding the political noises coming from Minority Leader A and Minority Leader B, and Minority Leader C from Trinidad, [Laughter] I am proud to lead this young and rapidly developing team on the journey towards making Tobago the greatest little island on the planet. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, this Budget Statement could not have been completed without the valuable inputs and contributions of several individuals and groups.

     I want to thank, in particular, the Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries for their contributions. I also want to thank all the individuals who came out and shared their perspectives in the Executive Council's Town Hall meetings. These Town Hall meetings have informed this budget, and to date this is the largest and widest consultative process on the fiscal measures to be taken by the Tobago House of Assembly. In the past, we would have only consulted with small interest groups; this time around, we consulted with villages. To the persons who on a daily basis shared their ideas and thoughts with us, and the groups that have submitted contributions, I say thanks.

     To the public officers across the Divisions of the TH A who put together the various estimates and contributed to the planning of this fiscal package, I extend my gratitude to you.

     To my dear wife and beloved daughter, and family who have supported and loved me during this extraordinarily hectic period, I extend my sincere appreciation.

10.10 A.M

Members, before we start, I would like to advise all persons here with us today, Members and persons in the gallery, to kindly have your phones and personal devices switched off, or on silent. Persons disregarding this request, will be escorted out of the Chamber.

Thank you.

Chief Secretary.

20th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session


26 June 2023
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