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Motions

FULL VIDEO
BUDGET STATEMENT DEBATE 2022/2023

 Leader of Assembly Business.

The House divided:   AYES: 17   NAY: 0   ABSTENTIONS:   2

AYES:

Hackett, Hon. Z.

Augustine, Hon. Farley

Duke, Hon. Watson

B.Yisrael, Dr. F.

George, N.

James, Hon. T.

Taitt, N.

Morrison, M.

Kerr, Councillor O.

Craig, S.

Clarke, W.

Charles-Pantin, Hon. N.

Sampson, J.

Pollard, Hon. I.

Baynes, Hon. T.

Williams-Orr, Councillor C.

Burris, Hon. T.

ABSTAIN:

Benoit-Daniel, Councillor P.

Morris, K.

Question put and agreed to.

Thank you, Member.

Honourable  Members, the question proposed is:


“BE IT   FURTHER RESOLVED that this House approve the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure respecting all functions of the Tobago House of   Assembly (THA), for the financial year October 01, 2022 to September 3 0, 2023, copies of which were laid on the table at an earlier stage of the proceedings.”

Question   proposed.


Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. The House having   met and approved the Schedules in the Draft Estimates.


“BE IT   FURTHER RESOLVED that this House approve the Draft Estimates of   Revenue and expenditure respecting all functions of the Tobago House of   Assembly (THA), for the financial year October 01, 2022 to September 3 0,   2023, copies of which were laid on the table at an earlier stage of the   proceedings.”

I so move, Madam   Presiding Officer.


5.00   p.m.: Sitting resumed.

HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: Roman numeral iii on 58 ... [Pause]

Thanks for your keen eye Councillor Benoit, and my   apologies - that was an error. It is an error at the back in terms of the   2023 Estimates.

So I wish to ask this House permission to cancel the   previous sum I

gave for CEPEP to stand in the Schedule of forty-three   million, three hundred and seventy-four thousand, nine hundred and seventeen   dollars ($43,374,917.00).


We are going to cancel that initial vote.

Question put and agreed to.

Thank you.

I now wish to duly and correctly propose that the sum of   fifty-three million, one hundred and seventy-three thousand, six hundred and   seventy dollars ($53,173,670.00) now stand as part of the Schedule for   Community- Based Environment Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) to   the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.

HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: Thank you. It now stands part of the Schedule.

I wish to now call this session back to order and thank   you for your kind co-operation.

Thank you very much Madam Clerk of the House and a signal   can be sent to the Presiding Officer, that we are ready to take a vote on   this matter.

4:50 P.M

I propose under the Recurrent Expenditure, the sum of   three billion, sixty-seven million, five hundred and thirty-two thousand, two   hundred and seven dollars ($3,067,532,207.00) being included as part of the   overall Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

I will be grateful, Colleagues, if we can turn to the   Draft Estimates of Expenditure for the Development Programme and if we can   proceed to Roman Numeral V in the book on Draft Estimates for Development   Expenditure, otherwise known as ‘Capital Development.’

I propose under Pre-Investment, the sum of three million   four hundred thousand dollars ($3,400,000.00) be included as part of the   Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. CHIEF SECRETARY: It   now stands part of the Schedule.

I propose   for Economic Infrastructure, the sum of three hundred and sixty million, two   hundred and seventy-four thousand dollars ($360,274,000.00) be included as   part of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.

HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

With respect to Social Infrastructure, I propose that the   sum of four hundred million, six hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars   ($400,625,000.00) now stands as part of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

With respect to Multi-sectorial and Other Services, I   propose that one hundred and thirty-five million, seven hundred and one   thousand dollars ($13 5,701,000.00) be included as part of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.


Question put and agreed to.

HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Overall Development Programme, the sum of nine hundred   million dollars ($900,000,000.00) be included as part of the Schedule to the   Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

We now turn to page 57 - Unemployment Relief Programme,   page 57 of the same Development Estimates book.

I wish to have the provision of the Unemployment Relief   Programme included in the amount of fifty-nine million, five hundred and   eighty-nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars ($59,589,134.00) be   included as part of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Please turn to page 58 of the Development Estimates.

On page 58, I propose to have the sum of forty-three   million, three hundred and seventy-four thousand, nine hundred and seventeen   dollars ($43,374,917.00) be included as part of the Schedule to the Minister   of Finance with respect for Community-Based Environmental Protection and   Enhancement.

Question put and agreed to.

HON.   CHIEF SECRETARY: It now stands part of the Schedule. 


4.40 P.M

HOUSE IN COMMITTEE

To the majority of Members of the House, let me just explain. In this exercise, the task is that I go through with you line by line, just the major headings for Recurrent Expenditure, meaning the Departments or the Divisions and how much per area and I will ask you to agree or to vote in the affirmative or if you so choose, opposite.

     So the request is being made for each area and when I am finished with the Recurrent Expenditure, I do the same thing for the DP and then I end by doing the same thing for URP and CEPEP.

     I think sometime in the past, they used to go through line item by line item, but from my experience including the last one done in 2021, it was just done Division by Division.

    So thank you again, Colleagues.

Members, shall we proceed with item 1 of the Draft Estimates of Expenditure for Recurrent Estimates?

     The first line item (on page v) for consideration, is the Assembly

Legislature. I propose the sum of thirty million, two hundred and ninety¬seven thousand, seven hundred and fifteen dollars ($30,297,715.00) set out in the Estimates for the Assembly Legislature be   included as part of the Schedule, to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands as part of the Schedule.

Item 2 - with respect to the Office of the Chief   Secretary, the sum of two hundred and sixteen million, four hundred and   seventeen thousand, eight hundred dollars ($216,417,800.00), be included as   part of the Schedule, to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 3 - Finance Trade and the Economy, that the amount of   one hundred and eighty-four million, two hundred and forty-six thousand, one   hundred dollars ($184,246,100.00) reflected in the current Estimates, be   included as part of the Schedule, to the Minister of Finance

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F. AUGUSTINE: It   now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 4 - Recurrent Expenditure for the Division of Food   Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, the   sum of two hundred and fifty million, nine hundred and eighty-two thousand,   four hundred and fifty-six dollars ($250,982,456.00) be included as part of   the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 5 - Reflecting Recurrent Expenditure for the Division   of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation, the sum of two hundred   and fifty-five million, eight hundred and forty-six thousand, and three   dollars ($25 5,846,003.00) be included as part of the Schedule to the   Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F. AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of   the Schedule.

Item 6 - Reflecting Recurrent Expenditure for the Division   of Education, Research and Technology, the sum of four hundred and eighty-   five million, fifty-eight thousand, six hundred and thirteen dollars ($485,05   8,613.00) be included as part of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 7 - Reflecting Recurrent Expenditure for the Division   of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport, the sum of one hundred   and sixty-one million, three hundred and forty-four thousand, nine hundred   and fifty dollars ($161,344,950.00) be included as part of the Schedule to   the Minister of Finance.

Question pzit and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 8 - Reflecting the Recurrent Expenditure for the   Division of

Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development, the sum of   four hundred and fifty-five million, three hundred and fifty-six   thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars ($455,356,250.00) be included as part   of the Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 10 - Reflecting the Recurrent Expenditure for the   Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, the sum of nine hundred   and eighteen million, four hundred and three thousand, five hundred and   fifty-three dollars ($918,403,5 53.00) be included as part of the Schedule to   the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.

Item 11 - Reflecting the Recurrent Expenditure for the   Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development, the sum of   forty million

four hundred and   thirty-one thousand, five hundred and eighty-seven dollars ($40,431,587.00) be included as part of the   Schedule to the Minister of Finance.

Question put and agreed to.


HON. F.   AUGUSTINE: It now stands part of the Schedule.


Thank you, Member for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside.

Members, this House would now enter into Committee mode.

I would now ask our visitors in the gallery, the Administrators and the media to please leave the Chamber so that this House and its Members may enter into Committee mode.

I would also ask   for the media to be turned down at this time.

Sure. No concern, no kind of speed - nothing. Imagine we have positions in the THA that Cabinet approved since 2004, and all now they cannot be classified - 2004. I did not even start university yet and still not classified to this day. There is no greater evidence of a lack of care when it comes to Tobago’s business.

      I want to say something quickly about contract employment in general.

      I have noticed a pattern in the Tobago space, Madam Presiding Officer, whereby there seem to be with contract employment, a kind of a rollover arrangement. Roll over is good, but the problem with the roll over arrangement is that the roll over is happening without due diligence, and the roll over is happening without proper appraisals. So you sit at a desk as a Secretary and an Administrator will send umpteen files for you to sign off on contracts. I am looking through the files I do not know three quarter of the people in the file. You look through the file - there is no resume attached to the file - just a contract and the old Executive Minute. So I do not know if this person has been asked to sign on for an extension or for a new contract, whether they were qualified in the first place for the job. I do not know whether they did well in the job or not, but I am expected to just close my eyes and sign on the dotted line.

      I have made it clear to the Executive Council that we are no rubber stamp and that there has to be a process. Yes, I agree with roll over. You have a worker who is doing well; a worker who is contracted, that worker must be retained. In fact, if I have my way, such a worker will not even get a three (3) year contract - such a worker will get a seven (7) year contract, because after a while, you are as good as permanent. But you cannot ask Secretaries to just - and I am hearing it is being said that we are not signing off for people to get new contracts. But what are we signing on? You do not know the individual. You have not seen a resume for the person; you are not seeing an appraisal for the person, but you are just being asked to sign.

That cannot be how we do business. That is what has resulted in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) losing umpteen court cases.

     As for the issue of debt management, I announced that have I already established a Debt Management Committee and I know nobody on the other side should talk about debt management, none. When you could decide to give out hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts - not even contracts - commitment letters - no contract, no scope of work, no BIQs - nothing; nobody; no QSN sit down and say, “The work will cost this.” A man sit down and say, “Hey, look at paper - do that work deh - fifteen million dollars ($l5m), do that work there;” you - five million dollars (5m); you - ten million dollars ($10m); you - three million dollars ($3m). That is how they gave out contracts in the THA.

     On top of it, the Executive Council could not even identify a source of income to pay for it. It just simply said that the Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy will find the money. But the last time I checked by where I live at No. 26 Lucy Vale Local Road, Speyside, the trees I have there are guava, barbadine, cherry, lime, mango, chennet and 1 have some goats. I looked all over and I did not see any money tree growing there. [Desk thumping]

     Therefore, the Debt Management has to be managed properly or else we will have a situation where we will not be able to execute new capital development projects if all we are doing, is paying the debt. So we will pay the debts responsibly as I have indicated in the budget, and indicated clearly.

     Finally, Madam Presiding Officer, the Minority Councillor started talking about home ownership and how are we going to get to a thousand (1000) over the four (4) year period. I am saying to the Minority Councilor again, that this is one of the areas that we are looking for alternative funding. We are not looking for the Central Government and subvention to be able to provide all of that funding. I know that that is not possible. I know that is not possible at all.

     And the issue of land ownership and preparing lands, I do not know that it needs to take the THA five, six, seven, ten and twenty-one years just to buy and prepare lands. There are private developers who are doing that in a much speedier turnaround. Something has to be wrong with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). One of the reasons why we are bringing Town and Country Planning to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is to be able to fix some of those issues. [Desk thumping]

     So Madam Presiding Officer, I know my time is far spent. I will have enough time to talk about the Auditor General and all the nefarious activities, but I so beg to move, Madam Presiding Officer, that at this point we move into the Committee stage so that we can look at the details of the Expenditures.






Member, you have five (5) minutes.

4.30 P.M

Then unbelievably, they raised the issue about let us put a Farmers’ Market in Roxborough. But you know what is strange about that?

     Madam Presiding Officer, when I was growing up and travelling from Speyside to town every day for school and back, I know there used to be a market right in Roxborough. Who mashed it up? It is they who broke it up and never built back one. Not only that - travelling from Speyside to town, Roxborough used to have an abattoir. Who mashed it up? It is they who mashed it up. I was born in Roxborough in 1985, who stopped that? Who mashed that up? It is all of them. Therefore, this is about restoring the years that were stolen, the years lost to the locusts and the cankerworms. [Desk thumping]

     So you do not have to worry, Mr. Minority Leader. We have a Deputy Chief Secretary who holds Roxborough firmly and if given a chance, Roxborough will even have an airport in the sea. [Laughter][Desk thumping] There is no limit to the vision for Roxborough as a town in the East. Because we are firm in our mind that there must not be any town versus country, when it comes to Tobago. There must be one Tobago with a level playing field for development across the board. [Desk thumping]

     I want to give you credit though, for something you raised that has been bothering me for a while - the issue of an arm of the Medical Board. Because I listened and it has been bothering me for a long while.

     When we got into office, and we got in at a time when the mortality rate was almost at its highest; when infection rate was at its highest and we were saying, “Look, we need to do something fast.” We were looking at burnout. I walked the hospital and every quarter I went to, the medical professions were complaining - they are tired, they are being burnt out; they have been overworked - too many hours. We said okay, let us explore bringing in some foreign medical practitioners to Tobago. In fact, I sat down while my Members were in retreat - I left the retreat with the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection and sat down with one Dr. Nathaniel Duke, who you should know, and started exploring the possibility of bringing in foreign medical professionals here. And then we realized we had one major challenge, because there were Tobagonians living abroad,wanting to come home and contribute and they were complaining that they could not get any ability to contribute because this Medical Board and Nursing Council who were meeting once per month, who were not meeting on holidays and who closed off for Christmas (and all kind of craziness) and they just could not get the chance to contribute. I kept asking this legal question - if the THA has Fifth Schedule responsibility for Health, what really and truly legally stops the THA from setting up its own Medical Board in Tobago and its own Nursing Council on the island to see about our business? This is something I agree with you on, whether it is an arm of the National Medical Board, or we set up our own Medical Board, it is something worth exploring, because Tobago cannot be made to wait on Trinidad when we want to progress.

     Right now we are being stymied by those in the Public Service. I got a letter from them sometime (I think earlier this week) indicating that they want to come and meet with me, and I cannot wait to give them the length of my tongue, because too much of Tobago’s business have been left on somebody’s desk sitting down in Trinidad...




4.20 P.M

And guess what? If Seereeram does not qualify as a Tobagonian by now, then there are several other people who have migrated to the Tobago space, some of whom are working in your office too. [Desk thumping] Trinidadians working in your office too, could be considered out of place in the Tobago space.

     So as far as I am concerned, Madam Presiding Officer, Seereeram has more rights than even those working with him and helping him to write those rubbish budget responses, but let us talk about employment and giving all districts what is due unto them.

     In this Budget, Madam Presiding Officer, I raised an issue that came up as part of the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ (PDPs) mandate. On the platform we said ideally, that we want to be in a position to give about ten million dollars ($10m) per district. That is the ideal. But I made it clear during the lead up to elections, that ideal we may not start with ten million dollars ($10m); we will start with whatever we have. And in the Budget Presentation, I made it clear that this access to fund,this district funding programme that we will have, that even his district will be given the same amount that my district (or any other district in here) will have because there must be equality for all districts, not some versus the others.

     I even saw, Madam Presiding Officer, the Division of Infrastructure has a programme where they are doing an audit of works to be done, district by district. At this very moment, they haven’t finished my district. They reach one little piece at Speyside and cannot finish. All now they have not reached Delaford. They haven’t reached the Deputy Chief Secretary’s district as yet. Up to little while somebody from Windsor calling me saying, “Oh gosh, you all were to come long time.” We will try to come over the next two (2) weeks. Water washing them away up in Windsor, but guess whose district was already audited and facilitated by the Division - that of the Minority Leader, because we believe in equity across the board for everybody. [Desk thumping]

     But let me speak about the issue of employment, because they trying to push a notion, a faulty notion that somehow the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) came into office and we came into the office with such a sharp axe to grind, that everywhere the axe falls, the People’s   National Movement (PNM) people are losing their jobs. That is the faulty   notion that they want to push. I want to expose the mischief in that; and the   hypocrisy in that, and the PNM privilege in that, because I heard not a mouse   squeak when the four hundred plus workers from TSTT were sent home and then   the alleged lover of a manager being brought back into work - not a   peepsqueak from a mouse anywhere about that. They could restructure, but the   Tobago House of Assembly (THA) cannot restructure. But allow me to go into   infrastructure for a little while.

     In Infrastructure, we have a Unit called, ‘Monitoring and   Evaluation.’ Let us talk about it for a little while, Madam Presiding   Officer. And in that Unit called ‘Monitoring and Evaluation,’ it was meant to   monitor the works being done and the execution of policies from the Division.   When we looked at that Unit, not a single one of those monitoring and   evaluating were engineers, yet we have engineers being contracted to monitor   and evaluate the works of engineers. How they begin to do that, I do not   know.

     You have people talking about they leading - they do not even have three (3) CXC subjects to their name, but sit down in Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (M&E) and you expect this Administration to operate in a similar fashion? We are about merit. If you are qualified to do the work and can do the work, you will be allowed to continue doing the work. [Desk thumping] If you are not qualified and you cannot do the work, then you need to find a place where you are qualified for and apply for that, commensurate with that which you can do. That is a strong policy here and let me be clear.

      If it is we sought to be vindictive, do you know what we would have done? We would have sent them home like what they used to do, and just hire our own to replace. We are not hard to replace even in the community partnership, which I know is a bit of a touchy one for the Minority Leader, very touchy one, but I have not reengaged anybody in any community partnership, because I felt just like the former Chief Administrator Ray Sandy; just like the former Chief Secretary who gave the instruction (Mr. London); just like the former Chief Administrator Karoma, that that Unit was not worth its salt. When you have Chief Administrator after Chief Administrator begging this one Unit to report, and when they send forward a report, you are getting a report saying, “Well, we walked with the candidate in the elections.” Is the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) paying people to walk with candidates in election? [Desk thumping] How is that using money of THA funds, of Tobagonians funds? So this has to be about merit; it has to be no favour - it is about merit.

     I also made [Crosstalk] and you asking about CEPEP. I made it clear - CEPEP - in fact, I went out on a limb, a legal limb and I said, with regards to CEPEP, given the restructuring of CEPEP, after it being restructured, every Member of the management would be asked to reapply and those who are not successful there, we will seek to position them elsewhere within the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) so there is not a loss of earning. I made that abundantly clear, publicly. Even without the advice - I am the Leader of the Executive and if I say it, I say it on behalf of everybody on the team. [Desk thumping] Once I say it, it is said and well said. [Crosstalk] When I say it, it is said and well said.

This has to happen.

We are almost there.

Then the history of removing barriers for young people from management - and I love that, because I believe in that. If I could be voted as Chief Secretary, people could believe in the message I brought at age thirty- six (36), then someone as young as I am or younger, should be given stewardship of Tobago’s prime divisions and the departments and companies.

     I want to see young people lead this place, and it is one of the reasons why the PDP has a policy that once you have reached the retirement age - you may be a consultant; you may be an adviser, but we are not giving you any long term contract - none. And I dare anybody opposite to point out one person who we gave a long term contract to, working on an establishment within the Tobago House of Assembly, (THA) who has passed age sixty (60).

     We met people who are in their seventies - sixty something - retired a long time ago - arthritis knocking on their knees and holding on, and we do not want to put young people there. And I made it a very firm position that when your contract is up, go home and mind grand babies. [Desk thumping]

     Let the young people get an opportunity. So if we are talking about removing barriers, let us start with one of the real barriers that young people have been complaining about, that we have a set of people - and no love loss for the seniors and elders. I love you all, but it cannot be at the expense of ensuring that young people have an opportunity to also contribute. When will a young person get the chance? When they fifty, after somebody is dead? That cannot be how we run a successful island. So immediately that was a very firm policy that we held on to.

     And talking about home ownership for young people. I gave what is perhaps, the bravest plan for young people in indicating that part of that build out of houses, is that we need to do a specialized housing estate specially for young professionals, forty and under, because we recognize that when someone is in their twenties (20s) and really and truly should be taking a long term mortgage, they have to wait until they are forty (40) because they just cannot have access. Land prices are too exorbitant and home ownership is too high.

The Minority Leader raised the issue of home ownership for low income owners - was six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000). We have been trying to reach a target of three hundred thousand dollars (300,000) - half of that, and we already have plans in place to have the money that home ownership here, that will allow for us to in a very affordable manner - a cheaper, yet doable manner, be able to provide home ownership for even daily rated workers who will get two hundred and seventy-five dollars ($275.00) per day and the little two dollars ($2.00) and some change that the Minister of Finance decided they must get.


4.10 P.M

     Further, the Minority Leader said, “But why are you coming with a marina and King’s Bay is supposed to have ‘Blue Flag’ designation?” Well, let me educate this House on what kind of facilities can get a ‘Blue Flag’ designation. To be granted ‘Blue Flag’ status for beaches, marinas (what did I say) and sustainable boating tourism, operators must comply with a specific set of criteria relating to water quality; information provision; environmental education; safety and environmental management. The point I want to make is, a marina can get a ‘Blue Flag’ designation just like a beach. So there is no conflict whatsoever in having a marina and also having ‘Blue Flag’ designation. What was requested by the Division, is for expressions of interest, for people to put out possible proposals for us to see what investors who have capital, will want to do in a space like King’s Bay.

Allow me then to move to the area of:


AUTONOMY


     It was said that we are too adversarial; antagonistic and that we need to work hand in hand. But at the same time, it was pointed out that we have been the beneficiaries of some things that not even his own party benefited from, notwithstanding the PNM in Tobago and PNM in Trinidad happening at the same time.

     In fact, over the last twenty-one (21) years, for sixteen (16) of those years, there was the same party in Tobago and the same party in Trinidad. Now watch this - the party changed - new dimension, new rules. As soon as the party changed, Colm Imbert starts to send the money differently. [Laughter] As soon as the party changed - he was just rubbishing my predecessor - had no respect for my predecessor - notwithstanding that they are from the same party. But I might be small in stature, but trust me, Trinidad will have to respect the Tobago I lead. [Desk thumping]

     I also wish to point out that in the political history of Tobago, Tobago has never gotten any movement on autonomy unless Tobago voted against PNM. [Desk thumping] Let us check the history.

     When ANR Robinson and Dr. Murray went to Trinidad, it was not the PNM they voted for - it was the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) they voted for. When we again got some movement in 1996, it was not PNM they voted for. It was the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) they voted for. The point is, that for sixteen (16) of the last twenty-one (21) years, five (5) of those years, there was a People’s Partnership in Trinidad and a PNM in Tobago. Outside of that, for sixteen (16) years, we had the same party in Tobago as in Trinidad and we have gotten no significant movement on the autonomy issue.

     Therefore, I am putting it very clearly in this House, that if one wants to take our renewed sense of self-confidence as Tobagonians as being aggressive, then so be it. I have long learnt that an intelligent and a self¬confident Tobagonian, is feared by many. And I understand why. Because a Tobagonian that is intelligent and self-confident, is a very powerful person, powerful enough to rule this country. [Desk thumping] So, it is out of that fear, that they are saying, “Oh gosh, calm down nuh.” “Do not be so confident nuh.” “Do not be so bold; do not stand up for your right too much.” “Do not talk too loud; be hush; be soft.” Well let me be clear. I have never been known to be hushed and soft. And it will not start now, certainly not with so much at stake when it comes to Tobago’s autonomy. [Desk thumping] Tobago’s autonomy is an entitlement of the Tobagonian and we will demand it. [Desk thumping]

   The Minority Leader said that we ought to manage   expectations with allocations and that was perhaps the problem of the last   twenty-one (21) years. They read all sorts of things from my presentations   past, but they did not read the part where I was saying to the then Secretary   of Finance, yes you will get a certain allocation from Trinidad, but what are   we doing to raise revenue? What are we doing to manage our expenses outside   of subventions from the sovereign? What are we doing? We spoke at length here   about alternative financing models, about engaging them fully. I went as far   as to say, do not go through anybody else; do not go round so and come around   so; to come straight to Tobago to the THA and engage us, and we are willing   and ready to open our doors to investors who are responsible.

     In our minds, we do not expect even with six point nine  percent(6.9%) of the National Budget, to fund all that we aim to do. We expect to source financing from alternative means including foreign direct investments, local investors in PPP models; we look at one hundred percent (100%) financing of projects and we pay over time. There are several models that can be employed. What is required in these difficult, economic times, is some measure of fiscal creativity, not the kind that they know about, which is being fiscally genie and tricky, but being creative in getting and sourcing funding. [Desk thumping]

     Then he raised the issue of Tobagonians must have preference to opportunities in Tobago. That is why I said it is confusing. Because on one hand you are saying that we are too rash; we are too bold faced; we are too Tobago-centric; calm down; be calm, be hush; be quiet, but on the other hand you also want us to ensure that we secure preferences for opportunities for Tobago.

     Let me give you an example that juxtaposes sharply with this. That is why I have very little patience with National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO).

     There was this project in Rocky Bay, going around to Black Rock - Back Bay as we call it. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) took our lands, gave it to somebody in Trinidad and the Central Government and say “You go out and put it out for tender and give someone to do a hotel.” A Tobagonian and a Tobagonian company made an excellent bid, bringing the same Marriott to Tobago. A Tobagonian wanted to do that - they wanted to fund that; had all the funding in place; had all investors in place. They submitted their tender. A few hours later they were told, “We are scrapping the thing.” Then it was redone anew sometime afterwards, and guess what? Out of the blue, a Trinidadian investor popped up with a similar package that was a little superior, and won the bid. Is that what you call giving preference in opportunities for Tobagonians? That is PNM-style of giving opportunities to their financiers as opposed to Tobagonians. [Desk thumping] Check their history.

     Take MILSHIRV - who got that ‘sweetheart’ deal, that ‘sweetheart’deal to lease Tobagonians’ lands to Peppercorn? After they leased it to Peppercorn, they built this building that we are required to pay them, even for the janitorial services. (We can even hire our own janitors). The air condition is not even working in the building, and they are not coming to fix it. We are paying hundreds of millions of dollars on that project. Who got that ‘sweetheart’ deal - their own financiers. Not a single Tobagonian they have ever given a ‘sweetheart’ deal to. Well, I tell you, this Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Government will be giving ‘sweetheart’ deals to Tobagonians, full stop. [Desk thumping]

     Then the issue was raised about employment. The Member is talking about Seereeram, but you know what is strange? Seereeram has had a local company operating in Tobago for more years than I have been alive, and certainly, the Minority Leader has been alive.

4.00 P.M

Then I listened to the Minority Councillor and there are two ‘c’ words (polite words, of course, because I am a Christian and I do not use the impolite ones) but the two ‘c’ words that surmise their presentations are ‘confusing’ on one end and ‘clueless’ on the other. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, there is such a thing called ‘White privilege.’ There might be a thing called ‘Black privilege.’ There might be a thing called ‘First world privilege;’ there might be a thing called ‘First class,’ ‘upper class’ privilege, but I have learnt today that in Tobago, and perhaps in Tobago and Trinidad, there is such a thing called ‘PNM privilege.’ And what is PNM privilege? It is a nasty belief that their party is superior to country and that all their wrongs are right; and that all their ways are right; and that what is okay for them to do, is not okay for anyone else to do, but they must keep doing what they want to do. [Desk thumping] And there is one word to summarise this ‘PNM privilege’ and it is called ‘Hypocrisy.’ [Desk thumping]

    On the first instance, we heard that the Budget is too lofty; it is too aspirational. The dreamer is dreaming, but as a man who believes in the scriptures, I am very much aware of the Joseph experience. When he told his siblings about this dream he had, they thought the same thing - you had to be dreaming boy. You are seeing a coat of nice colours; you are seeing sheep and goats and brothers and everybody bowing down to you. You are dreaming; you are a dreamer. But if someone does not start dreaming for this place called Tobago now, when will we start dreaming for this place called Tobago? And if it is we do not wake up from the nightmare we experienced for the last twenty-one (21) years and start dreaming positively for this island today, when will that come? And yes, I will be happy to accept the description of being a dreamer; of being too wishful; of being too fanciful. There is one description that I know they will not say of me and that is that they will never call me a thief. [Desk thumping]

    Secretary, Dr. B.Yisrael pointed out quite factually, that this Budget Presentation is in fact, the smallest Budget Presentation by number/by figure in more than five (5) years. It is and significantly so and that is because we did not try to inflate the budget with foolishness; we did not try to just be superfluous. We sat; we said, “Look, the National Budget given the economic circumstances, will be around fifty-seven billion dollars ($57b) or there about” - we said the maximum we could get based on the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC) which the Parliament - the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC) is just a recommendation, Madam Presiding Officer. We have to understand that the House of Representatives led by Mr. Charles at the time, accepted the report and recommendations and the National Parliament met. The Prime Minister at the time was Basdeo Panday, and they accepted the report and they accepted the recommendations, thereby making the recommendations of the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC), law. And the point I have been at pains to make to those who are at the back of the classroom, is that we do not need any new piece of legislation to get six point eight percent (6.8%). [Laughter] [Desk thumping]

     In fact, I am going further to say, that as it stands now, if you so love us, if you so care for us, then give us the six point nine percent (6.9%) which is the maximum that is allowed.

     I must then move on to the issue of IFMIS, because that featured Like several other articles within the Budget Presentation, I did credit that some of these items were a continuation and I said so openly to the point, Madam Presiding Officer, that I even ‘big up’ in this House, (unheard of) a former Secretary; a former Secretary who I have not seen and who I have not heard from, in almost a year or more than a year, but I ‘big him up’ for the role he played in ‘Man and the Biosphere.’ And Dr. B.Yisrael pointed out that if some ideas sound as though they are coming again, it is because we understand all too well your party’s inability to execute and to deliver. [Desk thumping]

     What about the IFMIS specifically? You see, you will want to quote here for us from a former Secretary talking about IFMIS, but that is not evidence of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) actually putting in the work for IFMIS. What they will not tell you, is that the consultants and those who were leading Trinidad and Tobago in that pilot project - because it is still a pilot - and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is one of about three or four Ministries or Divisions selected to roll out this Programme What they will not tell you, is that the Consultants recommended that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) be taken off the list from the pilot, because we were not executing on time, that which we needed to execute. And so when I come to this House and I say openly - and trust me, I could leave here outside of the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege and say it, because I have court house clothes too, and I also have the evidence, but I say it because -1 am sure you do not want to raise that [Crosstalk] because that is something special coming so if I were you, I will keep quiet. [Desk thumping] Come down from there. [Laughter] [Desk thumping]

     But I will tell you finally, the IFMIS Project is well on the way. This Executive that I now lead, was the first Executive to adopt the IFMIS by way of an Executive Council Minute and to put a special Committee in place for its execution, and I am advised that by the time we approach the end of this Fiscal year, we will be able to transition smoothly onto the IFMIS platform. [Desk thumping]

     I also heard in the presentation responses about the NEDCO issue and I want to read into this House, Madam Presiding Officer, some elements of a response from NEDCO, because I want it to be clear that we are not just trying to be nefarious or facetious when it comes to the NEDCO operations. NEDCO in writing to the THA, is saying to the THA in letter, that yes, they had some preliminary discussions with the THA; that they had a joint Committee with the THA, but the Cabinet Minute upon which they operate required that they have an MOU with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). So where is the MOU? No MOU signed with the THA is identifying Act 40 of 1996 as a possibility for this kind of cross platform arrangement. So no MOU done; no new conversation with the new Executive, but you are putting out request and advertisements in the newspapers. That is beyond insulting.

     And what they do not know, is that the Secretary of Infrastructure has tried many times to meet with NEDCO and NEDCO with their out of place selves, said that they are not meeting with any line Secretary.

     If the THA Act says that Secretaries and Ministers can meet, who the hell is NEDCO? [Laughter] [Desk thumping] And then after the fact, will write me to say, “Well we want to meet.” Of course we will meet, but we will meet on my time [Desk thumping] because when we offered to meet with them, they were not ready so they will now meet on our time. [Desk thumping]

     Further, the issue of King’s Bay came up and certainly my good friend does not understand the Man and the Biosphere designation. That designation does not mean that you cannot have built development in areas in and around the Man and the Biosphere. In fact, the reason why we celebrated it, is because the Man and the Biosphere allows you to develop - unlike if it was a UNESCO World Heritage site - to have built development there in keeping and in harmony with the environment there and use the Man and the Biosphere designation as a platform for which you can market and sell.








Thank you very much, Madam Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]

Let me start by indicating that while we will bring today’s debate to a conclusion momentarily, I expect some more conversations to continue publicly. The public forum will be utilized to facilitate continued conversations from:


  • The Deputy Chief Secretary;

  • The Secretary in the Division of Education, Research and Technology;

  • Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary; as well as:

  • Secretary of Tourism;

  • Secretary of Settlements;

  • Sports - more detail via/through Assistant Secretary Wane Clarke;


Some more information to come from:


  • Assistant Secretary Joel Sampson as well.


     We will continue that conversation. One thing the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) is known for, is public engagement and speaking to the people of Tobago. We have never been fearful of that. [Desk thumping] So that conversation will continue. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, you know I am a bit disappointed, disappointed in that I am trying to get emergency briefings; I am listening to the Minority Leader online and I am rushing in here to capture the greater half of his presentation. I am saying that he is my good friend, my schoolmate and by the time we got to sixth form, my classmate, but I have come to understand that someone can be in your class and not of your class.


Member for Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside.

3.50 P.M

     Madam Presiding Officer, based on these Estimates, when I add up the number of houses estimated to be built in Fiscal 2023 based on the Development Programme (DP) Estimates here Madam Presiding Officer, it is four (4) duplex unit; sixteen (16) three (3) bedroom duplex units and thirty (30) modular affordable houses. This amounts to fifty (50) Madam Presiding Officer, significantly less than the two hundred and fifty (250) per year, as stated. Madam Presiding Officer, there is a possibility that these fifty (50) houses may not be realized by the end of Fiscal 2023, since the housing strategy is set to begin in mid fiscal 2023. Further Madam Presiding Officer, it is proving difficult to see how this Administration intends to build one thousand (1000) fully serviced housing lots in the four (4) years as indicated.

      Madam Presiding Officer, the Secretary of Finance condemned the former Administration for not building enough houses, but we do not wake up one morning and decide to build houses. If the land is not owned by the State, it has to be acquired, and this is a process - sometimes a very lengthy process; and if it is owned by the State, it has to be developed. So the former Administration spent time to develop the housing estates in: [Desk

thumping]


  • Roxborough;

  • Hope;

  • Plymouth;

  • Castara; and

  • Belle Garden -


to add to the housing stock on the island and provide affordable housing to

Tobagonians. Madam Presiding Officer, and acquired lands at:


  • Shirvan;

  • Courland; and

  • Friendship -


to provide residential lands to Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, it is the work of the former Administration that will allow this Administration to build the houses. That is why we continue to say that governance is a continuum. [Desk thumping] You pick up the baton from where it was left off, so it is building on the work of the past.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I want to turn to another statement of the Chief Secretary. In his statement as it relates to the 2006 Auditor General’s Report. Madam Presiding Officer, the Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy said that over twenty-one (21) years, we have all witnessed public denouncement of the poor quality of the THA’s institutional systems and procedures in successive reports of the Auditor General.

    The Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy cited an incident in 2006 Auditor General’s Report, which revealed that a former THA had recorded in the Financial Statement, bank account of two hundred and twenty-five point eight million dollars ($225.8m), but could not provide the banking details and he is asking the Minority Councillor to provide an explanation.

     Madam Presiding Officer, for the record, there is a saying that ‘when you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are." It is quite strange, that this Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy wants the Minority Councillor to explain something that occurred in 2006, when the Minority Councillor was not engaged anywhere in the Tobago House of Assembly at the time.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I will want to caution the Chief Secretary to check his source [Desk thumping] and his informants and do his own due diligence as he is being misinformed. The Chief Secretary should have done his homework and if he did, he would have known that the Minority Councillor was nowhere close to the THA in 2006. And further, Madam Presiding Officer, it may serve the Member to redirect the question to the individuals who were there at the time. [Desk thumping]

     Additionally, Madam Presiding Officer, I would have done the research and I would have seen in this THA website, a response from the former Chief Administrator in 2006 to the Auditor General’s report, who is one of the signatories to the financial statements along with the Administrator of Finance. So Madam Presiding Officer, it may augur well for the Secretary of Finance to direct his question as it relates to this 2006 Auditor General, elsewhere.

    Madam Presiding Officer, as I conclude, I wish to advise that the citizens and the people of Tobago dealt with the PNM on December 06th 2021 and that is why we are on this side and they are over there.

     You said after the elections that you will take off your jerseys; there will no longer be any red or green jersey and you will work for all of Tobago; you promised that no one would ‘lose deh wok,’ so to speak; you said that you were going to ‘fix it.’ Six (6) months later, Madam Presiding Officer, placing hundreds of Tobagonians on the breadline is not fixing it; not allowing public servants and contract officers to perform their duties that taxpayers are paying them to do, because they are placed in a corner since they are perceived PNMites, is not fixing it; destroying the confidence that the financial institutions and the island once had in the THA, is not fixing it;hiring friends and family to fill the daily rated permanent list without the involvement of the Union even after the said Union advised of the proper processes, you still went and did your own thing. That is not fixing it.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as I end my contribution, I want to end with this quote from Miles Munroe. It says:


   “Leadership is not about control, but about service; it is not about power, but about empowerment.”


    Let us serve all of Tobago. [Desk thumping] Madam Presiding Officer, I thank you for the opportunity.








Madam Presiding Officer, the Secretary goes on to say:


“We intend to commence work on our housing strategy in the second quarter of fiscal 2023.”


     Madam Presiding Officer, the first term that the Secretary of Finance speaks about, is a period of four (4) years which commenced in December 2021. I am not sure if the Member recognizes, but we are already halfway through year one (1) of this term. And from the statement, the Secretary of Finance also indicated that it is the intention of his Administration to commence work on the housing strategy in the second quarter of fiscal 2023, which could be sometime in January, February or March, 2023.

     It therefore means, Madam Presiding Officer, that based on the Budget Statement as presented at the end of year one which is December 2022, no house would have been built.

     Now we are half way through Fiscal 2023, year two and this based on the statement, is when the housing strategy will commence.

     My question to the Secretary is, Madam Presiding Officer, how long will it take to build out the strategy? When will construction begin in year two and based on the time frame, how many houses can be realistically completed by the end of Fiscal 2023 with this packaged address and by the end of year two of this Administration’s term - December 2023.

     Madam Presiding Officer, further questions would be, what is the time frame for building out the partnership investment strategy? How many houses will be built under the Partnership Investment instruments and what will be the cost of the Partnership Investment instruments transaction?

     Madam Presiding Officer, additionally, in reviewing the development programme estimates for housing and settlements - 08, only the following items related to the construction of houses based on the explanation column in the DP estimates, were identified.

     Madam Presiding Officer, if you look at the DP estimates under housing and settlements - 08, we have item No:482 Revitalization and Infill Programme to Tobago, and the estimates for 2023, is four hundred and eighty thousand dollars ($480,000) and the explanation column reads, “Provides for resurveying cuts and fill up lots and construction of drains and four duplex units at Kilgwyn Housing Development and clearing of retention pond.”

    Madam Presiding Officer, the other line item that address in terms of the explanation housing, was item No:496 Adventure Phase II and the 2023 estimates are twenty-one million and sixty thousand dollars ($21,060,000) and the explanation is, “Provides for conduction of surveys, engineering designs and preliminaries; construction of retaining walls and roadways, sixteen (16) three (3) bedroom duplex units and upgrades to existing townhouses.” And there is a new line item - (it does not have any number) “New Affordable Housing Project” and this is 2023 estimates - twelve million dollars ($12m) -and this provides for the construction of thirty (30) modular affordable homes.


[Madam   Presiding Officer in the Chair]

Sorry, sorry. I apologise, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping] [Laugher]

     These are not my words, Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer. These are the words ascribed in the Hansard to the Chief Secretary and now Secretary of Finance. And it would be interesting to find out what is the new strategy that this Progressive Democratic Patriot (PDP) led THA is employing to receive its six point nine percent (6.9%) of the National Budget.

    Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, same old, same old, same old. [Desk thumping]

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, I want to move to the area support for business - and the Chief Secretary of Finance in his statement, indicated that the Division is in direct discussion with some commercial banks with the aim of co-creating a Tobago specific cash loan solution. He further indicated that the Assembly is currently preparing a Tobago House of Assembly (THA) backed sixty million dollars ($60m) liquidity facility to assist the island’s business sector to recover from adverse effects of the pandemic, along with a practical and affordable way of increasing the volume of domestic, regional and international visitors to the island.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, a similar programme was implemented by the Central Government which is the SNE stimulus loan facility which is a government-sponsored loan programme up to TT three hundred million dollars (TT$300m) to help micro, small and medium sized businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loan is a government guaranteed loan, granted for a maximum of five (5) years with a two year moratorium on principal payment.

    The government guarantees seventy-five percent (75%) of the loan and no payment is required by the customer for two (2) years. The interest on the SNE stimulus loan would be paid by the government and there are no handling fees to these facilities.

    Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, this facility was also available to Tobago businesses. It was recognized however, that the programme was undersubscribed by the businesses in Tobago and when inquiries were made, it was noted that due to some of the bank’s policies and requirements for - example, for the statutory clearances, the audited financial statements etcetera, some businesses could not satisfy them.

    Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, my question to the Secretary of Finance is, in light of this, what would be done differently to allow for greater participation of the business community in Tobago, since this initiative will be administered by the commercial institutions who may have similar policies and requirements.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, permit me now to turn my attention to housing. And the Secretary of Finance in his Budget Statement, indicated:


“We have begun to think through an ambitious but achievable housing programme. It is our intention to provide one thousand (1,000) fully serviced housing lots in our first term.”


     We intend to pursue our Housing Programme using partnership investment instruments. It is our intention to provide one thousand fully serviced housing lots in our first term. This is two hundred and fifty (250) units for fiscal year or a three hundred percent (300%) increase in delivery. We intend to pursue our housing programme using partnership investment instruments with investors both at home and abroad.



Minority Councillor, could you have a good look at me please, thanks. I am not Madam Presiding Officer - Deputy Presiding Officer, thanks.

3.40 P.M

And the Hansard goes on:


“All we have gotten for Tobago, is a bare minimum as allowed by the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC).

Just last year, he asked for four point five billion dollars ($4.05b), we got two point three billion dollars ($2.3b). So the pattern has been the same ad nauseam and Tobagonians are asking, at what point are we going to try a different strategy, because we keep doing this; it keeps looking as if we are begging. It keeps on lookingas if we are going cap in hand, bruising our knees, pain, penance and begging, hoping and pleading that one day the Central Government will wake up and just give us what we asked for.”

    Madam Presiding Officer, these are not my words. [Interruption]


Thank you, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to contribute in this budget debate.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the tears of a father and mother speak without saying a word, as they watch their children in pain, because for days they have not eaten well as they would have lost their jobs.

     The mother stretching what little they have in an effort to save, because they do not know when they will be dismissed.

     The contract worker afraid, sidelined, placed in a corner, because they are perceived ‘red flag wavers.’ This is the reality of some Tobagonians - this is their pain.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, are those in authority listening and hearing? We thank God and He sees; He hears; He is listening and He knows their needs.

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I want to get into the debate. When the Secretary of Finance and Member for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside was sitting on this side, he had a lot to say about the Budget Statement. In the Member’s contribution to the 2021 Budget Statement, the Hansard records the Member as saying:


“I am forced to ask if it is that we are comfortable with the same old, same old, same old, same and I can tell you, Madam Presiding Officer, for those of us on the other side and for many Tobagonians, that is a resounding ‘No.’ We are not comfortable with the same old, same old, same old, same old, same old run of the mill that does not produce the results that we desire.”


     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, fast forward to 2022. I have in my possession both a copy of the Budget Statement for Fiscal 2023, as well as the Budget Statement for Fiscal 2021. I want to go through briefly, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, with the 2021 budget statement. It started with the theme, ‘Recalibrating our Priorities Towards a more Resilient Future. '


1.Introductory Remarks.

“Madam Presiding Officer, Honourable Chief Secretary, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Minority Leader and other Members of the House of Assembly, 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 world wide web, members of the media, good morning."

2021.


    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I turn to the Budget Statement for Fiscal 2023, and I go to page one. It starts with the theme -‘Towards a Smarter, Greener, more Autonomous Tobago.’


2.Introductory Remarks.

“Madam Presiding Officer, Deputy Chief Secretary, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Minority Leader and other Members of the House of Assembly, Chief Administrator and other Administrators, senior staff of the Tobago House of Assembly, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the public gallery, local and international audiencesfollowing this presentation on Radio, Television and other live streams, members of the media, good morning.”

Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, it appears to be cut and paste from one to the next.

     I want to continue on with the structure of the statement. So again, if we look to the statement for 2021, after the introductory remarks, it went into the global, regional and national context. Three (3) was the review of the recent financial and budgetary developments which the Minority Leader highlighted was not present in 2023. It further goes on to ‘Elaborating on our Fiscal Priorities’ and it then speaks to the 2021 Expenditure Estimates.


     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, again if we go to the statement for 2023, it is basically the same outline. So -

1.Introductory Remarks;

2.Outlook for the global, regional, national and Tobago;

3.Urgent policy actions;

4.The THA policy agenda for Fiscal 2023;

5.The expenditure for 2023 Estimates and financing the 2023 Estimates. Then we concluded.


    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I took the time to go through the structure of the Budget Statement to demonstrate that this is the same old, same old, same old, same old structure, and in some instances, a ‘copy and paste’ of the same old, same old, same old policies, as the Minority Leader would have highlighted and that this Secretary of Finance used to prepare the 2023 statement.

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, in the opinion of the Minority, the Chief Secretary should have started his presentation last Thursday, firstly by apologizing to the former Secretary of Finance for the disparaging comments he made in the past.

    Secondly, thank him for laying the foundation upon which this maiden statement was built. [Desk thumping]

   That is why, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the Minority   continues to stress that governance is a continuum [Desk thumping] and   we build on the work of those who would have gone before and give them credit where credit is due. [Desk thumping]

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the Secretary of Finance was very critical of the PNM Administration when he was on this side. The Hansard reads:


“In the midst of a serious crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary comes and he gives us a four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b) budget and it has now become a sore or a tired all intellectually bankrupt practice that we throw out these budgets and then get about half or less than half.


    When you look at what we got on the developmental capital side of the budget in revenues to fund the budget, we are just throwing out these figures and there is no correlation between throwing out these figures and actually getting what we need to run this place call Tobago.

     I search for reasons why the Secretary of Finance would not, after his eighth budget and his eighth experience; after the twentieth budget experience of the government and the twentieth experience with how the Central Government responds to a budget request, I search for reasons why he would still give us a budget of four point seven one billion dollars ($4.7lb) for a plausible explanation.”






3.30 P.M

     So I will wrap up by saying that towards the future of food and environmental security, the Division should point to - in Fiscal 2023 through the programmes and projects identified, start the redevelopment of agriculture, fisheries and forestry in Tobago to enable greater environmental and food security.

     The Division will also participate actively in the formulation of Tobago’s Development Plan and associated medium-term expenditure framework which will provide the context in which its future annual expenditure programmes, policies and incentives for the sector development, will be designed.

Finally, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the overall draft estimates for 2022/2023 for the Division is as follows.


  • Development Programme - ninety-seven million dollars ($97m);

  • Recurrent Expenditure - two hundred and fifty million, nine hundred and eighty-two thousand, four hundred and fifty-six dollars ($250,982, 456.00TT)

Thank you, ladies   and gentlemen. [Desk thumping]

Thank you, Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer.

AGRO-PROCESSING:

     The second pillar - Agro Processing:

     The simultaneous Development of both production and agroprocessing subsectors is seen as critical to the much needed diversification and growth of the agricultural and fisheries subsector. By doing so, we will help to provide more employment opportunities through investment in agroprocessing as well as establish the necessary forward and backward linkages in the sector for sustainability.

     In dealing with strengthening of the agro-processing subsector the Division proposes the following:


  • Repurposing of TADCO to support and develop local agroprocessors to the level where their products can stand side by side with competitors in national, regional and international markets.

  • Training of young agri entrepreneurs in agro-processing, utilizing local raw materials and linking this training to funding and investment opportunities for business development.

  • Hosting of Agro-processing trade and investment shows that expose local and local agro-processes - the investment opportunities at a national and regional level.


      The Division would seek to develop and implement a number of agro- processing incentives in consultation with the Tobago Agro-processors Association geared specifically to develop and support vibrant and competitive agro-processing businesses in Tobago. These incentives will be based on a rebate system and administered in a similar manner as the National Agriculture Incentive Programme.


MARKETING AND RESEARCH.

     The third developmental pillar - Marketing and Research. The Division will establish marketing pathways that optimises the economic returns from primary production and agro-processing systems. This will entail restructuring of the marketing department to focus on providing timely market research and information.

     Tobago Farmers and Fishermen must be treated as entrepreneurs and be provided with the right information for business, investment and development.

The Division has initiated this restructuring process as mentioned earlier.

     Providing optimal marketing infrastructure both physical and virtual,that link both small and large farmers, fisherfolks and agro-processors in Tobago with buyers locally, nationally and overseas. This will entail the much needed repairs to our existing fish markets and other appropriate sites throughout Tobago.

    The Division also proposes to construct two abattoirs that will address the lack of facilities for small ruminant and poultry processing on the island. It is expected that these facilities will stimulate more poultry and small ruminant operations in Tobago, lending to increasing levels of self-sufficiency and food security with respect to meat production in Tobago.

     Through all of its facilities and resources, including TADCO, the Division intends to maximize the existing demand and consumption of high quality Tobago produce and food through the development of a Tobago Brand that will be affixed to any product from farmers, fishermen, agro-processors or local food producers that come under this brand. This seal or Quality Assurance Brand will help elevate the competitiveness of Tobago, Tobago grown or made products and increase revenues for all stakeholders that utilize this Brand.


     The Fourth developmental piller - agro-tourism:

AGRO TOURISM:

    The Division will promote and develop sustainable agro-tourism linkages for further sector expansion, added job creation and to maximize the economic returns of Tobago’s land, water, forest and other natural resources. Our history in agriculture and the resultant food and culture must work in tandem to produce agro-tourism enterprises and initiatives that are unique to Tobago and that any visitor will want to experience.

    It is a under-achievement by the Division that after two decades of tourism, very little can be shown for tourism other than sea, sun and sand. The Division intends to change this paradigm by engaging more sectors in this instance - the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and agri-foods sector in the development of a continuously evolving unique Tobago tourism product. As such, the Division intends to explore the potential of and engage in the following agro-tourism initiatives:

  • Agro-tourism ventures that are linked to our past agricultural history, culture and antiquities to tourism - for example, cocoa and sugar production;

  •  Food festivals such   as yam, Blue Food Festival; Breadfruit Festival etcetera; Street food fairs   that cater for short stay visitors such as the Cruise ship arrivals; and Farm   tourism experiences that provide visitors with the opportunity to be part of   a rural experience working on farms among crops and animals.


     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, TADCO is now setting up an agro-tourism Unit as well to support the Division to facilitate the agro-tourism sector on the island. TADCO will be launching an annual farm to table festival where all agro-processors will have a stage to showcase local products. The goal is to protect and preserve Tobago’s indigenous products for years to come. According to the recent remarks of the Deputy Chief Secretary, “Tobago farmers and agro-processors, it is time to loosen your belt.” [Laughter]

     As it relates to energy, for the next Fiscal year, the Division will embark on four (4) pilot projects to determine the feasibility of utilizing a solar dehydrator for tea bag production and dry foods for resale; the construction of a biogas power generator to supply a daily power of thirty- two (32) kilowatts to supply electricity needs of an abattoir from biomass material such as animal waste or the sargassum seaweed; to determine the technical and financial feasibility of supplying off-grid electricity to isolated or rural communities through a renewable energy micro-grid system and to develop a predial larceny action plan programme which is a programme designed to offer rebates or subsidies on solar cameras for the purpose of mitigating or reducing the impacts of predial larceny.

EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: That the Member’s speaking time be   extended by a further ten (10) minutes. [Mr. N. Taitt]

Question put and agreed to.

3.20 P.M

Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, forage and silage farms for small ruminant farmers will be developed in the next Fiscal year.

     Strengthening of the fisheries subsectors is also of vital importance and we will strengthen to provide significant quantities of fish for export. The Division intends to train and assist fishermen in developing an export oriented fisheries sector. And let me stop here and mention that the Parlatuvier Fish Facility will be constructed in the next fiscal year. [Desk thumping]

     The King Peter’s Bay Road Fish Facility will also be constructed.

     The Scarborough Fish Facility is ninety percent (90%) complete and all the other fishing facilities - minor repairs will begin on them. [Desk thumping]

     Unlike previous undertakings, we will engage in a rational distribution of State Lands for approved food systems development. The recently formed Farm Lands Committee is tasked with providing an inventory of State Lands, identify suitable lands for food production and provide a framework for infrastructure development and land allocation.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, the Division will undertake the task to install the requisite infrastructure - roads, water and power closer to the date of land allocation.

     Today, I am happy to report that the Division has committed over nine million dollars ($9m) to pay the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to resolve the water woes of Courland, Belmont Estate and Lammy Road. Also the Division intends to continue the access roads programme. This time around, emphasis will be placed on developing access roads where they are critically needed by farmers, and will be more effective and efficient in its entirety.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, the Division will prioritize distribution of lands to innovative youths who are either presently engaged in agriculture or need land for farm expansion or who intend to engage in such activity after meeting the necessary pre-qualification criteria.

     The Division will incentivise investment in food production through grants and incentives including public/private partnerships.

Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, we are all aware that this approach to fixing agriculture has been tried over decades, with little success. Therefore, I want to give the commitment today that a special team will be put together to explore current technological arrangements to give farmers access to the type of resources that are needed to guarantee their success.


Thank you. It is of ecological and social significance, therefore the planned upgrade will take place on a phased basis with the input of stakeholders through consultation. It is necessary that we cater for the beautification, rehabilitation and landscaping works of this green space.

We also aim to:


  • Incorporate indigenous forest and fruit trees, flowers, palms,and other shrubs as part of the landscape;

  • Hardscape construction will be considered as another element in this project.

  • The establishment of a uniquely designed Tobago-centric water feature will be constructed.


    I will move on, because I want to highlight the developmental pillars.

So the Division intends to revitalize and redevelop the agricultural sector based on four (4) developmental pillars:

  •  Production;

  • Agro processing;

  • Marketing and Research; and

  • Agro-tourism.

PRODUCTION:


    The Division will:


  • Provide the   enabling environment and facilitate the increase in existing food production   levels generally across the sector and specifically for targeted sustainable   food systems across agriculture and fisheries sub sectors;

  • Develop food policy   that will form the backbone of sectorial development;

  • Develop food   systems to target specific strategic commodities across agriculture and   fishery sub sectors;

  • Focus would be   mainly on root tubers including sweet potato, cassava and dasheen; food crops   including planting, banana, and pigeon peas; and

  • Fruits including citrus, guava, mango and cocoa and other vegetable crops, to meet the   nutritional requirements of Tobagonians in both raw and processed forms.


In terms of lives stock production, I am happy to report that with immediate effect, six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000.00) have been allocated towards the refurbishing of livestock pens on all state farms across Tobago.

      Currently, TADCO has taken a decision to reach out to neighbouring countries to assist with building capacity on the island, as well as brokering trade agreements to import livestock.

  • The Division is also pursuing the development of an integrated model sheep and goat farm, utilizing the assistance through a South to South cooperation with Cuban experts.

     This activity will be executed at the Blenheim Sheep Project Studley Park site. The Division will receive expert training along with the associated goods and services for the food production and breeding efficiency through embsionic fertilization technology and the use of bio-energy in part operation.

Member for Bagatelle/Bacolet,you have five (5) minutes of speaking time remaining.


3.10 P.M

     And an additional nineteen thousand, eight hundred and fifty-four (19,854) plants inside the laboratory is to be added to the greenhouse for grow out, harvesting and sale. Now, that is performance. [Desk thumping] Listen to those figures.

     Under the Home Gardening Initiative, ninety-nine (99) home garden advisory visits were conducted, with three thousand, five hundred and eighty-four (3,584) seedlings delivered to these homes.

     At the Lure Planting Material Repository, twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred and sixty-five (29,965) sweet potato slips and three thousand, two hundred and eighty (3,280) cassava sticks were distributed to farmers. So not only Louis D’Or - you heard two (2) other stations, where they are supplying planting stuff.

     The Division commenced a Marketing and Promotional Campaign entitled ‘Get to Know the Vendor.’ This campaign started in February to highlight and increase brand awareness on different categories and specific goods and services offered at the Scarborough market. The categories which have been featured thus far include:

  • Haberdashery;

  • Seafood;

  • Butcher;

  • Food stalls; and

  • Shop stall sections.


The Information Technology (IT) Department at the Division   has designed a Digital Farmers’ Registry and is currently designing an   independent Website so that Tobagonians can easily access forms and   other initiatives.

Also:

  •  The Information Technology   (IT) Department will computerize tractor pool services to track payments for   services to the rate of services provided;

  • The Division established the research and development information system (RADIS) which will focus on market research and intelligence;


  • Survey instruments were developed which would encompass all stakeholders in the agriculture sector, in a robust information gathering project;


We can now look forward to improve worker productivity under the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development.


  • Wage increases and revisions of the terms and conditions of employment were revised for workers engaged under the Mistletoe Control Programme and the Cocoa Rehabilitation Project at the Lure Estate;


    As of now, there are no gaps in wages, employment and retiring benefits for these workers. These workers were previously not in alignment with the collective agreement and are now being paid 2013 wages.

     Special thanks to Miss Judy Bob, our Management Accountant at the Division, Assistant Secretary, Certica Williams-Orr in the Office of the Chief Secretary and my Adviser, Mr. Kidel Kerr for their hard work and dedication in this regard.

Also:


  • This Committee will be reviewing the terms and conditions of employment for workers employed under the Agriculture Access Roads Programme and the Wetlands Programme, so that wage disparity issues can be corrected.


  • Wages were also increased of workers under the Tobago Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme.


Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, imagine in 2022, some categories of workers under this programme were still receiving a wage as low as eighty dollars ($80) per day.

  • Total overhaul and renewing of the Wastewater Management Plant were completed at the Scarborough Abattoir, and the slaughtering of cattle resumed at the Scarborough Abattoir, on Tuesday, February 08th, 2022.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, these are just a few milestone

achievements of the Division, since we assumed office, which is far more than what my predecessors have done in twenty-one (21) years. [Desk thumping]

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the development of the agricultural sector will continue to be participatory, which involves consistent dialogue with the Tobago diaspora - not old talk, but an all-inclusive approach where we as a government listens to the majority, embrace the science and act where it is needed.

    Immediately after assuming office, a policy-making retreat was hosted for senior staff members and heads of all departments. Subsequent to this retreat, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the Division met with various stakeholders in the sector, to collaboratively determine the path forward for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, agro-processing and other related subsectors. Emanating from these discussions, will be an integrated sustainable food, forestry and fisheries policy and plans that will form the backbone for sector development.

     These consultations will continue throughout this fiscal year and into the new fiscal year, towards improving and enhancing the strategic plan for the entire Division, inclusive of operational plans for stations, departments, and key units. Also, consultations for the implementation of user fee systems for ‘Little Tobago’ and the Main Ridge Forest Reserve and other protected sites, will continue.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, under my tenure at the Division, no Board Member will serve without regular appraisals. Continuous performance assessments of boards and committees will take place, to ensure that all members contribute towards the success of companies, programmes, and projects. The Division’s mandate is a serious one, which will affect the lives of everyone on this island, especially the most vulnerable.

     Given these challenging times, complacency cannot be tolerated at any level. Tobagonians cannot afford to continue with the practices of the previous regime of collecting honorariums without being held accountable. [Desk thumping]


VET LABORATORY PROJECT: A new veterinary laboratory is scheduled for construction in Fiscal 2023. This new facility will cater to:

  • Provide improved (an additional) veterinary services in the areas of diagnostics through laboratory investigations;

  • Establishment of Surveillance Programmes for early disease detection;

  • The establishment of disease prevention and control frameworks and enforcement of regulations under the Animal Diseases; and Importation Act, 1954.


There are currently no similar facilities within the division, the Tobago House of Assembly or among any private enterprises, capable of meeting these demands. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, this project will provide for the construction of a new veterinary diagnostic laboratory with appropriate offices for field staff.

In addition to this, we will cater for the supply of support facilities

such as:


  • An incinerator;

  • Toilet and washroom facilities;

  • Postmortem room;

  • Cold storage;

  • Quarantine and treatment;

  • Medicinal storage;

  • Specialized laboratory services; and

  • Support infrastructure.


     The advent of CO VID-19 has taught us many lessons, one of which is being able to facilitate sample testing that is easily accessible and readily available, which meets international standards for other reportable and notifiable diseases that may be of significance for both animal and human health.

BOTANIC GARDENS:

Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the Botanic Gardens Project is yet another signal initiative, which I intend to pursue in the new fiscal year. The Botanic Gardens is an essential part of our urban heritage, a strong element in the architectural and aesthetic form of our town.




3.00 P.M

    In the near future, we will have to worry about food and fuel. Those food cards under the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection will soon have little to no value because we have to urgently tackle food security issues with immediate effect.

     As soon as I was assigned to the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, I had to take urgent, decisive action towards agriculture-related, environment-related and fisheries-related issues under the Division with the assistance of my Assistant Secretary. [Desk thumping]

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, today I cannot outline everything that we have accomplished during our six (6) months tenure, but I will point out those activities that have begun to transform the Division.

    ‘The Capital of Paradise,’ the fishing vessel that is being managed by the Tobago Agri-Business Development Company was revamped and is in good working condition for fishing expeditions. Today Tobagonians can boast that after its return from years of inactivity, the ‘Capital of Paradise’ returned from its voyage that took place on June 3rd to June 12th and yielded a total catch valued at seventeen thousand, one hundred and thirty-four United States of American dollars ($US 17,134.00). [Desk thumping] The catch was graded, packaged and shipped to the United States to earn foreign exchange. With this pilot, TADCO will factor in challenges at sea due to adverse weather and operational costs in an attempt to provide a valid measure of the long term financial viability of this operation.

    Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, the Minority Leader mentioned in his presentation earlier, that the ‘Capital of Paradise’ (and I quote) “was fully renovated in December 2021.” My recollection is that is what he said, that the Board under their Administration, renovated it. That is far from the truth.

     Please permit me to outline the raw facts pertaining to this vessel. According to the condition survey of boat ‘Capital of Paradise’ 1 TT 003015 report dated 28th November 2021, approximately one (1) week before December 6th Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, this survey report indicates the following defects:


  • Wheelhouse defects, AC related;

  • AC related;

  • Navigational lights   defect;

  • Outside haul defects;   and

  • Paint quoting (that   is just to name a few).


     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, this is what transpired. The vessel was berthed alongside the Caribbean Fisheries compound in April 2018.   After it came back from a fishing trip at that time, it was under Fincod in 2018.

    In 2019, somewhere between the months of May/July, the vessel sailed to Suriname for dry dock for six (6) weeks at a cost of one   point seven million TT dollars (TT$1.7m).

    In October 2021, between the 15th of October and the 25th   (for ten days) the vessel went on dry dock again (after under TADCO) to   Maritime Preservation Services and it came back to Trinidad and was again   docked and we lost thirty-nine thousand United States dollars ($US39,000) in   repairs.

     The vessel was then carried back to Caribbean Fisheries compound at a cost of one hundred United States dollars (US$100) per day. Just imagine, the previous Administration spent millions, perhaps wasted   millions of taxpayers’ dollars over a period of three (3) years spinning top in mud and operating like some headless yard fowl. [Desk thumping] Thank God the people voted out that last Administration because we came in to ‘fix dis.’ And we fixed it. [Desk thumping]

      Given the increase in the price of poultry TADCO will be introducing contract farming where the chicks and feed will be provided to poultry farmers in Tobago.


Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, I now call upon all poultry farmers to visit TADCO. They will be purchasing your chickens to supply the local market. They will continue to build the capacity of the local poultry farmer where the farmer will have a guaranteed market for poultry. TADCO will not be supporting the foreign chicken.


     Allow me to take this opportunity to call upon our pig farmers as well.

     We are getting closer to Christmas and TADCO wants to purchase local pork to supply pork for commodities such as ribs and specialty cuts. [Desk thumping]

     They recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Novo Farms Limited in Trinidad and by September, they will be supplying alternative flour in partnership with Novo Farms Limited to both Trinidad and Tobago, and the wider region.

     The packing house at Shaw Park has been earmarked for alternative flour processing and the equipment is already in Tobago.

     Representatives from Novo Farms Limited will be visiting us in July to finalize the arrangements for the alternative flour factory. [Desk thumping] The idea is to promote Tobago as a brand throughout the region.

    Also another Trinidad company called Marphas Limited will be visiting the holdings of Tobago farmers in the second week of July to provide training on how to increase their yields. They will provide training in the cultivation of fruits, vegetation and root tubers.

     TADCO is working intimately with the Tobago Agricultural Development Bank to assist farmers and Agro-processors with loans to further develop their businesses.

     I will stop here again to appeal to all farmers to reach out to TADCO to see how they can assist them with technical support so that they can qualify for a loan at the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB). TADCO will offer preferred business rates to long-term clients, so start now.

    I am happy to announce that TADCO is allocating two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) immediately towards environmentally friendly fertilizers for farmers who are participating in the Contract Farming Pilot Programme with the aim of supplying the School Feeding Programme and in keeping with the mission of building healthier school children and by extension, a healthier Tobago.

     And I am sure that I heard the Minority speak about that. We have already started to fix that. [Desk thumping] Within the Division, there is ongoing collaboration with FAO and the Inter-American Institute for Corporation and Agriculture (ECCA) towards enhancing the School Nutrition Programme. In this month, these Organisations along with NAMDEFCO, the National Agricultural Marketing Development Company Limited and TADCO facilitated training for Tobago farmers on good agricultural practices o approach foods, food safety from the farm to the fork. And I am sure you saw that in the newspapers, Minority Leader.

    TADCO, in conjunction with the Division, has started to   repurpose the Shaw Park temporary market into a day/night market   appropriately named ‘Taste of Tobago’ where farmers, agro-processors; food vendors; artisans and craftsmen will soon be able to sell their produce and products.

     The Louis D’or processing facility will be repurpose for   aggro­processing with immediate effect. Let me stop here and mention the gas   rebate as I was instructed by my Assistant Secretary, to remind you of the gas rebate for fisherman that was launched in May 31st, to bring comfort to the pockets of fishermen. [Desk thumping]

    Two five acre parcels of land have been identified in Kendal and Louis D’or for the establishment of mango and guava fruit farms to provide the much needed raw materials for local agro-processors. Plant propagation at Louis D’or Nurseries has also started to supply planting stock for these lands.

     As it relates to the issues raised by the Tobago farmers and Tractor Pool, a Technical Committee was established to review the operational inefficiencies at Tractor Pool. Some members from this Committee are going to Trinidad at the beginning of July to look at some high powered tractors along with a tractor trailer. Where services exceed Tractor Pool’s ability to deliver, the Division will outsource the private tractor operators.

     Under the Tobago Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme, the Tobago Breadfruit Initiative was launched which led to the planting of breadfruit trees across households in Tobago and inspired the first Breadfruit Festival which featured value added products made from breadfruit, at Zion Hill in Belle Garden. Also at the first Breadfruit Festival, TADCO made a commitment to support the Zion Hill Youth Association and all groups with similar initiatives.

     The supply of planting stock is critical in addressing food security issues. The Plant Tissue Culture Laboratory sold nine thousand, six hundred and ninety-three (9693) plantain plants and distributed eight hundred and sixty-eight (868) plants. Fifteen thousand, two hundred and ninety-six (15,296) plants are now available for sale and this   includes plantain, ginger and dasheen.




[Desk thumping] Greetings, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer.

Firstly, I would like to thank Almighty God for the gift of life and for another avenue to represent the people of this island as the Secretary of the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development.

    A special greeting to my Colleagues in the Executive Council, all Administrators, the Legislature staff and our esteemed guests.

     To my Assistant Secretary, Assemblyman Nigel Taitt, [Desk thumping] thank you for your steadfast support, with the divisional responsibilities assigned to us by our esteemed Chief Secretary, Mr. Farley Chavez Augustine

     A warm and wholehearted thank you to the constituents of Bagatelle/Bacolet for placing your confidence in me on December 6th 2021, to be part of this hardworking and resourceful Executive.

     Lastly, a special thank you to all categories of workers at the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, who ensure the smooth running of the Division’s operations.

     Today, I want to begin my contribution to this budget presentation, by highlighting that Tobago is for all of us, and as we work towards developing our island, we must change the work culture to ensure that our future generations become even more progressive and we must continue to work fervently as other patriots would do, to develop their own island or country, regardless of race, religion, social status and political alliances.

      As such, the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, intends to contribute significantly towards Tobago’s development by making nutritious food available and affordable to all Tobagonians, while protecting the natural environment. Within the next four (4) years, this Administration intends to undertake and demonstrate an unparalleled effort to revitalize Tobago’s agricultural sector. Pivotal to the resuscitation and growth of Tobago’s economy, is the growth and development of the agricultural sector which includes every sustainable food system together with supporting agroprocessing industries with overall linkages to the tourism, health and education sectors.

    Last week, the Honourable Chief Secretary reported on hard facts about the agricultural sector in Tobago. Mr. Deputy Officer, given our short stint in the Tobago House of Assembly and due to the urgent need to address food security issues, time did not permit this new Administration to conduct detailed screening of new proposals and projects. However, this Administration has started to work on a guiding development plan and a medium-term expenditure framework, while we manage urgent issues.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, when I assumed my portfolio as Secretary of the Division, every station under the Department of Agriculture was in a state of disrepair.


  • No boats were available to conduct adequate monitoring and patrols under the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries or even to manage our prized natural resources that exist on offshore islands including ‘Little Tobago;’

  • Agricultural lands were barely under cultivation and livestock production was near non-existent;

  • Many of our agricultural estates were abandoned and overgrown;

  • Many of our antiquities were rusted to the core and have been stolen from these estates and possibly sold as scrap iron;

  • Most fishing facilities were in a deplorable state; and lastly

  • The general public and staff moral towards agriculture was at its lowest;


     In terms of accountability, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, under Tobago Agribusiness Development Company (TADCO) many contractors continue to demand payment for construction works without contracts or any form of legally binding documents.

     Also, millions of dollars were paid for equipment without contracts and to date, we cannot utilize any of the infrastructure and equipment that was paid for, prior to this new Administration assuming office in December 2021.

     Another phenomenon that occurred just after I assumed office, was that every time I attempted to speak to the technical staff across the Division, their words expressed little hope. They made reference to all of the aforementioned, including the fact that food security was never a priority,aforementioned, including the fact that food security was never a priority, ical officers were managing with whatever little they had and coupled with the top-down approach, this led to a state of disillusionment and with the top-down approach, this led to a state of disillusionment and   Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, some officers were not convinced that this Administration would do better. Can you see how much damage was done after twenty-one (21) years of poor management? [Desk thumping]

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, thank God the people of Tobago placed their faith and trust in us and resoundingly voted out the last Administration. [Desk thumping]

     I may have to request psychiatrists and counsellors from the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection to assist with the healing process within my Division, after a lifetime of psychological abuse. [Desk thumping]

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, under the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, I firmly believe that sustainability means managing the resources allotted to us now and managing the state of current assets this Administration inherited, in an attempt to meet urgent food security needs of all of us here in Tobago, without compromising the ability of those to come to meet their own needs in the future.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, it is also important to define ‘Food Security.’ Food Security means reliable access to enough food of suitable variety and nutrition, that is also affordable for all citizens, whatever their tastes are. It is multidimensional, measurable with survey data for example, and concerns among other things, household access to income and income generation assets, hence poverty status; household consumption patterns that avoid malnutrition; the nutrition on health qualities of food like chemical contamination; price levels and inflation; producible varieties and productivity in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.

      Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, as we all know, the reasons for food insecurity varies from country to country, but in Tobago, food insecurity continues to stem from rising commodity prices, inflation and predicted or unpredicted environmental disasters, and let me add, the past Administration. [Desk thumping]

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and prior to the worldwide disruption of the supply chain due to the pandemic, it was obvious that there was no significant investment in agriculture in Tobago. Tobago’s agricultural sector contributes to one point one percent (1.1%) of Tobago’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which amounted to eighteen point four million dollars ($ 18.4m) in 2021. This is produced with two point five percent (2.5%) of Tobago’s employees, and that makes agricultural productivity about forty-two percent (42%) of productivity in Tobago. It is estimated that as much as eighty percent (80%) of fresh agricultural produce consumed in Tobago, is grown or imported from Trinidad.

     Now, the present Ukraine-Russian war has further inflicted increases in food prices and many other inputs that support the agricultural sector. Flour and poultry prices have skyrocketed and this directly affects low- income households and businesses throughout Tobago. If you do not see it coming, I am seeing it, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer.










2.50 P.M

Help us to claim the full benefits of our God-given location, so that as we step out of the box to pursue prosperity, security and stability through the infrastructural development, we do so not by permission from Trinidad; not by afforded privilege; not by some percentage and pittance, but we do so by independence of thought, knowing that the mansion built by Sir Ellis Clarke and Prime Minister Eric Williams, must be broken down and out of it must rise a new House of Tobago crafted this time, by the hands of Tobagonians. It is our legal right, our intrinsic prerogative and our God-given inheritance. Stand Tobago - stand up for what is yours. [Desk thumping]

Let me move a little more quickly.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, data from the Ministry of Finance for the period 2001 to 2022, indicates that regarding allocations for both recurrent and development expenditure, Tobago received forty point four billion dollars ($40.4b), while Trinidad received in excess of one trillion dollars ($1T) - forty point four billion dollars ($40.4b) as compared to one trillion dollars ($1T).

    Further, from 1968 to 1996, Tobago received an allocation of two point one percent (2.1%) of the so-called National Budget. This was the period when the majority of oil and gas revenue came from off the southerly coast of Trinidad - two point one percent (2.1 %). We had to go to the Dispute Resolution Commission in 1996 (that period in 1996) and 2000 to get four point zero two percent (4.02%).

    The evidence is clear and it is a clear indication that the strategic intent of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in Trinidad is, was and forever will be, to choke the oxygen out of Tobago through budgetary limitations.

     The question that all of us in Tobago must ask ourselves as Tobagonians is that, now that the gas is in the Tobago EEZ, is four point zero three percent (4.03%) a fair share? I want to suggest that the majority of Tobago except the Minority will say, “No, it is not fair.”

     We know, Mr Dep. Presiding Officer, that the significant amount of revenue from oil and gas resources are derived from the waters in Tobago. Today, after years of hiding, hiding the fact that they were taking oil and gas from Tobago, we are sure BHP CEO, two (2) or three (3) years ago in relation to Calypso Field, is saying that Calypso Field had approximately three point five trillion cubic feet (3.5tc ft) of gas.

    Two (2) months ago, the Member for Roxborough was in the Energy Conference and the Minister was saying that Calypso Field has between six (6) and ten (10) trillion cubic feet of gas. Given that the government has standardized the tax regime to thirty-five percent (35%), this six (6) to ten (10) average of eight trillion (8tc ft) cubic feet of gas, converts to potential tax revenue of eighty billion U.S dollars (US$80b) just from Calypso Field - eighty billion US dollars (US$80b). I do not know how to calculate it when I multiply it by seven (7) or eight (8) to bring to Trinidad and Tobago dollars; the zeros would be so long that I cannot understand how to do it - eighty (80), half a trillion. A trillion is how much millions again?

     Half a trillion according to my good friend, expected to be collected from Calypso Field in Tobago, off Charlotteville, bounded with Barbados, and they expect to give us four point zero three percent (4.03%). So, six point nine percent (6.9%) request - three point nine seven billion dollars ($3.97b) request, is in fact but a drop in the bucket.

    I want all Tobagonians, when you drive past the Rockly Vale traffic lights, to stop, take your children; cross over the road and look at the billboard. Read it, understand it and understand the lies that you have been told over the years, and let us all stand up together and say, “Hey, this constitutional madness that limits us to a percentage of some budget, is in fact wrong and unacceptable.” [Desk thumping]

    In the interest of time, I will have to jump to the Quarry. The Quarry remains one of the best resources that we have in Tobago. It has been mismanaged and undermanaged. What we met at the Quarry, I want to report, is ninety percent (90%) of the mobile equipment, non-functional; a jetty built in the wrong place that cannot house five thousand (5,000) tonne barges; materials being sold to preferred customers (friends of the People’s National Movement (cult) at fourteen (US$14) per tonne, for years. Today, the Quarry could barely pay its bills. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has to give them a subvention of five million dollars ($5m) to keep them afloat. This, we shall fix. [Desk thumping]

In the URP, what we have met is (trying to wrap up) high performing staff members doing the work that skilled artisans are doing in other parts of the Division and we have to find the money to increase their salary, to increase their perks, to increase their whole package. Why, because the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) gave out dry bread as some of them were saying in 2021, but today, we are going to offer saltfish with the bread. [Desk thumping]

     In the Coastal Management Unit, we intend to continue that project that has started from the lagoon down to Crown Point. We are going to extend that up the Windward side, up to Scarborough as we continue to study the wave action that is eroding the whole coastline in Lambeau now. Hopefully, we can model that out, we can build the protection structures along the sea coast to save the little land space that we have. We know that those fellas in Crown Point do not want to move up to Roxborough, so we have to protect the land for them.

    We are in the process of building out the Coastal Management Unit. To that end, we are writing a proposal now which we will be submitting to the IADB to fund the establishment of that Unit.

     And so, in closing, (as my time runs out, 1 have to really learn to speak according to the time limit that I have) what I have demonstrated is the disparity between the budgetary allocation between the two islands - the vast disparity. We know that within the current construct that is Trinidad and Tobago, we do not stand ‘side by side’ and we never could stand ‘side by side’ if we continue along this path. I have demonstrated that we have the resources in our territory that are more than adequate to meet our infrastructural development goals and I call on all Tobagonians wherever you are, all of us, to join hands with us and to ensure that the Trinidad dominated Parliament begins to act in Tobago’s best interest.



EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: That the Member’s speaking time be   extended by a further ten (10) minutes. [Hon. Zorisha Hackett]

Question put and agreed to.

2.40 P.M

I am sure, Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, that we all can recall the premise under which this fair share revenue agreement was made by the Chief Secretary.

I believe that I will not finish in five (5) minutes. [Laughter] [Crosstalk] No, I am going quickly. They awarded, (when you come to this House to say that our budget request is too large, understand what you are saying) Project Management Consultancies to paper pushing NEDCO-type friends from Trinidad, while refusing to build the capacity and competence of more than twelve (12) professionals at the DIQ payroll, who all have Master’s Degree in Construction Management and Project Management. Instead, they prefer to pay Project Management fees to Trinidad firms, multiplying the Trinidad economy. This, (I want to promise all Tobagonians) will definitely end. [Desk thumping] (I may have to shorten this speech).

     On the management side, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, what we have in the Division,... [Crosstalk] (please allow me to speak. I made no interjection when you presented - not one), is a pelau of administrative and management approaches, cooked from a recipe that was not planned or thought out. The result is administrative and management confusion. I lay the full blame on those who were in political office for twenty-one (21) years. They abandoned the management of Tobago in favour of procurement like this - eighty million dollars ($80m) fritted away by a letter, by a junior officer. (I had better drink some water). It has begun to sink in, that notwithstanding all of this, it is probably my role to fix all of this.

     The fundamental problem with the delivery of infrastructure in Tobago, is that we operate within a public service that was created to function in an area that has long passed. Over the last two (2) decades, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has evolved into a hybrid organizational structure and add mixture for Division organizational model, and suspended by a projectized delivery model. The challenge is that we have not established a government arrangement that links the two (2) through a clear policy mandate.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the divisional model would establish the mandate and the projectized model would deliver the project and programmes related thereto.

    I want to move a little faster, so I will have to skip some of this speech.

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, it is our intention to bring all the infrastructure development projects in Tobago under one umbrella programme. Conceptually, all infrastructure development programmes in Tobago will be developed and managed under the new Tobago Capital Investment Development Programme. Such an approach would ensure coordination of infrastructure development projects across all the Divisions of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

    Also, with the understanding that we cannot undertake projects without money, we need a predictable and sustainable funding mechanism. To this end, we will establish the Infrastructure Development Company whose responsibility it will be to source and manage project funding.

     The Tobago IDC will introduce a cuirent institutional framework and funding arrangement that will help to bring some sanity to the infrastructure development landscape of Tobago, as we move towards this paradise that we are living in, to bring it to the best little island on the planet.

     I know when I read everybody listens and people forget that they must thump the table. [Laughter] [Desk thumping]


Also Member for Scarborough/Mt. Grace, please be reminded that you have five (5) minutes of speaking time remaining.


Member for Scarborough /Mt. Grace, continue with your   debate. [Desk thumping]

Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, sometimes language and   English are a challenge.

Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, the Member would have imputed improper motive (45:4) and I would like that statement struck off the record. He is claiming that I supported something that I know nothing of.

2.30 P.M.

“As for your acceptance of the negotiated cost, for projects you have quoted on, your firm is hereby presented with this letter of award for the projects highlighted below. You are to take possession of the site and have the works executed as soon as it is practicable.”


This is the procurement method that the last regime undertook to try

to win an election or if they lose, to constrain the activities of the PDP.


“The Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment then as it was called, will proceed to offer official contract agreement document for the design and construction of these road construction resurfacing projects to your firm.”


Up to today, not one design has been submitted. It goes on:


“The utmost quality of the finished product and the safe and efficient execution of each project, is mandatory. Please be reminded that your firm must provide finance and execution of the projects and be reimbursed after completion.”

It goes on and on.

     This is a sample Tobago, of the supposed contractual   arrangements that we must pay on, a letter of award written by a junior officer and signed by a junior officer.

    Let me just read some of the projects, because my good   friend Pastor Baynes, is reaping the benefits.


  • Church Street Bethel - $6.2m

  • Water Hole, Orange Hill Road Connector- $2.4m

  • Orchard Road, Richmond- $4.4m

  • Yorke Trace Bethel, Phase II-  $.89m

  • Mt. Pleasant Extension paving-  $1.5m

There are so   many, that I can skip out some.


  • Big Stick Gully -   Full road Construction and ancillary works - $6.9m

  • Hopeton Road Extension - $3.7m

  •  Riseland Spring Trace   Road Restoration. -   $5.2m


and so on and so on. Eighty million dollars ($80m) awarded by a letter, by a junior officer - eighty million dollars ($80m). No scope, no design, no contract and my good friend would say, “We owe them, let us just pay them.” This is the procurement process that you Sir, supported. Do you support this, Sir? This is what you supported. When you stand proudly and you say, “I am a Member of the cult,” this is what you support. [Desk thumping] [Laughter]

     They are awarded, let me go on, Project Management Consultancies to paper pushing National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO) type friends from Trinidad... [Interruption]


2.20 P.M

     One hundred and eight billion dollars ($108b) versus five billion

dollars ($5b). Let it sink in.


  • The repairs to the Red House - four hundred million dollars ($400m); (Tobago’s DP per annum - two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250m);

  • The abandoned Oncology Centre in Mt. Hope - seven hundred million dollars ($700m). (Tobago’s DP - two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250m);

  • The Couva Children’s Hospital - one billion dollars (Sib);

  • The Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin - six billion dollars ($6b) and counting; (Tobago’s DP - two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250m) per annum).


      Two islands, their respective dependencies, one sovereign, democratic State. Those are the figures that do not lie.

     So I want Tobagonians starting from today, wherever you are in the world, (starting from today) to think outside of the box that they have created for the Member for Darrel Spring/Whim.

     Actually, let us step out of the box that allows the Parliament, that is clearly suffering from grandiosity, maybe colonial grandiosity, to limit us to some minimum allocation based on some archaic, economic model based on population percentages.

      We need to step into a new era, into the new box where the contribution of all Tobagonians and their generations anywhere in this Trinidad-controlled state are attributed to Tobago; where all the revenue derived from our EEZ is calculated as the contribution of Tobago to the Trinidad and Tobago GDP. Only then, Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, we will retain our fair share of revenue of the Sovereign Democratic State of Trinidad and Tobago

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, it is on this fair share premise that we have positioned our Draft Estimates for Fiscal 2023. So let me now detail our plans and projections for the areas of responsibility of the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development.

     Our goal is to lay the foundation for the new House of Tobago. And Pastor Baynes will probably like to say, “Consists of many mansions.” This house that we are going to build will consist of many mansions which will not require us to go to any other jurisdiction to prepare. We are going to prepare it ourselves. [Desk thumping]

    Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, we did not need the Policy Research Working Paper commissioned by the World Bank in 2013 to tell us that economic growth is positively correlated to the stock of infrastructure assets in an economy and that economic inequality declines with higher infrastructure quality and quantity.

      We did not need the World Bank to tell us that infrastructure development is the key to economic stimulation and sustained economic stability. Even a cursory, visual comparison of the infrastructure in Tobago compared to that of Trinidad, [Crosstalk] or the individual wealth of residents on the two (2) islands can tell us what the World Bank has told us. However, before we can build, we must first plan. That is what our district tours were about.

     We have started the process of assessing the state of Tobago's infrastructure, I want to report. We have also begun the process of determining what we need to upgrade and what we need to build. And the Minority Leader it was reported, was gallivanting with the team from the Division on the visit to Darrel Spring/Whim - he was happy to be included,knowing that if it was his party, no such thing would have happened. But the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) to the rescue.

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, we need to do the inventory and develop the project pipeline so we can plan adequately. What I have found since assuming the Office of Secretary of Infrastructure, is that over the last twenty-one (21) years, we have institutionalized the marginalization of the staff at the Division. This will end.

    They have contracted out work to friends and family while many of our daily-rated team members sit idly. This too shall end.

    I want to applaud the team members who have started to put their hands up again, beat the desk for the patching and paving teams, patching twenty-one (21) years of potholes. [Desk thumping] I want to say to you, - we see you, we love you. Better equipment will soon come.

       Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, on this matter of contracting work to friends and family, I must admit that some of that is unavoidable given our size and interconnectedness. However, what has happened over the last twenty-one (21) years and encapsulated in the desperate last twelve (12) months at best, is unforgivable.

     Approximately three hundred and ninety million dollars ($390m) committed to contractors for mostly un-scoped work without contractors in seven (7) or eight (8) months. Three hundred and ninety million dollars ($390m) all listed here on two (2) sheets, contracted to contractors (without contract) without decent procurement methodology in seven (7) or eight (8) months. [Crosstalk] And because he has begun to threaten me, I will read this just for him.

     This is a letter of award written by a junior officer in the Division; signed by a junior officer in the Division, possibly in collusion with the Executive Council or the Administrator at the time. This is what the letter of award said - and this is the procurement - this is one example of the procurement methodology of the last regime.


"Being an active participant in the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA’s) bonded Road Resurfacing Programme Contractor Pool and as for your acceptance of the negotiated cost for projects ...


Let me just reread it so it sinks in, what it is really saying







2.10 P.M

    Those figures are only for 2006 to 2022 - one hundred and eight point five billion dollars ($ 108.5b) versus four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b). I want it to sink in, because in Tobago there is no Capital Infrastructure Development Fund.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, as always, it is an honour to be able to present in the House. I want to thank as always, the people of Scarborough/ Mount Grace, for reposing in me their responsibility to represent their views and their thoughts in this House. I want to say to them, that I am eternally grateful to be able to contribute meaningfully into the governance structure of Tobago. Thank you Scarborough/Mount Grace.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, as I rise to deliver my maiden presentation on the budget presentations over the years in this House, I must admit that I do so with a little bit of consternation. These figures that I quoted, represent the willful failing of the Parliament that has resulted in the current infrastructure development quagmire that Tobago finds itself in, after forty (40) years of this struggle of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

     In the last twenty (20) years, every single draft estimate presentation submitted to this House, has been rejected by the Parliament in forty (40) years. If I am not mistaken, thirty (30) of them were when the PNM was in Trinidad - every single one. It is much like our request for self-determination starting way back with James Biggart, ending with Mr. Hochoy Charles. The Parliament continues to use their greater Trinidad numbers to choke out the will of the peoples of Tobago, through limiting and possibly illegal laws that disenfranchise us while they steal our resources to their own benefit.

     We are tired; Tobagonians are tired, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, but we must make the case on behalf of all Tobagonians to the Parliament, one more time. We must ask all Tobagonians to judge the Tobagonians harshly for their support of those whose hands and knees are at our necks; we must reserve special judgement for those who come from the loins of Tobago and choose the ideology of Non-Tobago Organizations to the detriment of us all.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I speak not of my good friend, the Representative of Darrel Spring/Whim, as he is yet a babe in the cult and I am hopeful that he would see the folly of his political ways and repent. [Desk thumping] We know he is a babe, because being the sole representative, he could not even run for political leadership in Tobago. [Laughter] [Desk thumping]. I am sure that the Chief has not yet closed the door on the concept of the willing and the competent, although demonstrating such competence might be challenging. [Desk thumping] [Laughter] But as Pastor Baynes would say, “Repentance is the beginning of forgiveness.” [Desk thumping]

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I wish to state that we on this side, shall do all in our power to satisfy the wishes of the majority of Tobagonians who voted on December 06th, 2021 and gave us the mandate to change the status quo and to position Tobago for immediate economic success. We have of course, been failing. We shall take all necessary legal measures to circumvent these illegal laws that are pronounced upon us from over the land. But reluctant as we are, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, we must present the case one more time to the Parliament. So what is this case?


The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago states that:

     “Trinidad and Tobago shall be a sovereign democratic State.”


    The Constitution states:

     “Trinidad and Tobago shall comprise the island of Trinidad, the island of Tobago...


And if I can just paraphrase this part:


All the territories that were belonging to Trinidad and Tobago. It includes everything, including the seabed, our subsoil beneath the territorial sea and the continental shelf of Trinidad and Tobago.


What this is, saying Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, is that Tobago consists of our beautiful main island, all the islands around us - our seabed, our Sub-soil, beneath the territorial sea and continental shelf and everything in our EEZ, as defined by ....”

   

 This is what Tobago brings to this unrighteous unionMr. Deputy Presiding Officer, this definition means that Trinidad and Tobago, we are singularly sovereign, that we are singularly democratic - it could not be otherwise. What has happened however, is that the architects of this Trinidad domination of Tobago, have structured the Administration of Government, (meaning the Parliament and the Senate and the associated structures) the provision of government services and the build out of public infrastructure as though we were insignificant; as though Tobago did not exist, and all we had was a Trinidad and a Trinidad and Tobago. It is the only way you can attempt to define Tobago in Bills and not define Trinidad.

    Additionally, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, because of the structuring of the sovereign democratic State by Sir Ellis Clarke and Prime Minister Eric Williams, it must mean that apart from all those specifically mentioned in the Bill, which caused much consternation last year, all the revenue from every activity in the EEZ, the economic contribution of my siblings who moved to Trinidad to get better paying jobs; all the economic contribution from the entire Tobago diaspora in Trinidad; all the taxes on imported goods landed in Trinidad and sold in Tobago; all the revenue from the sale of tickets for Tobagonians over the years going to transact government and help business in Trinidad, all of that must be attributed to the Tobago GDP. Not the two hundred million dollars ($200m) that our (I wanted to say ‘bastard,’ but I cannot) Tobagonian Prime Minister espoused. I can go on and on.

    Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, if my actuary, my brother, Mr. Purcell Lewis was yet alive, (another Tobagonian who had to migrate over the island to access better paying public sector jobs) I would have asked him to calculate that figure for us. Oh how they continue to rob us of our resources. I state these sets of facts to start my presentation, because they speak to the root cause of our budgetary troubles in Tobago.


Good afternoon, Members. Would someone be so kind as to allow me to use that podium? Because of my advanced age, I need a certain distance from the eyes to be able to read.

     One hundred and eight point five billion dollars ($ 108.5b) versus four point seven, seven billion dollars ($4.77b) - that Members, are the figures of the Consolidated Fund plus the Infrastructure Development Fund in Trinidad, versus the Tobago Development Programme Fund.

Thank you for your contribution, Member.

Member for Scarborough/Mt. Grace, you may join the debate. [Desk thumping]


Thank you. Let me hustle because sometimes chatter could distract you.

      We have raised the salaries and the next move really, is to have a document that will represent the engagement of the Community Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) workforce, that will go to the Executive Council and so that would be the reference point of the operation of the programme, so from henceforth nobody will be able to abuse and misuse the CEPEP workers using their vulnerabilities again. [Desk thumping] Having said that, I could close now. [Laughter]

     Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, we in the Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport are determined to play our role in the realization of the Tobago dream. That is, Tobago becoming the greatest little island on the planet. We are up to the task and we shall continue to work tirelessly. We shall be innovative, scientific and relevant, doing everything in our power to accomplish this task.

     I want to thank the Honourable Chief Secretary for affording me the privilege to serve in this capacity as Secretary of the Division. I would want to also thank the hard working officers, the Administrators that I have had the privilege of working with thus far, and all those who are working to help us and giving us support to see this mission becoming a reality.

      To my team members, I want to encourage you to stay on the wall and don't come down. Every time you are doing something good, some good work, there comes Sanballat and Tobiah, trying to discourage you, trying to sabotage the work, but we must keep a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other. We will fight and we will fix. The truth is that the rate at which we are going, even Mason Hall will get their long awaited sea. [Desk thumping]

     I want to say finally, that no misguided, midget-minded minion will move us. Let me say it again - No misguided, midget-minded minion will move us. After all, we are Spartans. [Desk thumping] And I believe that collectively, we shall accomplish this mission.

     I thank you




Member for Bethel/New Grange, you may proceed   [Crosstalk]

Member for Darrel Spring/Whim, you arrived late after the lunch break. You took an extension and the House was quiet. Please allow the   Member for Bethel/New Grange to finish his debate.

Thanks. [Desk thumping] 

EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: That the Member’s speaking time be extended by a further ten (10) minutes. [Hon. Zorisha Hackett]

Question put and agreed to.


Thank you very much. If you listen you might learn something. I understand there is a time for everything. If you listen, you might learn something.

    So we have with us here what we called The CEPEP Programme. And you would remember that the Community Environment Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) became centre stage earlier on in the year.

    Some people gave us some information, I suspect now, trying to embarrass me as the Secretary and by extension, the Chief Secretary and all that kind of stuff, and that kind of caused a deep dive into the Programme to make some discoveries and so on, that required somerestructuring of the Programme; required also an audit into the Programme which has been completed and all of that good stuff.

     But suffice it to say that the Community Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) really, and the CEPEP workers, (some five hundred and forty-eight (548) of them) over the years have been abused and misused and used for political purposes and I am talking it now.

    I remember in 2013, a group led by a former official who was in this House was down in Canaan opposite the Metal Industries Company (MIC) centre chanting slogans against the then Prime Minister and all of that stuff - people who should have been on the government work, down there in red jerseys chanting. I remember that stuff.

But they have always been abused and one of the reasons I suspect, is because there is really no written policy, that governs the operation of the programme. And of course, because there is no written policy, you could abuse the people and you could threaten to send them home and all of that and people will comply because it is ‘bread and butter’ issues. So what we have done, is that we have said that we are going to give some dignity to the Community Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) workers - the first thing that we were going to do, was raise their salaries and we did that. [Desk thumping] I am surprised that I have not heard that this was a People’s National Movement (PNM) initiative as well. [Laughter] We raised their salaries.

There are some people -I mean there are some minds who that are really dumb in truth - “Where you getting the money from?” I do not understand. Those are questions you never heard asked before.

     When Contractors were doing works in Bethel/New Grange and as the Secretary told us - with no kind of certification - the kind of money that they spent in Bethel/New Grange, to try and win an election. I mean, that is what I say, that really, God will help us because I am now reaping the benefits, reaping the spoils of war. [Interruption]




Member for Darrell Spring/Whim, you used some language today and was permitted. Allow the Member for Bethel/New Grange to continue with his debate.

Thanks. [Desk thumping]


2.00 P.M

Mr.Dep. Presiding Officer, I rise on a point of order. The Member is using  un-parliamentary language - ‘killing.’

So, the thing is that there is so much to do in this space, and we will continue to do what we have to do. So we have managed to encourage and so on. We have had Annual General Meetings (AGMs) recently in:


  • Mount St. George;

  • Les Coteaux;

  • Glamorgan;

  • Golden Lane;

  • Pembroke;

  • Lambeau;

  • John Dial;

  • Calder Hall;

  • Patience Hill;

  • Bethel;

  • Glen Road;

  • Belle Garden;

  • Hampden/Lowlands; and

  • Delaford


     The reason why we are doing this - because remember we are talking about establishing an administrative framework for the Constituency Funding Programme. We want to move this dependency on the centre, to the villages and to the communities. So in order for us to do that, we have to make sure that we regularize these organizations and so on - these village councils and all that good stuff.

     I want to say this again, this might sound like the chorus of the whole contribution. Thank God for the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in this Tobago space. [Desk thumping]

    Of course, we also have what is called the “Road Market” and different ones have taken credit for the road market. Somebody sent me a text saying, “I see you doing something that I started.” And the truth is that we are in a world where no man can say that they have all the ideas and all that kind of stuff. We do not have complete and superior knowledge on stuff and anything that is good, we will do what is good and we will continue to move on.

     The time is running - let me rush on. I want to get to the final “I,” which is “Intervention.”

    I realize that when you are in governance, whether you are governing your house; you are governing in the church, or you are governing in an office, there are times you have to do some responsible intervention. 

     People try to make it look as if the past regime was this laudable regime that did all these great things and all of that kind of stuff, and you ask yourself - I wonder if they are on the same planet that we are on. You ask yourself that kind of question. The kind of infractions that we have been made privy to, that are in black and white, you have to ask yourself how it is that people could speak so laudably of an organization that has presided over the systematic, dismantling of the integrity of our people who presided over killing the hunt of our people. ‘ Who   the cap fit, let them wear it." [Interruption] [Laughter]



Member for Bethel/New Grange, you have five (5) minutes   of speaking time remaining. You may continue.

1.50 P.M

    We also want to say that we are doing work in Glamorgan as well, because there is just a lot of infrastructure work that is needed, so we are doing that.

   We are doing some refurbishment to the Scarborough Community Centre that is one; the Plymouth Community and Telecenter, as well as the Bethel Community Centre. Most of these plants really need some attention, so we want to do as much as we can to try and treat with that.

    We are planning on a design for the new and refurbished facilities such as the community facility in Roxborough; we are going to be dealing with that and two (2) skilled training facilities - one in the East and one in the West, respectively. We are also looking at a possible site that has been identified in the West and the estimates have already been done.

     Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, (there are so many Deputies inside of here, you would think it is a police station) [Laughter] no doubt you would appreciate that the projects straddling the transition of fiscal periods will of necessity, be top priority since it is imperative that we have value for the funds already expended, and those funds and their value be protected. The execution of new projects as can be expected will be dependent on budgetary allocations for Fiscal 2023 and their subsequent prioritization.

     I now move to another ‘I’ which I call ‘Improvement.’

     There are three (3) initiatives here that I want to talk about. The first one is the vocational skills training.

     The Division actually has been doing vocational skills training for the past two (2) decades, and continue to experience tremendous growth. The cycle for 2022 had some two thousand (2000) participants. We intend to upgrade and we intend to rebrand. The programme will offer vocational certification to successful participants, who would have gotten a Certificate of Participation in times past, but we want to improve on that and give them a Vocational Certificate.

     Additionally, the programme will be renamed ‘The Community-based Technical Training Programme.’ I want to say as well, that because of the overwhelming response that we got from persons who wanted to be a part of the programme, both students and teachers, we also decided that we are going to launch a full scale Tobago Skills Training Centre. [Desk thumping]

     We have located the site. Do you remember the Metal Industries Company (MIC) used to have a centre in the Patience Hill area? We have gone there and we have done a site visit and so on, and we are in the process of going through all the normal things to get that place up and running. It is it is our intention.

     There has been a kind of ‘dependency syndrome’ in this place that we call Tobago. It seems that if the hunt of the Tobagonian has been killed by the former regime (that is the only thing I could chump it up to) where they have people just ‘cap-in-hand;’ dependent on the centre; dependent on the government for everything. The Tobagonian who we are accustomed to, the proud Tobagonian who wants to run his own affairs seems to have been domesticated as it were - seems to have been trapped. So I am very heartened by the response that we saw to these programmes. This suggests to me that the Tobagonian is moving back to that place of independence and the pride that the Tobagonian is accustomed to.

     I remember the late A.N.R Robinson said in one of his contributions that “Tobago had lost its momentum; that Tobago was in stasis.” Thank God for the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in this place, I am telling you, [Desk thumping] that now there is some activity that is exciting so that we can move this place that we call Tobago. And our goal is indeed to make Tobago the best little island on the planet.

We are doing some work as well with Community Councils. We are doing some revitalization and so on. There is a quote here from Dr. Susan Craig (which I thought was important to the contribution) in a book called, “The Changing Society of Tobago, 1838 - 1938.”


She noted:


“The strengthening of village or Community Councils and related organizations as part of a strategy to increase civil participation and empowerment and to educate and mobilize the population for social change, is absolutely essential.”

This Administration recognizes the strategic link between mobilization organization and empowering communities so that they can actively participate in the socio-economic, transformation and governance processes of Tobago.

    In that regard, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, earlier this year, we continued the initiative entitled, “Village Council Retooling and Revitalization.” These village councils have been operating (most of them as a matter of fact) as party groups, and the National Village Council Organization even deemed Councils in Tobago defunct, because so many of them have not had Annual General Meeting (AGM) for so long. In one case, I had to send a bailiff to a community centre to evict a man who was living in the community centre for over ten (10) years. [Desk thumping]



1.40 P.M

Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, there are three (3) initiatives under the category that I will call ‘innovation’ that I want to speak about quickly.

     The first one is what we call, “The Tobago Faith-based Council.” You would remember, that I would have lamented about this for months and in fact, it is a pet peeve of mine for many, many years, that political organizations use Faith-based Organization; they used churches - it has gone so far that people have even accused some churches of being party groups for different political organizations and so on. And the thing I find is, that when an organization gets into power that Faith-based organizations does not have a stake in the conversation; they do not have a seat at the table. And because of who Faith-based Organizations represent in the society - in fact, in the Tobago case, we can safely say that some eighty percent (80%) of our population can say that they have been impacted in one way or the other by Faith-based Organizations in this island. And I feel that the time came for us to do something significant, something that was revolutionary, so we launched what is called, ‘The Tobago Faith-based Council.’

     The purpose really, is to facilitate goods and services that will assist these Organizations in executing their own mandate and whatever goods and services that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) can provide, we want to make it something as a matter of policy, that Faith-based Organizations would be treated with respect and provided with the kind of support that the Government can provide so that they can help to execute their mandate.

     And areas like Health and Wellness - building design and related ancillary services; technical advice and support; Vocational Life Skill Training Services; Financial Grants and donations - these are some of the things that we want to assist Faith-based Organizations with. And I think that this is a good initiative because of the important role that these organizations play in our community that we should have done something like this. [Desk thumping]

     The second innovative thing that we have done thus far, is what we call ‘Social Entrepreneurship.’ Early this year, I think it would have been perhaps about February, we embarked on a Social Entrepreneurship Initiative with the Faculty of Humanities and Education in the University of the West Indies. Essentially, the initiative involved the sponsorship of fifteen (15) Tobago-based participants in a six (6) week virtual course entitled, ‘Creating Social Entrepreneurship to Fight Poverty.’

     I would want to say that I just want to expand a little bit on this, that Social Entrepreneurship refers to the process by which individuals, start-ups and entrepreneurs develop and find solutions that directly address social issues. And the Lord knows that we have social issues in this place that we call Tobago.

     Social entrepreneurship includes human and environmental goals on the equal level with business goals. A social entrepreneur therefore, is a person who explores business opportunities that have a positive impact on their community in the society or the world.

    I would want to say as well, that this initiative is intended to assist the governments, the University, civil society and industry. Course participants worked in inter-disciplinary teams to explore, research and understand real world problems around poverty and empathize with people to solve problems and create solutions.

The course was premised on the assumption that creativity and the ability to develop better solutions together are the key competencies in future work life.

      Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, earlier this week, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) was invited by the University of the West Indies (UWI) to work collaboratively in building out the next phase of this programme. These are the sorts of initiatives that the Administration is pursuing as it moves towards developing human capital on the island and to engage communities to become active participants in Tobago's governance process.

     The third one is what I call ‘The Senior Citizens Centres.’ I know the Minority spoke about the Senior and if he was here, I am sure he would have said that that is something that we borrowed from the People’s National Movement (PNM). This is one of the things actually that I was talking about in my campaign, because I had some conversations with some officials from Jamaica and I found that the model was very, very scientific and so on, and I thought that that would have been something that we could consider. So be that as it may, we are talking about centres not just places where senior people could go and play bingo and crochet - we are talking about a scientific space that we can put in place to assist our senior citizens. And it is a fact - it says something about your society dependent on how you treat your senior citizens; and these centres will treat with stuff like health care, recreational activities; exercise and fitness, skills training - avenues where seniors can provide mentorship, attendant with the attendant transportation network that will move the bodies to and from the centres.

     The other idea that I want to talk about, Mr. Dep. Presiding Officer, is infrastructure. Although I said earlier that Assemblyman Clarke will deal primarily with Sport, I want to borrow cautiously, one of the initiatives which is the installation of the jogging track at the Montgomery recreation ground and you can understand the sensitivity to that. [Desk thumping] It was one of the things that I promised the people of that constituency, that we are going to do notwithstanding all of us can do with some exercise.

     I got stuck in the elevator last week, (including Assemblyman Taitt.He is my friend) [Laughter] [Desk thumping] They had to come and prize open the door - all kinds of drama to get us out of the elevator - and after I was done with that, I had to walk up to the office on the third floor, and when I got to the top flight I realized that I was huffing and puffing so much, that I had to hurry up and make sure that this jogging track is installed in the Montgomery area, because I am apparently in the ‘afternoon’ of my days, so I have to try my best to see how I can maintain my good health. So this is an important matter to us, notwithstanding the community itself; because of the configuration of the community, this is something that is important to all of us there.

    So I am thankful that we are able to do that and this I will say, most of the paper work is done. We are almost at the point where this will go out to tender. We have the money already and we have agreed that we are going to make sure that this project is done on time and within budget in this Fiscal. [Desk thumping]

     We also want to talk about the Integrated Facilities, the Community Centre and the pavilion in Charlotteville. We are doing some work on the Les Coteaux Community Centre after much agitation by the Member for Les Coteaux and Environs. We have secured the funding and the tenders have already gone out and all that good stuff, and work will begin on the Les Coteaux Community Centre very soon. [Desk thumping]






[Desk thumping] Thank you, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer.

Let me say a very pleasant good afternoon to all my Colleagues, all the visitors; those viewing the debate and those who take interest in the business of Tobago.

I want to begin, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, by first of all saluting the Honourable Chief Secretary for what I can consider delivering a decent budget in this House. [Desk thumping]

The truth of the matter is, that I sat here last Thursday peacock-proud,as I witnessed the delivery of what can be considered a remarkable,revolutionary and righteous budget delivered to the people of Tobago, of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension, the entire world. My responsibility is to talk about how Community Development is going to contribute to the overall perspective and the overall desire of this Administration, to let Tobago become "the most beautiful little island on the planet J But before I get into that, there were some things said earlier that got under my skin, and I want to perhaps do the thing that they call ‘convention’ and respond to some of the stuff because I feel that it is necessary for truth to prevail in this honourable space.

     The Minority Leader spoke at length about a new dispensation and he  used words like ‘integrity’ and ‘honesty’ and ‘transparency.’ I sat here and was mortified, pained, even depressed at times, because the organization that he represents, all of us here can testify, that the kind of evil that has been perpetrated upon the people of Tobago for the past two (2) decades, that words like ‘integrity’ ‘honesty’ and ‘transparency’ should be banished from the language of the PNM for the next three (3) decades. [Desk thumping]

     I also wanted to say that he made some comments about - I think that maybe we have to develop some kind of organization to assist the Minority Leader, because he suffers from an acute case of information accuracy deficit. [Desk thumping] It is true.

     I remember back in January, when the Honourable Prime Minister came and we sat at the Magdalena Grand Resort trying to resolve this six/six matter and he said that we had two (2) options to consider, and you will remember the Minority sitting in an interview with Fazeer Mohammed in Mount Irvine trying to defame and make light of the integrity of the Representative for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, saying that he was only one option.

     I also remember that he misled the public in relation to food cards and hamper matters around Christmas time, when he got sensitive information from the Division of Finance, and all of that. I remember again - in fact, today was another example when he said that the Deputy Political Leader was the one responsible for Sandals not being in Tobago - nothing could be further from the truth.

     All of us remember it was Afra Raymond who raised (who is a Quantity Surveyor) some red flags about the engagement of Sandals in the Tobago space and when the documentation came out about the engagement, we all stood there with our mouths ajar, as it were to see the kind of engagement that it was. I took the time as well, to call principals in Antigua, in St. Lucia and also in Grenada, who have Sandals plants. There are some things about Sandals that we do not know. People make it look like Sandals is a ‘heavenly institution’ and so on. But there are some things that these islands are suffering from. You would remember that the Prime Minister of Antigua put a major defense against Sandals because of some issues with paying of taxes and all that kind of stuff. So to say that the Deputy Chief Secretary rather, was responsible for Sandals leaving Tobago, is inaccurate and it is emblematic of the Minority Leader’s actions of bringing inaccurate information in the space every time he opens his mouth. [Desk thumping]

    But, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, I do not want to spend too much time on that. I really did not want to spend much time because the truth is I can conclude that what we have heard here from the Minority side is what I call “postprandial prattle.” [Desk thumping] What that means, is a little chitchat after a meal - it is nothing of substance; it is just small talk. But we shall endeavour to put some sensible information in the space, so that people could have a sense of what this Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Administration is all about.

     My focus primarily, will be of course, on the Community Development part of the portfolio. And of course, you know there has been a recent marriage between Community Development, Youth and Sport, and my Colleague, Assemblyman Wane Clarke who is the Assistant Secretary will handle the Youth and Sport part of the portfolio. I want to say that Assemblyman Clarke is a good man. [Desk thumping] His language is colourful at times, but he gets his point across. [Desk thumping]

     I want to say, Mr. Deputy Presiding Officer, that I kind of put the conversation in four (4) main parts, and using some ‘Is’ to kind of simplify it, because there are some minds that are lacking and we try to simplify it so that people can have an appreciation for some of the things that we are trying to say as an Administration. So I would put them in four (4) headings:


  • Innovation;

  • Infrastructure;

  • Improvement; and

  • Intervention.


    I am using these ‘Is’ to inform the uninformed; to inspire the uninspired and perhaps to invigorate those that are politically dull and delayed. [Laughter]



1.30 P.M

[DEPUTY PRESIDING   OFFICER in the Chair]

1.30 p.m. Sitting Resumed.

12.38 p.m.: Sitting   suspended.

 Question put and agreed.

I will now suspend the House for lunch for exactly thirty  (30) minutes.

12.36 P.M

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     Madan Presiding Officer, can you allow me to rise for a Motion to

ask that we agree as a House, to vary the standard time for lunch from one (1) hour to thirty (30) minutes, which will facilitate a lot more Members being able to participate in the debate, given that in our monitoring of the impending weather system, we keep seeing the onset time for the system moving closer and closer. So we are now looking at any time around 6.00 p.m. thereafter, for the onset of the storm.

     So, I will wish to ask that the House agrees that we take lunch for half an hour, during which time I will propose that the Leader of

Government Business and the Minority Leader discuss and finalize the

speaking schedule for the period after lunch. Please ask for a vote.


Thank you for your   contribution.

Members, the House will be suspended for ... [Interruption]

Member for Parlatuvier/L 'Anse Fourmi/Speyside.

... you need Accident and Emergency (A&E) services, you cannot get tnat just yet at Roxborough.

     If you need something at nights or on weekends, you cannot get that just yet and I am saying to the people - because I know that there are people who have heard that we have opened a hospital and they are thinking that they will get those services. When we are at the point that we can actually provide those services safely for the people of the East, we shall let them know - you can now come and get Accident and Emergency (A&E) services; you can now come and actually sleep in because we are able to do it safely and we are able to do it most efficiently.

     Let me just say one more thing, Madam Presiding Officer, before wrapping up. We have actually - and this is a public pronouncement that the Chief Secretary made after we came out of the retreat. We indicated that those individuals who were living month to month within the Tobago Regional Health Authority, those individuals who were getting those one month and three month contracts, up until now, we were able to give two hundred and thirty-four (234) three year-contracts, thumping] That is two hundred and thirty-four (234) health professionals who know now that we are not just going to cast them aside; who know now that we love and we care for them and that they can have job security. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, I would like to round up my contribution by indicating to all of the staff at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), to all of the staff at the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, to my three (3) Administrators thus far since December; to all of my senior staff thus far, that we truly appreciate all of the hard work that you have been putting in, and that the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) is here to support you, and is here to ensure that the organizations that we run, are effective and efficient because you gave us the opportunity on December 6th, 2021, to ‘fix this’ and to make Tobago the greatest little island. That we are going to do. [Desk thumping]

     I thank you, Madam Presiding Officer



Member, you have three (3) minutes.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Let me say one more thing about the Social Protection   Department.

I am speaking to   the hard working staff at that Department. You guys have done an amazing job.   You have, when everyone else could have stayed home - when our Accounting   Unit and Human Resource (HR) could have been on shift and stayed home and come half day and so forth, in the middle of the pandemic, you the social workers are the ones who stood and did the work, [Desk thumping] and I want to thank you all. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart because I know the kind of work that they have been doing and my pledge to them, is to continue ensuring that they are supported.

    So, Madam Administrator, when we plan a nice little spar retreat for my Social Workers, I assume that it would just be signed and approved, because that is the kind of stuff we need for them to work.

    Let me turn now, Madam Presiding Officer, quickly to the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), because it is the organization that we gave the responsibility of providing health care in Tobago.

     Let me start by saying that one of the things we are going to be doing is really expanding what we consider primary care. What is primary care? That is what you see happening at the Health Centres. So instead of just coming to the Health Centres on your clinic day, we want to ensure that the Health Centres, even though they respond to your sick needs, that they evolve to be Wellness Centres.

     What does that mean? You are not just going when you feel sick, but you are actually going to ensure that you do not get sick. So when you go, you could learn about healthy eating; when you go yes, you could do the check ups - bringing back the ‘know your numbers’ and all of that kind of thing within the community, so that we prevent you from having to go in because you are sick.

     We tend to spend a lot of money on secondary care, meaning the hospital, but we all recognize that what we need to do - the focus, the game needs to be on preventing people from getting to the hospital now. If you already have to get to the hospital, then we will be doing the diagnostic testing and so forth, to get you well, but the aim is to prevent you from getting to the hospital.

     And talking about hospitals, let me spend just a couple minutes discussing the Roxborough Health Facility. Now I say the ‘Roxborough Health Facility’ and not the ‘Roxborough Hospital’ for a very specific reason. I need Tobagonians to recognize that what is at the Health Facility now, is not a hospital as yet. And I am going to take my time because I want you all to know what you are getting into.

    We do not have the technical capacity, we do not have everything in place just yet, to provide inpatient services. What does inpatient services mean? You come in, you get a bed and you stay - no. Even though your Prime Minister came up and had a big, lavish opening two (2) years ago - no! Your Prime Minister, your Political Leader - we are fixing it. [Desk thumping] [Crosstalk] We are fixing it. That is why I could stand here, Madam Presiding Officer, and let you know why we are where we are now.

    So there is a situation, Madam Presiding Officer, where I feel like someone just got up a couple years ago and decided that they are going and build a hospital in Roxborough. You know, you just get a vaps - we got up and we decide today, that we are building a hospital in Roxborough. They did not take into consideration at that time at all, Madam Presiding Officer, that to get a hospital, you actually need to have different entities within the facility that meet basic minimum standards.

     And the reason why we do not have a hospital up to this date, Madam Presiding Officer, is because every single week when we call the individuals who are supposed to be giving us the license for the pharmacy; the license for the laboratory; the license for the this; the license for the that, they would watch us and tell us, Madam Presiding Officer, “We cannot give you the license yet because that does not meet required, minimum standard.” That is why we are not there as yet.

     And that is why every time we have a meeting with Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) for example, we have to say to them, “Yes, we told you that we needed this to be built 10x10, but in fact, it needed to be built 1 Ox 15.” So, you now have to go and break down something and start over and put the hood in the proper place and ensure that this, that and the other is there, before we get the stamp of approval that would allow us to run a hospital. So no, unlike those who came before me, I will not be getting up and talking about, ‘we have it, we have it, we have it - eh eh.’

     I am going to be honest to the people of Tobago and let them know that yes, we have primary care services; yes, we have outpatient clinics actually happening; outpatient clinics are actually happening. So if you need your gynae and you need to do your dialysis and you need to do those things, yes, you can do that right now at the Roxborough Health facility, but if... [Interruption]




Member, you have ten (10) additional minutes of speaking time. You may continue your presentation.

EXTENSION OF SPEAKING TIME

Motion made: That the Member’s speaking time be   extended by a further ten (10) minutes. [Mr. Joel Sampson]

Question put and agreed to.

Member, your speaking time has expired.

12.26 P.M

We will figure it   out. And you see that is the difference, we will figure it out. Maybe we need   to give them a smart phone. We will figure it out, instead of holding the   four hundred (400) and something food cards in their back pockets and giving   them to people who do not need them. [Desk thumping] We will figure it   out. Now the thing is, Madam ...

So, one of the things that we will do, is ensure that we   beef up the capabilities of the Office of the County Medical Officer of   Health, and that would include having a comprehensive data management system.   So, yes, the digitization that we have been talking about, that will be a   part of that process. So, that when all of the information; when all of the surveillance data comes in; when all of the data comes in from the Tobago Regional Health Authority or even from the Public Health Inspectors, we can pool that all in the same space so that we can make informed decisions.

     We will also finally have our Water and Food Testing Laboratories in Tobago. [Desk thumping] What does that mean? It means that when we come to your restaurant and so forth, and we take the samples - that sample, we do not have to then figure out how we are taking it to Trinidad for it to be tested. We can sample it and we can test it right here to let you know that the foods that you are eating, the water that you are consuming, is actually safe for consumption. That is what we will be doing.

      Finally, within the office of the CMOH, we will be creating what is known as a ‘Public Health Observatory.’ What does that mean? That would be us looking at everything - looking at what the diseases are; looking at whether we have communicable diseases or non-communicable diseases;

pooling all of the data that we get into the management system, and have that used to make real, meaningful policy decisions.

    Now, I am looking directly at the Minority Leader, because when I was at the Division of Health and Social Services back then, when I left in 2013 or so, practically all of these things were on the books. They were on the books to be done. Coincidentally, we have gotten to a point [Crosstalk] - exactly. Remember he spoke about us being colleagues? He knows Madam Presiding Officer, we are now in a position to actually get those things done, [Desk thumping] finally for the people of Tobago.

    I have spoken quite a bit already about the Department of Social Protection so, I will not go into that a whole lot. But one of the things I want to highlight very quickly, is us ensuring that we have ease of access of our services. What does that mean? We are going to get to the point soon, where you do not have to come into my Division to get services from our social workers and counsellors and so forth, but they will actually be out there - in the health centres; in the community centres, being a part of the community. So, if you are in the East; if you are in the North; if you are in the West, you do not need to come into Scarborough to access our services.

    Let me also say that part of our ease of access, will   actually be going to cashless systems. What does that mean? Instead of one   man having four hundred (400) and something food cards in his back pocket,   what we will do is actually have a system where each recipient would be able   have it on their phone and swipe. [Desk thumping] [Crosstalk]



Member, you have five (5) minutes.

12.16 P.M

The Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance has as he indicated, moved over the food card fiasco to the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection. One of the things that my Administrator and I have been speaking quite a bit about, (and I have actually started putting the pen to paper) is ensuring that we actually build out the policies for all of these social grants, all of these social programmes, so that we will never be in a position again, Madam Presiding Officer, where the Auditor General would say to us, “You all are just giving away things and you do not have it properly structured.” And as I have said to my officers and I have said it to my Administrator on several occasions - I am going to be one of those individuals who ensures that my name does not call in any Auditor General’s Report. Because we are taking the time now to actually put the policies in place; we are taking the time now to actually put the systems in place; we are taking the time now to have the necessary staff so that they do not have to be overburdened, so that they do not have to take shortcuts because they have so many clients and do not have the time to get the work done correctly. We are taking the time now to put all of those things in place, because Tobago deserves a government that is well structured, and that is strategic, and that is designed to function for all of Tobagonians and not just the lucky few. [Desk thumping]

     I will take a couple minutes to highlight some of the other projects that the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection will be working closely at doing.

     One of those first includes ensuring that we actually have a proper Waste Management System on the island.

   What we have now, is a system that allows everybody to just throw away everything and they end up in the landfill. It is a landfill that is - and by the way it is actually one of the only properly functioning landfills in the country. I congratulate my technical staff, who have been working their behinds off to ensure that it is actually a functioning landfill, even though they have been met with a lot of opposition for a lot of things before - and I would not go down that road because I have plenty to talk about. So we are going to ensure that within the Division, that we actually have a Waste Management System that takes into consideration all of the things that we do not need to throw away; that takes into consideration the concept of composting so that we do not have to throw perishable things into the garbage; that takes into consideration what can be recycled, to work closely with the Recycling Company that is already here to ensure that if it is plastic, if it is glass, if it is paper, you are not throwing that into the landfill and that way, we can actually extend the life of the landfill. Because at this point, the landfill has two (2) or three (3) years again. So, if we do not do something right now, we will not be able to continue keeping Tobago clean.

    My Department of Public Health is one that has also been plagued with not necessarily having all of the complement of staff. So we have very limited Public Health Inspectors, and we have been supplementing those Public Health Inspectors who are public servants, with contracted positions. Now, the thing about it is, that what people do not recognize is, that unless you actually have the public service position, you do not have the legal authority to go in and do the inspections, and do the shutting down, and do the things - going to Court - that we actually need you to do. So one of the things we are going to be working on, is to ensure that we actually have a proper complement of Public Health Inspectors through the public service, so that they can actually function and do their job.

    The Office of the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), is another one of those entities that we will spend considerable time and considerable resources beefing up. When I say ‘beefing up,’ what do I mean? The office of the CMOH is actually responsible and for many of us, we had no idea that there was a CMOH or anything like that before CO VID- 19. It was only after COVID-19 that we realized that these entities were here. They have the oversight responsibility for public health, generally. 



12.06 P.M

In February or maybe March, Madam Presiding Officer, we have been getting these bills from an organization in Trinidad and the bills that came to my desk from that organization in Trinidad said that we owed for January, about a eighteen thousand dollars ($18,000.00).

We owed for February, about a eighteen/twenty thousand dollars. ($18/20,000.00)

    We owed for March, about a eighteen/twenty thousand dollars ($ 18/20,000.00) and then, Madam Presiding Officer, I took my foppish self (because I didn’t really understand why we were being billed these bills) and called a meeting with the organization, because when you are talking about those kinds of funds, that is not a lot of money to cover. So I said, you know, we could figure it out; we could figure out how we pay the twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00) and eighteen thousand dollars ($18,000.00), only to be told, Madam Presiding Officer, by that organization, that “Eh, eh it is not just for January, February and March that you have not paid, but you have never paid a bill.”

     And when the rooms - the ‘Rainbow Rooms’ started in 2017/2018 around there, when we started providing the services for the ‘Rainbow Rooms’ about 2017/2018/2019 around that time, we have not paid a single bill from since then. So I foppishly walked into a meeting thinking that we need to figure out how we are going to be paying twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00), forty thousand dollars ($40,000.00) probably sixty thousand dollars ($60,000.00), only to be told that it is about two hundred and something thousand dollars that we have to pay, because we have never paid a bill.

     And you on the Minority side, have the gall, have the unmitigated gall to talk to us about being responsible and pay the people who we owe - honestly. Who do we owe? Who do we in the Progressive Democratic Patriots, Madam Presiding Officer, owe?

     But what we will do, Madam Presiding Officer, is that we have come in recognizing that the people of Tobago have given us the mandate to ‘fix this,’ even all of that mess, and that we will take our time, and that we will strategically do.

     One more little thing. We are speaking about the fact that the ‘Promises Never Materialize’ organization is now under new leadership, is now different, but I am wondering if the Minority Leader recognizes that the person who sat in the chair of Chief Secretary, is now the Leader. So if you had an opportunity to do it right, you could have started since January last year when the seat was hijacked. So I do not know who in Tobago will believe that this organization is brand new; suddenly brand new because you are now sitting there.

    Madam Presiding Officer, one of the things that I figured out on the 13th or maybe the 14th or the 15th of December when I walked into the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, was the fact that I was walking into an organization that in essence, needed to be rebuilt; rebuilt in essence from the ground up, and that is what we have been doing and that is what we will continue to do for Fiscal 2023.

    So we have been working very closely with Management Services Unit to ensure that we build out this organization; one that can actually provide effective and efficient service to the people of Tobago. Let me just say one little quick thing while I am here.

     One of the things that was said to me and I couldn’t even believe it, Madam Presiding Officer, is that the first couple days, having walked into my office - the first couple days - having said to some of the individuals who were my colleagues many years ago while I worked at the Division of Health - because they are the Heads of Departments and they are in senior positions in the Organization - and I said something that I thought was simple - “Come and see me in my office nah.” And it is because at that point many of them came up and say, “Wait, is so up here look? Is so up here look?” And I said, What do you mean by, “Is so up here look? This is the Secretary’s office.” And they let me know that they had never been allowed up there before. And they let me know that they were not allowed to ride the elevator with them. [Desk thumping]

     So when I say, Madam Presiding Officer, that we are in the position right now of building an organization, I do not just mean building the actual structures as in the positions, no, that is not what we are talking about, Madam Presiding Officer.

     We are actually doing mental health building of the officers who have been there and who have been abused, and who have been misused and who have been afraid to say things because of the level ‘cuss’ that some of them were getting.

    So, Madam Presiding Officer, within the next Fiscal you would see within the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Services, a Department of Health and that Department of Health will be an entity that actually does something that we have never been able to do in the Tobago House of Assembly before.

     That includes actually doing an overview of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA). So what we have been doing for all of these years, is just saying to the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), that we are giving you this money to do whatever. We have never really been in a position where we have the people at the divisional phase say, “This is the data that we have collected about Health.” Because we have collected this data, this is a policy we can now build; because we have now built this policy, this is the annual services agreement that we are now going to give to you. And now that we have given you the Annual Services Agreement and we have given you the money, we can then say at the back end, that we are now monitoring and evaluating what you do to see if the money that you are spending has met the requirements. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has never had the kind of structure to do that with the Tobago Regional Health authority and that is actually one of the things that we will be building out within the next Fiscal year.

     We will also be building - and I am glad that you have recognized the term, “A Department of Social Protection,” because that includes ensuring that all of our Social Protection staff; all of our Social workers; all of our Therapeutic Counsellors; all of our mediators; all of those individuals who we need to help us treat with everything that has been happening over the last two (2) years and the years before, we need to put that in a space or developing it in a way that actually makes sense or that actually works, that would allow us to do the kind of things that the Minority Leader spoke about, including for example, getting additional roving caregivers. There are roving caregivers already there - getting additional ones on the ground so that we can provide those additional services.






Thank you again, Madam Presiding Officer. We can get - and I will say it again, at this point - if we look at all of the Estimates, all of the three point nine seven billion dollars ($3.97b), because it really does represent the six point nine percent (6.9%) of what we estimate the national budget to be - because in 2000, there was a ruling that said we can get up to six point nine percent (6.9%). So we will say to those on the other side, that if for the whole of last year, you were telling us that you were willing to give us six point eight percent (6.8%), for the whole of last year (started in January with the consultations) you were telling us that we could get six point eight percent (6.8%), remind your Colleagues of that promise that they made to the people of Tobago. [Desk thumping]

     I want to touch on one other little thing before I move into my substantive presentation.

     It is the fact that one of the things we recognize having come in, is that we have so much debt - so much debt to the point that I am now personally (as Secretary with responsibility for Health, Wellness and Social Protection) afraid to go into meetings with entities. Let me give you an example.


This is the last time that I am going to be saying this.   Please allow Members who are making their presentations, to have their   presentations made without any interruptions. Please - everyone. Continue.

 ...   six point nine percent (6.9%). [Desk thumping]

Madam Presiding Officer, I understand that what I am   saying is very, very, very disturbing, which is why you can continue to try   to disturb me and to try to derail this.

I am wondering my dear friend, if he recognizes that when   we speak about our young people not doing well in school and the poor tourist   numbers and not mapping the tourist attractions, and all of that stuff that   he laid out that sounds so nice and sounds so simple and sounds so easy to   do, if he realizes that up to December, 2021, the organization that he sits here proudly representing had (that you campaigned for) the opportunity to do every single one of those things that he just spent time talking about. [Desk thumping] Maybe it is because - and I am really happy that the Minority Leader has indicated that yes, some of the things that the Chief Secretary spoke about on Thursday, are things that have been written in plans and manifestos, but the reason we need to speak about them now, and the reason we need to talk about them now, and the reason we need to put them in 2023, is because they were never done. [Desk thumping] “Promises Never Materialize.” [Desk thumping] The organization that you represent and I will say it again, “Promises Never Materialize.”

     I look back at some of the budgets over the last couple years, because we are talking about a three point nine seven billion dollar ($3.97b) budget being lofty. When I look back at the budget that was read in:


  • June 2016 - $5.39b

  • June 2017 - $4.9lb

  • June 2018 - $4.58b

  • June 2019 - $4.7lb


The budget that was presented last week is for - what - three point nine seven billion dollars ($3.97b) [Desk thumping] So when we talk about three point nine seven billion dollars ($3.97b) - when we talk about, Madam Presiding Officer, the need for us to temper ourselves on this side, what I recognize is a continual wish of the ‘Promises Never Materialize’ organization, to say to the people of Tobago, that you all need to keep accepting absolute bare minimum - absolute bare minimum is what you are telling the people of Tobago. Because we have recognized that what you have been saying is, the people on this side who have asked for three point nine seven billion dollars ($3.97b) and we have asked for six point nine percent (6.9%) which by the way (and I am going to say it again because it seems like we continue to forget it) the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC), just before Mr. Hochoy Charles demitted office in 2000, indicated that we can get from the Central Government, between four point zero three percent (4.03%) and six point nine percent (6.09%) which means right now, right, right, right, right, right, right, right now, without any new laws, we are able to get...[Interruption]

Member, Minority Leader please, pay the same courtesy.   Please.

Thank you.

11.56 P.M

[Desk thumping] Madam Presiding Officer, thank you for allowing me to join the first debate of the first budget presented by this Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Administration.

    I would like to start by congratulating my dear Colleague, the Honourable Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy, for a stellar budget presentation. [Desk thumping]

     I understand that there are people in Trinidad, who are still speaking in amazement at how forward-thinking and how visionary and how refreshing, yes, that budget was, that he presented on Thursday. Congratulations. [Desk thumping]

    Madam Presiding Officer, I am deciding as I stand, which direction I should go. I had come prepared to speak about what is happening at the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection and of course, the Tobago Regional Health Authority, but after listening to the Minority Leader, I am a teeny weeny bit confused - just a teeny weeny bit.

    I am trying to figure out, Madam Presiding Officer, if all   of us in this room knows that the PDP has been in office since December,   2021. lam also trying to figure out if, and yes, I know you keep saying it   because you want to prevent us from saying it, but my dear ex-principal came   into power in 2001 - four (4) consecutive terms and the organization that is represented by the Minority Leader, was in control of this Tobago House of Assembly, up until December. So I am wondering, Madam Presiding Officer, if he   recognizes that everything... [Interruption]


Thank you, Minority Leader.

Member, for   Belle Garden/Glamorgan, you may join the debate.[Desk thumping]

11.46 P.M

    This resort town will be designed specifically to attract the leading innovators and tech content creators, leveraging the unique ambiance of a resort type environment and our wann and welcoming weather to stimulate creativity.

    The presence of these tech companies will be leveraged to develop a modem and digitized Public Administration system through the Assembly and the island. I am going with - this is our recommendation since the time we brought that Motion, “Treating with Remote Workforce Policy” to also establish free Wi-Fi access throughout Tobago, so that would drive that policy of Remote Workforce - persons working from home.


EDUCATION:


    We are saying, and I am proposing that Early Childhood Education should be a thing that is free to all children in Tobago. Because one of the issues that was pointed out in our education system is that persons are leaving primary school without the basic numeracy and literacy skills and therefore perhaps, some of this is as a result of persons not having that foundation at a very early level. And the reason why some of themmay not have that foundation at a very early level, is because their parents simply cannot afford to send them or pay to get quality early childhood care.

    So, we are saying, create a seamless free early childhood education system so that the curriculum is similar all across the board and the child in Speyside gets the same type of early childhood education as a child in Canaan.


CULTURE AND PERFORMING ARTS:


  • Establishment of a Cultural Ambassador Fund;

  • Incentives for locally produced films;

  • Travel grants for artistes performing outside of Tobago;


Madam Presiding Officer, I wish to submit the following recommendations:


  • The most critical thing required at this time, under Health, is the appointment of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Board to improve corporate governance and efficiency.


I hope when my fonner Colleague, Member for Belle Garden/Glamorgan comes to address us, that she would give us a status on the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) that is long outstanding.

  • A predictable and realistic budgetary allocation for the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA);


Madam Presiding Officer:


  • It is our respectful view that six hundred million dollars ($600m) is insufficient to effectively resource the primary secondary and tertiary facilities of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) including the operationalization of the Roxborough hospital and the Moriah Health Centre in a period of emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and Monkey Pox;

  • Strengthening of institutional frameworks within the health system;

  • Review of standard operating procedures;

  • Development of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for all levels of management;

  • Review of health care quality control management systems;

  • Expansion of clinical services to include Orthopedic services, etc;

  • Enhancing services such as Oncology to meet the increasing demands;

  • Establishment of a Tobago-based arm of the Medical Board for seamless and timely processing of licensing and other certification needs;

  • A ‘Dollar for Dollar’ Medical Assistant Grant in addition to the Emergency Medical Assistant Grant to assist Tobagonians waiting on procedures at State Health institutions for  a period exceeding three (3) months and desirous to access the service privately.


And the reason why we are promoting this specialized   ‘Dollar for Dollar’ Medical Assistant Grant, is because the way how the   Emergency Medical Assistant Grant is set up, once the service is offered in   the public institution, then you are unable to access the grant privately.

    So we are saying, if the system is not working, if the   system is taking too long, then if the person cannot have the means to start   something then we should help them along the way.

    This is a new People’s National Movement (PNM); this is a   Minority Leader that has his first shot and would do things   differently, [Desk thumping] so 1 have nothing to be ashamed of -   nothing at all. We are proud of our history; we are proud of the development of Tobago across the length and breaath. [Desk thumping]

    I remember Tobago and I am sure that the Member for Plymouth would remember that Bailey bridge in Plymouth - one way; board - that was pre-2001, and then the People’s National Movement (PNM) came into power and now cars could fly into Plymouth. [Desk thumping] That is People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) development.

    Madam Presiding Officer, this is about a mere highlight of the alternative plans and recommendations that the Minority is advancing for consideration at this time, as we seek to work with the Executive to achieve the best and most realistic outcome for all of Tobago.

    Madam Presiding Officer, as the Minority Leader who is a proud Member of the party that was the most recent fonner Administration, I am aware that the easy rebuttal as I am hearing right now, is to say why this was not implemented then? However, I want this Executive Administration of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) to note that every Leader comes with his personal style and vision and I represent a new and different People’s National Movement (PNM) in Tobago at this time. [Desk thumping]

    The gentleman sitting opposite to me, he also sat like this. The gentleman who is sitting opposite me and is now the Chief Secretary - and you have to watch him - you have to take instructions from him. [Laughter] [Desk thumping] So you don’t have to always carry the Leadership post up front, but it comes - just do the work.

    Madam Presiding Officer, before I bring my maiden Budget Presentation response to a close, I am reminded of the words of a foremost national intellectual who said:


    “Those who come after us must appreciate that they stand on the shoulders of those who went before them and that it is important to see what challenges their predecessors faced, [Desk thumping] standing as if they were in their shoes and looking at the world through their eyes at the time.

    Doing so only makes all of us humble, realizing that change does not come easily or quickly.

    It is therefore, humbling to stand on the shoulders of great Leaders of the past, who have graced these hallowed halls, have been served with humility, dignity and have paved the way for all of us to enjoy the rights and privileges as well as our freedoms and quality of life. If we fail to remember our history, (you don't know anything about history) we are doomed to make the mistakes of the past.”


    As I stand, I reaffirm my commitment as Leader on this side of the House, this Minority Leader, to advance this island’s development and to preserve the gains and advances that we have made as a people, as an island and as a nation.


    It is Tobago first and party after, on this side. We are going to put Tobago first and party after. [Desk thumping] Not fire people first and then think party after.


    Madam Presiding Officer, this has been a very humbling morning

for me and I thank you, and I thank the people of Tobago for the opportunity to place this contribution on public record. [Desk thumping]






Madam Presiding Officer, what we are saying, is that such   an announcement should be backed by a clear policy, so that the others do not   feel left out. The people dealt with the PNM and it is the same way that the   people would deal with you. [Desk thumping] The people already saying   it. One term - one done.

As the need for food security becomes more and ever glaring, there should be areas of focus to amend this.


  • Revolutionizing   access to effective land preparation;

  • Create commercial chillers for farmers for rent and further incentivize local food storage capabilities;

  • Fertilizer like feed should become a component for expanded storage to reduce the cost;

  • Tobago Farmers’ Irrigation project should continue and expanded;

  • Farmers’ Market in Roxborough;


We know that the PNM would have initially set up to make   the one down at Shaw Park, and now we are saying that in Roxborough, we   should look at a space there. Since the Member for Roxborough/Argyle is   always absent from his district, perhaps the Secretary of Agriculture could   help him set up a Farmers’ Market in Roxborough.

  • Youth development in   agriculture; and


We are also proposing:

  • The construction of a   feed mill because this is pivotal to livestock, using indigenous raw   materials.


TOURISM:

One of the first challenges I believe we need to tackle   when it comes to the issue of tourism, is doing a comparative product audit   to identify product offering gaps in Tobago as compared to the rest of the   Caribbean. What this means, is that we must be able to do a SWAT Analysis -   look at what the other islands are offering, look at what we are offering and   see where the gaps lie.

• Private/public   construction of a cruise port;

• Development of a   retirement village in Northside Tobago to

attract retirees;

We believe that this concept is a novel one and would   ensure that the island can do some tourist specifications, so we will be able   to target the seniors in terms of this retirement village.

• Development of an   eco-resort to cater specifically to the European tourists who are becoming   increasingly environmentally conscious with accommodation and food;


We have a number of customer service, but we are saying   that this programme should be made available and online to all   residents over eighteen (18).


  •  Establishment of an   Integrated Tourism Booking and Tour Reward System for all stakeholders;

YOUTH  AND SPORT


  • Establishment of the Tobago Youth Development Company to act as the executive and the executing   arm of the Department of Youth, so that youth organizations can get more   efficient support;


One of the key features of this Tobago Youth Development   Company, is that it will be managed and operated by young people themselves.


  • Development of a Sport Academy to act as an incubator in Tobago to manage the holistic development of all Tobago­based elite athletes from the playing field to them   becoming a professional athlete;

  • Establishment of the Tobago Community Sport and Recreational Model, where sport development will be taken back to the grass root of every community, and sports will become a daily way of life again - with competitions at all age group levels taking place every weekend.


I am sure my good friend, Secretary Ian Pollard can relate to the ‘Park-and- Rent’ Model in the United States.


  • Engagement of leading athletes as Sporting Ambassadors to promote destination Tobago, as well as the accommodation incentive policy for high-performing Sport and Cultural Ambassadors, persons like Duvonne Stewart; Kenya Cordner; Kelly-Anne Baptiste and Semoy Hackette.


These Ambassadors, these sons and daughters of our soil should be properly accommodated and remunerated as well.


INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY:


  • Establish a Stand-alone Division;


We believe that the business of Innovation and Technology requires more attention than simply being a Department in a Division. The world is moving towards a digitized system - a digitized global environment. Therefore, if we do not put in the type of infrastructural architecture, Tobago will be left behind. Accordingly, we are promoting for the consideration of this Executive Council that perhaps we do away with the Office of the Deputy Ambassador for Trinidad, and we create and establish a Stand-alone Division of Investment, Innovation and Technology which will manage Cove and all other parks to come.


  • Establish an Innovation and Technology Park in South-West Tobago, where leading tech companies will be invited to set up a smart resort destination.



  • Free legal support for Land Titles registration;

  • A ‘Land Sharing Programme’ where families can put up and own a plot of land and maintain that - we would ensure that we maintain traditional Tobago settlement values. Often times we have families who prefer to all settle amongst themselves in one space. So this programme would allow persons and families to be able to all purchase land together.

  • Policy to incentivize designated Sport and Cultural Ambassadors with the allocation of housing solutions;


Madam Presiding Officer, I raised this point. I have no issue with us recognizing our sporting heroes, but the policy must not be in silos - it cannot be in vaps. What is wrong with Kenya? What is wrong with Kelly- Anne? What is wrong with Akeem Stewart? [Interruption][Crosstalk] 


Members, allow him to continue please. 

Continue,   Minority Leader.

Protection from what, Minority Leader continue. 

  Continue.

Madam Presiding Officer, I seek your protection.

11.36 P.M
  • Youth employment and under employment;



That is a very serious issue at this time. And we are suggesting that to help with this challenge, we launch a ‘Private Sector Apprenticeship Programme’ which provides the private sector with employment, where the THA will match the subsidized salary by fifty percent (50%) for youths deemed eighteen to thirty (18 - 30) years old and single parents. So this would help the private sector to build and provide them with the requisite employee support.


  • Remove the burdensome experience criteria which discriminates against young professionals qualifying for management level employment.


Often times when you look at advertisements, persons are certified, but they are discriminated against because these policies of the old that speak to meritocracy, does not recognize the young professionals. So we are saying that as a policy, the THA should consider removing those barriers to young persons being able to qualify for managerial positions by either limiting their year qualification, to move it from sometimes as high as ten (10), to as low as perhaps three (3) years or so.

  • Establish a ‘Succession Planning Programme’ in the TEA, where all contracted staff who attain the age of fifty-eight (58), is paired with an understudy for two (2) years, so as to ensure knowledge transfer to young professionals.

  • Creation of three hundred (300) jobs through the expansion of the private sector as well as the establishment of the productive special purpose companies of the TEA.

Madam Presiding Officer,

HOUSING AND SETTLEMENTS:

  • Construction of one thousand (1000) starter homes specifically for persons earning less than six thousand dollars 


provide extra foundation so that when the person - these are all plans in our 2021 Manifesto - we would have done it. [Crosstalk]

    I am giving you all ideas because you all are devoid of ideas. You all are devoid of ideas. [Interruption]


11.26 P.M

I remember the Member for Roxborough/Delaford telling the   previous Administration - “lower your gaze.” So why aren’t our gaze not   lowered? Why are we trying to repeat the very same things that we criticized?   Is not that the definition of hypocrisy? [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, I would like to ask the Member   for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside and the now Secretary of Finance,   Trade and the Economy - if his expectations are not met come September, what   are his plans if he does not get his requested allocation? What are his   priorities? It would be very instructive to hear what are the priorities of  this Administration? Because I believe if we are doing a budget yes, you may  ask for a little bit more than what you would get, but you should have a clear  and defined outline as to what are the things that are very, very important -   absolutely - you must do absolutely; what are the things you might do, and   what are the things that you can put off? So you have it coded. You may have   red, yellow, and green so that there is a clear process and a clear identification that whatever comes, we as Tobagonians will   be able to continue to live and prosper here in Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, another troubling situation was   an antiquated, antagonistic, combative approach undertaken by the Chief   Secretary in his relationship with the Central Government. It is strange that   this is his posture given the fact that the Prime Minister has led from the   front and had led his Cabinet to meet with this Chief Secretary and his team   to maximize the potential to foster a smooth transition for the oncoming   Administration.

     In fact, I recall the former Administration used to   receive their Budgetary Allocation month-to-month because they understood the   dire circumstances of the economy of the country, and they worked together as   partners to ensure that we in Tobago also held a brunt of the challenges and   worked in partnership.

    Now that this Administration is in power, they are   actually getting advance allocations, according to the law. And we commend   that because that is the legal arrangement. However, it also goes to show   that this Administration of the Central Government of the People’s   National Movement (PNM) is willing to give Tobago its fair share regardless   of who sits in the seat. [Desk thumping]

    Madam Presiding Officer, Ministries, Board of Directors,   major State Enterprises and State Agencies have met with the Chief Secretary   and other Secretaries. Therefore, I would recommend that the Chief Secretary   temper his rhetoric. And I wish to advise him to adopt a more consultative   approach to his relationship with the Central Government.

    Madam Presiding Officer, as Minority, my vision is to see   an empowered Tobago, driven by people-centered, sustainable and innovative   policies, engendered to create opportunities for all Tobagonians. Not for  some, but for all.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this Tobago dream is one where   the people of Tobago are seen as the island’s greatest asset and therefore,   everything that we set out to do, must be for the people, of the people of   Tobago, by the people of Tobago and of the people of Tobago. It means   empowering our families and our communities so that our villages can once   again truly raise our children. As Tobagonians, we must ensure that our indigenous Tobago residents, interests are preserved at all cost. Simply put, Tobagonians must have preference to the opportunities available here in Tobago.

    As Minority, my Tobago dream involves the creation of sound and sustainable policies that are relevant beyond the exploration of those who created them. In essence, sustainability simply means that whatever we do, whatever we build and develop should not only be to be benefit of our generation, but future generations alike. It therefore requires us as leaders and residents alike to not simply plan for ourselves, but plan for others in mind.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I dream of a Tobago where we create the enabling environment that would stimulate the productive potential of Tobagonians to innovate and transform Tobago to the greatest island in the world, to the benefit of all Tobagonians. This dream is made real only if we can divorce ourselves from the trivialities of partisanship and favouritism where one is employed because one is the best fit for the job, rather than the longest party supporter.

     The infrastructural facilities afforded to the people in the West, are the same infrastructural facilities afforded to the people in the East. The issues of the district of the minority will receive the same level of priority in the areas of the majority. [Desk thumping] This vision I extend to all right thinking citizens of Tobago as a credible alternative to what currently exists.

     Madam Presiding Officer, my budget response is framed around the theme, “Empowering Tobagonians through Sustainable and Innovative Policies - Providing Opportunities for all” - everybody, regardless of race; religion; politics; creed; face; colour; whatever you have - once you are a Tobagonian, once you are a resident of Tobago, the opportunities belong to each of you.

     We feel strongly about the development of Tobago that allows for all citizens to enjoy a way of life that makes them feel proud to be a Tobagonian. When we speak to sustainability - and that is to ensure that policies are implemented that do not impede the development of future generations - I believe that in order to build out Tobago to be the greatest little island, we must first start by empowering families and provide new opportunities for all.

Families that are empowered and are given opportunities to   be constructive and active participants on the island will aide in creating   stronger communities. This in turn would lead to an overall increase in   productivity in society and then we can see a sustainable, productive and   equitable society. This, Madam Presiding Officer, is my vision which I will   speak to.

I just want to provide for the benefit of the records and   the people of Tobago through you, Madam Presiding Officer, some highlights of   what this vision of people-centered, sustainable, innovative policy for all,   looks like.

SOCIAL   PROTECTION ESTABLISHMENT:


  • We would focus on our seniors because a society is measured by the way you care for your seniors   and your elders and therefore, it is important that we believe that our   seniors - we should provide adequate and suitable care for seniors by the establishment of two (2) senior care centers - one in the East and one in the   West;

  • Re-establishment (and   you’re free to borrow them) of the roving Caregiver Programme in every   district to ensure that our seniors are cared for during the day at their homes;

  • Launch of the ‘Orphan Grant’ - and we are saying that it could be a threshold of about twelve hundred dollars ($1200) to eighteen hundred dollars ($1800) given to persons deemed the lawful guardian of a child under eighteen (18) based on their needs assessment;

  • Launch of the ‘Single Parent Training and Empoweiment Programme’ called STEP that provides free daycare service, paid skills training and Apprenticeship Programme;

  • Establish relief homes specifically for victims of Domestic Abuse in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs);

  • Re-establish Employee Counselling Support Programme in all Divisions so that employees can get that psycho-social support;

  • Launch the ‘Big Brother Men’s Programme’ because we believe that more attention needs to be paid to our men and boys;

  • Launch of the 'I Care Community Mentorship Programme’ where we would see persons as mentors in the programme adopting various families to ensure that these families get the required support.

11.16 P.M

Nobody is leaving their country to come and is not sure of   the type of accommodation they would get. They would leave and come when they   are certain that there are some grand elements that they can look forward to  and would guarantee them that their stay is quite comfortable.

I now turn to Section 4.46 and 4.47, which speak to:

INVESTMENTS

Once again, the Chief Secretary is spreading   disinformation and misleading Tobagonians.

      I want to speak to the lands at Rocky Point because I was   on the Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Company Limited   (ETEC) Board at one point in time. What the Chief Secretary did not tell   Tobagonians, is that the lands at Rocky Point are indeed vested with the   Evolving Technologies Limited Company (ETEC). So the lands are not vested   with the Tobago House of Assembly at this time. The Evolving Technologies   Limited Company (ETEC) as you know, is a State Enterprise of the Government,   and that has been something way back since 1962 - that has been around, that   arrangement where the lands were vested with the State. [Laughter] As you know ETEC was also manages the Magdalena Grand Resort, so the arrangement is nothing new. Such collaboration between the State and the THA is nothing new or unusual. Therefore, it is for that reason, the preliminary stage of this engagement was managed by the company in which the lands were legally vested.

     The Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) were equal partners in this arrangement. Because at the end of the day, the project was implemented for the benefit of boosting Tobago’s Tourism sector, creating employment and business for the people of Tobago.

   I now move on to Section 45: 4.51, which highlights the creation of a Tourism Cross Sectional Committee to be established.

     Madam Presiding Officer, yet again, I would like to bring to the attention of the Administration, that this Committee is already in existence and therefore, it is disingenuous of this Administration to trump this Committee as something new.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I would like to turn my attention   to: EDUCATION - one of my favourite Divisions. [Laughter]   [Crosstalk]

     One of the critical issues with our education system, is   that of the poor performance of our students leaving primary school and   heading to secondary school. Instructional coaches were introduced to work   principally with teachers in Mathematics and English, under the Charles-led   Administration.

     A curriculum was prepared for the students who scored   thirty percent (30%) and below. Unless specific attention is directed towards   this group of students, they may turn out to be unproductive and a potential   burden to the society. If this Administration truly desires to cater to all   students, you have to ensure that plans are laid out to target these students   in a specific and measurable way.

     As it relates to training for teachers, any such plan   should speak to the attitudes of our educators to cater to all students, no matter their ability.

Nothing in the education statement was tangible or   suggested any initiatives by which one can measure outcomes.

Madam Presiding Officer, I now turn to:

     HEALTH   CARE DELIVERY

     The Secretary was once considered and probably is still   considered, a health expert, when she sat on this side - the Minority side.   She pontificated on all things health. Now that she is on the other side, our  health care delivery is at its lowest ebb, characterized by long waiting lines, poor health care delivery and high mortality, an inefficient ambulance   service and the list goes on and on and on, Madam Presiding Officer.

     The health care providers are trying their very best, but   this Secretary appears to be missing on the job. She is not answering calls. She barely wants to see the public; putting up ‘Friday only,’ as if she is doing the public a favour. (It is the people’s taxpaying dollars that is  paying you, Madam Secretary). So, Madam Presiding Officer, is it a lack of  empathy for the people, or is it that the Secretary is just tired?

     What is the real status of the Roxborough Hospital? Why are services still not yet in full operation as promised? Where are the smart objectives - you had liked those words - ‘smart objectives.’ Where are the smart objectives, Madam Secretary? I know you liked that word, you used to champion it plenty when they sat on this side - measurables, smart - yeah man.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the topic of autonomy seems to be only important to this Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Administration in furtherance of their political ambitions and nothing less. The PDP, after derailing the Autonomy Bill, is yet to clearly articulate a clear position on what kind of governance system they want for Tobago. The PDP seems to have three (3) distinctly, varying positions by its three (3) leaders - much like the animal farm - Squealer wants federation and Snowball wants secession - but wants to be Prime Minister of Trinidad, both at the same time and well Napoleon, he is playing right down the middle - he is neither here nor there.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this is the kind of games this Administration is playing with a matter that captures the imagination of every Tobagonian, fought for by every leader of Tobago - from the days of James Biggart; to ANR Robinson; to Mr. Hochoy Charles; to Mr. Orville London and to Mr. Kelvin Charles and this matter that every Tobagonian takes particular interest in, seems to be only but a political game for this Administration.

     Madam Presiding Officer, this Administration boasts about fixing Tobago and engaging in meaningful investments which in turn generates revenue. Yet, this very Administration would have impeded efforts for this island’s development as I referenced the Sandals project. They have even set out to derail the airport project, as well as the marina project at Cove.

     The Secretary of Infrastructure has already placed in the public domain, an expression of interest for a marina in North-East Tobago, which ironically was celebrated by this current Administration for its designation as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Designated Biosphere Reserve. Is this the same Administration that announced in its budget, the commencement of a Spatial Development Plan? Was this designation considered in addition to the provisional Blue Flag Tourism Designation before King’s Bay Estate was chosen for this marina development? Is this a case of putting the jack before the donkey, or simply a case of governance by vaps? Your guess is as good as mine.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we need to be mindful that what was presented last Thursday, was a mere ‘wish list’ as it is notably referred to in his previous budget responses by the Member for Roxborough/Delaford. We need to manage our (and I want to caution this Administration that you need to manage) expectations with the allocation to be given to the Tobago House of Assembly to manage the affairs of the island that we hope would advance the lives of all Tobagonians, where they will feel empowered and continue on the path of sustainable development.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the Member for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside would always caution, admonish and suggest:


“As an Assembly, we have to sit and in a very reasonable way figure

out how we as an Assembly will find the budget that we wish for.”


     Even further, Madam Presiding Officer, the Secretary of Finance, Trade, and the Economy indicated in his 2021 Budget response, that from the past budgets, the Tobago House of Assembly does not receive its full allocation from the Central Government.



Madam Presiding Officer, I feel I might have to send a letter to the Public Safety that they are touting, because I really need protection in here.

     Madam Presiding Officer, permit me to turn my attention to this Administration's approach to resuscitating our Tourism Sector.

      The Secretary highlighted in Section 4.55, that there are not sufficient high-end rooms. The question is, when did you come to this reality? Where were you before? When did you wake up?

    The sad thing about this situation is, that the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) is now trying to fix the very thing that you obstructured and destroyed. Sandals was a game changer to Tobago and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader was the one front and center taking credit for derailing the Sandals project. I remember his words, “Sandals, you could go, but I will call you back when I am in government.” Those were the words of the Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP). They celebrated when Sandals pulled out because all they were seeing, was the politics with little care for the people - unconcerned about the competitiveness of all tourism products across the islands.

     I would like to draw reference to an article written by the Gleaner in 2016, which spoke to the revenue generation, airlift traffic and employment opportunities of such an investment on the island of Grenada, another small island developing-state like ourselves with a population twice the size of ours.


“The Sandals Resort International’s entering to the Eastern Caribbean island is credited for the nineteen percent (19%) increase in stock over tourist arrivals in the last three (3) years. Sandals further brought about employment of five hundred (500) persons on the island.”


     I quote directly from the article that not only has the country seen an increase in visitors, but service quality - service - one of the biggest complaints here in Tobago, is our ability to provide consistent quality service and the presence of Sandals in Grenada ensured that the service quality improved considerably while linkages have been strengthened, particularly between the small agricultural fishing sector and the resort. So not only did the tourism sector improve and benefited, but also theysaw benefits for the farmer, for the fishermen and for all the other auxiliary services.

     There have also been further opportunities in terms of attractions and tours, and exposure to other elements that are Grenada. So the concept and the misinformation/disinformation that was spreading, that persons would just come and stay in the hotel and nobody else on the island would benefit, was an absolute myth - does not exist.

     The entire island benefits because not only does the persons who are coming to the hotel benefit, but the other hotels benefit as well, because not everybody who go on the plane, is going to Grenada, or going to Sandals. What you do, is provide access; you are able to attract more airlines and when you are able to provide access to the destination, you would still have your backpackers coming; you would still have your other leisure persons coming and they may not want to be in that all inclusive hotel; they may not even be able to afford that all inclusive hotel, but what is the benefit of having a Sandals just for a destination, is that it drives access and with access, provides opportunities for increasing tourism.

      They are now trying to embrace ‘Marriott;’ but even ‘Marriott’ they did not want. So it is kind of disingenuous, highly hypocritical for you to come here now and pretend that you want to build out more rooms when you were the one preventing more rooms from coming to Tobago. Sandals is the gem of resorts in the Caribbean. It is the most well-own brand in the Caribbean and we run that out of here - you, the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) run that out of here.

    As it relates to income generation for the hoteliers, it was seen that every hotel on the island now benefited from new carriers such as Condor, Air Canada, Jet Blue and Delta. Under our very own, we would not be able to attract these airlines, but because Sandals have the brand relationship, they are able to pull these kinds of airlines to our destination.

Local Tour Operator, Edwin Frank even stated:


“It has been a win/win situation with a multiplying effect, directly and indirectly. It speaks volumes and using the terminology ‘trickling effect’ would be putting it mildly.”


     So the small man benefited to the point that he is saying that it is a win/win situation, but we here in Tobago have to be mourning a lose/lose, nobody won, because the Tourism Sector is struggling, while at the same time, we lost the opportunity to have a development such as Sandals.

     I am seeing Tobagonians going to Curacao where Sandals   would have took tneir things and carried them over to, and enjoying it. But   we here in Tobago, cannot boast that we have a Sandals-type resort - a resort   that tourists are familiar with, that brings brand familiarity because when   you are familiar with the brand, when there is confidence in the brand, then people would come.




Members, please allow the Minority Leader to continue. Members please!

Minority Leader, go ahead.


11.06 P.M

    Madam Presiding Officer, the Public Servants of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) have asked me to ask this Administration through you, where is this ex gratia payment? Where is this ex gratia payment? You promised the people this thing since Christmas, where is it? I looked, I listened - not a word in this Budget. Where is the ex gratia payment that you promised the Public Servants? I think it is ten thousand (10,000).

 Madam Presiding Officer, the Public Servants of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) have asked me to ask this Administration through you, where is this ex gratia payment? Where is this ex gratia payment? You promised the people this thing since Christmas, where is it? I looked, I listened - not a word in this Budget. Where is the ex gratia payment that you promised the Public Servants? I think it is ten thousand (10,000).

     Madam Presiding Officer, I would also like to highlight some inconsistencies seen in the Statement presented last Thursday, one of

which is the idea for the Blue Economy. One of the plans stated is to upgrade all fishing facilities to ensure they are HASSIP compliant or meet international up-to-date food safety standards and be functionally effective. This is also an initiative of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in their 2021 Manifesto where they saw a continuation of facilitating compliant fish markets, fishing centres and landing sites, including the reconstruction of the Parlatuvier Jetty.

While it was shared that the fishing industry is a multibillion dollar industry, there was no clear plan on how we would tap into this industry to generate real revenue.

     How much do you plan to invest in funding to truly have this industry contribute to the island’s GDP? The ‘Capital of Paradise’ as the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) is now trying to lay claim to, as their initiative, was fully renovated in December 2021 and all payments were made by the previous TACCO Board. Therefore, it was the People’s National Movement’s (PNM's) visionary policy that saw the need to invest in this type of long haul fishing vessel. It was the People’s National Movement (PNM) who bought the vessel. That is undisputable. [Cross talk]

Madam Presiding Officer, your protection please.



Thank you for your protection, Madam Presiding Officer. I feel like I will have to get two (2) security officers or something on this side. [Laughter] Madam Presiding Officer, as a matter of fact, it is our hope, that all categories of workers, including those working at current minimum wage levels, will receive an increase in salaries in the shortest possible time to cope with both rising food prices and rising fuel prices.

     Madam Presiding Officer, however, one cannot help but wonder,given that the requested allocation in the Estimates remained at eight million dollars ($8m) for URP, the question is, how would such an increase be sustained? And I would hope that the Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy or the relevant line Secretary would be able to explain today and give some level of comfort to the URP and the CEPEP workers that this is not just political grandstanding, and that you can indeed maintain and sustain that salary and they would not be paid late.

     Madam Presiding Officer, not only is the Minority concerned for these vulnerable workers who they may experience delays in their payment or even worse - retrenchment -I want to simply say to the CEPEP workers, the URP workers, the Reaforestation workers - to be very weary of this deceptive Administration, because half of what you see with these people, is just an illusion; most of what you hear, is neither near nor Farley - I mean far lie from the truth.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the Members opposite when they sat on this side of the House, always boasted that their budgets will always be prefaced with the amount of jobs they intend to create per year. And this is where I am referring again - jobs - yet, I have searched nearly and I have searched farly and in every nook and cranny for this fantasy of jobs for everybody, and yet again, it appears to be all but illusionary, dishonesty, disingenuity, huff and puff, Madam Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]

    Madam Presiding Officer, the more you interrogate the statement and compare the words to the figures, one cannot help but conclude that the maths is just not ‘mathsing’ - the maths is just not ‘mathsing.’ [Desk thumping]




Members please, allow the Minority to continue with this   presentation. Continue.

10.56 P.M

The project is   well on the way and to quote directly from the 2021 Budget

Statement, Section 3.7:


“Not suggesting malfeasance by any means, but recognizing   that our systems were antiquated, we embarked on a programme to re­engineer   and modernize our accounting systems, aimed at increasing efficiency,   accountability, transparency - real-time decision-making, ultimately   eliminating the use of a Manual Accounting System.”


      That was 2021, who was the Administration at the time? It was the People’s National Movement.” [Desk thumping]

     Even further,   Madam Presiding Officer, Section 3.7 of the 2021 

Budget Statement goes on to state:

     “The requirements and specification documents for the   budget cycle and the Public Sector Investment Programme were completed and a   Risk Management Workshop on the IFMIS was facilitated by the IDB. The Assembly committed to the public financial management monetization and best practice, as well as integrity and accountability and we are working diligently to ensure this project is completed in the most efficient and timely manner.”

    So, Madam Presiding Officer, if this is not intellectual dishonesty, I do not know a case more worthy of such qualification.

As yet another clear example of this Administration’s attempt to mislead the people of Tobago? However, we on this side are none the least surprised, because while they were telling Tobagonians that the PNM did absolutely nothing for Tobago, they are now in Government and realizing how difficult it is to do new things, so they are simply borrowing the PNM’s ideas.

     Madam Presiding Officer, another clear example is the strides the PNM has made in education and building our human capital potential. Our island has seen a drastic improvement in education since the PNM Administration assumed office 2001. This is certainly not a novel concept, since there has been funding provisions for Tobagonians to access Tertiary Education Programmes under the Financial Assistance Programme of the Department of Advanced Training and Advisory Services.

    We have also established IT literacy and walk-in centres in various communities on the island including Bagatelle, Buccoo, Bon Accord and Black Rock, so that residents may access online and distance educational programmes.

     We have facilitated greater participation of Tobago students in tertiary education through special arrangements with several providers including:


  • The University of Trinidad and Tobago;

  • The University of the West Indies;

  • The Cipriani College of Labour and Corporate Studies;

  • The University of the Southern Caribbean; and

  • The Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business,


to name a few.

     We were poised to expand the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Institute to a full-fledged University, having recently completed the feasibility study. (I hope you all borrowed that as well, because it is an excellent idea for Tobago). The number of persons on the island that have accessed tertiary education over the last twenty (20) years, increased from five percent (5%) pre 2001, to now twenty percent (20%). Madam Presiding Officer, some of us sitting in this very House (lots of us) have benefited from the higher education opportunities afforded to us by the PNM-led Administration. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, I personally go to the Scarborough Hospital with a sense of pride, knowing many of the medical professionals employed at that hospital, were either former classmates or relatives. That did not happen by accident. This policy of advanced training for Tobagonians (and we are giving credit where credit is due) started under the Hochoy Charles’ Administration and was expanded by the Orville London PNM regime.

     Madam Presiding Officer, the distinguished leaders, from Mr. Hochoy Charles, to Mr. Orville London; to Mr. Kelvin Charles and to Mr. Ancil Dennis, understood that governance is a continuum that can be likened to a relay and each Administration should recognize the point at which they received the baton, appreciating the ground that was covered in the previous legs of the race.

    Madam Presiding Officer, the intention of this Administration to develop a technologically driven, innovative, productive, resilient and competitive economy, is by no means a new or novel idea. We have established the Tobago Information Technology Limited that provides support and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) literacy training programmes in Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, as the Minority, we welcome the announcement of an increase in the salary for workers of Community-Based Environment Protection and Enhancement (CEPEP), Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and the Reforestation Programme.

    In fact, let me share a little history of the CEPEP Programme. This CEPEP Programme was borne right here in Tobago and was started by this PNM Administration. [Desk thumping] It was previously called the Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) and was later expanded. So, if CEPEP workers are getting a raise, we welcome that because life is about development and development is a process of ongoing growth and expansion. [Crosstalk] But we did not have the time. It was coming. [Crosstalk]




For Fiscal 2022, the Tobago House of Assembly requested a total of four point seven two seven billion dollars ($4.727b) from the Central Government, of which three point zero seven three billion dollars ($3.073b) was requested for Recurrent Expenditure. One point five four, nine billion dollars ($ 1.549b) was requested for Development Programme Expenditures.

    Sixty-one point four million dollars ($61.4m) was requested for URP and forty-three point four million dollars ($43.4m) was requested for CEPEP.

     The budgetary allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly for this Fiscal year, is two point three six five billion dollars ($2.365b), of which two point zero seven five billion dollars ($2.075b) was allocated for Recurrent Expenditure.

    Two hundred and sixty-four million dollars ($264m) for Capital Expenditure.

    Eighteen million dollars ($18m) for the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and eight million dollars ($8m) for CEPEP.

      The overall budgetary allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly for Fiscal 2022, is approximately four point five percent (4.5%) of the National Budget. This allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is consistent with the pattern of current Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert to allocate funds to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) that is above the minimum stipulated by the Dispute Resolution Commission of four point zero three percent (4.03%).

    Though all budgetary allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly for Fiscal 2022 is approximately two hundred and twenty-three million dollars ($223m) or ten point five percent (10.5%) higher than that for Fiscal 2021. Disaggregated - and I want to go slowly here, Madam Presiding Officer, because we have time. As it relates to Recurrent Expenditure, the Fiscal 2022 allocation is approximately one hundred and fifty-nine million dollars ($159m) or eight point three percent (8.3%) more than what was allocated in Fiscal 2021.

    So, what this is saying, is that this Administration has more corn to feed more fowls. This Administration is playing with more money than what the previous Administration had in 2021.

    As it relates to the Development Programme, the budgetary allocation for Fiscal 2022, is sixty-four million dollars ($64m) higher, which is an increase of thirty-two percent (32%) over the allocation for Fiscal 2021.

    Notably, as it pertains to the Unemployment Relief Programme, the Budgetary Allocation for Fiscal 2022, is eighteen million dollars ($18m), the same as was allocated for Fiscal 2021.

      Of the overall allocation of two point zero, seven, five billion dollars ($2.075b) for Recurrent Expenditure of the Tobago House of Assembly for Fiscal 2022, six hundred and seventy-two million dollars ($672m) or thirty- two percent (32%) is allocated for Personal Expenditure.

     Five hundred and ninety-seven point six million dollars ($597.6m) or twenty-nine percent (29%) for Goods and Services.

     Seven hundred and ninety point seven million dollars ($790.7m) or thirty-eight percent (38%) for current transfers and subsidies and fourteen point nine million dollars ($ 14.9m) or one percent (1%) for Minor Equipment purchases.

    Madam Presiding Officer, in the midterm, the Minister of Finance allocated to the Tobago House of Assembly, an additional sum of sixty million dollars ($60m), bringing the total allocation of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to two point four two five billion dollars ($2.425b)

    Madam Presiding Officer, a review of the last monthly expenditure report of the Tobago House of Assembly for the month of   March, indicates that releases to the Assembly of one point one five seven   billion dollars ($1.157b) and expenditure of one point zero two seven billion   dollars ($ 1.027b).

This results in an initial balance as of March, of one   hundred and twenty-nine point nine five three million dollars ($ 129.953m)   and taken together, provides the Tobago House of Assembly with a flow of   funds remaining of over one point three three eight billion dollars ($   1.338b) to carry us through the next three (3) months.

What this means, Madam Presiding Officer, is that the   Tobago House of Assembly is sufficiently resourced to meet its current   obligations and this guise, this mis-statement, this dis-information that the   Tobago House of Assembly has no money is a clear example of the   dis-information and dishonesty of this Administration.

    A further examination of the rate of recurrent expenditure   suggests a significant balance at the end of the Fiscal year. As such, there  can be no measurable explanation for withholding payment to suppliers for goods and services who possess verifiable and legitimate invoices. Pay the people. You owe the people, pay the people. You have the money. This glaring infraction is another instance of the deceit, victimization and spite being inflicted on the people of Tobago by this Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Administration.

     Additionally, Madam Presiding Officer, yet again, the Chief Secretary has been caught misleading the people of Tobago when he claimed that the Minister of Finance was in contravention of the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC) with respect to the supplemental funding.

     The overall budgetary allocation to Tobago, including the sixty million dollars ($60m) supplemental transfer, is two point four two five billion dollars ($2.425b). And when compared to the total National Budgetary Allocation, including the additional three point eight billion dollars ($3.8b) supplemental funding, amounts to fifty-five point five one billion dollars ($55.5lb) which represents an overall allocation percentage for Tobago of four point three seven percent (4.37%), which is well and I repeat, which is well within the minimum four point zero three percent (4.03%) band established by theDispute Resolution Commission (DRC). Dishonest,   disingenuous and dangerous threat to take the government to Court because the   government somehow breached or broke the law, but the numbers just do not   lie.

     In the words of Patrick Augustus Manning, it raises a   question, Madam Presiding Officer. If this Chief Secretary cannot speak the   truth in all things, imagine what they will do in big things. Imagine what   they will do in big things.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I turn to the Chief Secretary’s   presentation of modernizing the Assembly’s Financial reporting architecture.   Yet again, this Chief Secretary shamelessly attempts to own or rather hijack   the Integrated Financial Management Information System Project, as his very   own initiative, undertaken without giving any credit to the previous   Administration.

     Accordingly, Madam Presiding Officer, please permit me to  set the record straight and reference the 2021 Budget Statement.The   Integrated Financial Management Information System Project called TFMIS,’ is part of the public sector investment programme policy initiative   to modernize the Assembly’s financial infrastructure and architecture.

Minority Leader, retract your statement and move on with   your presentation.

Because numbers do not lie, I will continue.

Listen, if I am interrupted one more time, I will ask you to take five (5) minutes to cool off. This is the business of Tobago's people and I feel as if we are not taking it seriously. Retract the statement and move on with your presentation.

Thank you.


10.46 P.M

I threw the corn and the yard fowl got it.

Minority Leader, we are all guided by the Standing Orders. Aren’t we not?

I feel not protected in here, man.

I rise on a point of order, Madam Presiding Officer. Minority Leader, if you have a challenge, this can be taken to the Privileges Committee. Can we carry on with the business of the budget debate, please?

    Thank you.


I stand guided. However, we are all aware that the PSA audit pointed to issues (this is public information) of an account and expenditure and revenue statement that is speaking to insolvency.

Minority Leader, I tend to agree with the Member for Roxborough/Argyle. You are encroaching on Standing Order 45 (5). Please be guided. Retract your statement and continue.

Madam Presiding Officer, again, I stand on a point of order. The rules are clear in 45 that he is imputing improper motives. He is using insultive language. These facts cannot stand up. I wish for him to retract that statement and continue on the budget debate. He clearly pointed out to me - he is imputing improper motives and his language is offensive to me. I wish that he would retract that statement and it be struck from the Hansard for future generations. [Desk thumping]

Firstly, I am on my feet. This is not a fete match - no need to shout. Please, remember your Standing Orders.

Madam Presiding Officer, that is public record. It is in   the public domain. An audit was done and it said that the accounts of the   Public Services Association...

He must retract that statement, completely.

 I stand on a Point of Order.


Thank you so much. As I was saying, the gentleman was so   disappointed that he was not part of the severance package. In fact, he said   he had already started to plan only to find out that he did not fall within. So, you cannot come here and   compare what you are doing to Tobagonians as to what is happening at TSTT.

      You campaigned on a promise of ^fixing dis” and so   far, we have not seen much of anything. We commend some of the ideas that you   put forward, even though they are simply recycled People’s National Movement (PNM) plans and programmes, packaged differently, yet you accuse the very Administration of the People’s National Movement (PNM) of not doing anything  over the past twenty (20) years. [Laughter] Let me drink some water  for that. [Laughter] No, you complained and said that the PNM did nothing for twenty (20) years, but your plans look starkingly similar to that  of the People’s National Movement (PNM). In some cases, the ideas have been adopted in parts and in other cases, they have been copied and pasted wholesale, shamelessly without giving credit. This issue I intend to deal  with in more detail later in my presentation, Madam Presiding Officer.

     I have four (4) hours. The truth be told, that the results of the elections signalled the end of yet another era of the PNM in the politics of Tobago and the   birth of a new course. The former PNM Administration have built a strong foundation for Tobago - strong, and it now rests with this new generation of politicians to construct the walls and the roof to complete  this prime one hundred and sixteen (116) square miles of real estate that we all love - that is Tobago.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is important to note that the budget
 exercise which we are now debating, is but one stage in a very dynamic process. This has been recognized by every Assembly since 1996. It is for this reason that the editorial in yesterday’s Guardian of January 27th,   2021, entitled:


“Farley’s Financial Fancy cautions that to voice a plan as ambitious  as he did on Thursday, opens him up to criticism of building hopes  that as a Leader, he cannot fulfil, with the very verve by which he  announced them.”


So even public commentators recognized the pump, the flare, the flowery,words and the vaccuminous lack of substance presentation on Thursday.
 Yeah, we could edit; we could make up some words too.

Madam Presiding Officer, it is for this reason that the Minority has concluded that the Budget presentation as read by the Honourable Chief Secretary, while filled with fancy plans to wow the unsuspecting listener, is nothing short of huff and puff, pregnant with disinformation; deceit; deception; dishonesty; disingenuity and outright hypocrisy. [Desk thumping]

     Madam Presiding Officer, a key element of a budget presentation features - and I really want to turn now to the deceit/deception, because you see, not many people pay attention to the figures - they pay attention to the words. But we really want to be able to tell Tobagonians to understand their numbers. When they understand their numbers, no smart man could fool them - an updating report on the balance of allocation of financial resources of the Tobago House of Assembly at the end of the last Fiscal year, as well as the allocation for Fiscal 2022, the expenditure to date and the balance of resources available to the people of Tobago, which in this instance, is notably absent in this budget presentation. After seventy (70) pages and four (4) hours, I have seen no review - none whatsoever, on what is Tobago’s current state of affairs. What are the numbers? Numbers do not lie.

     However, we are not surprised by the behaviour of this deceptively, dangerous Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Administration, whose Political Leader that is, has a history of running organizations bankrupt. We just have to look at the most recent Auditor General’s report of the Public Services Association (PSA).



To which I understand, Minority. I understand all of that.   I am just asking for you to stay within the confines of the Standing Order.   That goes to all Members.

Thank you.

Thank you for the protection. Madam Presiding Officer, I   am sharing the experiences of our Tobago brothers and sisters and we are   talking about a situation of job creation, job termination and I am comparing   situations because at the end of the day, one of the claim is, “but people   are being sent home in Trinidad”... [Interruption]

10.36 A.M

Members, please. Allow the Minority to continue.

Minority, please be aware of the Standing Orders.

Madam Presiding Officer, as I speak at this moment, the halls of the Port Mall are filled with Tobagonians (I am not making it up) who are seeking redress from this tyrannical Administration. It is quite abominable that in the middle of a pandemic, this Administration has determined as policy, to terminate contract employment of Tobagonians without compensation and is trying to compare them with the Telecommunication Service of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) workers, but they TSTT workers are going home well paid and well set up. In fact, I called a resident of mine. I was concerned about the situation she said, “I spent twenty-one (21) years in Telecommunication Service of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT). I have given them all I can, and I am going home well compensated.


I called another gentleman I know, who I work out with in   the gym and I was so worried about him... [Interruption]

Minority Leader, you may continue.

It seems like they don’t like to hear the truth. I know it is a difficult pill to swallow.

Madam Presiding Officer, we are talking about the Fiscal Allocation Revenue and Expenditure that involves job creation and this Administration has taken a clear policy to drop destruction in Tobago, where they are crying Tobagonians like all our brothers and sisters in here and I will not stand by idly and watch this Administration persecute our Tobago brothers and sisters. [Desk thumping] So on that matter, it is clear. They talked about issues to employ people and this Administration is terminating people at this time. So I am clearly within the orders of the Standing Orders.

I am on my feet. Minority Leader, please adhere to the Standing Orders. I concur with Assemblyman Duke. You may continue your presentation.

Why this man is taking so much time? Madam Presiding Officer, this man is taking my time. I allow them, Madam, Presiding Officer, in silence.

I sat here and I heard with pain, a romance story about Orville London and he is not debating the Bill. This is the Budget Bill not a ‘chaiala.’ It must have order in the House.

Madam Presiding Officer, how long will he go?

Madam Presiding Officer, I rise to my feet on a point of order under Standing Order 45 which states:


“Subject to the provisions of these Standing Orders, debate on any Motion (which is the budget bill) shall be relevant to such a Motion.”


I repeat:


“Subject to the provisions of these Standing Orders, debate on any Motion shall be relevant to such Motion, Bill, Assembly law or amendment and a Member shall confine his observation to the subject under discussion.”

10.26 P.M

Not only did the people voted for change, but the people of Tobago, young and old alike, bought into the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ (PDPs’) message of putting people before politics. Now you're putting politics before people - hook