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Budget Statement 2016/2017

The Motion is therefore carried.

Leader of Assembly Business.

12.30 P.M

I think all of us, as Tobagonians owe Mr. London a tremendous debt of gratitude for his sterling contribution to Tobago as Teacher, School Principal, Sport Administrator and later on as Assemblyman and Chief Secretary. [Desk thumping]   Mr. London has served both the island and country with distinction.  During his tenure in office, the interests of Tobago and the country were always well placed above narrow partisan interests.  Tobago has done well over the last sixteen (16) years under the astute and sober leadership of Mr. London.  

Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to highlight a few of Tobago’s leaps forward while Mr. London has been at the helm:


  • Tobago’s Domestic Product has more than doubled since 2001;

  • Unemployment in Tobago is down to three point five percent (3.5%) from thirteen percent (13%) in 2001;

  • The proportion of the Tobago Labour force with tertiary education is up to nineteen percent (19%) in 2016 from five percent (5%) in 2001;

  • The economic crises that were common place in Tobago prior to 2001 no longer exist;

  • There have been significant improvements in Tobago’s physical, educational cultural, health and recreational infrastructure since 2001;

  • There is now adequate protection for all of our vulnerable groups in society with a wide-array of social safety-net programmes; and last but not least;

  • The longstanding and vexing issue of Internal Self-Government for Tobago has been significantly advanced and we expect closure to this issue in the not too distant future.

      Madam Presiding Officer, Mr. London has served with distinction and his name would be forever etched in the annals of history as another one of our honourable Tobago sons who has served us wholeheartedly.  

      Madam Presiding Officer, now that we are poised to transition to a new Leader in the next period, I am confident that we can build on the gains that we have made since 2001 under Mr. London’s leadership.  But all of Tobago has a responsibility to work diligently and honestly for the continued development of the island.  

    In view of the prevailing global, regional and national economic environment, I know the journey will not be easy, but I am confident that the attributes of honesty, determination and tenacity which defined Mr. London’s leadership and which are shared by Tobagonians, will serve us in good stead.

Madam Presiding Officer, while the new Central Government continues to grapple with the abysmal condition of the Treasury, the limited resources left at its disposal and the resulting limited fiscal space, we in this Administration give our commitment to the people of Tobago that we will continue to play a role in maintaining the viability of our twin island economy.  We will not engage in the profligate and reckless expenditure or make unwise investments as those we have seen across the waters in the past five (5) years.  We will continue to manage the resources of the people of Tobago with the judiciousness that is required in a small open vulnerable economy like Tobago.  

Our current political climate is already much more favourable than it has been at any time during the tenure of our former Central Government.  In this new political environment of respect and collaboration, much more can be delivered to the people of Tobago, notwithstanding the current economic challenges facing the country.

Madam Presiding Officer, we have been blessed with an abundance of resources and to some extent we have become less aggressive with regard to delivering on our personal responsibility to our country.  For us to succeed, we must play our part and contribute to this country’s economic development.  This applies both to individuals and to the business community. At this time in our history, we must collectively “put our shoulders to the wheel” and make a difference.  It will mean changing some of our work habits; improving our productivity, becoming more innovative, developing a culture of savings and exercising greater prudence in the way we manage our corporate and personal resources.  The Tobago House of Assembly will continue to play our part to provide the enabling environment for all Tobagonians to maximize opportunities in this challenging economic environment.  It is only as a team that our island will surmount these economic challenges.

Madam Presiding Officer, this has been an auspicious morning and on behalf of the Chief Secretary of Tobago, all Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries of the Tobago House or Assembly, I most wholeheartedly thank you for the privilege of serving the people of Tobago as Secretary of Finance and to have played a supporting role in maintaining the stability of our economic environment for the benefit of all Tobagonians.  

I thank the Members sitting and our audience, both within and outside of this Chamber for your time and attention, and may God continue to bless you all and the people of Tobago. 

I beg to move. [Desk thumping]

Question put and agreed to.

12.20 P.M

What better way to ensure that essential facilities and services can be delivered to their own people and to earn attractive returns on their investments.

Madam Presiding Officer, the report from the annual Trinidad and Tobago IMF Article IV 2016 Consultation stated that as a country, we have ‘under-saved and under-invested in our future”.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) went on to explain that nationally, we are not currently in crisis, but without mitigating measures, we may find ourselves in a more precarious economic position in the near future.  If we are serious about investing in our development, the THA is ready to consider the establishment of a Tobago Savings Fund or some similar vehicle to save for future generations.  This investment vehicle will focus on long term growth rather than immediate returns and transparent and accountable development funding modalities.  Despite the current national economic challenges, as an island we cannot afford to wait for greater prosperity to begin to save and invest for the future.  As we say in Tobago “Drip drip does full bucket” and so, the time to begin this process of saving for the future is now.

Madam Presiding Officer, I announced previously in this Honourable House that one of the primary alternative financing mechanisms being explored by the Assembly is the Public Private Partnership (PPP) modality.  The Tobago House of Assembly has formally adopted the use of PPPs as a mechanism for accelerating the Public Sector Investment Programme in Tobago. Given current fiscal constraints and the re-prioritization of our development programme, long-term capital financing must be considered along with innovative performance based solutions that provide value for money.  Particularly as PPPs are not limited to traditional physical infrastructure sectors such as transport, tourism, government accommodation, water and sanitation, and energy, they can also bridge the financing gap in the social sector to include education, healthcare, and housing.

Madam Presiding Officer, the success of PPP projects lies in creating an enabling environment for both the public and private sectors.  The public sector is required to prepare well-structured and bankable PPP projects to attract private sector investment whilst safeguarding the public interest.

Madam Presiding Officer, we have been working closely with our multilateral partners at the Canadian High Commission, the International Monetary Fund’s Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (IMF – CARTAC), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the World Bank (WB) to leverage their technical expertise on this subject.  

This Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Administration is committed to pursuing this endeavour with a keen awareness of the long-term impact on debt or contingent liabilities.  Over the next year, we will see the integration of PPP management in the overall public investment management process.

Madam Presiding Officer, while every effort is being made to accelerate the implementation of suitable projects, the Assembly is committed to a measured approach to ensure viable transactions and by extension a successful PPP Programme.  As such, the Unit is co-ordinating an experienced cross-functional team to develop an overarching Infrastructure Plan.  This Tobago Infrastructure Plan will provide a framework for future infrastructure development and define our infrastructure investment priorities.  Out of this, we will derive a robust project pipeline aligned to our development agenda and provide opportunities for both public and private sector investment.

Projects being considered include: 

A Cargo Port; 

A marina; 

Desalination plant; 

A waste water treatment plant; 

Sporting facilities; 

Transportation Hubs; and 

Duty-free Shopping areas;

Medical tourism clinics;

The expansion of a hotel plant; and

Other Administrative Complexes for the Assembly.  

Once rigorous feasibility studies have been conducted and viable business cases have been developed that prove value for money and can attract the necessary private sector capital for investment, they will be added to the infrastructure investment strategy.

Continuing along this trend, we have also had several bilateral meetings with regional and international agencies such as the World Bank, CDB and IADB all in an attempt to find ways of addressing critical financing and other developmental challenges.

Madam Presiding Officer, we are certainly heartened by the efforts of the national government to include Tobago in discussions with our multilateral partners as new country strategies are being devised or revised.  I wish to thank the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Planning for their respect for and commitment to work with the Tobago House of Assembly in this regard. 

The financial support, technical assistance and policy advice from multilateral agencies and international financial institutions will assist in mobilizing public and private sources of funds for our island’s development.  Critical among these would be support to mobilize domestic resources, explore possibilities for deepening local financial and capital markets and provide the environment that would facilitate investments by the private sector.

Madam Presiding Officer, in my previous Budget Statement I intimated this Administration’s intention to increase the revenue generating opportunities of Tobago.  Current budgetary constraints have only reinforced the need to complete this exercise with a greater sense of urgently.  I am pleased to announce that work has started at the Studley Park Quarry (SPQ).  A team was commissioned to examine the efficiency of the operations of the Studley Park Quarry (SPQ) and have recently submitted its findings to the Executive Council for consideration.  Over the next fiscal year, the Studley Park Quarry will undergo a strategic review exercise with an aim to create greater efficiency and output.  These changes will culminate in a more market-efficient entity that delivers on its strategic objectives, and meets its capacity for profitability.

Madam Presiding Officer, these are just some of the financing options that are available to the Assembly to fund its development under the existing legislative arrangements between the Assembly and the Central Government.  Internal Self-Government for Tobago will significantly expand the authority of the Assembly to engage in modern financial transaction and to source funding to facilitate its  development.  This will allow for greater predictability in the planning and the economic development process in Tobago, and will also allow for much greater financial resources to be made available to the Assembly for the development of Tobago. 

In view of the ongoing discussions and collaboration between the Assembly and the Central Government, I am confident that after years of struggle, the dream and aspirations of the people of Tobago for Self-Government seems close to being realized.  Indeed, this issue is high on the legislative agenda of the central government.

Madam Presiding Officer, as I bring the curtain down on today’s Budget Statement, I wish to take this opportunity to express by personal gratitude for the support, encouragement and guidance of the Honourable Chief Secretary during my tenure as Secretary for Finance and Enterprise Development.

12.10 P.M

The Construction of the Scarborough Abattoir-$20.5m.

The Construction of the Scarborough Market-$20.2m.

The Improvement to Beaches and Landing Facilities-  $10m.

The Development of an Agro-Park or Model Park at Friendship Estate-    $5m.

Madam Presiding Officer, our Development Programme Estimates caters for significant upgrades to our Health, Infrastructure and Support Services.    As such the proposed activities for this year include:

The Construction of New Health Centrres-$20m.

The Expansion of Primary Health Care Facilities-$  5m.

The Upgrade of the Studley Park Integrated Waste Facility-$  7m.

The Establishment of Halfway Homes-$  5m.

Madam Presiding Officer, support for education remains at the core of this Administration’s agenda.  The Development Programme Estimates make provision for a variety of work across the island in support of Educational Programmes and the improvement of facilities.  We have budgeted for:

The Construction of Scarborough R.C. School-$75m.

The Improvement of Primary Schools-$25m.

The Upgrade of Roxborough Library-$11.5m.

The Establishment of Early Childhood and Education Centres-$6m.

Provisions are also made for accelerating the Public Housing Programme of the Assembly and increasing the housing stock on the island.  Accordingly, our Development Programme Estimates provides for:

Land Development at Courland Estate-$60m.

Land Development at Friendship Estate-$28.6m.

Housing Development at Mt. Irvine-$8.3m.

Land Development at Shirvan Road-$8.3m.

Land Development at the Adelphi Estate-$7.7m.

Development of Belle Garden Estate Phase II-$6.5m.

Our Development Programme Estimates also provides for significant upgrades to our Social and Community Infrastructure.  Proposed activities include of:

The Upgrade of Belle Garden Community Centre-$11m.

The Upgrade of Pan Theatres-$6m.

The Enhancement Programme for Communities-$5m.

The Upgrade of the Scarborough Community Centre-$1.5m.

Additionally, Madam Presiding Officer, we will continue to upgrade and expand our Road Infrastructure.  As such, our Development Programme Estimates provide for:

Improvement to the Plymouth/Arnos Vale Road-$15m.

Improvement to the Milford Road Bypass to 


Improvement to the Orange Hill Road-$6m

Improvement to Milford Road Bridges-$50m.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Development Programme Estimates provide a snapshot of the many initiatives and programmes of the Assembly to advance Tobago’s development.  Our investments seek to impact all sectors of the economy.  The Development Programme Estimates while ambitious, are not unreasonable and are geared towards quality delivery to the people of Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to include as well in the Estimates for fiscal 2017, the provisions for Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) of eighty point three million ($80.3m) and fifty-four million dollars ($54m.) respectively.

Madam Presiding Officer, in addition to the expenditure items which I alluded to earlier, we expect, consistent with the provision of the Sixth Schedule of THA Act 40 of 1996, that there will be other items of expenditure that will be funded by government ministries and other state agencies in Tobago.  Accordingly, we anticipate that with the improved collaboration with the Central Government and the Assembly, this expenditure will be quite substantial.  Projects to be funded by these “off budget” spending in Tobago include:

 (i)The Construction of the New Terminal at the ANR Robinson International Airport;

(ii)The Construction of the Old Grange and Roxborough Police Stations;

(iii)The South-West Waste Water Treatment Plant;

(iv)Drilling of additional Water Wells;

(v)A Desalination Plant at Cove, and

(vi)The Expansion of the Power Generation Plant at the  Cove Eco Industrial and Business Park;

Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to address the financing of the Expenditure Estimates.

Madam Presiding Officer, for fiscal 2017, the estimates of revenue, both tax and non-tax, are as follows:

Taxes on Income and Profits-$191.6m.

Taxes on Profits-$   0.5m.

Taxes on Goods and Services-$  68.7m.

Taxes on International Trade-$    3.7m.

Other Taxes-          $    5.2m.

Total Tax Revenue- $269.7m.

I will now outline the non-tax revenue Property Income Tax-  $   0.1m.

Other Non-tax Revenue-            $  1.1m.

Total Non-Tax Revenue-    $  1.2m.

Total overall Revenue that we generated in Tobago in fiscal 2017-    $270.9m. 

      Madam Presiding Officer, we appreciate the challenges faced by the Minister of Finance in funding Tobago’s request as well as the rest of the country.  We are also mindful of the constraints posed by the current economic climate and as such, we fully support the need for greater efficiency in the use of the funds.  In doing so, we recognize the need for creativity and for “thinking outside of the proverbial box” as we investigate options which have not been previously explored.  We know that it is unrealistic to expect that all our developmental needs that these needs will be met exclusively from the national purse.  So, as to corporate body, we must also direct our attention towards other opportunities that lie before us and to explore alternative financing mechanisms.   We at the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development have explored several financing modalities that are available to Tobago.  Meetings have also been held with the Minister of Finance and the multilateral agencies to fund Tobago’s development.

Madam Presiding Officer, I will now explore a few of these options.   One such, opportunity, Madam Presiding Officer, is that of borrowing.  

     Section 51 (b) of the Tobago House of Assembly Act 40 of 1996, requires the approval of the Minister of Finance for any form of borrowing the Assembly proposes to undertake to supplement its capital development allocation.  Given the relatively high levels of liquidity in the banking system, low interest rates and the country’s domestic debt profile, we believe there is a large untapped source of development funds even here within the country.  We have begun the process with the relevant financial institution to use bond financing in fiscal 2017.  We are optimistic given our recent discussions with the Minister of Finance, the current economic climate, and the ongoing discussions regarding Internal Self-Government for Tobago, that this will be a viable alternative financing option to fund capital expenditure.

Additionally, Madam Presiding Officer, diaspora bonds and remittance-backed bonds also offer an opportunity for persons from the diaspora, to contribute to the development of the island by channelling some of their savings into efforts to which they support.

12.00 P.M

Among the roads to be given priority in the next fiscal year are:  

  • Claude Noel Highway; 

  • The Mt. St. George/Castara link Road; 

  • The Store Bay Local Road Extension; 

  • Plymouth/Arnos Vale Road; and 

  • Orange Hill Trace

     Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to highlight the strategic importance of two of these roads, viz, Mt. St. George/Castara Road and the Store Bay Local Road Extension.  The Store Bay Local Road Extension is of critical importance to help address the problems of traffic congestion we now witness in the Canaan/Bon Accord Area likewise, the Mt. St. George/Castara Link Road and the Store Bay Local Road Extension.  The Store Bay Local Road Extension is of critical importance to help address the problems of traffic congestion we now witness in the Canaan/Bon Accord Area.  Likewise, the Mt. St. George/Castara Road link Road will link the North of Tobago to the East thereby, opening economic opportunities to Tobagonians. 

    Madam Presiding Officer, even as we seek to improve our road network, it is also important that we continue to develop and improve our drainage network on the island.  This is particularly important to avoid the problem of flooding, especially in low lying areas.  In this regard, special drainage works are carded for areas including Canaan, Bon Accord, Buccoo and Carnbee.  Also, as part of our overall programme to improve drainage in Tobago, there are major plans to desilt rivers in Goldsborough, Charlotteville, Louis D’or and Speyside.

     We are also mindful of the need to improve the management of our waste water in Tobago.  The budget caters for the rehabilitation of the South West Sewer System in collaboration with international agencies and improvement to the Sewerage Treatment Plants at Buccoo and Bon Accord.  Further, to improve the plight of our fisherfolk and other boat owners, priority is given to the construction of jetties at Plymouth and at Charlotteville.  

Finally, to allow the users of public transportation to access this service in a dignified manner, we will give priority to the construction of bus shelters in critical areas throughout Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, the various developmental areas I have discussed, each represent our major fiscal priorities for the 2017, year of the Assembly. I am confident that with these areas of focus, Tobago’s developmental momentum will continue notwithstanding the challenges that the prevailing national, regional and global economic environment will bring.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now present the expenditure estimates for 2017, starting with the Recurrent Estimates.  The Recurrent Estimates for fiscal 2017 totals three point two, nine billion dollars ($3.209b.)  This is disaggregated as follows:

Personnel Expenditure - $876m.

Goods and Services - $1.12b.

Minor Equipment Purchases - $136.3m; and

Transfers and Subsidies - $1.086b.

      Of the total Recurrent Estimates thirty-four point seven nine percent (34.79%) is allocated to Goods and Services approximately thirty-three point seven, five percent (33.75%) is allocated to Transfers and Subsidies twenty-seven point two three percent (27.23%) is allocated to Personal Expenditure and four point two four percent (4.24%) is allocated to Minor Equipment Purchases. Distributed across Divisions, the Recurrent Estimates for fiscal 2017 are:

Assembly Legislature - $26.2m.

Office of the Chief Secretary - $175.2m.

Finance and Enterprise Development - $274.7m.

Tourism and Transportation - $296.7m.

Education, Youth Affairs and Sport - $563.8m.

Community Development and Culture - $196.8m.

Infrastructure and Public Utilities - $529.4m.

Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment - $287.6m.

Health and Social Services - $793.9m.

Settlements and Labour - $40.8m; 

Planning and Development - $34.3m.

These estimates of Recurrent Expenditure represent a decrease of One hundred and forty-three point eight million dollars ($143.8m.) over the estimates for 2016.  Among the highlights of the proposed recurrent budget for fiscal 2017:

Tourism Three-Year Rolling Plan - $110m.

Assistance to Small Properties in the Tourism Industry - $8.6m.

Finance and Enterprise Development - $274.7m.

Tourism and Transportation - $296.7m.

Education, Youth Affairs and Sport - $563.8m.

Community Development and Culture - $196.8m.

Infrastructure and Public Utilities - $529.4m.

Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment - $287.6m.

Health and Social Services - $793.9m.

Settlements and Labour - $40.8m; 

Planning and Development - $34.3m.

These estimates of Recurrent Expenditure represent a decrease of 

One hundred and forty-three point eight million dollars ($143.8m.) over the estimates for 2016.  Among the highlights of the proposed recurrent budget for fiscal 2017:

Tourism Three-Year Rolling Plan - $110m.

Assistance to Small Properties in the  Tourism Industry - $8.6m.

Assistance to Sport Tourism Organizations

and others - $3.4m.

Tobago Tourism Festivals -          $21.8m.

Assistance to Community Organizations -     $2m.

Multi-Purpose Community Facilities -  $3.7m.

Agriculture Incentive Programme -     $4m.

Support for the Information Technology Centre -   $20m.

Funding for the Public/Private Partnership Unit - $10.2m.

Grant to Necessitous Patients -     $3m.

Tobago Regional Health Authority -  $550m. 

School Feeding Programme -    $59m. 

Provision for the Productivity  Council -     $5m.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to the Development Programme Estimates.  The estimates for the Development Programme for fiscal 2017 amount to two point three billion dollars ($2.03b.) a decrease of two hundred and sixty-nine point one million dollars ($269.1m.) from the fiscal 2016 request to the Central Government.

The Development Programmes Estimates are disaggregated as follows:

Pre-Investment - $5.0m.

Productive Sectors - $8.2m.

Economic Infrastructure - $690.2m.

Social Infrastructure - $866.1m.; and

Multi-sectoral and Other Services - $470.3m.

The Development Programme Estimates for fiscal 2017,

approximately thirty-three point eight, four percent (33.84%) is requested for Economic Infrastructure, forty-two percent (42%) is requested for Social Infrastructure, twenty-three percent (23%) is requested for Multi-sectoral and Other Services, zero point two five percent (0.25%) is requested for Pre-Investment Studies and zero point four percent (0.4%) is requested for the Productive Sector.

To assist in our programme of economic diversification and the development of the private sector on the island, our development programme estimates provides for:

The Enterprise Development Company

of Tobago (E-IDCOT) - $34.5m.

Enterprise Development - $7m.

The Business Incubator Programme - $5m.

Venture Capital Company - $2m.

Extension of the Scarborough Esplanade-$41.8m.

Phase II

Even as we seek to diversity the Tobago economy, we recognize that the tourism sector in Tobago will remain one of the primary agents of economic growth on the island for the next few years.  As such, the Development Programme Estimates caters for:

The Construction of Sanctuary Resort-$50m.

Infrastructural Works at Pigeon Point-$9.1m.

The Upgrade of Manta Lodge-$8.3m.

The Restoration Work at the Fort King George Heritage Park-$6.5m.

The Construction of Tobago Cruise Ship Berths-$2m.

The agricultural sector also remains a critical priority area of the Assembly.  As such the Development Programme Estimates caters for:

The Agricultural Access Roads Programme, Tobago-$60m. 

11.50 A.M

Under the Youth Energized for Success Programme (YES) in the Division of Finance, the Assembly will continue its efforts to nurture an environment that ensures employment and stability of the island’s youths.  Among the programmes and initiatives earmarked for continuation and expansion are the:


  • Life Skills Workshop; 

  • The Resume Writing and Interview Skills Workshop; 

  • The Professional Development Workshop; 

  • The Youth Entrepreneurship Programme; and 

  • The Summer Internship Programme


Further, the YES Programme will continue to source and secure internship opportunities for Tobagonians in a number of national, regional and international agencies.

We know that one way to empower young people is to encourage them to get involved in entrepreneurial activities.  In this regard, Madam Presiding Officer, the YES Programme in collaboration with the Business Development Unit, will therefore seek to focus heavily on Youth Entrepreneurship throughout the various secondary schools and communities.  Emphasis will be placed on identifying young people with feasible business ideas and providing sufficient training, mentoring, and financial support, that will assist them in starting businesses in areas that will assist in diversifying the Tobago economy.  

Further, to encourage financial education among young people, the Financial Literacy Unit in the Division of Finance will host a number of Financial Literacy and Outreach Programmes, specially targeted for young people in Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, I reported in my 2016 Fiscal Statement that the establishment of an affiliate University was an initiative being pursued by this Administration.  I am pleased to inform you that a report on this initiative has been completed, consistent with the Policy Framework of the Tobago House of Assembly.  This Tertiary Institution for Business and Applied Sciences, will comprise the Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (THTI), the Kendal Farm School, and the proposed Buccoo Reef Trust – Tobago Marine Research Centre focused on Environmental and Maritime Science.  These specializations will capitalize on Tobago’s unique selling points, while providing opportunities for further research and development into significant sectors of our economy.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn to our next fiscal priority - Environmental Sustainability.  As we strive to develop Tobago, it is important that we do so in a manner that protects the integrity of our environment, as the continued prosperity of Tobago’s economy and society depends on its health and integrity.   Accordingly, in the next fiscal year, the Department of Environment will focus on three (3) critical environmental issues: 

  • Forest degradation; 

  • The beaching of Sargassum; and 

  • Coastal erosion

     In the next fiscal year, the Department of Environment will expand the existing Tobago Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme from three (3) to ten (10) areas with special emphasis on the Courland Watershed.  This is the largest and most important watershed providing potable water to the population of Tobago, however it is also the most degraded watershed on the island.  The programme is expected to 

  • Increase the value of the island’s forest capital; 

  • Reduce erosion and flooding; and 

  • Increase aquifer recharge rates and volumes 

It will also:

  • Provide enhanced opportunities for recreation and eco-tourism; and

  • Improve the islands environmental record and international reputation

  Within recent times, the increased presence of large quantities of Sargassum in our coastal waters and along our coastlines has been a matter of great concern due to the scale of its impact on multiple sectors.  The Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment in collaboration with other stakeholders developed a Tobago Sargassum Response Plan.  

The Plan outlines responsibilities: 

  • A Research Agenda; 

  • A disposal site and mechanisms;

  •  Proposed bi-products; and

  • Financing of an urgent response effort

While we are unable to prevent Sargassum from entering our coastal waters, this Plan is aimed at ensuring that it is met by a competent response, which limits the impact on our socio-economic well-being.

The final environmental issue that I would like to highlight is: 

  • Coastal Erosion  

This is nothing new in the Tobago context, Madam Presiding Officer, but this natural process has attracted greater attention over the last few years as its impacts are visible and the link to climate change becomes more evident scientifically.  While we may not have full control over the coastal erosion process, we must undertake measures to mitigate against its impact.  It is in this regard, that the Department of Environment will implement a more robust island-wide Coastal Processing Modelling Programme, which allows for greater data collection, deeper analysis and modelling of coastal processes with a view to predicting the impact on coastal morphology and built developments.

Madam Presiding Officer, our next developmental priority for fiscal 2017 pertains to the empowerment of communities.


        I think we can all agree that sustainable development requires that there must be avenues and opportunities for communities to participate effectively and meaningfully in the developmental process.  One of the fundamental strengths Tobago possesses, is its rich and extensive community networks which have served the island well in the past.  It is important that we as an island continue to leverage the strength of our community networks to aid in our own development. 


      Madam Presiding Officer, over the years, this Administration has invested significantly in building our community infrastructure, so much so that almost every village in Tobago is served by a modern Multi-Purpose Facility.  [Desk thumping]   Therefore, our focus in the next fiscal year, will be to upgrade ageing community centres.   In this regard, the next fiscal year upgrades are scheduled for the following community centres throughout the island.  The

  • Signal Hill Community Centre;

  • Hope Community Centre;

  • Goodwood Community Centre;

  • Castara Community Centre;

  • Pembroke Community Centre;

  • Belle Garden Community Centre;

  • Moriah Community Centre; and

  • Scarborough Community Centre.

     We also recognized that having the community infrastructure without the requisite activities to utilize them effectively, will be futile.  Therefore, we will continue to provide opportunities for persons in communities throughout Tobago, to Madam Presiding Officer, our next fiscal priority pertains to our investment in Physical Infrastructure.  

      Madam Presiding Officer, we know that there is a direct relationship between the quality of physical infrastructure available to citizens and their quality of life.  Since the PNM Administration took office in 2001, there has been a considerable investment in Road and Building Improvement on the island.  Notwithstanding previous significant investments in infrastructure, we will continue to give priority to our programme of road and building improvement over the next fiscal year.

     The Assembly will continue to improve the quality of road networks on the island through our Road Resurfacing Programme. This is critical given the phenomenal growth in the vehicle population in Tobago over the last few years. 

11.40 A.M

     We will continue to expose teachers to training in professional development, in the Continuous Assessment Component of the SEA and in selected subject areas in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).  In addition, to improve the delivery of Technical Vocational Education in Tobago, teachers in this area will also be exposed to specialist training to prepare them to respond to the needs of students.  To complement the teacher training programmes, there will also be training workshops and caravans to assist parents and students in understanding their respective roles in the educational system.

To enable our schools in Tobago to leverage the use of ICT in the educational system on the island, the Division of Education also proposes the expansion of network infrastructure at sixteen (16) Early Childhood Centres (ECCE) and fifteen (15) primary schools with Wi-Fi access points.  Other initiatives in education over the next fiscal year include the following:

(i)The creation of additional Homework/After School Programmes geared towards support for both primary and secondary school students.

(ii)The installation of CCTV cameras in Primary and Secondary Schools in Tobago.

(iii)The establishment of a Curriculum Unit in the Division of Education.

(iv)Educational Outreach Programmes to promote healthy lifestyles;

(v)The continued expansion of Library Services especially to remote areas in Tobago.

(vi)The expansion of the Pan in Schools Programme; and

(vii) The upgrade and computerization of all school libraries in Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to the health sector.There is a direct relationship between the health status of persons and their levels of productivity.  There is also a direct relationship between the quality of healthcare one enjoys and their overall standard of living.  Over the years, we have invested significantly in improving our health infrastructure on the island.

     Madam Presiding Officer, one critical initiative pertains to the further decentralization of healthcare to Health Centres in communities throughout Tobago.  To assist us in our overall strategy of health care decentralization, upgrades are planned for several Health Centres, inclusive of Roxborough, Canaan and Plymouth Health Centres.  The upgrades at the Roxborough Health Centre would see the establishment of an Urgent Care Centre to facilitate emergency care at the eastern end of Tobago.  We also propose to construct a new health centre in Moriah to better service the northern end of Tobago.

      Madam Presiding Officer, as part of our renewed focus on primary health care, we also propose to make ultrasound and X-rays available at health Centres and improve access to therapy services inclusive of Speech and Language therapy at Health Centres.  We also propose the expansion of our Health District Dental Services at Canaan and Charlotteville.

Madam Presiding Officer, another critical initiatives to improve health care in Tobago relates to our focus on lifestyle diseases.  Some of the data emanating from the health system in Tobago suggest that lifestyle diseases are on the rise in Tobago.  We propose to address the challenge of the lifestyle diseases in Tobago through a comprehensive programme that looks at our diet, education and awareness as well as exercise.

Madam Presiding Officer, other initiatives planned to improve health care delivery in Tobago in the next fiscal year are:

(i)The expansion of the Oncology Centre and expanded Oncology Services.

(ii)The expansion of mental Health Care Services to the Community level;

(iii)Improvements to the Cardiac Catherization Laboratory.

(iv)The establishment of an Integrated Waste Management Facility at Studley Park; and

(v)The implementation of a Waste Minimization and Recycling Programme.

      Madam Presiding Officer, turning my attention to the issue of 

Housing – housing remains a priority area for this Administration.  Notwithstanding the best wishes of the Assembly, over the years our housing programme on the island has been stymied significantly by the lack of funding so much so, that there now exist a huge disparity between the demand for and the supply of public housing in Tobago.  Currently, there are approximately seven thousand, five hundred (7,500) applicants seeking public housing in Tobago and the Assembly is exploring a number of financing as well as engineering solutions to more effectively respond to the housing needs on the island.

In fiscal 2017, the Division of Settlements will initiate work on the Shirvan Road Land Development and the Friendship Land Development.  The Shirvan Road Development is expected to improve the housing stock by some four hundred (400) units, and the mixed use development of the four hundred and ninety-seven (497) acre Friendship Estate will also provide a substantial addition to the housing stock on the island.  

Development works will continue at Courland, Belle Garden, Adventure Phase II and Blenheim Phase II towards the expansion of the housing stock in Tobago.  To improve and upgrade the existing housing stock on the island, the Assembly remains dedicated to providing financial assistance to Tobagonians through the Home Improvement Grant, the Home Improvement Subsidy and the Home Completion Grant Programme.  

The Assembly will continue to make land available to Tobagonians to construct homes by our continued support for the Beneficiary Owned Land Progamme.  

The Assembly will continue to work with the Central Government to bring closure to the long-standing and the vexing issue of land titles in Tobago, which was left unattended by the previous Central Government despite all our efforts to bring this to the fore.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Public Private Partnership (PPP) modality is also being explored to address the backlog of persons seeking affordable housing.  After engagement with the private sector, in addition to direct financial support, non-financial incentives are also now being explored with interested potential partners.  These models will allow the Assembly to deliver a greater number of projects within our current budgetary constraints.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) for this initiative will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

Madam Presiding Officer, our next budgetary priority for fiscal 2017 relates to Human Capital Development with a focus on young adults.  As an Administration, we are mindful of the role young people can play in development and there are a number of programmes across all Divisions of the Assembly in support of our young people.

We will continue to provide financial assistance to Tobagonians to pursue tertiary level studies in a wide range of academic as well as non-academic disciplines through our Financial Assistance Programme administered by the Department of Advance Training and Advisory Services (DATAS).  Notwithstanding the shortage of funding from the former Central Government Administration over the last five (5) years, we have invested, and will continue to invest, in the educational advancement of our young people in Tobago utilizing resources from our Unspent Balances and reducing Recurrent Expenditure.  

Madam Presiding Officer, through the Youth Department in the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport, a number of programmes are being proposed.  As a proactive measure to treat with disciplinary issues in the school system among boys, we propose to expand the Discipline for Boys Programme to facilitate the forty-two (42) primary schools situated throughout the island. 

11.30 A.M

The World Tourism Organization affirms, that cultural heritage tourism, accounts for thirty-seven percent (37%) of the global tourism market and it is estimated to grow by fifteen percent (15%) annually.  The Division’s focus remains on creating opportunities for partnerships and building community pride in a sustainable heritage product.  

The Castara model, is a successful example of this and we will continue to work with the stakeholders on its continued expansion, including having Castara Beach Blue Flag certified.  This certification, will make Castara the second beach, in the Southern English speaking Caribbean to earn the equivalent of an environmental ‘Michelin star for beaches and mariners’.

Madam Presiding Officer, the importance of infrastructure to our tourism development strategy, cannot be over emphasized.  It is a tangible component of our product that is necessary for creating additional capacity.  This is reflected, in our investment in additional room stock on the island, and in our efforts to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the sector.  The response thus far is favourable and we anticipate the expansion of the island’s room stock over the next three (3) years by at least one thousand (1,000) high quality rooms with Sandals Resorts International providing at least two-thirds of these.  Moreover, we are committed to working with the tourism stakeholders to adopt a ratings system for properties on the island to ensure consistency and to improve marketability.  We will also support the migration to ‘Online’ operations, particularly in our smaller properties, for improved visibility.

Madam Presiding Officer, there has long been a need for fully equipped mariners in Tobago.  Our location, South of the hurricane belt and our proximity to Grenada, where Yacht Tourism is being diverted are favourable factors that will be explored now that we have secured the commitment of the Central Government.  

     The establishment of a Duty-free Zone and incentives to encourage development of eco-friendly high-end properties, could make this a viable endeavour which can be delivered by a PPP or Public Private Partnership arrangement or by the private sector itself.  Madam Presiding Officer, an investment in Tobago’s tourism, is an investment in national economic diversification and we must act now, with all relevant stakeholders rising to the challenge.

Madam Presiding Officer, permit me to turn my attention to the agricultural sector.  Notwithstanding, positive signs of growth in the agricultural sector in Tobago, it continues to experience several severe challenges.  These relate mainly to the increasing cost of agricultural inputs, the shortage of labour, pests, diseases and praedial larceny.  The Division of Agriculture has launched a number of initiatives to mitigate against these and remains steadfast in its commitment to enhance the quality of life for farmers and the society as a whole.  In this regard, the Division recently completed its Strategic Plan with a view to identifying critical programmes, projects and actions to continue to revitalize the agricultural sector.

The Division has therefore, selected some activities which it believes can galvanize the agricultural sector in the coming year.  The Division also intends to work closely with the private sector which it believes can focus on a range of investment opportunities and translate these selected projects into viable and valuable products and services.  

Among the projects identified for priority attention in the next fiscal year are:

  • The Development of a Model Farm at Friendship;

  • The Development of a Citrus Orchard at Long Bed, Kendal;

  • The Development of  the herb and spice industry at  Goldsborough;

  • Revitalization of the Tobago Cocoa Industry;

  • Expansion of the Hope Farm Genetic Centre;

  • Expansion of the Poultry Industry and egg farming in Tobago; and

  • Expansion of the small ruminant and the Small Livestock Industry.

Madam Presiding Officer, beyond these initiatives, the Strategic Plan of the Division of Agriculture also speaks to the linkages between the agricultural sector and the tourism industry.  Accordingly, in the next fiscal year, the Division of Agriculture will concentrate on improving the collaboration between the agricultural and tourism sectors.  The synergies thus created, would redound to the benefit of the stakeholders in both sectors.  This, it is believed, would not only fuel the drive for increased production, but will also result in the creation of jobs and business opportunities.  In this regard, farmers through the Extension Services would be encouraged and guided to improve the 

  • Quality; 

  • Quantity; and 

  • Timeliness of supply of their produce to the hospitality sector.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to our next priority area, social sector development inclusive of: 

  • Health; 

  • Education; and 

  • Housing.

I begin my discussion focusing on Education.  

       Madam Presiding Officer, notwithstanding the ongoing investments we have made in educational infrastructure and the improvements we have seen in the educational performance of Tobagonians over the last few years as I alluded to earlier, there remains some critical areas to be addressed as it pertains to education in Tobago.  As a result, education will remain a priority for this Administration in the next fiscal year.  

       To complement our Annual Programme of repairs and upgrades to all existing primary and secondary schools on the island, several new schools are proposed at the pre-school level.  We propose to construct five (5) new Early Childhood Education (ECCE) Centres in selected areas throughout Tobago that are not now adequately served with these facilities.  

       Madam Presiding Officer, permit me to express my profound disappointment with respect to this particular project.  The construction of these schools was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in May 2006 as part of a National Loan Programme which involved the construction of several Early Childhood Centres (ECCE) throughout Trinidad and Tobago.  

       Over the last five (5) years, although several schools were constructed in Trinidad with relative ease, because of petty politics and pure vindictiveness by the former Central Government Administration, not a single school was constructed in Tobago.  The IADB Programme has since lapsed.

      Madam Presiding Officer, another critical Educational Infrastructural Project is the construction of the new Scarborough R.C. School.  This school, which is currently located at Bacolet, has outgrown its current location, and plans are advanced to have the school relocated to Smithfield.  The designs have been completed, a Contract has been awarded for the construction of this long awaited school, and I am pleased to announce that the Sod Turning Ceremony will be held on June 27 2016, of this year. [Desk thumping]  

       Also, the School for the Hearing Impaired is without its own building and its current location is in an unsatisfactory condition.  There are  therefore, plans to construct a new school to better accommodate the specialized needs of these students.

      Our interventions in education, are not limited to improvements in educational infrastructure alone, Madam Presiding Officer, and in this regard, we will continue to provide the requisite training for our teachers at all levels in the Educational System.

11.20 A.M

     In the next fiscal year, Eco-Industrial Company of Tobago (E-DICOT) will also place greater focus on leveraging the use of ICT for the development of business activities in Tobago.  In this regard, we will continue our work towards the establishment of a Tier 3 Data Centre at Cove.  The provision of this data centre services is a growing global industry which was valued at US one hundred and fifteen billion dollars ($115b.) in the United States (US) alone in 2015.  A Data Centre Facility in Tobago would form part of the global network of Data Centres and provide a location that can be accessed as a primary or back up location for users.  The absence of such a facility in Tobago limits the development of the ICT industry and other industries that are enabled by a robust ICT Sector.  The establishment of a Data Centre at Cove brings with it numerous possibilities and opportunities to earn foreign exchange given the global reach of such a facility.

Further, such a facility enables the development and delivery of Business Process Outsourcing Operations (BPO) this will allow for the creation of quality jobs on the island.  This Data Centre, we propose to establish at Cove will provide service to a number of national, regional and international communications service providers, some of whom have already expressed interest in doing business at Cove.

Animation is also a growing global industry with a new dimensions such as:

  • Games on mobile phones; 

  • Animated movies; and 

  • Advertising.  

The business model being adopted by film makers and app developers is to outsource developmental work which can be lucrative for those with the expertise.  E-IDCOT has also identified the film animation industry as one with significant potential to assist in the diversification of the Tobago economy and to provide opportunities to earn foreign exchange as well as sustainable private sector jobs.  Accordingly, E-IDCOT has developed a proposal which will see YTEPP, Animae Caribe, TITL and E-IDCOT collaborating in an effort to stimulate and kick-start the animation industry in Tobago.  This initiative is expected to be formally launched in the last quarter of calendar year 2016.

Madam Presiding Officer, additionally, our work at Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) is also critical to our business development efforts on the island.  In the next fiscal year, TITL is expected to complete the Innovation Centre that would see the company significantly expanding its ICT training portfolio.  Certification training in ICT services would now be offered here in Tobago.  In addition, the projected establishment of an international certified testing centre will also provide the convenience of seamless certification at the Information Technology Centre.  Both training and testing will become income generating and will lead to a better trained ICT workforce in Tobago.  The Innovation Centre will also provide a service where business problems can be analyzed to determine root cause, and to recommend and implement ICT solutions for increased efficiency in business processes.  Shared spaces would also be offered to persons seeking to develop ICT prototypes that can ultimately lead to the creation of new businesses.  These businesses would receive funding under the EAF and EAGP.

Madam Presiding Officer, one of the impediments to economic expansion and job creation is the ability of entrepreneurs to raise capital.  That is why this PNM Administration established the THA Venture Capital Equity Fund to address this concern.

To date, the Venture Capital Fund has invested approximately five point two million dollars ($5.2m.) in three (3) Tobago companies providing more than thirty (30) full time jobs by the time these entities are fully operational.  There is also the potential to export into regional markets, thereby earning foreign exchange and provide import substitution which saves foreign currency.  The Venture Capital Fund continues to pursue investment opportunities in start-ups and expanding enterprises with an emphasis on agro-processing and light industrial manufacturing.   We have currently at the moment, three (3) projects currently in the pipeline awaiting approval.

Madam Presiding Officer, in this vein the Venture Capital Fund will be actively seeking to attract private equity for the funding of start-ups and expanding Tobago business entities.  The Fund’s Strategic Plan speaks to funding an average of five (5) private sector entities annually at an average annual with an annual investment of seven point five million dollars ($7.5m.).  Additionally, the Fund assumes a developmental role and in this capacity has successfully undertaken a feasibility study for the establishment of a feed mill in Tobago. 

In fiscal 2017, it is envisioned that the VCEF will seek private sector collaboration in the establishment of this project.

Madam Presiding Officer, our second priority pertains to our support for two critical sectors of the Tobago economy, viz the tourism and the agricultural sectors.

     Madam Presiding Officer, Tourism remains one of the fastest growing industries globally and a key to support the national economic diversification strategy and this Administration is committed to the continued development of an investment in our tourism product.  We are therefore, heartened by the reintroduction of the Standing Committee tasked with overseeing the Strategic and Sustainable Development of Tourism in Trinidad and Tobago and that Tobago is well represented in its composition.  Several of the endemic challenges facing the industry can be addressed by more efficient coordination between the stakeholders involved and a collaborative focus on advancing the sector’s overall development.

Primary among these challenges is the need to upgrade the A. N. R. Robinson International Airport Terminals. While the runway can accommodate international flights, the current terminals impede optimum passenger flow due to their small size and lack of contemporary amenities.   Modern international terminal facilities will enhance Tobago as a destination for carriers to provide direct non-stop airlift from a wide range of originating markets.  They will also have direct economic impact on the sector’s development by increasing the number of airline personnel and other related staff.  Moreover, air transport is a significant revenue earner and an investment in Tobago’s infrastructure is a benefit to the national treasury. 

Madam Presiding Officer, I am pleased to inform this Honourable House that we have received a commitment from the new central government administration that the design and construction of a new airport terminal is likely to begin in the next fiscal year.  [Desk thumping] I am confident that this promise would be kept unlike the previous promises of the former administration that was used as an election gimmickry in an attempt to hoodwink the people of Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, building on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) heritage preservation thrust and this administration’s emphasis on a sustainable tourism product. Over the next fiscal year, we intend to advance the restoration of heritage sites such as the Fine Arts Museum at Fort King George, and to introduce Nautical Archaeology, with tours to the Rockley Bay Conservatory.  

11.10 A.M

In 2015, under the Road Resurfacing Programme, twenty-seven (27) major roads throughout Tobago were resurfaced and upgraded at a cost of sixty-eight points seven million dollars ($68.7m.). Some of the major road works included:

  • Mt. St. George to Studley Park;

  • Windward Road;

  • Northside Road;

  • Rockly Vale to Providence;

  • Easterfield Branch Road; 

  • Gardenside Street; and

  • Lambeau Main Road

Forty-one (41) secondary roads were upgraded at a cost of eight point six million dollars ($8.6m.) in villages such as: 

  • Charlotteville; 

  • Union;

  • Delaford; 

  • Runnemede; 

  • Bon Accord;

  • Patience Hill; and 

  • Goodwood

The Assembly expended approximately thirteen point four million dollars ($13.4m.) on improving drainage in areas throughout Tobago, including the construction of one hundred and fifty (150) meters of box drains at Bethany and eighty (80) meters of drains at Bon Accord.

       Beyond our focus on bridges, roads and drainage, this Administration has also collaborated with Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) to improve the electricity supply to rural areas in Tobago.  One point five million dollars ($1.5m.) was provided to T&TEC to install two hundred and forty-four (244) street lights throughout Tobago in the last year and this project is expected to continue in the next fiscal year.  

     The Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities undertook the second phase of a Road Signage Programme which saw the installation of new street signs throughout the island.  This project was conducted in collaboration with TTPOST and the Village Councils in order to facilitate the efficient delivery of mail and the ease of travel for residents and visitors.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this is just a snapshot of the foundations built by this Administration over the course of our tenure.  These projects that I have just outlined, point to some of our major achievements and all of us as Tobagonians should be proud of what we have been able to do even as we operated within a limited fiscal space.  This Administration has managed well, despite the twin perils posed by the challenging global economic environment and an acrimonious relationship between the Tobago House of Assembly and the then Central Government. We have done well notwithstanding having to treat with economic uncertainties which characterized the global economic environment and as well an uncooperative and insensitive Central Government.  Our prudent management style has been the hallmark of this Administration, and is the cornerstone of how we do business now, and in the future, and for this, Madam Presiding Officer, we should all be glad.

     Madam Presiding Officer, fortunately, we now have a much more co-operative and sensitive Central Government and I am confident that with this new harmonious political environment, much more will be delivered to the people of Tobago.  As an Assembly, we remain committed to ensuring that the island’s developmental momentum, continues.

    Madam Presiding Officer, our 2017 Budget, is fully cognizant of the current geopolitical and economic outlook.  It also considers our need to maximize opportunities in these challenging times.  In light of this and the feedback from our Annual Budget Survey, as well as extensive consultations with key stakeholders, we have identified seven (7) fiscal priorities:

  • Economic expansion and job creation;

  • Support for critical economic sectors including tourism and agriculture;

  • Social sector development – education, health and housing;

  • Human capital development with a focus on youth development;

  • Environmental sustainability;

  • Community empowerment; and

  • Strategic investment in physical infrastructure

Our first budget priority for fiscal 2017, relates to economic expansion and private sector job creation.  The most recent data from the Survey of Business Establishments conducted by the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development, suggests that, between 2013 and 2015, real GDP in Tobago grew by an annual rate of about two point two percent (2.2%).  In addition, the latest data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) for the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, suggests that the State in Tobago employs about fifty-five percent (55%) of the island’s labour force with the private sector employing about forty-five percent (45%).  It is only through further economic expansion and growth that we can create the wealth to generate quality private sector jobs that will guarantee sustainable improvements in the living standards of our people.  Critical to our strategy of economic expansion and job creation in the private sector, are our activities at the Business Development Unit, E-IDCOT, the Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) and the Tobago Venture Capital Company. 

At the Division of Finance, Enterprise and Development, we recognized that the lack of capital, remains a critical constraint to doing business in Tobago.  Over the next fiscal year, we will continue to make funding available to Tobagonians to establish and expand their businesses through the Enterprise Assistance Loan and the Enterprise Assistance Grant Programmes.  In addition, through the Business Development Unit, we propose to establish a Revolving Loan Fund of up to zero point five million dollars (0.5m.) for agro processors.  We will also provide support for product testing and development to facilitate expansion and export.  We also plan to establish a Special Agricultural Incentive Grant Programme in collaboration with the Division of Agriculture in the sum of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) per farmer.

Other initiatives to support businesses in Tobago include:

(i)Hosting and facilitating of capacity building training for local entrepreneurs in areas such as research and development and marketing;

(ii)Expanding the School Business Education Program;

(iii)Facilitating the participation of our local entrepreneurs in national, regional and international trade shows, expos and conferences; and

(iv)Establishment of a Tobago Business Directory.

Our activities at Cove are also central to our diversification efforts. In this regard, with the MPUs at Cove recently completed, we will continue to work, particularly with persons from our Agro-processing Industry, to ensure full tenancy of these facilities.  Already, there ae three (3) committed tenants with further interest being shown by several other business persons to engage in the manufacture of products such as chocolate, pepper sauce, preserved fruit, fruit juices and bay oil.  Notably, all of these products are targeted to the regional and international export markets with significant potential for foreign exchange earnings and the generation of sustainable private sector jobs.

     Further in keeping with E-IDCOT’s eco-friendly positioning and in support of the Tobago brand of “Clean, Green, Safe and Serene” E-IDCOT will support and encourage businesses engaged in recycling.  In this context, in the next fiscal year, E-IDCOT will support the establishment of business operations that recycle much of the waste produce in Tobago.  To date, one recycling tenancy has been established, while another is in the process of being approved.

11.00 A.M

Additionally, Financial Support continued to two hundred and seventy (270) existing students at an annual cost of approximately five million dollars ($5m.).  What this means is that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA’s) Human Capital Development Programme has ensured that young persons are able to realize their dreams of higher education.

There are also a number of initiatives developed under the YES Programme, in the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development, geared towards increasing the probability of individuals gaining access to the labour market, improving their earnings capacity and improving labour productivity.  In addition, the Summer Internship Programme, executed under YES offers a unique opportunity to tertiary, CAPE, and CSEC students interested in gaining the relevant experience essential to entering the “world of work”.  What sets the YES Summer Internship Programme apart from other “on the job” initiatives is that interns are not only confined to working within an organization, but they are also exposed to various professional development workshops, panel discussions, and field-trips.

The World of Work Programme managed by the Department of Youth Affairs also supports the transition from school to the professional environment.  The programme which includes training in career planning, supports both persons who are new to the workplace and those who have no work experience at all.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to the tourism industry.   Our stakeholders in the tourism industry have all indicated that the marketing spend and investment in product development have been paltry when compared to that of our Caribbean neighbours.  The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is committed to a holistic and collaborative outlook on tourism marketing and product development and this year’s estimates make provision for improved marketing and product development.

The Assembly successfully negotiated with Thomas Cook and Condor Airlines for direct air services from Manchester in the UK and Munich in Germany respectively.  From the 2016/2017 winter season, direct airlift to Tobago will increase by thirteen thousand (13,000) new seats from Europe.  Both are winter only services.

In addition the Division of Tourism and Transportation participated in a number of regional and international tours to promote Tobago.  These included tours to the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and the United States.  In the last year or so, the Division hosted over one thousand (1,000) tour operators and travel agents from Germany, United Kingdom (UK) and the Baltics.  The Division also co-ordinated visits for twenty-five (25) media and travel agents and launched an advertising billboard campaign in metro stations in Scandinavia.  This campaign exposed Tobago to an estimated two point three million (2.3m.) persons weekly from July to December 2015.

The Division of Tourism and Transportation successfully hosted a number of festivals all aimed at boosting arrivals to Tobago.  Over the last three years, the Tobago Jazz experience and the Blue Food Festival attracted thousands of patrons from Trinidad and the Caribbean region.  These festivals are highly successful at circulating tourism spend internally as ‘holidaying at home’ is fast becoming a primary vacation choice for many.  The Division has supported a number of sports tourism initiatives including the BA Tobago Football Legends Tournament, the Tobago Cycling Classic, the Sea to Sea Marathon, Game Fishing Tournaments, the Tobago Invitational and Scarborough Cup Golf Tournaments and the Tobago Beach Soccer Championship.

In recognition that our sister island is a source market for our tourism product, the Division has collaborated with Caribbean Airlines Limited and the Port Authority to develop heat maps to identify periods of high demand so that adequate capacity could be provided on the domestic air and sea bridges.

Over the past year, this Administration has undertaken a number of initiatives geared towards enhancing Tobago’s tourism product.  One of the result of our investment has been the continuous increase in cruise liner calls to our island and we expect that this will continue to expand to continue in the fiscal 2017.

     Our various initiatives in the tourism sector resulted in increases in cruise and domestic arrivals.  The growth in cruise and domestic arrivals compensates somewhat for the decline in international arrivals by air.  

     For the year 2015, domestic arrivals to Tobago increased by about three point two percent (3.2%) to one million, twenty-eight thousand, seven hundred and thirty-one (1,028,731) from nine hundred and ninety-seven thousand, one hundred and ninety-two (997,192) persons in 2014.  Arrivals by cruise increased by twenty-nine percent (29%) from seventy-five thousand, two hundred and sixty (75,260) passengers in the 2014/2015 period to one hundred and six thousand (106,000) in the 2015/2016 period.  However, international arrivals by air declined by fourteen point six percent (14.6%) in 2016.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Assembly has made significant progress in empowering communities and building community infrastructure.  As an Administration, this has been a critical element of our developmental strategy and over the past three (3) years, we continued our investment in this regard. 

 In the last twelve (12) months, the Division of Community Development and Culture spent approximately three point four million dollars ($3.4m.) to upgrade and expand community facilities throughout Tobago, including community centres such as Speyside, Delaford, and Golden Lane.

The Division of Community Development has developed a number of programmes including the Vocational Skills Training Programme and the last year,training was offered in thirty-six (36) areas with five hundred and sixty (560) persons benefitting.  The Division also hosted Capacity Building Workshops, Training the Leaders of Community-Based Organizations in areas such as:

  • Leadership; 

  • Fund-raising; 

  • Entrepreneurship; 

  • Financial Management; 

  • Communication; and 

  • Proposal Writing.

Over, the last three (3) years, approximately two hundred and fifty (250) participants benefited from these workshops.

The Division continued with the “Tobago Night Market” initiative which fosters an entrepreneurial spirit in communities.  Over the last three (3) years, the Division hosted these markets in areas including Buccoo, Courland, Bon Accord, Store Bay and Belle Garden.  The Division also supported the participation of two (2) of Tobago’s most promising fashion and accessory designers in the Tokyo Fashion Trade Show.  Japanese retailers expressed interest and ordered a number of pieces from these designers.

Madam Presiding Officer, in addition to these activities, several creative initiatives have been implemented by the Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) to empower communities through ICT.  Over the last twelve (12) months approximately twelve thousand (12,000) persons utilized the IT Literacy and Walk In facilities throughout Tobago for business related activities, research, homework and internet browsing.  Additionally, approximately four hundred (400) persons successfully completed training in basic and advanced computer literacy.  During the past year the services of the 211 Contact Centre were utilized over two hundred and forty-four thousand (244,000) ties including transfers to persons seeking 

emergency assistance from Police, Fire and Tobago Emergency Medical Services (TEMS).

Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to turn my attention to the significant gains this Administration has made to improve the physical infrastructure in Tobago over the past three (3) years, notwithstanding the limited capital development resources at our disposal.

10.50 A.M

To leverage the use of ICT in schools, two hundred and seventy-five (275) tablets were distributed under the Caribbean EBook Project.  Significant progress has been made to network all schools in Tobago with the Division of Education.  Moreover, the Information Technology Unit in the Division of Education also engaged in widespread training in 2015.  Over one hundred (100) students and fifty (50) teachers were trained in App Development, Robotics, and the Infusion of ICT in the school curriculum.

Since the completion of the Scarborough Library, the Division of Education undertook several initiatives to expand library services in Tobago.  Currently there are close to eight thousand (8000) registered patrons at the Scarborough Library with about seventy-eight thousand (78,000) books in stock.   The circulation figure between October 2015 and May 2016 exceeded fifty-six thousand (56,000).  There are still challenges facing our education system in Tobago but there is evidence that the investments we have made in education are beginning to deliver dividends. 

  • At the primary level, in the National Test, our Standard 1 students continue to perform on par with top performing education districts;

  • At the SEA level, the percentage of students who scored under thirty percent (30%) fell from nine point three percent (9.3%) in 2013 to zero point seven percent (0.7%) in 2015; 

  • At the Secondary level, as it relates to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination, for 2015, the percentage of students attaining five (5) or more subjects inclusive of Mathematics and English, increased to thirty-eight point three percent (38.3%), up from thirty point six percent (30.6%) in 2013;  

  • As it pertains to the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE), the performance of Tobago students continues to improve.

Madam Presiding Officer, in respect of Agriculture which is a key area of focus of this Administration, the Division of Agriculture is supporting and encouraging a number of initiatives which could develop this sector even further.

The Tissue Culture Laboratory of the Division of Agriculture continues to provide commercial quantities of planting material to farmers.  In the last year, approximately eighteen thousand (18,000) seedlings were distributed.  The Division is also developing a Demonstration and Training Centre at Goldsborough which will assist in making commercially viable crops available to farmers and in utilizing new, efficient crop production techniques. As part of the Agricultural Access Roads Programme, the Division succeeded in upgrading thirty-two (32) agricultural access roads across the island.

The Division has also recently constructed a Packing House in Shaw Park, at a cost of five million dollars ($5m.) to facilitate the sorting, packing and storing of fresh agricultural produce.  It is currently utilized by members of the Tobago Agri-business Society and the Tobago Agricultural Society for the processing and packaging of leafy vegetables for sale to hotels and restaurants on the island.

Madam Presiding Officer, the provision of affordable housing has been one of the critical priorities of this Administration.  Over, the last three and a half (3½) years, notwithstanding the financial constraints, the Division of Settlements and Labour has worked diligently towards making affordable housing available to Tobagonians and improving the housing stock on the island.  In this regard, there are a number of housing projects in progress and several carded for the next fiscal year.

In Adventure Phase II, sixty-two (62) out of ninety-four (94) Town Houses were completed and distributed with the remaining thirty-two (32) units nearing completion and expected to be distributed before the end of the year.

In the Courland Estate Land Development Phase I, work continued on one hundred and sixteen (116) serviced lots.  In early fiscal 2016, land draws were conducted and ninety-nine (99) lots were allocated for distribution. 

In Belle Garden Estate Phase II, forty (40) out of the forty-five (45) service lots have been completed with the next five nearing completion.  Land draws were conducted and twenty-seven (27) lots have been allocated.

Madam Presiding Officer, beyond the direct provision of public housing, several programmes have been implemented by the Assembly, to provide direct financial assistance to allow Tobagonians to upgrade and expand their existing homes. 

Under the Home Improvement Grant, financial support to the tune of two point seven million dollars ($2.7m.) was provided for three hundred and sixty-five (365) Tobagonians to improve their homes in the last year.

Likewise, under the Home Improvement Subsidy, financial support to the tune of zero-point three million dollars ($0.3m.) was provided to thirty-one (31) Tobagonians over the last year.


Under the Home Completion Programme, financial support to the tune of over zero point seven million dollars ($0.7m.) was provided to seventy-one (71) Tobagonians over the past year.

      Madam Presiding Officer, the quality of health care and the protection of vulnerable groups in society, have been priorities of this Administration.  Since the completion of the Scarborough General Hospital, there has been a continuous expansion in the range of Health Care Services provided to the people of Tobago. The introduction of Cardiology Services has benefited seven hundred and twenty (720) persons annually.  The Cardiology Unit conducts about sixty (60) non-invasive cardiology tests monthly, to evaluate and diagnose cardiac disorders.

In addition, in the last twelve (12) months, about one thousand, seven hundred (1700) cataract surgeries were performed through the Comprehensive Integrated Eye-Care Programme, significantly reducing the number of persons listed and awaiting surgery.  Moreover, to combat lifestyle diseases in Tobago, a number of programmes such as the Integrated Primary Healthcare Programme, the Healthy Home Programme and the Healthy Family Programme have been implemented.

        This Administration has also provided support for our most vulnerable in society through a variety of social programmes.  Under the project for the Realization of Economic Achievement (REACH), one hundred and sixty-one (161) persons received grants totalling one point two million dollars ($1.2m.) as part of a Poverty Reduction Programme. The Tobago Rehabilitation and Empowerment Centre (TREC), has implemented several programmes to assist at risk persons with problems of drug use to facilitate their rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.

Madam Presiding Officer, this Assembly believes that the accumulation of human capital is an important contributor to economic growth and sustainable development. We have also implemented a number of Programmes geared towards the development of our human capital here in Tobago.


       As I said before, the latest data available from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) indicates that the proportion of the labour force in Tobago with tertiary education, is now about nineteen percent (19%), up from approximately thirteen percent (13%) in 2013.  This is a significant achievement that all of Tobago must celebrate as it demonstrates the impact of THA’s Programme on the lives of Tobagonians.  

       Tobago’s students continue to receive financial assistance to pursue tertiary level studies in a wide range of areas.  In the last twelve (12) months, student were awarded over one hundred and fifty-four (54) grants and bursaries to pursue tertiary education, at a total cost of three point nine million dollars ($3.9m.).

10.40 A.M

In fiscal 2017, we will continue the implementation across all Divisions of the Assembly in order to enhance procurement practices, processes and procedures.  To complement this, we will complete the implementation of the electronic Fixed Assets Management System to track and account for all the Assembly’s fixed assets more effectively.

Madam Presiding Officer, Tobago has long recognized the need to lay a foundation for a future of economic sustainability.  This is even more urgent given the current challenges faced by our twin island state.  The growth of the private sector in Tobago remains one of the critical pillars of our developmental strategy.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) recognizes that private sector growth is a major contributor to job creation, poverty alleviation and much needed diversification away from stagnant traditional avenues of revenue generations and employment in the Public Service.  We have also recognized that any interventions to promote private sector growth must be careful to ensure access to opportunity by the small and medium sized entrepreneurs, not just only by the larger players.  As a result, this Administration has embarked on several initiatives all geared towards the growth of the private sector in Tobago and the development of an indigenous business class on the island.

Through the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development and through our two (2) signature programmes, the Enterprise Assistance Fund (EAF) Loan Programme and the Enterprise Assistance Grant Programme (EAGP), Tobagonians have been given financial and technical assistance to start, operate and expand their businesses.  

In respect of the Loan Programme, approximately One point three million dollars ($1.3m.) was approved and disbursed to successful applicants over the last year.  Since the introduction of this Programme in 2003, loans totalling approximately thirty million dollars ($30m.) have been disbursed to about three hundred (300) Tobagonians to facilitate entrepreneurial activities. 

As it relates to the Grant Programme, over the past year, approximately one million dollars ($1m.) was approved and disbursed to fifty-five (55) recipients.  More than forty percent (40%) of all recipients of the Grant Programme are young adults and forty-four percent (44%) of the 

recipients are females.  

Since the introduction of the Grant Programme in 2011, grants totalling approximately Thirteen million dollars ($13m.) have been disbursed to over seven hundred and fifty (750) Tobagonians.  Interestingly, preliminary data from the Tobago Business Register (2016) indicates that there has been a greater than a hundred percent (100%) increase in the number of registered businesses when compared to the last register of 1997/98.  The number of registered businesses moved from One thousand, five hundred and fifty (1,550) to Three thousand, one hundred and thirty-eight (3,138).  Eighty-four percent (84%) of these businesses are owned by Tobagonians and thirty-five percent (35%) was established in the last five (5) years.  

In addition to the Direct Financial Assistance, the Business Development Unit supports the development of the private sector by providing market exposure to its clients and facilitates participation in national, regional and international trade shows.  As a result, several local products are now on the shelves of well-known supermarkets nationally and have the potential for export.  This Administration has continued to deliver on its mandate to develop a new entrepreneurial class on the island as well as the expansion of the Tobago private sector.

Madam Presiding Officer, with reference to fostering new business development at our flagship diversification project, the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park, the Assembly continues to provide avenues for Tobagonians to develop business enterprises.  At present, there are four (4) active tenants with another four (4) under consideration.  These businesses, which are in diverse areas such as:

  • Agro-processing;

  • Communications;

  • Recycling;

  • Woodworking; and

  • Metal fabrication are providing jobs and stimulating economic activity.

The two Multi-Producer Units (MPUs) which were commissioned this year provide production facilities to several light manufacturers and agro- processors.  Each MPU has eight tenant slots and what this means is that COVE is providing much needed retail space for agro-processors and its facilitating the shift away from primary agricultural production to more lucrative production along the value chain.

Madam Presiding Officer, the Venture Capital Equity Fund (VCEFL) was established to advance Tobago’s diversification thrust and has been financing Tobago’s businesses.  In the last year, approximately five point two million dollars ($5.2m.) was disbursed to three (3) companies, viz:     

  • Andy’s Cherry Nectar; 

  • Quiet River Woodworks; and 

  • The Pork International Group Limited.  

Two of these companies are tenants at the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park.  It is projected that this investment will result in the creation of thirty (30) jobs.  The Board of the Venture Capital Equity Fund (VCEFL), recently approved two new projects with capitalization of approximately Three point five million dollars ($3.5m.).   It is anticipated that these new projects will be capitalized within the calendar year 2016.

      The Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) has also played its part in supporting private sector development in Tobago by allowing businesses to leverage ICT in their operations.  The Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) has partnered with the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) to provide Video Conferencing (VC) services to facilitate telemedicine, meetings, and interactive distance learning.  Additionally, the Employment Exchange Bureau (EXB) managed by TITL, links jobseekers to available opportunities in the private sector.  Over the last year, the total number of jobseekers has increased by approximately five hundred (500), bringing the total number of users of the system to approximately four thousand, one hundred (4,100).

      Arising out of consultations with the Chamber of Commerce and the agricultural stakeholders, we have agreed that this facility will be made available at no cost to these organizations to facilitate further access to this pool of labour.  All registrants of the Youth Energized for Success (YES) Programme and the Division of Settlement and Labour’s Employment Registry are also included on the Employment Exchange Bureau.

      Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to our achievements in education.  This Administration has invested significantly in improving both the educational infrastructure and the quality of education in Tobago.  As an illustration, in the last year, approximately two million dollars ($2m.) was spent to upgrade and refurbish Early Childhood Education Centres, approximately seven point six million dollars ($7.6m.) on repairs and upgrades of Primary Schools, and fifteen million dollars ($15m.) on major upgrades to Secondary Schools.

Madam Presiding Officer, beyond the upgrades to our educational infrastructure, all teachers were offered a range of courses aimed at improving educational performance on the island.  As a result, teachers were exposed to further professional and curriculum development programmes.  In an effort to infuse technology into the classroom to enhance teaching and learning at both the secondary and the primary level, the Division of Education collaborated with the University of the West Indies to deliver a one-year Geographic Information System (GIS) training programme.  Approximately seventeen (17) teachers on the island recently graduated from this programme.  

10.30 A.M

      Madam Presiding Officer, the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago are facing challenges in light of depressed oil and gas revenues. All Ministries and State Enterprises have been asked to decrease expenditure, improve productivity and to take the necessary steps to ensure the country survives this latest slowdown. We, in Tobago, will not be insulated from the structural adjustment and the sacrifices that will have to be made in the upcoming months. However, we can be comforted by the fact, that Tobago is well positioned to meet and overcome these challenges, only because of the foundation laid down by the Tobago House of Assembly over the past sixteen (16) years and especially over the past four (4) years. [Desk thumping] We have practiced and will continue to practice prudence in all our financial dealings and will continue to focus on building our infrastructure, investing in our people and laying the groundwork for economic diversification.

      Madam Presiding Officer, this Administration continues to provide the enabling macroeconomic environment conducive to economic growth and development. In this regard, preliminary data from the most recent Survey of Business Establishments conducted by the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development Establishments indicate that in 2015, Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant 2011 prices was approximately one point nine three billion dollars ($TT$1.93b.) up from TT one point six-five billion dollars (TT$1.65b.).  These figures point to a level of buoyancy of the Tobago economy.  Not surprisingly, the greatest contributors to growth over the last five (5) years, were government spending which grew by thirty-four (34) percent and Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Business Services which grew by ten percent (10%).  The GDP data also suggest that the Services sector is still the dominant sector in the Tobago economy, accounting for approximately ninety percent (90%) of the island’s GDP.

Moreover, the results suggest that in 2015, the share of general government activity in Tobago’s GDP, was approximately forty-seven (47%); the share of Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Business Services in Tobago’s GDP averaged about twenty-four (24%); the Tourism Sector, which comprises hotel and guest houses and distribution and restaurants accounted for about eleven percent (11%) of Tobago’s GDP and the share of transport, Storage and Communications averaged, five percent (5%).

In respect of the Labour Market, the latest data available from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) indicates that the unemployment rate in Tobago, as at the end of the fourth quarter 2015 was three point four percent (3.4%), down from an average of three point eight percent (3.8%) in 2013.  Interestingly, the proportion of the labour force in Tobago with tertiary education, increased from thirteen percent (13%) in 2013 to nineteen percent (19%) by the end of the fourth quarter in 2015.  This figure compares favourably with that of many other countries in the region and is directly attributed to the Assembly’s investment in tertiary education through the Financial Assistance Programme.  

We might also note that the proportion of the labour force employed by the state in Tobago has declined from an average of sixty-one percent (61%) in 2013 to fifty-five percent (55%) by the end of the fourth quarter in 2015.

Madam Presiding Officer, allow me to focus on inflation for a moment.  In 2013, when I assumed office as Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development, Tobago had a significant problem with inflation, specifically, food price inflation.  Indeed, for the year 2013, while the rates of Headline and Core Inflation averaged six point five percent (6.5%) and three point one percent (3.1%) respectively, the rate of food price inflation on the island averaged fourteen percent (14%). 


Today, I am pleased to report that inflation in Tobago is now under control.  The most recent report from the Central Bank indicates that Headline Inflation in Tobago in March of this year, was one point two percent (1.2%), core inflation was zero point four percent (0.4%) and food price inflation was about seven point seven percent (7.7%).

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn my attention to the progress that we have made in modernizing the Assembly’s financial reporting architecture.  Over the course of the last three (3) fiscal years, we have set a course towards the upgrade of the Assembly’s Accounting and Financial Reporting Systems.   We have made significant progress in what is a long-term exercise. 

   I am pleased to announce that we have collaborated with First Citizens Bank Limited to facilitate E-First Cash Management and Automated Clearing House (ACH) training for all Administrators and Accounting Personnel of the Assembly.  This has initiated the project’s second phase and will equip the Divisions with the skills and the necessary IT infrastructure for full implementation.  This phase will be completed at the end of fiscal 2016 and the full implementation is expected to reduce the processing time for the payment of salaries and suppliers.

      Madam Presiding Officer, in fiscal 2017, we propose to initiate the first phase of the implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards of (IPSAS).  We have successfully completed the gap  analysis of the Assembly’s current accounting systems and the IPSAS framework to which we aspire.  The analysis clearly identifies the areas to be addressed and provides a roadmap for us to begin the roll out of this programme.

The benefits of the adoption of IPSAS are several: 


(1) It will address a number of issues raised in the Auditor General’s Report on the audited accounts of the Tobago House of Assembly; 


(2) IPSAS will also enhance the ability of Divisions to coordinate the implementation of projects in Tobago more effectively; 

(3) IPSAS will provide a framework to enable a more complete and accurate view of the Assembly’s activities and performance and facilitate greater transparent and accountability in financial reporting.

     Madam Presiding Officer, with respect to the Assembly’s Audited Financial Statements, I wish to reiterate that the Tobago House of Assembly has submitted statements for all years up to 2013.  We continue to work with the Auditor General’s Department to address the issues raised, in previous audited financial statements and we met recently to propose several initiatives to have the Assembly’s Financial Statements audited in a timely manner.

       Madam Presiding Officer, I reported previously on this Administration’s plans for the strengthening of systems within the Assembly, to ensure full accountability and transparency.  In December of last year, the Executive Council approved a Revised Comprehensive Procurement Policy, consistent with international best practices, and in anticipation of the enactment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act of 2015.  This will ensure the achievement of value for money in all transactions across the Assembly.  

     Additionally, this new Procurement System will introduce a central Procurement Control Unit and the subsequent upgrading and outfitting of Procurement Units in all Divisions of the Assembly.

10.20 A.M

If this De-risking phenomenon accelerates, it is quite likely that the overall performance of the Caribbean region could be much weaker than current estimates suggest.

Madam Presiding Officer, over the last two (2) years, Trinidad and Tobago has been grappling with the challenges posed by dramatic decline in oil and natural gas prices well below budgeted prices.  

Currently, the West Texas Intermediate price for crude oil hovers around US forty-nine dollars ($49) per barrel while the Henry Hub price for gas averages US two dollars ($2) per MMBtu.  The impact of energy prices has been exacerbated by falling oil and natural gas production and the effects of the decline in the energy sector are manifested in lower government revenues and expenditure, a sharp fall in the balance of trade, waning consumer confidence levels and a slowdown in economic growth. 

The most recent Monetary Policy Report of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, for May 2016, suggests that the domestic economy contracted by two point three percent (2.3%) in the final quarter of 2015; and that the early indications for the first quarter of 2016 also points to weaker economic activity.  The terms of trade shock from lower energy prices and lower domestic energy production has resulted in a weakening in the external accounts position.  The country’s gross official reserves fell from US nine point eight billion dollars ($9.8b.) at the end of 2015 to United States nine point three billion dollars (US$9.3b.) at the end of April 2016.  Moreover, depressed conditions in the energy sector and the knock-on effect on the non-energy sectors has resulted in a national sovereign debt downgrade by Moody’s from Baa2 to Baa3 and by Standards and Poor’s to A minus.  

      Once again, owing to the strong linkage between the operating institutional framework of the Tobago House of Assembly and the Central Government, our rating has also been lowered.  Though still at investment grade, this downgrade now means a higher cost for government borrowing.

Madam Presiding Officer, the sluggish economic growth has been accompanied by deteriorating labour market conditions.  The most recent labour market statistics from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) showed a slight increase in the unemployment rate to three point five percent (3.5%) in the last quarter of 2015.  Headline inflation averaged three point five percent (3.5%) in the first four (4) months of 2016.  Headline inflation averaged three point five percent (3.5%) in the first four (4) months of 2016 with core inflation averaging two point one percent (2.1%).  The foreign exchange market remained tight in the first quarter of 2016, as excess demand for the US dollar coupled with a fifty percent (50%) reduction in Central Bank sales support, resulted in a three point one percent (3.1%) depreciation of the foreign exchange rate to approximately TT six dollars and sixty-three cents ($6.63) per United States dollar.

Madam Presiding Officer, having outlined the global, regional and national context in which the estimates are predicated, I will give a brief update of some recent budgetary and financial developments in Tobago for fiscal 2016.  I will then review some of our major achievements since 2013.  Next, I will examine the fiscal priorities for fiscal 2017.  This will be followed by the presentation of the draft estimates of expenditures for fiscal 2017 and a brief discussion on the financing of the budget.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the Tobago House of Assembly, in the year ended September 30th, 2015, received a total of two billion, three hundred and ninety-four million, nine hundred and eighty-seven thousand, two hundred and twenty-two dollars ($2,394,987,222) in funding from the Ministry of Finance and the Economy.  The Assembly received two billion, ten million, five hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred and twenty-two dollars ($2,010,560,222) for Recurrent Expenditure and thee hundred and eighty-four million, four hundred and twenty-seven thousand dollars ($384,427,000) for Development Programme Expenditure.  Also, included in the Recurrent Expenditure allocation was One hundred and ten million dollars ($110,000,000) for the payment of salaries to Public Officers arrears to Public Officers relating to the period 2008 – 2015.

     Revenues generated independently by the Tobago House of Assembly totalled twenty-seven million, six hundred and one thousand, three hundred and twenty-two dollars ($27,601,322).  

The sum of two hundred and seventy-eight million, sixty-nine thousand and seven dollars ($278,069,007) was collected as tax and non-tax 

revenue in Tobago on behalf of the Consolidated Fund.  This was offset against the total Parliamentary Appropriation for fiscal 2015, therefore bringing the total fiscal allocation received to two billion, six hundred and seventy-three million, fifty-six thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine dollars ($2,673,056,229).

Recurrent and development Programme expenditure incurred by the Tobago House of Assembly in fiscal 2015 amounted to two billion, six hundred and seventy-one million, six hundred and forty-three thousand, eight hundred and ninety-two dollars ($2,671,643,892).  Of this sum, Recurrent Expenditure amounted to Two billion, twelve million, five hundred and forty-two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six dollars ($2,012,542,726) or seventy-five point three percent (75.3%) of the total expenditure, whilst Development Programme Expenditure amounted to six hundred and fifty-nine million, one hundred and one thousand, one hundred and sixty-six dollars ($659,101,166).  This represented an overall increase in expenditure of seven point six percent (7.6%) over fiscal 2014.

     Under the Contingencies Account, Unspent Balances for the year ended 30th September 2014 was one hundred and thirty-one million, four hundred and ninety-seven thousand, two hundred and twenty dollars ($131,497,220).  This was used in fiscal 2015 to finance capital expenditure, urgent and unforeseen projects in keeping with our mandate to improve the standard of living of our fellow Tobagonians. 

Some of the major projects and programmes undertaken include:

The acquisition of Manta Lodge and Sanctuary Villas – - $32,000,000 

An Expanded Agricultural Access Roads Programme - $20,000,000 

He Human Capital Development  Programme - $7,500,000 

The Unemployment Relief Programme - $47,076,343

Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) -         $17,270,369

Madam Presiding Officer, expenditure under these programmes ensured that employment levels were maintained, that work continued on major projects, and that students were able to pursue tertiary and other educational training programmes.

Madam Presiding Officer, for fiscal 2016, the budgetary allocation for the Tobago House of Assembly amounted to two billion, seven hundred and forty-eight million, eight hundred thousand dollars ($2,748,800,000); this aggregated two billion, three hundred and forty-five million dollars ($2,345,000,000) was for Recurrent Expenditure and four hundred and three million, eight hundred thousand dollars ($403,800,000) was for Development Programme Expenditure.  

As a result of the economic difficulties facing Trinidad and Tobago, the Assembly, like all other state agencies, applied the adjustment of a seven percent (7%) reduction to its budgetary allocations owing to the fiscal challenges faced by the Central Government.  The seven percent (7%) or one hundred and ninety-two point four million dollars ($192.4m.) reduction impacted Recurrent Expenditure and significantly reduced the reallocation to fund Development Programme Expenditure.  Madam Presiding Officer, what this meant was that some of our major capital expenditure projects had to be curtailed or postponed until the next fiscal year.

10.10 A.M

We have invested considerably in our road networks, our educational infrastructure and health facilities.  Our community infrastructure and recreational facilities compare favourably with those of other Caribbean countries.  In addition, we continue to provide adequate social safety-net support, to all vulnerable groups in society through a wide array of programmes.

Madam Presiding Officer, our achievements did not come by chance, but through the sheer determination, prudence and commitment of the Tobago House of Assembly, in response to the overwhelming mandate of the people of Tobago.  We remain steadfast and committed to ensure that our developmental momentum continues.  While the economic challenges remain at the global, regional, and national level, fortunately for us now, we have a Central Government that is more responsive to the needs of Tobago. [Desk thumping] This makes for a more harmonious relationship between Tobago and Trinidad - a relationship that is built on collaboration and mutual respect.  We are confident that with the new political environment, much more will be achieved for the people of Tobago.

Madam Presiding Officer, today’s budget is being presented at a particularly interesting point in the island’s development.  We now have a real chance to bring closure to the long standing and critical issue of Self-Government for Tobago.  The positive signals that we have seen from the Central Government thus far, suggest that this issue will be finalized in the near future.  The resolution of the long standing issue of Self-Government for Tobago, has the potential to expand the developmental possibilities of the island.  Therefore, despite the challenges facing Tobago, the future of the island looks very bright.  It is a future made possible by the work of several PNM Administrations on the island since 2001 and that is why today’s Budget Statement is aptly themed, “Maximizing Opportunities in a Challenging Economic Environment”.

        Madam Presiding Officer, I will now turn my attention to a review of the International, Regional and National Economic Environment to set the context for the 2017 Budget Estimates.

Let me now turn to developments in the global economy which continue to impact economic activity at the national level, both directly and indirectly and which also have implications for us here in Tobago.  The diagnosis on the health of the global economy delivered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at its recently concluded Spring Meeting in April this year, is somewhat sobering and recent statistics released by the Fund indicated that the global economic recovery is still proceeding at a disappointingly slow pace.  In 2015, the global economy grew at around three point one percent (3.1%) and global growth is forecasted to be not much higher, at around three point two percent (3.2%) in 2016.

Developments in the global economy continue to impact both directly and indirectly economic activity at the national level and have direct implications for us here in Tobago.  This relatively subdued pace of growth is a reflection of the rebalancing in China, continued stress in many advanced economies in Europe and the slowdown in economic activity in some key emerging market countries, such as Brazil.  To compound matters, the constrained pace of global economic recovery is occurring against a background of weaker global demand; significantly lower commodity prices, which are putting additional strain on commodity exporting countries; a large scale refugee inflow into Europe from the Middle East which is straining social and economic resources; and the possibility of a “Brexit” which could severely disrupt established trading relationships in Europe.  All of these issues have generated greater uncertainty about the prospect for any significant recovery in the pace of global growth.

In the United States, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew moderately at two point four percent (2.4%) in 2015 and has since levelled off in 2016.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is projecting a slight uptick in US growth to two point five percent (2.5%) in 2017.

In Europe, economic activity remained quite restrained at one point five percent (1.5%) in 2015, with a slight uptick to one point six percent (1.6%) expected for 2016.  Concerns with respect to the impact of the possible exit of Britain from the EU are high.  Growth in Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs) slowed to four percent (4%) in 2015 from four point six percent (4.6%) in 2014 and is projected to remain relatively stagnant at four point one percent (4.1%) in 2016, owing to the faster-than-expected slowdown in manufacturing output in China, reduced capital flows to emerging market countries and the severe macroeconomic challenges in Brazil and in commodity-exporting countries such as Russia and Nigeria.

On a more positive note, the IMF is projecting firmer growth in 2017 and beyond, but this will depend significantly on some strengthening in growth in emerging markets and developing economies.  The outlook for energy-producing economies is grim in the face of the sharp collapse of oil and gas prices since 2014.  The possibility for even further weakening in 

energy prices remains quite real given the existing supply glut created by increased exports from Iran related to the lifting of sanctions and higher domestic production in the United States. 

Madam Presiding Officer, this raises once again, the importance of diversifying the national economy, a theme I have raised several times in my  previous budget presentations.  We believe that increased investment in the Tobago and in the Tobago economy, especially in the tourism sector can go a long way in helping to stem the decline in national output and to serve as a viable platform for the restoration of a more robust growth momentum in the future.

Madam Presiding Officer, at the wider regional level, economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, has been particularly hard hit by subdued global demand conditions, but there have been differential impacts for commodity exporting countries as opposed to service exporting countries.  Real GDP for the Latin America and the Caribbean Sub-region, fell in 2015 by zero point one (0.1%) and is projected to fall even further by zero point five (0.5%) in 2016.  This is as a result of the weak economic performances in Brazil and Venezuela. On the brighter side, tourism dependent economies fared slightly better in 2015, with economic activities in these economies increasing on average by one point six percent (1.6%) in 2015 more than double the rate of increase in commodity-producing countries.  For the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) region, the rate of divergence in economic performance in the tourism-dependent nations, like Barbados and the  Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) region and the commodity producing ones especially Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, is expected to widen in 2016 and 2017. 

Besides the effects of subdued economic conditions, trade and financing arrangements in the Caribbean are also facing a new and rising threat in the form of De-risking, which is already resulting in the loss of vital and well-established correspondent banking relationships, between large international banks and many smaller banks in the Caribbean region. 

Mr. Presiding Officer, I beg to move the following Motion standing in my name: 

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, 2016 to September 30, 2017, copies of which were laid on the table, at an earlier stage of the proceedings.” 

Question proposed. 

Madam Presiding Officer, Honourable Chief Secretary, Deputy Chief Secretary, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Chief Administrator and other Administrators, 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; on Television; and on the Worldwide Web, Members of the Media, Good morning!

This morning, it is with a great sense of pride and honour that I stand before this Honourable House, to present the Draft Estimates for the Tobago House of Assembly for fiscal 2017.  Today’s submission to this Honourable House represents the combined efforts of many individuals and groups within the Tobago House of Assembly and the wider Tobago community.   For this, I wish to express my sincerest gratitude and profound appreciation to the Chief Secretary, all Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries, the staffs of the various Divisions who tirelessly and selflessly contributed to the development of this presentation.  

Special commendation is also extended to the employees of the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development and the Planning Department in the Office of the Chief Secretary.  My appreciation extends as well to the non-governmental and Community-Based Organizations, individuals, and participants in the third Budget Survey whose numerous suggestions have helped us to identify some of the Budget 


I would also like to thank my wife and family for their special support at all times.  Above all, I thank Almighty God for his continued guidance and tremendous generosity of all who have worked with me as a team to help craft today’s submission.

Madam Presiding Officer, Oh how time has flown!  It seems like only yesterday, that I stood before this Honourable House to present my inaugural budget speech.  Today, I am pleased and indeed humbled to deliver the final budget of this Administration’s present term.  I do so, proud of what we have been able to achieve over the past few years despite the considerable odds.  

Indeed, for the most part, we were faced with a challenging global, regional, and national economic environment.   To compound matters, for most of that period, we were contended with a central government which was insensitive to the needs of Tobago and at every turn undermined the work and the authority of the Assembly.  The havoc they created reverberates throughout the national economy today when much of our planning and projections must take into account the poor decisions and wanton expenditure of those now in opposition.  These challenges notwithstanding, 

this Administration has performed exceedingly well to improve the quality of life of Tobagonians and to advance the island’s development.  During our tenure, we managed the economy prudently as is evidenced by an improved quality of life and the visible signs of improvement across the island.

Secretary of Finance, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs. [Desk thumping]

45th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2013 - 2017 Session


21 June 2016
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