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Motions

FULL VIDEO
REQUEST TO FACILITATE THE ADJUSTMENT OF SEVEN PERCENT REDUCTION OF THE ASSEMBLY’S OPERATING COSTS
5.24 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, I remember 1986 and I remember as the Chief Secretary alluded to during that period, I remember, (yes eighty-six, I was born that time) [Laughter] during that time of adjustment… [Interruption] [Crosstalk] No, I was not in preschool. If I am looking so young, I thank you, but I was not in preschool [Laughter], but at the time, Mr. Presiding Officer, between 1986 to 1990…[Interruption] [Crosstalk] [Laughter] we were going through a period of structural adjustment.  I remember coming out of that period, Mr. Presiding Officer, we had a very robust manufacturing sector. We saw a number of grants coming to the fore, an increase range of products with the label made in Trinidad and Tobago.  


I want to again go back to my statement.   I am in support of what the Chief Secretary said, urge all  entrepreneurs, this is your time to reinvent; reprocess; to retool; to conceive new ways of doing things and new processes.  In the Division of Finance, we are here to support you with the necessary resources that we have. 


The Innovation Centre that we spoke about at the Tobago Information Technology Limited will be constructed.  We are working together with the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce to ensure that we see the expansion and the development of our robust private sector.  In this season of economic challenges, this is where you see like a refiner’s fire and you see the true pride and tested entrepreneur coming to the fore and standing tall and setting a mark in society that cannot be erase.  I do not want to start calling names, Mr. Presiding Officer, but we know the history of some of the giants and titans of industry and their metal was forged during times such as these.  I want to urge all the business persons and the entrepreneurs, let us work together, and when we come out of this storm out of this challenge, which we predict should last us probably within a two (2) year period or so we will even be better ready for it.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, as I wrap up, let me say with confidence; let me reiterate that, that I am confident that we can surmount the challenges that confronts us if we work together.  We cannot adopt a defeater’s posture and it cannot be business as usual.   We are all in this together, all of Tobago and it would take all of us working together, working hand in hand putting aside our differences, ignoring the naysayers and the doubters and those persons who will seek to destabilize us, but as we work together, we will come out of these economic challenges better. 


As I close, Mr. Presiding Officer, let me express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to be part of this team and to bring this extremely important motion to the House.  I want to again emphasize, that we have a collective responsibility, we all have a role to play in helping our island, and our country to adjust to our economic challenges and we must accept, we must recognize and we must embrace our role.  As an Assembly, we will continue to spearhead our approach to treating with our challenges but we cannot do it without an understanding and the support of the people of Tobago.

Mr. Presiding Officer, as I close, let me say that development is a journey and we are in this journey together.  With God’s grace, the journey of Tobago’s development continues and it continues unabated and the pace and momentum not as we might like it to be, but with God’s grace and the resources that are available to us.

  

I want to thank my colleagues for their support, thank the Chief Secretary, Deputy Chief Secretary and all my other Colleagues and Presiding Officer.  With those few words, I take my seat and I thank you. [Desk thumping] 


Question put and agreed to.

5.14 P.M

A gas price that would have fell to one dollar and sixty-eight cents ($1.68).  


Mr. Presiding Officer, why I am heartened, why am I yet confident confronting these challenges, it is because we have been here before.


I want to remind persons regarding the initiatives of this Administration when we confronted the global economic crises in 2008/2009.  Mr. Presiding Officer, I remember that time almost so vividly because we have a similar pattern.  Whereas at the time the price of oil was passing one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) and all the Pundits were saying to expect an oil price of two hundred dollars ($200.00) per barrel.  At the time, I had a contrarian view when I was saying, oil price, the price of oil will decline and at that time so it did – the price of oil went tumbling to about sixty dollars ($60.00) per barrel.


Here we were then as an Administration to confront declining oil revenues, to confront the challenges of reduced government expenditure and as an Assembly having to make adjustments in this area.


Mr. Presiding Officer, one similarity that I saw then that I am seeing now, it is our responsibility as an Administration to report to the people and to lay our cards on the table, to let them know where we are financially in terms of our fiscal resources and what is required to take us forward –  2008/2009, we are here again.  I remember the date so vividly – March 23rd, 2009.   The Administration hosted a Consultation with the people in Mt. Irvine Hotel at the time to report to them but here we are at this time reporting from the House in terms of what are our resources and some of the activities that we plan to implement to confront these challenges. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Olympics in Rio is coming up again and because Usain Bolt has a track record of winning, we look for a certain result again in the Olympics to come.  Similarly, this Administration, we have a track record in terms of reporting to the people, in terms of fiscal prudence and in terms of managing the resources of Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I think from 2001, to now, the people of Tobago have come to expect a certain level of predictability in terms of the stewardship of their affairs and the stewardship of the resources of this island and I think we around this horseshoe under this Administration and under the Leadership of the Chief Secretary, we have a reason to be proud because if we have done it in the past, I believe with God’s grace we will do it again in the future and confront these challenges.


Mr. Presiding Officer, when we have identified the reduction, we have identified the fact that it will be approximately one hundred and ninety-two (192) just under twelve million dollars ($12m.) and one hundred and ninety-two (192) and some odd million dollars and there will be a reduction in the resources of the Tobago House of Assembly.


But what we are committing to with the resources that we have available is that we are guaranteeing employment, we are guaranteeing that our Social Safety Net Programmes will be continued and we will try to mitigate and minimize the disruption in the quality of lives of our people.  We have also committed to a reduction in a number of areas.  We have started with Carnival and we will follow suit in the areas of Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Across the Assembly we are committed to implementing similar measures and to achieve value for money. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, and probably this situation has come to the fore, the need for the Assembly to formalize, to have a Fund to formalize probably a Heritage or a Stabilization Fund to set up the formal mechanisms so that we have the resources in the event of a similar situation.  The Economist will call it the “economic cycles”, “the peaks and the valleys” and we will need to formalize a mechanisms when these seasons come so we have a predictable source of funds to carry us through and to weather the storm. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, there is a saying, coined by a famous Caribbean Leader:  “Let us not waste a good crisis.”  Probably the time has come for us to table the mechanisms whereby we will utilize probably a percentage of our Unspent Balances to establish a Stabilization Fund.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to echo a clarion call for all of Tobago to accept responsibility.  We on this end, we have stated that we understand what is before us, we have accepted our responsibility and we have reported to the people.  But just as in a family in a household, with reduced resource we have some hard decisions to make.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the responsibility there should be collective and shared responsibility by all the people of Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I remember my grandmother and I was not born at the time but I remember in 1963, I believe after the passage of Hurricane Flora and the time of doom and gloom and everybody was wondering what to do and here was my grandmother going into at the time probably her wardrobe and so on, and pulling out her safety net, pulling out her saving and utilizing her resources to start the rebuilding process.


Mr. Presiding Officer, here we are in 2016, but if we remember a year or two ago, the Assembly paid out over a hundred million dollars ($100m.) in back pay and you remember some of the horror stories that we heard about the consumption and the profligate spending and so on and the need and what persons were doing but here we are when the rainy day comes and the need to utilize the resources persons are unable to do so. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, so in this time, we are also asking persons to exercise personal financial prudence and to be responsible in terms of how they manage their individual finances.


We are also urging persons in terms of when we have Financial Literacy Programmes to come and to participate and to be a part of those programmes and to ensure that we weather the storm together.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we spoke about productivity and the need for us to increase the level of productivity both in the private and the public sector.   Also, we together with the Division of Labour, we will be hosting a series of activities in terms of our attempts to establish a productivity Council here in Tobago to ensure that we increase the level of productivity on the island because that is one of the measures that will take us through this current economic challenge. 

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.  


We are here today (I have the privilege of piloting this motion) and really fulfilling our mandate and our pact with our people.  I say “We” because I am privileged to be part of a dynamic team. I called it, “The Dream Team” led by a leader, an astute leader and a visionary leader and a leader that all of Tobago should be proud of. [Desk thumping] Because we have made that commitment to the people of Tobago when we came into office to report to them on a regular basis, to seek their approval and to report our activities and to share our performance, our goals and objectives, what we plan to deliver, each fiscal year.  We are here again reporting to the people of Tobago that where in the past, in June we outlined our Programme of activities and we came again in November, there are certain realities that confront us.  The initial part is reporting, the initial part here is informing. But there is a part that we have to walk shoulder to shoulder.  We have to lock arms together and confront the situation that is before us with a united voice and a united front.   Mr. Presiding Officer, what is before us and what are the current economic realities.  Again, we have before us, a seventy-five percent (75%) reduction in the price of oil from One hundred and ten ($110.00) approximately eighteen (18) months ago, to below twenty-seven dollars ($27.00) and if you may have checked the price, it may have gone up to thirty dollars ($30.00).

Councillor
5.04 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, it is very easy for us to stand here and speak about gains and speak about successes, but it is also similarly easy for us to set some clear cut aims, goals, targets, objectives and work towards achieving them. That is what success is. It is “the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose” - simply put by the Oxford Dictionary. If we work towards our aims and purpose and objectives, I do not see why at the end of this year, in spite of the seven percent (7%) additional cut, why we cannot achieve that which we have set out to achieve - in spite of.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Unions. Unions have a serious, serious responsibility in our society, and Unions can assist with this economic situation that we are faced with. Unions traditionally, stand-up and fight and lament for their representees, those who they represent. Seldom do you hear Union Leaders stand-up and remind those said workers or those said members of the Union of their role and functions and their responsibility to their employer.  When is the last time you heard a Union Leader say to their members, “Hey you got to go to work on time; you have to achieve your targets; you have to produce”.  The last time we heard a Union Leader speak,  is because that particular Union Leader had a lot to say (well much to be desired of course but) as it relates to the Tobago House of Assembly and the operations of the Tobago Regional Authority (TRHA).  But that is another story.

  

Mr. Presiding Officer, we need to hold Administrators of the Tobago House of Assembly, hold them responsible and accountable for ensuring that staff produces and ensuring that they get to work on time; and   ensuring that staff delivers on the products and services that which they have been hired to do.  


In time like these, I would repeat, the time has come for us to start paying individuals based on merit.  You know it might sound little draconian.  But I bet you, if a particular worker consistently leaves work when they are suppose to leave at 4.15 p.m., Monday to Thursday and they consistently leave after two (2) and after three (3), I am sure if they are paid short for those short hours that they have left work, without any good reason and without any approval from their supervisor, they will start to leave work on time and they would actually start to get to work on time.  Sometimes,who feels it, knows it, Mr. Presiding Officer.  Sometimes, you have to feel to learn. It is only there and then individuals might start to recognize, how serious a situation we are in, particularly when we have placed so much of our comfortable living and lifestyle on the hydro carbon sector.  Now the roost has come home to cook.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, you would have heard the Honourable Chief Secretary to securing the well-being of those hired by the Tobago House of Assembly and securing their jobs under our employer, but this is all linked as I said before, to a change in mindset. We must be prepared to give more for what we currently receive.  I speak to our remuneration packages, Mr. Presiding Officer.  

     We also heard the Chief Secretary speak to innovation.  He indicated and I quote, Mr. Presiding Officer, with your leave, “Now is the time to use your brain, it is not the time to be risk averse” - Chief Secretary Orville London.  I want to take the Chief Secretary upon his challenge and indicate to the Honourable Chief Secretary, that the Division of Settlements and Labour is prepared to use their brains, and we are prepared to be innovative. 

 

Very soon (because I do not know if the Chief Secretary has been a fly on our walls in the Division of Settlements and Labour) a Note will be going to the Executive Council to treat with some innovative ways to get housing on the ground here in Tobago - so more for less in spite of, Mr. Presiding Officer, seven percent (7%) less but seven percent more labour.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I take this opportunity to once again congratulate the Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development for bringing this Motion.  Whether we like it or not, we have a mandate to report to the people of Tobago because they are our employers.  If it means that we have to come a fourth time, (well I am not sure that might happen) to explain after midterm review why it is we potentially may have even less to spend, because it is a possibility (and let us face it) then, that is exactly what we have to do, Mr. Presiding Officer.   


So with those few words, I crave your indulgence and I thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]




Councillor
4.54 P.M

Time has elapsed in some cases, where these treatment plants were not properly maintained. We are now at a juncture where we are faced with the rehabilitation of all the Sewerage Treatment Plants in all our developments in Tobago and that is going to cost us a tidy sum.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, but I am pleased to report to this August House that as of next week these repairs will commence. So, we shall be able to express to the homeowners in Renaissance, in Roxborough that they will see some relief very soon. But in as much as I am speaking about Roxborough and Renaissance, allow me to indicate to those homeowners particularly in Roxborough that the work would be a bit more than the other developments because of, yet again, in some instances, the wrong apparatus was used. In an effort to correct what was done we have to use the right size of PVC pipes to treat with the sewer and the effluence going into the Treatment Plant. That will involve digging up of the roadway in the Roxborough Renaissance community so we intend to do it street by street, because if we do not do it, we will continue to experience the problems that we are faced with, the choking of lines in Roxborough, Renaissance and the overflow of effluence  in people’s backyards and that kind of unhealthy, unsanitary - I would like to think the Secretary for Health would say conditions.  So, we want to treat with it in a holistic manner but it will involve the digging up of the streets bit by bit, in an effort to take off those pipes and replace them with the correct size pipes because the wrong size pipes were put down in the first place.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, moving on to streets of Adventure Phase 1 -  I am also pleased to report that Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) has started to come in to Adventure.   I am extremely pleased that the phone calls and the letters have borne fruits and I am really happy to report that T&TEC is totally on board and very soon Adventure Phase 1 residents will no longer feel the way they felt a couple weeks ago when Adventure Phase 2 had lights and the homeowners started moving in.  So that situation, Mr. Presiding Officer, should be dealt with within a matter of two (2) weeks.


Completion of Belle Garden Phase 2 Project is also highly dependant on T&TEC and we are hoping that that should be completed by the end of March.


    The completion of Phase 1 – Courland Housing Development Project.  We have had a final meeting today with the Project Manager, Maintenance Training and Security (MTS) and we have also met with the Consultant on that particular project as well and we are looking at a deadline of June month end for those service lots to be lotified and thereafter, we can do the allocation of the lots.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, I am also pleased to report as I mentioned to you before, my posture this afternoon is one of reporting and I am also pleased to report that we would have distributed keys to homeowners today – this morning.  Twelve (12) additional homeowners would have received their keys today for their town houses in Adventure and particularly, let me take the opportunity to indicate to Tobagonians that primarily those twelve (12) people were young people and I was particularly pleased and heartened to say that a lot of young people received keys for their homes today -  delivery in spite of, Mr. Presiding Officer.  [Desk thumping]


Mr. Presiding Officer, my colleagues would have lamented the issue of productivity and I am not going to lament on it too much but what I want to indicate, in times such as these, where we are faced with financial shavings (as I have heard one particular individual address it) we have to get serious.  


    Mr. Presiding Officer, no longer can we entertain Contractors continually requesting extensions on their project delivery time and we have had a case in point, in Adventure Phase 2 where we are presently constructing thirty-two (32) additional townhouses, sixteen (16) two (2) bedrooms and sixteen (16) three (3) bedrooms where those two (2) contractors would have requested extensions on three (3) separate occasions and we cannot continue to tolerate that.  It is continuing to delay the projects, it is continuing to delay delivery that we would have set and the milestones are shifting back every single time.  And therefore, I want to put contractors on notice that the Project Managers will be instructed to impose those penalty fees that are outlined in the contract and in the clauses so that contractors can start to get busy.  The time has certainly come for that. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, if you would allow me to speak a tad bit to labour.  It is time to move non-productive sectors into productive sectors.  I did not say that, it rest squarely within the Comprehensive Economic Development Plan (CEDP) document 2.0, 2013 to 2017.  It is there in bold - in black and white - moving non-productive sectors into productive sectors.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we must do that, for our own self-preservation.  We have some non-productive sectors that we need to look at closely and we need to move them into productive sectors.  Because while we speak (and the Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development would have alluded to it) about making cuts and shavings, we also need to speak about generation 

of revenue on the island and that is critical. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, and in spite of the additional seven percent (7%) cut, we still need to find ways and means to generate revenue on this island.   There are some very low hanging fruits, Mr. Presiding Officer, that we can take advantage of in an effort to achieve that particular objective.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we must move forward and have a change of mindset with our workforce.  It pains me sometimes, and I always make reference to this and I might sound like a broken record, but so let it be.  We leave our shores of Trinidad and Tobago and we go to a foreign land and we get to work on time because if we do not somebody else is waiting to take our jobs.  Just a week ago, there was a major snow blitz in New York and I have some friends in New York and they would have posted on facebook the twenty-four (24) or twenty-six (26) inches of snow and guess what - they had to go to work.  In some instances, the trains were not working and for those of them who took train they had to take a cab that day or for those couple days.


Why is it when a little bit of rain falls in Tobago, we are half an hour late, we are forty-five (45) minutes late, we are an hour late?  We have all host of excuses but why is it when we leave here and we go to the foreign land we conform - something to think about.  Is it that we have tolerated it, Mr. Presiding Officer?  I do not know but in times such as these where we are faced with financial shavings we better start pulling our socks up and start treating seriously with productivity.





Councillor

Thank you, very much Mr. Presiding Officer. I rise in support of the motion ably moved by my Colleague, Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development.  


        Mr. Presiding Officer, this evening you may find that a couple of us may be quoting from John C. Maxwell and that is attributed to the Chief Secretary.  So, if we have to blame anyone, blame the Chief Secretary because he would have given us a book on “Leadership” a couple years ago.  I do not know how many of us read it, but I certainly do.  So I will take the opportunity to quote from John C. Maxwell this afternoon and indicate that: 


       “It is not what you have, but what you do with what you have.” 


This is what places us here in this House for a third time to speak to financial measures that we are going to take in this particular fiscal year.


      Mr. Presiding Officer, as far as I am concerned, this is nothing new.  From inception of the Orville London led Administration in 2001, we have had no other choice or back then, the Administration would have had no other choice but to “cut and contrive”.  From 2001, to present, Mr. Presiding Officer, that is exactly what would have been doing. We have been submitting budgetary measures to the people of Tobago based on consultations with the people of Tobago and we would have sent to the Central Government, and they have responded every single time with Four point zero three percent (4.03%), in some instances a tad bid difference.  Mr. Presiding Officer, a seven percent (7%) further cut, in my humble opinion places us in a position where we have to make some changes yes, but it does not change the fact that we have been here before. 

 

      So, Mr. Presiding Officer, we would have had discussions in the Division of Settlements and Labour with our Heads of Department and we would have done that with a view of creating collaborative efforts towards a particular goal and towards our particular objectives in the Division.  Mr. Presiding Officer, we are resolute in our minds and in our convictions in our Division, that “come what may” we have no other choice but to deliver in spite of.  So I will not be very long, because I appreciate the challenges that we faced this afternoon and the other festivities that the evening brings.  So I will go straight into my presentation as it relates to what we are going to deliver in 2016 in spite of.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, just approximately three (3) weeks ago, we would have delivered Deeds to homeowners, (and I am sure that the Member for Canaan/Bon Accord will be pleased about this) in Milford Court [Desk thumping) and I must take the opportunity to indicate painstakingly that individuals in Milford Court would have been waiting on their Deeds in some instances way back in the 1980s.  We have delivered in excess of twenty (20) Deeds to homeowners in Milford Court three (3) weeks ago.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, Land Distribution - Belle Garden Phase 2, we have done the land distribution to forty-five (45) service lots, Courland Phase I out of 4 Phases which should in essence in the completion of Courland see approximately six hundred and twenty-four/six hundred and twenty-six (624/626) thereabout service lots when Courland is completed and we have distributed 116 service lots in Courland as well Mr. Presiding Officer, - delivery in spite of.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we have had some serious challenges in our developments as it relates to Sewerage Treatment Plants. For one reason or the other, some service providers did an excellent job and in some cases, some service providers did not do such a good job at all. 

Assemblyman
4.44 P.M

Growing up in a fishing community, I am aware of the hardship that fishermen faced on a daily basis to make a living on the island’s treacherous seas. The Division continues to pledge its support to the fisherfolk of Tobago as we would soon  be commissioning the Fishing Facilities at Belle Garden, Charlotteville and the recent addition to the Pigeon Point Facility that will be completed and be ready for the fisherfolk  in that  specific  south west area to be utilized.  These facilities will ensure that fishermen have a cold storage area and other areas for the fisherfolk to secure their engines and their other equipments.  These facilities would also lend the opportunity for us to upgrade the level of the standard that we process fish and allow us to even get back into exporting fish.


       Mr. Presiding Officer, in addition, the Division will continue to assist fishermen in training as it relates to the actual processing of the fish.  Mr. Presiding Officer, we would like to ensure that all Tobago people are safe and secured and our fishermen are to be brought into focus at this moment.       


     We are working together with the University of the West Indies and the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard to develop what is called, “The M Fisheries System”.  This System is a Smart Phone Application which allows fishermen to utilize it for navigational purposes, weather updates, SOS calls and even communicate back to land as to whether they do have fish on board so that the vendors could make their appearance to purchase the fish from the fisherfolk.  So “M Fisheries System” that is going to be put in place will serve the fisherfolk in Tobago and it would also provide some measure of safety for the fisherfolk. These initiatives will be introduced shortly and we will ensure that we do have a safe haven for those fisherfolk.  They play a major role in providing food for the island and the citizens of Tobago and they deserve to be taken care of.  


       So with that said, Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to thank you for the opportunity and I want to join with the other Speakers in supporting the motion brought by the Secretary of Finance Enterprise and Development.  


      I thank you.   [Desk thumping]



Assemblyman
4.34 P.M

Access to water for irrigation is the most challenging hindrance to farmers in that specific area.  We have taken the necessary steps to have the water supply to the area substantially increased.  


We expect the implementation of the Irrigation Infrastructure Programme that we are going to put in place that will increase the food production expected in that specific area.  


As we talk about Irrigation I want to join and to say to the Chief Secretary in his Programme there in agriculture that we are going to be concentrating and asking, educating the farmers in what we consider a Drip Line Irrigation System which will utilize much less water in the Irrigation System that we are going to afford the farmers throughout Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I must indicate to this Honourable House that the Packing House Facility that I have made mention of time and time again, that it will be commissioned in the month of March this year.  It will be the designated facility on the island where fresh fruits, vegetables and root crops can be pooled and prepared to meet local and international market requirements.  This will assist farmers greatly in quickly selling off the goods from the expected increase in production by farmers in Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we expect all Tobagonians to answer the call to produce more food.  This can be done by each household holder on the island, going back to planting a backyard garden and I must say that the Division has a Unit which is called, “the Home Garden Unit.”  That Unit stands ready to give the technical support needed to make this possible.  This will assist in reducing the import bill and decrease the already depleted foreign exchange bill which we are badly in need of in this nation, at this present time. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division recognize the importance of increasing its food production in Tobago.   At present, Tobago gets most of its food from Trinidad.  This food bill can be adjusted as I mentioned before by all of us putting our shoulders to the wheel and ensuring that we do some form of production in agriculture so as to reduce that food bill that is going to be imposed on us on a weekly basis or on a monthly basis.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we have a situation there where root crops such as cassava, dasheen and yam just to name a few are imported from Trinidad in a substantial manner.  These are healthy foods for us and I must say that our fore-parents would have grown up on these foods and they allowed those people then to be very strong and lived long lives.


It is our intention to increase the production in these areas which is the Cassava, the Dasheen, Sweet Potatoes and Yam, so as to get the kind of produce in the market here so that whatsoever produce that is coming from Trinidad to Tobago, we can produce much more here for ourselves and the surplus we could sell back to our good friends in Trinidad.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the move to increase these areas could also have us deal with value added to most of these produce.  Let us take for instance, we can have Cassava Chips instead of us importing Potato Chips that in itself will reduce our import bills to this country.


As a farming community which I expect that everyone will join with us in doing something in agriculture that will create an impact on food production for the island.  


Outside of roots and tubers we also want to increase the production of herbs and spices.  That also will give us an opportunity to have value added place into those specific commodities that will give us our pepper sauce and seasoning etcetera.


That again will reduce the foreign exchange that we will bring in foreign exchange to the country by us selling or exporting to countries outside of Trinidad and Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we also want to increase the production of avocados or bringing into production avocados, citrus and coconuts.  These types of food will give us the opportunity to be self-sufficient in food production and also in producing those types of products we can also be able to supply to our School Feeding Programme and to join with the tourism industry in ensuring that we have locally grown food prepared for our visitors when they come to our shores.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, this again will help us with our foreign exchange that has depleted so much.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, with the increase in agricultural production – the problem of predial larceny will be on the rise because we have people who do not want to work to ensure that they earn their own things, they prefer to get things easily and predial larceny is something that will raise its head.  


Madam Presiding Officer, however, the Chief Secretary holds a quarterly meeting with the Minister of  National Security and I am usually a part of that meeting and I am going to be very vocal at that meeting as it relates to ensuring that the Predial Larceny Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is strengthened and is more efficient and effective to deal with the problem and to arrest the perpetrators any time they do come their part.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we are calling on farmers to produce the much needed food for us.  However, we also have our fisherfolk on the island to assist us in these crucial times.


Assemblyman

   Thank you Mr. Presiding Officer.  I am also thanking you for the opportunity to join in this debate today, as I rise to support the motion and the reduction in the proposed operating expenses for Ministries and the Tobago House of Assembly.

    Mr. Presiding Officer, the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and other government officials, have indicated quite clearly to the nation that we are in an economic crisis.  We in Tobago are being called upon to collaborate in making the requisite adjustments to this critical period as we strive to protect the gains we have made in the development of the island and its people. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, Tobagonians have faced many hardships in the past and we have emerged or come out victorious, we may say.  The nation of Trinidad and Tobago is currently facing hard times, and with the price of oil at approximately twenty-seven dollars ($27.00) per barrel with no signs of recovering soon, times will get even harder, but we stand ready to tighten our belts and do what is necessary to increase productivity on this island. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division, together with our other colleagues in other Divisions has reviewed the budgetary allocations and has taken steps to make identifiable adjustments as indicated by the Central Government to have cutbacks in areas where possible.


Mr. Presiding Officer, after consultation with colleagues cuts have been made as mandated by the Minister of Finance and outlined by the Secretary of Finance.  We are aware that the people of Tobago and by extension the people of Trinidad and Tobago have to exist. To do this, we are encouraging our farmers and the public to plant more food.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, these harsh economic times also call for, “Import Substitution”.  This will result in the reduction of the nation’s Foreign Exchange Bill and as a result, will require greater production in the Agricultural Sector to meet these demands.  Mr. Presiding Officer, we here in Tobago especially, our farmers’ stand ready to answer the call and to reduce the steep Food Import Bill.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, we at the Division are aware that one of the main problems associated with decrease agricultural production on the island, is the lack of water for irrigation purposes.  The Goldsborough Agricultural area is one of the most active industrial farming sites in Tobago.



Secretary of Agriculture, Marketing, Marine and the Environment.

Councillor

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer. Mr. Presiding Officer, I beg to move a Motion with your leave to suspend the Standing Order No. 14 (2) to allow for this Sitting to continue without suspension. I so beg to move.

Assemblyman
4.24 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division continues: 


  • Strong support for high quality Early Childhood;

  •  Family Development Programme and the Realizing your Economic Achievement (REACH) Grants that focuses on empowering parents;


  • Protecting Health and Safety; and 

  • Strengthening student health and learning; 

  • Priority is placed on the implementation of a comprehensive approach to help prevent child abuse and domestic violence;

  • Support for the fatherhood agenda; 

  • Support for seniors with Pension Grant and other financial Grants for the vulnerable and disadvantaged; and

  • The Caregivers Initiative.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the CEPEP and Litter Eradication Agencies continue the drive to be the Premier Environmental Protection Agencies which fosters pride at the community level and remains committed to their mandate of environmental protection and enhancement.  Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division has embarked on initiatives to assist in the development of its employees and provide training to the CEPEP employees to increase productivity. The Division realizes the importance of providing such opportunities as a mechanism for adding value to society, investment in the human capital and purposeful training of the human resource produce more marketable individuals capable of securing more gainful employment in other sectors of Tobago.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, taken together, the reduction of the budget for the Division of Health and Social Services makes targeted investments the greatest kind of impact that we can make in the lives of Tobagonians for a better quality of life in health care.  So, Mr. Presiding Officer, we really want to as we said earlier, do more with less.  Cut some of wastage and to conserve on energy and so on within the system.  We have been looking at that in terms of turning off the lights and in terms in which we use our water 

and so on, so we have been working on that as well.  Therefore, we feel very strongly that this kind of investment that we are making in the health care sector will do good for the health of our families and our economy.  


     So, I really want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development at this time for bringing this Motion to this House and to inform the people of Tobago of where we are  in the development of our countries, our programmes, our families.   


    So, Mr. Presiding Officer, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to be part of this discourse. [Desk thumping] 

Assemblyman
4.14 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Office of the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) is focused on surveillance and response, Health Education, Health Promotion, Medical Services and Capacity Building.  In this regard, the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) build core capacities of the International Health Regulations and strengthens surveillance and in areas such as: 


  • The Port of Entry; 

  • To strengthen the Port surveillance process; 

  • Provide oversight to the Communicable Disease Surveillance Process; 


Including: 

  • Leading Supervision of Investigations of Outbreaks; 

  • Events of Public Health Importance; and 

  • Cases of Interest. 

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Tobago Public Health Emergency Response Team and other stakeholders implement preventative measures to mitigate against these dreaded diseases of Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and other global threats.   We recall that threat of Ebola.


Mr. Presiding Officer, Healthcare professionals were provided with training in the case definition as well as identifying clinically suspected cases of Zika.   Further, we have strengthened relationships with other civil 

society and other organizations collaborating with Trinidad and Tobago  Red Cross Society, the Fire Services, Tobago Emergency Management Authority (TEMA) and other agencies in building volunteer services to give support to the Division of Health and Social Services for effective and efficient delivery.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we believe that every family should learn about First Aid, that every family should be able to intervene at that basic level.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, the priority projects for 2016 at the Public Health Service Department are as follows:

  • Food Badge Training;

  • Food Safety Programme;

  • Port Health Programme;

  • The New Litter Warden Programme;

  • Prevention of Illegal dumping;

  • Unauthorized buildings and nuisance;

  • Burial Ground Act;

  • Integrated Waste Management; and

  • Waste Minimization; and

  • Recycling.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division of Health and Social Services 

supports the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited in conjunction with Environment Tobago in its initiative of new Waste Management and Recycling Initiatives.


The Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) team gave its commitment to assist the THA in its integrated Waste Management. This Fiscal Year the Department of Public Health Services will undertake a Zero Waste Pilot Project at Darrel Spring and environs and schools to kick-start the Waste Minimization and Recycling Project.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division is committed to daily garbage Collection and environmental cleaning for every street in Tobago.  Restructuring and Strengthening of Public Health Services to ensure a clean, green, and enabling environment, prevent ill-health, expansion in Health Education and promotion and rigorous surveillance.  Accordingly, we are reaching out to the population to support the strategies recommended to ensure even more rigorous adherence to the policies and processes that would increase efficiency and productivity, improved delivery and guarantee better value for money in the Health system.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, we continue with partnership with the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, to provide in partnership Annual High Volume Spay Neuter Programmes, and Spay and Release Programmes, implementation of educational activities targeted to school children through provision of one hour per term for lessons on animal welfare.   In addition, to the cost of printing of workbooks and posters and of course, working with the staff in several hotels in terms of managing stray dogs and education, along those lines.


We also collaborate with the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs and the Environment, with working with this Dog Act and collaborating with the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 


The Division of Health is working in a very collaborative way with several Divisions and Civil Society to ensure that we deliver the kind of programmes in partnership.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Tobago Regional Health Authority has undertaken a new approach to preventing chronic diseases through a reformed Non-communicable Disease Programme, Healthy Homes, Healthy Families and PASSION that consolidates the following inter-related programme areas including:


  • Heart Disease;

  • Stroke;

  • Diabetes;

  • Cancer;

  • Arthritis; and

  • Other Conditions;

  • Nutrition;

  • Health Promotion;

  • Prevention Centres; and

  • Select School Health Activities.


Of course, this is in collaboration with the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) in collaboration with the Division of Health invest in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment efforts including targeted funds for young people and the homeless.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division invest in HIV AIDs prevention and Treatment activities across Tobago to expand access to affordable Health care and Prevention Services and align activities with the Office of the Chief Secretary’s HIV AIDs strategy.


Mr. Presiding Officer, service expansion includes the introduction of new services such as: 

  • Health Promotion; 

  • Health Education and Health Literacy; and 

  • The development of current services; 


Such as: 


  • Cancer Screening; 

  • Adult Immunization;  

  • Mental Health; 

  • Shared Care; 

  • Antenatal Services; 

  • Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Expansion;  

  • The Expansion of Cancer Screening; and 

  • Integrative Mental Health.

Mr. Presiding Officer, repair of infrastructure of primary care facilities would continue this year and with the repairs there would be the equipping of all health centres with appropriate point of care diagnostic equipment.   Particular attention would be placed in the Charlotteville Health Centre and an upgrading service in the Roxborough to Charlotteville area.


The expansion of the Healthy Homes, Healthy Families Programmes is expected to take place throughout 2016.


Mr. Presiding Officer, Secondary Care Service Expansion for 2016 includes the following:


  • Orthopedic Services;

  • Invasive Cardiology;

  • Neonatology;

  • Intensive Care Unit;

  • Staff Clinic;

  • Full  time Pathologist

  • Endoscope Unit;

  • Womb Care Services;


Of course, with the Hyperbaric Chambers: 


  • The Community-based Medical Imaging;

  • Child and Adolescent Centre;

  • Roxborough Urgent Care Facility;

  • Tertiary Healthcare by providing Grant to Necessitous Patients for Health care Services not available in Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, in this respect, we are appealing to all 

Tobagonians to collaborate in making the requisite adjustments during this critical period as we strive to protect the gains which we have made in the development of Health and Social Services in this island for our people.

Assemblyman

[Desk thumping] Mr. Presiding Officer, I stand to support the Motion in the name of the Representative of Bacolet /Mt. St. George, and to state that this is very timely in keeping with the challenges faced by our country with the state of the national economy.


      Mr. Presiding Officer, the Division of Health and Social Services is the principal agency charged with protecting the health of all Tobagonians and providing essential human services, to provide Tobagonians with the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives. Our mission is to improve health, social well-being and health care every day and to protect the jobs of all of our employees in the Division and the Tobago Regional Health Authority with equity, social justice and fairness. So, Mr. Presiding Officer, there will be no outsourcing of services in the kitchen of the Tobago Regional Health Authority [Desk thumping]

     Mr. Presiding Officer, I would like to thank my Colleague Assemblyman Sheldon Cunningham, Assistant Secretary of Health and Social Services; the Administrator and members of staff of the Division of Health and Social Services; as well as the Deputy Chair; Directors; Acting Chief Executive Officer; and members of the staff of the Tobago Regional Health Authority for their support and contribution to this Budget presentation in the mandate for a reduction in the proposed operating expenses for the Division.

Mr. Presiding Officer, mindful of the responsibility of the Division of Health and Social Services, to share the burden of readjustment, we have reviewed our operations and have recommended identifiable adjustments in our proposed operating expenses.  Mr. Presiding Officer, we are committed to do more with less. 


We have prioritized Core Services and Programmes and targeted investments in: 


  • Prevention;

  • Health care for all; 

  • Training and Support of Health and Social Care Providers; 

  • Innovative Research and Development; 

  • Food and Drug Safety; 

  • Mental Health Services; 

  • Antenatal and Early Childhood Programmes; 

  • Environmental Health and Services for other vulnerable population. 


Nevertheless, some of our infrastructural works has been suppressed as we seek other sources of funding possibly Public/Private Partnership to build the Administrative Head Office.  We have also placed the Establishment of a Rehabilitation Facility in a lower priority; the infrastructural buildings for the Public Health as well as a Crematorium are also suppressed.  In this regard, the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities is the executing agency for the construction of the Moriah Health Centre as well as the upgrade of the Roxborough District Health Services in the provision of urgent care for the people of the Windward District.


Mr. Presiding Officer, greater emphasis has been given to social programmes for the vulnerable and disadvantaged and the at risks populations within our society.  We are looking at youths, the elderly, our women, our men and our children.  The budget lays out a strategy to strengthen our families and help our hard-working people to get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change.


Mr. Presiding Officer, as we build a better, smarter and healthier Delivery System for health care, we have tailored our budget to support our work to improve the way care is delivered, our providers are paid and information is disseminated.  We appeal to the people of Tobago to take responsibility for their own health and support the Policies and Programmes inherent in the adjusted Policy Approach and to empower our health care professional to deliver an efficient and effective service that continue to save the lives of our people here in Tobago.   


Mr. Presiding Officer, while to date there are no confirmed cases of H1N1 and Zika Virus here in Tobago.  There has been seven (7) deaths reported in Trinidad and there have been positive results for Zika from samples in the region from Haiti, Guyana, Barbados and Suriname, according to Dr. James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency.  The World Health Organization has stated that the virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chille.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, according to the Minister of Health, there is no stopping of the Zika Virus and other mosquito borne viruses from entering Trinidad and Tobago.   So just as Chickungunya and Dengue which made their entry into Tobago, similarly the vector that transmits these vector borne diseases, is the same that transmits Zika. Nonetheless, Mr. Presiding Officer, we continue to strengthen our partnership with all Tobagonians to reduce the source around their homes that will mitigate the spread of the virus.  We are going all out with fogging, spraying, distribution of nets and other measures, including identifying breathing sites and eliminating those sites.

  

We now see the aedes aegypti evolving its genetic composition has been mutating.  Mr. Presiding Officer, traditionally, we learnt that the aedes aegypti only breathe in clear stagnant water.  Now we have information from Puerto Rico that is now reported that the aedes aegypti is now breathing in sewer water. So, this has caused us to increase our Barrel Cover Project, our Latrine Project and Sewer Project and of course, to strengthen our ties with stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health, CARPHA which is the Caribbean Public Health Agency, UTT (University of Trinidad and Tobago)  and the University of the West Indies.  Mr. Presiding Officer, we must keep Zika and H1N1 away from Tobago by all means. 

Leader of Assembly Business and Secretary of Health and Social Services.

Assemblyman
4.04 P.M

So, Mr. Presiding Officer, all that has been said, I want to of course, again congratulate the Secretary of Finance Enterprise and Development for bringing this Motion and offering the opportunity for the wider public to hear the concerns and the strategies that the different Divisions will have as it relates to this reduction in our allocation.  But more importantly, how the different persons both inside and outside of the Assembly can work as part of a team to ensure that we can move pass this period for however long.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I thank you. [Desk thumping]

Assemblyman
3.54 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, we would want to continue our programmes that speak to addressing risky behaviour.  Again, these programmes will be done in conjunction with international agencies that focus whether it is on, Teenage Pregnancies, whether it focuses on HIV and AIDS, whether it focuses on Drunk Driving and responsible drinking, we would want to partner with agencies so that therefore, the brunt of the cost is not for these programmes are not borne by the Department of Youth but they are shared across a number of agencies.


Lastly, in general, one of the things that we recognize that we would want to focus on is as it relates to our School Repair Programme - is improving our procurement process and improving the efficiency of that Programme to ensure that we can benefit more from those areas and in terms of how we repair our schools.


Mr. Presiding Officer, for the first time last year, we undertook for a very short period of time, an assessment of our schools and to determine the priority levels  for works to be undertaken there.  We have recognized that that will allow us to plan more in a more predictable manner the works that are necessary for a different school environment.


Mr. Presiding Officer, more than that, we also recognize that there is a need to ensure that our schedules of work and when I say schedules of work, the kind of material used and is suitable for the school environment.  Very often, sometimes the doors that are used, the fixtures and fittings for the washrooms that are used maybe more residential than commercial.  Very often in some of our schools, those fittings are also exposed and therefore, subject to vandalism.  We realize that one of the ways that we can avoid those costs associated with replacing and repairing is to ensure that one way we assess the kinds of materials that would stand up to the school environment and to utilization by hundreds of students on a repeated basis. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, I would want to speak to more specifically to a number of areas of cost savings:


1.   The construction of five (5) Early Childhood Centres, largely the responsibility of a Loan Agreement by IADB.  In our presentation in November 2016, we would have indicated that this number was reduced to two (2) because that funding was no longer available and these centres would have now had to be constructed by the Tobago House of Assembly.


We have indicated, Mr. Presiding Officer, that those two (2) centres would not be a priority of the Assembly right now but I would want to ensure the Members of the Public that we have discussed the matter with the Ministry of Education and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) who is willing to entertain a new separate proposal that will take into consideration the funding of these five (5) Early Childhood Schools for Tobago along with a number of ones in Trinidad that were not constructed because the funding was exhausted by the previous Administration.


This new proposal is to be developed by the Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Ministry of Planning and we are in discussion with them to ensure that that is fast tracked so that we can see sometime maybe later down this year, a more predictable time line for when these new centres could be constructed based on funding from the IADB.


What will happen however, in the meantime, as we begin to continue the transition of the Early Childhood Centres both Government and Government assisted from the Ministry of Education to the Tobago House of Assembly is a continued improvement at those that currently exist so that they could continue to service the needs of the population that is necessary for the intakes at the various terms.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, of course, we would want to look at our Financial Assistance Programme to ensure obviously we will not be able to support in the numbers that we would have supported in the years gone by both in terms of volume and both in terms of the amount to any specific activity and therefore, we recognize that while we would have supported in years gone by the circumstances have change and we have to be a little more circumspect this year as we approach the Financial Assistance Programme.  We want to recognize that there is opportunities for a number of our programmes from where they have grown to and a number of those sporting activities and those major initiatives to receive funding from the private sector.   We feel that they have come to that point that there are events that can attract in regional and international sponsorship from the private sector and therefore, we will be working with them to ensure that while the support from the Tobago House of Assembly, the direct support from us is reduced it does not in any way impact on the success of those events.


Mr. Presiding Officer, another initiative that we will be piloting in the last two (2) terms of this school year is a repair programme for our Furniture in our schools both the wooden ones and the metal ones.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, very often, visits to our schools would recognize that there are chairs, benches and tables that have been put aside for want of some minor repairs.  It is our intention to identify a number of small operators in the woodwork and the metal work industry who will be ask to provide support in repairing those furniture.


We will also be working in conjunction of course, with the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and with our craft programmes at the Roxborough Trade Centre and Metal Industries Company (MIC) to assist in the repairing works and therefore, reduce the need for us to replace these table that require leg with a brand new one.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we would be looking at ensuring that we upgrade and repair our systems at our fields for the lighting.  We recognize that very often there is an issue that these lights are on and not being utilized and therefore, we have to upgrade the mechanisms that turn on and switches off the lights to ensure that the lights are on only when they are being utilized and not left on for extended period and is not in use.  We recognize that this is an opportunity to save a significant amount of funding.


Mr. Presiding Officer, as I said before, we want also to take an approach to be more proactive in our maintenance regime to ensure that proactive maintenance would allow us having to purchase outright in a number of cases air-conditioning systems, a number of cases, photocopiers and printers.  We recognize that the proactive maintenance will allow us to save cost rather than wait and after the fact and then having to replace because the item has become so damaged from not being maintained on a regular basis.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we would also want to look at our School Repair Programme as I said before to ensure that it offers the kind of value for money that is necessary.  Schools are active plants and from time to time things will happen, things will go wrong but we recognize:


There is a need for a proactive approach to maintaining them; and

There is also a need to ensure that when maintenance is done, the evaluation is such that allows us to get the best value for money for the job that is to be done.


Mr. Presiding Officer, additionally, as simple as it is, we would want

to look at the lights at our various facilities and the opportunity for the use of incandescent and florescent and how especially at our schools very often the lights are left on for security reasons throughout the night and that has an expense related to it and we feel that switching from incandescent to florescent and energy saving bulbs will allow us to also reduce the cost of operations at our varying systems, the cost of the equipment and there electricity bill will realize those are also ways that we can save some cost.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I would want to indicate to Members of the Public that as a Division, our focus remains on ensuring that we have our schools and our different facilities in terms of sports, our athletes can continue to improve and succeed.  We recognize that we have an awesome responsibility in the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport but even in treating with that awesome responsibility, we have recognize that there are some opportunities that we can still see tremendous gain and tremendous success in all the areas of our mandate despite these reductions. We feel that while the cuts are still significant in some areas it will not in any way allow us not to succeed in terms of seeing improvement in our students performance and seeing our athletes continue to see.

Assemblyman

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer for the opportunity to speak on this Motion as was laid by the Honourable Secretary of Finance. 


 Mr. Presiding Officer, I think the various Speakers has alluded… this is an opportunity for us to sensitize the wider population as to what is our focus post this new economic challenge that has now…. I would want to on behalf of the Division of Education Youth Affairs and Sport,  just highlight what would be our continued focus in light of these new challenges, identify what areas we feel that we can improve and allow us to save some cost and therefore, within an opportunity while delivering , but delivering albeit in a less expensive way.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to indicate that our focus will continue to be and improving the performances at all levels of our examinations whether National Test, Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), Caribbean Secondary Education Certification (CSEC), Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA).  We have seen over the last couple of years, Mr. Presiding Officer, improvement in our performances at all those levels. We want to indicate to all of our stakeholders, that we will continue to ensure that we find innovative strategies that will allow us to continue to improve our performances of our students’ right across the different examination bodies. We have seen, as I said, improved performances at all levels.  We still of course still have concerns in a number of areas: 


1. The performance of our boys;


2. The performances as it relates to Maths and English, 


and a number of our students overall, coming out what we design as a full Certificate of five (5) passes inclusive of Maths and English, Mr. Presiding Officer.   


Our strategies, our Remedial Programmes, our Stats Programme that targets our remedial students and that target accelerated students, we will continue Mr. Presiding Officer, with an approach that speaks to ensuring that the strategies that we use imploring more cost savings.  When you look at the cost of the facilitators; look at the cost of the resource material and ensure that we find ways to access resource materials that are less expensive, Mr. Presiding Officer.  


We will of course, as I have said before continue to strengthen our Students Support Services.  We recognized that part of the strengthening over the years, Mr. Presiding Officer, include both the Programmes that we would use and of course, additional Human Resource (HR), additional staff.    Mr. Presiding Officer, we would recognize that in going forward, we would have to continue to improve and engaged programmes that are innovative and address the different issues that happen at our schools.  Of course, we would not be able to necessarily employ the large number of staff that might have been initially intended to in those areas as it relates to: 


  • Guidance Councillors;

  • Educational Physiologist;

  • Social workers;

but we have to be more strategic in how we employ new persons and the services we provide through our Students Support.

Mr. Presiding Officer, of course our focus as we have indicated before, continues to be on the professional development of our teachers and that would not change.  Of course, how we go about the strategies that we utilized, the number of programmes of course, the time away from class is reduced.  We therefore, look at more strategies involving on sight training, where the training is delivered within the classroom at the school based, Mr. Presiding Officer, and reduced those costs.  Of course, very often, our Training Programmes, we have to send persons off to Trinidad.  We of course, see that as a measure where we can save cost that we have facilitators more often that come to Tobago and interface with a wider body of teachers.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) both within our curriculum to upgrade our Human Resource Systems, is other areas where we want to continue our focus.  But again, we would want to ensure that we have seen that the cost of ICT we would receive VAT return on Computers and Printers.  Therefore, we have initiated process where we find ourselves utilizing; managing the upgrades of those systems ensuring that when we do have to purchase it is when necessary.  We recognized also, Mr. Presiding Officer, that we can fix very often for minimal cost rather than necessarily focus to buy outright.  


As it relates to ICT in our schools, Mr. Presiding Officer, we continue to ensure that we receive the kind of value we have used rather than buying whole units that comes with a monitor and a hard drive.  We continue our focus on buying what you call, “tin clients” where you have a monitor, a number of monitors that are served by one hard drive or one Central CPU.  Again, that will help to reduce the cost in terms of outright purchases.  It will reduce the maintenance cost, it reduces the opportunity for damage that may come from persons who may not see the positive aspects of using the computers.  So you have persons who may attempt to interfere with the hard drive, now because you have a Central CPU, you avoid those kinds of issues. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, in terms of the Department of Sport, where we recognized that we will continue to focus on upgrading our facilities, we recognized that programme that we have committed to initially, we will have to review that so that a number of the upgrades that we have initially indicated at our hard courts will have to be reduced.  Our initial intention was to upgrade hard courts.  I think if I remember correctly, Mr. Pitt the Assistant Secretary and the Representative for Lambeau/Signal Hill had identified may be five (5) or six (6) hard courts.  I think that is now down to Jubilee Park, Buccoo and Black Rock are the hard courts that we will upgrade.


Our Field Lighting Programme:  Mr. Presiding Officer, initially we would have had about four (4) locations, we have cut that down to two. Separate from that, we hope to engage in discussions with the Sports Company as it relates to a separate project for the upgrade of the lighting at the Dwight Yorke Stadium.  Mr. Presiding Officer, our focus would be in terms of Sports Programme.  We are ensuring that we partner with different agencies in the delivery of programmes in our various communities to utilize these facilities that we have across the growing communities. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, let me just also indicate, speaking about upgrade facilities, we have had discussions and we entered into an Agreement with the Engineering Battalion of the Defence Force who will be assisting the Division in the construction and the upgrade of a number of facilities across the island. We will be responsible for providing the material but the Defence Force through their engineering core will provide the necessary technical and labour expertise, Mr. Presiding Officer.  One of the facilities that we will be constructing through this initiative will be the new pavilion at the Goodwood Recreation. [Desk thumping]


Madam Presiding Officer, in terms of the World of Work, in terms of youth, we would want to focus on (as we recognized it is still a key element), the training of our Youth Leaders.  We will of course be doing this interjection with other agencies within the Tobago House of Assembly and other Non-Governmental Agencies and Inter Governmental Agencies, like the United Nation (UN) who we can partner with to ensure that we provide funding in the training of our Youth Leaders.  Very often, these agencies provide a number of opportunities for persons involved in youth work and we intend to engage these agencies in training of Youth Leaders. 


Another Programme, Mr. Presiding Officer, is our “World of Work Programme.”  We want to focus on building and preparing in particular out of school youth for the world of work.  We have heard the issues from our previous Speakers talking about productivity. Many years ago, the National Training Agency (NTA) in its Labour Market Study spoke about the demands from employers for those attitudinal skills, loyalty, hardworking that is necessary that gives you the extra edge besides your qualification.  We recognized, that post secondary school  that environment, that very often, a number of our young people does not have hold those skills necessary to get into the world of work and to survive and to strive into the world of  work.  Therefore, we would be ensuring that we can develop our young people to get those jobs that are available in the private sector, in the tourism sector, in other agencies, and therefore, not necessarily have to see the Tobago House of Assembly as the only opportunity for employment in the Tobago scenario.






3.44 P.M

Secretary of the Division of Education Youth Affairs and Sport:

3.34 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, five (5) years later we are suffering from the pain of those poor choices and bad decisions in 2010.  Let us be mindful that it cannot happen again, it must not happen again.  Not Kamla, not the United National Congress (UNC) or any other of their partners whether from Tobago or Trinidad.  Leadership is not a Dolly House with monopoly money in the way our resources were treated within the last five (5) years.  We need Leaders with: 


  • Integrity;

  • Compassion;

  • Commitment;

  • Capacity;

  • Vision;

  • Foresight; and

  • Insight.

We need Leaders with:

  • A firm hand; but

  • Caring Heart

I therefore, want to commend the people of Trinidad and Tobago for choosing the Leader for this time – Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley.  But I want to urge that no Leader can successfully lead alone and therefore, the support and the collaboration of the people during these challenging times will be critical.


I am also assured that the continued meetings that I see happening between the Chief Secretary, the Honourable Orville London and the Prime Minister, Dr. Rowley that Tobago will be in a good place and the country will survive this bump in our history. 


Let us commend the People’s National Movement for their leadership over the past sixty (60) years as we celebrate this special Anniversary this year.


Mr. Presiding Officer, it is in that context, that I urge all citizens that we must share the burden today for our mistakes of yesterday and endeavour 

not to repeat them.  This is why we are here today again.  I remind you, to let people know how large the burden is and how they can help.


Despite the continued cuts, the Division of Community Development and Culture continues to deliver.  This Carnival you can expect to have more bang for less bucks.  Over the past three (3) years we have reprioritized our resources to preservation and development components over the staging of events.  


This has continued to bear fruit in the area of the Pan fraternity where this year we had fourteen (14) pan groups go to Trinidad for the semi-finals that is, three (3) more than last year.  Eight (8) pan groups qualified for the finals – that is, two (2) more than last year.   We have to commend the Pan fraternity.  [Desk thumping]


Also the Soca Artiste must be congratulated for their performances.  Four (4) of them from Tobago made it to Trinidad and joined the fifth one who lives in Trinidad.  We commend that at least we have one Tobagonian in the finals of the Soca monarch.


We increased the number of participating bands this year already registered especially in the school category.  So we know that we are on the pathway for preservation.  


We must commend the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the Bagatelle Modern Mud Mass Group where they have unleashed the colours of mud, locally, nationally and internationally and of course, the growth of our community Carnivals in Roxborough, Crown Point, Calder Hall and Moriah.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the Heritage Committee has been working to ensure that their expenditures will decrease by ten (10) to fifteen percent (10 to 15%) primarily for areas of logistics, infrastructure, hospitality and prizes.  

We will also endeavour as much as we can to protect the grants given to communities. 


     I must applaud both the Carnival and Heritage Committees, the Festival Manager and his staff, the Administrator, Mr. Toppin and his staff for their commitment and hard work.  In fact, this is the first year that after implementing a number of systems both committees came well within their approved budgets for the 2014 Carnival and the 2015 Heritage product.


The Division itself has also been reviewing our programmes and initiatives to place more emphasis on training development and exposure.  In so doing, a hard decision was taken to reschedule the Conference on the Creative and Cultural Industry (CASI) which was due to happen this year for the second time.  Instead, we will reallocate those resources to outfit the GNV building to give greater opportunity to those five hundred persons who graduated in the vocational skills areas and those of who consider that this can be a career for them.


We must begin to walk the talk if we are a tourism economy and grasp all of the opportunities that it presents.  But we have recognized that our people do need, first to hold their hands in some of their areas.


In regards the projects, let me give the assurance to my colleagues on either side that the new Belle Garden Facility will continue to be a priority for us.   


The Canaan/Bon Accord significant refurbishment exercise will not be negotiable.  


We will continue the work that is ongoing with many of our facilities to ensure that we can at least give people a place to meet and to do other activities like they would normally do. 


I give my commitment to having the refurbishment works to the Y-zones likewise to: 


  • Argyle; 

  • Bethel;

  • L’Anse Fourmi; 

  • Moriah; 

  • Whim; and 

  • Lowlands. 


However the major refurbishment of the Scarborough Centre will be on hold.


Our Financial Assistance Unit will prioritize towards giving the youths an opportunity to develop further their skills in the arts and contributions towards developing their communities.  It is my humble but firm view, that the innovativeness of the youths and Fostering a Greater Entrepreneurial Spirit will provide credible solutions to our current economic challenge.


The youths however, must seek “hand-ups” and not “handouts.”  They must realize that “handouts” are temporary and unpredictable.  Hand-ups become a permanent doorway to your own sustainable future.  The mindset must be as it is normally said: “What must I do for my country and less so what my country can do for me?”  It is only when together we build the island and by extension the country that all of us can reap the benefits of our labour.  Whatever you do, do it to your best.  


The Entertainer is just as important as the doctor.  We do not want mad Doctors. 


The Teacher is as important as the politician - we want principled leaders.  


The Plumber is as important as the hairdresser, we need beautiful people in safe houses.  We are all in this together – we must play hard but we must do our part.  We must expect to be paid for our work but endeavour to give more than it’s worth.  We must love our island more, care more about our stakeholders on the job, respect each other more and that is how we can have more and live more. 


I have all confidence that we in Tobago are prepared to weather the storm, we have done it before and we can do it again.  We are Tobago people, we are good people, we are resilient people under astute Leaders.  Remember, divided we fall, united we stand, together we can.


Thank you.  [Desk thumping]  

 [Desk thumping] Mr. Presiding Officer, I thank you for the opportunity to support my Colleague in this Motion regarding the Budget for 2015/2016. I want to operate on the premise like my Colleague, that less is going to be more this afternoon.


This is the third time we are in this House to discuss the fiscal budget 2015/2016 with the people of Tobago and our plans.   Mr. Presiding Officer, the last time I was here on the second occasion, I asked myself “why”?  We answered it by saying, “Well we do not have greater autonomy set, and therefore, we have to send the Estimates to Trinidad and when we finally get the budget we have to come back into the House.”  But this is the third time and I am going to ask the question again, “why”?  Of course, we may come up with the answer that it is about the global downturn in the oil and gas sector and my colleagues would have expounded a lot on that.   But this trend did not just happen today; it did not happen three (3) months ago, it began long before that.  What I do know is that we cannot just blame it on the oil and gas sector, but we must also know that this was compounded by the gross mismanagement and lack of foresight of the last Administration. Kamla and Howai amongst the others, amongst all the other questionable activities that they would have had, also would have set high budgets with low income expectations.


This morning I did my usual reading to fortify myself for the day’s duties.  It spoke about: “All great Leaders have uncommon vision.”  


“A Leader sees further than others see; a Leader sees more than others see; a Leader sees before others see, and Leaders do more than control the direction in which they and other people travel.  They see the whole trip in their minds before they leave the dock.”  


Thanks to John Maxwell.


Mr. Presiding Officer, this country must therefore, conclude unequivocally, that Kamla Persad Bissessar was not just, not a great leader; she was the poorest leader of all times.  She was not a poor leader because she was a woman, but because she belonged to a Party with poor leadership qualities and clouded attributes.  She associated herself with a team of persons of unquestionable character.  That is the result that we have.  


In 2014, there were indicators of a challenged economy.  They may have not seen it, I do not know.  They may have seen it and worse yet did nothing about it.  What is fact is that they did not manage the impact and that is why we are here today. They perfectly mismanaged the resources of the country and that is why we are here today.  So let us not forget, why we are here today standing for a third time in this House.


In Tobago, while we were began tightening our belts in 2014, the People’s Partnership continued to spend.  We need to ask ourselves, (I do know if the Chief Secretary was peeping on my papers today) how on earth in 2015 with all the negative indicators on the economy, could Mr. Howai and Kamla Persad Bissessar give permission and allowed State Agencies to borrow up to four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b.)?  If you want to read more about it, check the Sunday Express on January, 24, 2016.  What is concerning, is that they were given permission, to borrow.  I ask, was Kamla and her team, were they seeing the future of the economy or not? When Contracts were handed out in the eve of the election and cheques could be cashed after September 7th, 2015, were they in effect seeing their demise before we saw it?


In addition, to being challenged Mr. Presiding Officer, by the fact that it is due to the failure of the last government that has me standing here for a third time on this budget, I want to emphasize the “gross disrespect” to Tobago from the Central Government who are supposed to be our partners.  I refer to the fact that we have been repeatedly refused the option to borrow, but State agencies with appointees not chosen by the people, without a direct reporting mechanism to the people  can be allowed to borrow to the tune of Tobago’s Budget four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b.).  This Tobago House of Assembly has proven over the years under the astute leadership of the Honourable Orville London that we have managed the less than adequate resources given to us to do a lot.  Just look at the major projects: 


  • Scarborough Library; 

  • The Kendal Aquatic Centre; 

  • The Shaw Park Complex; 

  • The Financial Complex; 

  • Cove; 

  • Five (5) Multi Purpose Community Centres across the island; 

and of course 


  • Our Roadways that continue to give us a smooth ride.  

All of this and more were done with, “Build As You Get The Cash Programme”.  We took all kind of “cussing” for the delays, but we cut, contrived and invested in our local people and their skills to achieve the objectives.  When we thought it was difficult, we asked, as the Tobago House of Assembly, the Government of Tobago, the sister to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, we asked, can we borrow to facilitate a faster level of delivery, and what did we get, a big fat “No”.  Yet, the country is left with a four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b.) debt from the State Sector Companies that they got permission to borrow. Essentially, a permission slip is why we are standing here today to reallocate and reprioritized our resources. 

 

We were penalized, and continued to be penalized for our good management and skills in Tobago, skills that will continue to have us weathered the storm.  But, Mr. Presiding Officer, it is a decision that we as a people must take responsibility for.  We put them in power in 2010.  I said we, because as long as a party wins at the polls, there is collective responsibility, even if you did not vote for them or you did not even vote at all.

3.24 P.M

Therefore, we in the Division we feel once we have the kind of cooperation, we have the kind of collaboration, once we utilized the principles to ensure that productivity and efficiency that we can be able to deliver to the people of Tobago but it is something that requires as said by previous Speakers all hands on deck.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I know that there are many of my Colleagues who would want to contribute and I know also that today is a very special day in terms of the Carnival Calendar and so on, so with that brief contribution, Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to thank you for being able to contribute and I want to be able to say that I am in support of this motion fully, and committed to the cause of taking Tobago forward in these challenging times.

I thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]

3.14 P.M

Therefore, we in the Division has indeed in other Divisions would have to tackle head-on the issue of the “morning work culture” that we have in Tobago because if we are facing a situation where we have to be more productive we have to tackle that.  We have already started discussions with the Union – the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and we have to tackle that in the weeks and months ahead.


     It is not that there is anything wrong with a Task Culture, that is, not working a full eight (8) hours but there has to be production.  If we look at all areas, other areas like our road maintenance, whether it is the marking of roads, whether it is the treating with the potholes, whether it is just the basic maintenance of sanitation along the roadways and cleaning the drains and so on, we can do better and we have to do better.  So, from our standpoint in the Division, that is one clear area for improvement.


    There are other areas including as the Secretary would have raised before – revenue enhancement which the Division of Infrastructure having responsibility for  the Studley Park Quarry - a clear significant asset in the context of Tobago that has potential to generate significant revenues for the island.  We in the Division have to commit, we are committed to ensuring that in the shortest possible time that Studley Park increases and optimizes its production so that we can start generating surpluses over and above what our expenses are.  [Desk thumping]


Mr. Presiding Officer, if Studley Park was in the hands of a private individual that person would have been a multimillionaire over and over and over and this Tobago House of Assembly need to basically do that - take that role.  We need to see ourselves as any private individual owning a resource like that which can see themselves with the ability to generate significant resources and the island needs those resources now.


The Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities as a large Division in terms of the cut that we are now – the process that we are now going through in terms of our reduction in expenditure, we would have to give up 

just over seventeen million dollars ($17m.) worth of our Recurrent Allocation for 2016.


The Division would also implement a number of projects where it gets additional funding from the Tobago House of Assembly’s total project funding but the sacrifices are made by different Divisions and of course, in the context of those sacrifices, we understand that some of the projects that we had intended to put forward in 2016 cannot be done in that way and we therefore have to come up with a course of action where our Development Programme is concerned. 


     However, in the Division, there are some things that are non-negotiable.  We already have the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and of course, in difficult times like these the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) takes on added significance.  It is a Programme that the Assembly is committed to continue to fund, to continue to support but again there has to be a quick ‘proco’, there has to be more given for the support that is provided for the Programme.  Therefore, our approach to the URP in 2016 has to treat with providing training – significant training in various areas that can make the persons that benefit from the Programme attain the kind of skills valuable to other sectors of the economy including: 


  • The construction sector; 

  • Agriculture; 

  • Tourism; and

  • The Craft Industries. 


Of course, the Programme has to be able to deliver more, so we have to look at greater collaboration with not only Divisions in the Assembly but with:


  • Churches; 

  • With those that have less;  

  • Our senior citizens; 

  • Our single parents. 


assisting where possible and treating with our communities in terms of being able to treat with those small nuisances and so on that we have in various communities that need addressing to improve the quality of life of the people.


      The Division is committed to the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) but of course, URP has to be committed also to improving, to becoming more efficient and to be able to show the community and the Tobago population that it is doing more and that it can do more.


The same thing can be said for overall maintenance operations.  We have to show improvements in terms of our patching or repair of potholes, in terms of our signage, road marking and those particular areas.  So that, to a large degree, the present cut is not going to impact negatively on various areas of the Division’s operations except for the fact that it forces us to be more efficient, to be more productive and to become more creative. 


      However, in the area of the Development Programme, we have to make adjustments because of course, we know that there are some things that we are not going to be able to do in 2016 because of the current financial situation.   We have confronted that head-on by looking at our set of priority projects and determining that there are couple of things that we will not be able to do in 2016.   


We decided for instance, that we have the Shirvan Roundabout that was expected to cost us about eight million dollars ($8m.) to build and we took a decision to use a cheaper option to install traffic lights so that there would be protection from motorist and users of the roadway there but we cannot afford to spend that this year.  


      We took a decision for instance, to delay some projects in terms of allowing them to maybe start later in the Financial Year or start  into the next Financial Year to allow those projects that we have already committed so that they can finish.  So all the projects that we have already started, we are going to complete.  Projects like: 


  • The Charlotteville Mini Mall; 

  • The Adventure Mini Mall; 

  • A number of outgoing projects in Windward Tobago; and

  • Throughout various route areas in Tobago.


where we are doing retaining walls and drains and so on, have started.  They would be completed.  


We are committed to the Milford Road bridges actually and we are committed to starting the first one by the Abattoir by the end of the first quarter of this year.  


The pace of development of the other two would be determined by the financial situation while we are committed.   We understand that we have to tone it down in terms of our rate of implementation.


We are committed to the Road Resurfacing Programme and we have allocated just over sixty million dollars ($60m.) throughout a number of roads throughout Tobago. 


We are committed to our Street Lighting Programme working in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC).


We are committed to special projects including the erosion - the might of the erosion situation handed down in Ten Chains in Roxborough.


Completion of a number of roads development that included the Arnos Vale into Les Coteaux Road upgrade.


We are also committed to treating with the help of creative mechanisms including with the help of  Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) seeking to find a creative mechanism to be able to take the construction of the Roxborough Administrative Complex.


So that all in all, in spite of the existing situation, the Division believes that at this point in time, as we stand here today, that the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (DIPU) can deliver a basket of infrastructural goods to the population of Tobago in 2016 in spite of our difficult economic challenges.


The provision of that basket of goods however, is going to depend upon the Division being able to rise to the occasion, in terms of us improving our supervision, in terms of us getting our procurement right so that we get goods from the suppliers for the best rates possible.  


It is dependent upon us being able to reduce our outlay on rental lease and we are taking measures to be able to treat with that and the population of  Tobago has to work along with us because we have to be fair.  There are persons who have been renting equipment and vehicles to the Division for many years now and the returns on those vehicles, those equipment and so on, are way in access of what they would have paid for them and what they pay to operate and maintain them, and if in the months ahead they have to 

face situations where they might only be able to get work for four (4) months or six (6) months, let us work together - half a loaf is better than none. 







Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I stand in support of the Motion laid by the Secretary of Finance, the Member for Bacolet/Mt. St. George, this afternoon and I want to congratulate him for the job that he has done in putting this before the Tobago public.

  

I also want to congratulate the Chief Secretary in his contribution and the more recent contributor, the Deputy Chief Secretary, the Member for Syeyside/Lanse Fourmi.


Mr. Presiding Officer, this motion coming so soon after the debate that we had here in November and virtually coming immediately after the announcement at the end of 2015 by the Prime Minister signifying a cut in expenditure of seven percent (7%) across all State Ministries and State Organizations.

  

It is really a reflection, Mr. Presiding Officer, of the respect of this Administration for the Tobago public, that even though we were here just over two (2) months ago, we would have made the adjustments, and as the motion would note, we thought it most responsible to come to this august House to be able to notify the Tobago public of our intentions and how we would treat with, what lies ahead.  It is really a reflection of how this Tobago House of Assembly Administration led by Mr. Orville London has managed the resources of Tobago over a very long period of time.  In spite of what criticisms, this Administration may have had or may continue to have, no one can deny that our approach to fiscal management is really above board and in my opinion stands second to none as you can see around this region or elsewhere. [Desk thumping]   So therefore, this makes us feel comfortable, confident even in terms of how we treat with what lies ahead.


  The Deputy Chief Secretary, the previous contributor would have noted the fact that oil producing countries or oil exporting countries around the world have to be making adjustments at this particular point in time.  Therefore, the situation that we are in now, is one that we have to live with, we have to treat with.   There is not going to be any short fixes, there are not going to be any short cuts to making things right, we have to treat with it.  Our approach in the Tobago House of Assembly, by immediately reorganizing our priorities and so on is one that must be commended.  After all we are not just an oil exporter; we are a small island developing state.  Small island developing states are vulnerable, vulnerable to shocks of all kinds and a shock like this in an economy like this, one can have long and recuperating effects.  So that even as we stand here today, with a certain situation in front of us, we do not know how long and how deep this particular course of economical events may take us.  Therefore, we have to be ready, and we have to be pragmatic to be able to treat with what confronts us now, and what may lie ahead.  Of course, all challenges represent opportunities.  Therefore, as previous Speakers would have noted, we in Trinidad and Tobago indeed, these challenges that confronts us present us with opportunities to do better.  In spite of the fact that we have reduced allocations, reduced expenditure, we have the potential to do better.   We can improve our efficiency; we can improve productivity.  Everybody speaks about that.  Mr. Presiding Officer, if we are honest with ourselves in this island of Tobago, there is significant room for improvement where these things are concerned.  


I oversee the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, and in terms of what lies ahead the issue of efficiency and productivity are critical for that Division.  It represents the largest Division of the Assembly, has the most employees and if we are fear, if we are honest, the productivity of the Division leaves a lot to be desired.  As we look ahead, I want to make an appeal to the workers of the Division that this Assembly is committed to maintaining their employment.  Maintaining of our workers remains a high priority with the Assembly, but our employees also have to be committed to producing more.



Assemblyman
3.04 P.M

I spoke just a little bit about sector collaboration; however, this is very necessary in going forward as I would have indicated times before.  We need a harmonious relationship and sustained cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and the Tobago House of Assembly.  The Division of Tourism and Transportation is very critical at this point.  I am very heartened from the response of the Minister, and some of the discussions we have had in some of the meetings.  There were workshops, I think about two (2) weeks ago and members of staff of the Division were involved in the strategy and in the planning and we are hoping that this will bear fruit both for Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago.  We have agreed that we will have some Operational Tourism Task Force going forward.  I mentioned the Cabinet adjustment to 

the Room Upgrade Programme and the Committee that was appointed to treat with the revision of the incentive and we look forward to the collaboration from the Divisions in going forward especially:


  • Agriculture; 

  • Community Development and Culture; 

  • Works and Infrastructure;


 and it can go on: 


Support from the Office of the Chief Secretary


to name a few, Mr. Presiding Officer.


We have partnered with the Police Service to have the Tourism Policing Oriented Unit and I must emphasize the importance of collaboration in going forward.  


But before I take my seat Mr. Presiding Officer, “Productivity” is critical.   So we must not lose sight of our watch words of, “Discipline”, “Production” and “Tolerance”, Mr. Presiding Officer.  We have to seek to improve productivity, we must improve efficiency across the board, across the island and be able to identify ways in which we as a Division can continue to promote and facilitate the expansion of the industry on this island.  


At the macro level, we are therefore, bent on improving service excellence while at the same time doing so efficiently through proper supervision, improved attitudinal change and I look forward to the Tobago Hospitality and Tobago Institute (THTI) leading in that regard, Mr. Presiding Officer.  There will be an impact on our Sports Tourism Initiatives because those are some of the areas we will have to cut.  The Request for Assistance to Sport Organizations and Community Groups, we will not be able to treat with all the requests as we have done in the past, but then again, we have to try to find creative ways to facilitate our Community Tourism Thrust such as the Blue Food and all those other activities.


So, Mr. Presiding Officer, I take my seat.  We in the Division of Tourism of Transportation will play our part.  We know that the Tourism Sector is critical, not only to Tobago but to Trinidad and Tobago at this time.  We are committed, we are very focus, we will push, we will ensure that we create the networks, build the networks and maintain them so that each and every one of us can be comfortable with the contribution that the Tourism Sector makes.  Going forward, collaboration is very important.  One hand cannot clap and whether it be at the level of the Tobago House of Assembly or the private sector, we really need that support and that synergy going forward.


I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this motion and of course, to the mover of the Motion, I say congratulations to raising this motion giving the Tobagonians a taste of what is there to come.

 

Thank you and I take my seat. [Desk thumping]




Assemblyman
2.54 P.M

Our people here in Tobago must understand the importance of communicating proper information and correct information to the people who are looking in.  We continue to sensationalize and we continue to highlight the negatives.


Our Online presence is poor and we have not been sufficiently able to treat with the Customer Service issues amongst other factors and so, we have to continue to educate our people through our Education Awareness Programme which will be rolled out in the upcoming months.


When Mr. Stewart was here, I asked him about his investment in his staff and he would have indicated that part of the reason for his success at his property is that, he invested heavily in training and development of his staff.  He has endless alliances with universities who come to his property to provide certification to staff - On the Job Training.  He has partnerships with other destinations where he send staff to different locations even hotels right here in the Caribbean to treat with the issue of training and ensuring that the Customer Service standards at his properties are maintained.


Mr. Presiding Officer, going forward, our sector must follow suit.  There are too many models and positive examples out there and within the sector they must be able to look at these models and try to see how they can learn from that.   We must be able to step up our game and we must be creative in going forward.  


We will continue to do our part in terms of marketing the destination as I said and we shall continue to explore various means of social marketing that will allow us to promote the sector internationally.  In this regard, we will explore creative ways of marketing in an effort to meet the global demands on a reduced budget.  We shall continue to explore the following:


  • We will focus on relationship;

  • Building Marketing strategies;


Such as: 


  • Networking;

  • Building Alliances with other businesses;

  • Calling all customers, friends and even their networks.  


We have to find companies which are prepared to help with the marketing of the destination or encourage international internships from source markets such as: 


  • Germany in the Boltics; 

  • Brazil; 

  • Canada; and 

  • Scandinavia to name a few.  


We will develop a marketing task force with other small business owners for the purpose of sharing low cost marketing ideas and referring each other businesses.


When I spoke to the stakeholders on Monday, I told them that they have to fill in the gaps where marketing is concerned and that I would expect to see them going out very often to different destinations, utilizing the networks in other jurisdictions to help to treat with the marketing gap.  


We will continue to invite the Media to the destination to encourage positive promotion, we will promote the destination on free on line Directories and publishing articles and utilizing Websites that will link to the 

destination and we will continue to polish up on the destination Customer Service to treat with value added services and goods discount packages, coming out from the private sector is an issue.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, we spoke about how we need to treat with that as soon as possible and we will ask for referrals both on and off-Line but the point must be made that we will continue the fight with marketing despite the challenges that we currently face. 


    Our Sites and Attraction Programmes will continue and our revenue generating capacity through the Canopy Tour Programmes.  


Our ongoing efforts to upgrade Fort King George to add a feature that will allow for stage presentations of the wars, the stories and that would have gone before and we will ensure that our sites and attractions are in pristine condition going forward.


     In the case of transportation, in terms of cruise, more investment has really been minimal to date.  Our strategy will be to maintain the calls that we currently have to the destination.  We have about fifty (50) calls at present, bringing somewhere in the vicinity of ninety thousand (90,000) passengers.  We will try to maintain that but at the same time we are also focused on building a year-round cruise industry and we are hoping that as a first priority, to have at least two (2) ships call to the destination during the off-peak season.


We will continue to “knock on the door” of the Cruise Executives to make sure that this happens going forward. 


     In the area of airlift, our strategy is to seek out new air lifts because as I would have mentioned earlier we have lost two (2) major carriers which brought significant load factors to the destination.  We have determined that we need direct services from Scandinavia, (and note I am saying need as oppose to want).


We need a direct service from North America and also we have been pursuing a direct connection from Barbados because that will help to build our tourist arrivals to the destination as well because Barbados is one of the major hubs in the Caribbean at this point.  



    We will also maintain those that we currently have, the frequent rotations from British Airways. 


    We have brought back Virgin to the destination.  We have Gol.  We are at this point renegotiating a new arrangement for the next season and we have recently announced the Manchester Flight to the destination which opens up twelve thousand (12,000) seats for us and so the marketing has started.   The flight is now open for sale and we are pushing to ensure that we fill all the seats to the destination for a flight that starts in winter 2016/2017.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, what about our local input?   This is necessary, especially in a situation where we have a down turn in the economy.  We need better strategies and we have to be able to persuade the potential tourist into spending.  As a consequence, internal cost cutting would be explored and I know hotels will have to focus on how they re-brand the operations and utilize more domestic inputs going forward.  As foreign exchange earnings are reduced, there would be a corresponding reduction in the demand for imported food.  This therefore creates an opportunity for the local agricultural sector and the establishment of effective partnerships between agriculture and the tourism stakeholders.  Consideration must be iven to buying more local products and supporting local farmers and as such, a net foreign exchange (you know the position) will increase.


Restaurants to my mind, would have to consider having promotions such a Total Local Day in their various eating establishments.  Hoteliers can partner with the Division of Marine Affairs, Marketing, and the Environment (DAMME) to adopt a farmer and to have such programmes as happening in Jamaica.


Mr. Presiding Officer, in terms of cruise, the opportunities is there as well.  These positive developments in the cruise sector provides an excellent opportunity for cruise stakeholders, craft vendors, and tourism concessionaires on the island to maximize and to use more authentic products for cruise visitors.  


Instead of Duty Free Shops with imported goods, the concentration can be on Tobago-made products where the leakage of foreign exchange would be minimized or even non-existent.   That is one of the things that Tobago enjoys at this point in time, with the seventy-four US dollars ($US74.00) spent on a daily basis per passenger coming from the cruise you would find that all of it stays within the Tobago economy as opposed to being exported to other jurisdictions because of the lack of duty-free shopping.  [Desk thumping]


     Mr. Presiding Officer, we are also focusing on building our research capabilities within the Division.  I am pleased to inform the Honourable House that we have already and have been working for some time now on developing our capacity to improve our monitoring of the developments in our source markets.  Since 2014, we have embarked on a system that will treat with the Tourism Monitoring and Web System because this we feel is very critical so that policy makers like myself and planners can have timely data on the international industry and the tourism sector.   Our people here in Tobago must understand the importance of communicating proper information and correct information to the people who are looking in.  We continue to sensationalize and we continue to highlight the negatives.  


Our Online presence is poor and we have not been sufficiently able to treat with the Customer Service issues amongst other factors and so, we have to continue to educate our people through our Education Awareness Programme which will be rolled out in the upcoming months.


When Mr. Stewart was here, I asked him about his investment in his staff and he would have indicated that part of the reason for his success at his property is that, he invested heavily in training and development of his staff.  He has endless alliances with universities who come to his property to provide certification to staff - On the Job Training.  He has partnerships with other destinations where he send staff to different locations even hotels right here in the Caribbean to treat with the issue of training and ensuring that the Customer Service standards at his properties are maintained.


Mr. Presiding Officer, going forward, our sector must follow suit.  There are too many models and positive examples out there and within the sector they must be able to look at these models and try to see how they can learn from that.   We must be able to step up our game and we must be creative in going forward.  


We will continue to do our part in terms of marketing the destination as I said and we shall continue to explore various means of social marketing that will allow us to promote the sector internationally.  In this regard, we will explore creative ways of marketing in an effort to meet the global demands on a reduced budget.  We shall continue to explore the following:


  • We will focus on relationship;

  • Building Marketing strategies;


Such as: 


  • Networking;

  • Building Alliances with other businesses;

  • Calling all customers, friends and even their networks.

     We have to find companies which are prepared to help with the marketing of the destination or encourage international internships from source markets such as: 


  • Germany in the Boltics; 

  • Brazil; 

  • Canada; and 

  • Scandinavia to name a few.  


        We will develop a marketing task force with other small business owners for the purpose of sharing low cost marketing ideas and referring each other businesses.


When I spoke to the stakeholders on Monday, I told them that they have to fill in the gaps where marketing is concerned and that I would expect to see them going out very often to different destinations, utilizing the networks in other jurisdictions to help to treat with the marketing gap.  

  

    We will continue to invite the Media to the destination to encourage positive promotion, we will promote the destination on free on line Directories and publishing articles and utilizing Websites that will link to the destination and we will continue to polish up on the destination Customer Service to treat with value added services and goods discount packages, coming out from the private sector is an issue.  


    Mr. Presiding Officer, we spoke about how we need to treat with that as soon as possible and we will ask for referrals both on and off-Line but the point must be made that we will continue the fight with marketing despite the challenges that we currently face. 


    Our Sites and Attraction Programmes will continue and our revenue generating capacity through the Canopy Tour Programmes.  


    Our ongoing efforts to upgrade Fort King George to add a feature that will allow for stage presentations of the wars, the stories and that would have gone before and we will ensure that our sites and attractions are in pristine condition going forward.


In the case of transportation, in terms of cruise, more investment has really been minimal to date.  Our strategy will be to maintain the calls that we currently have to the destination.  We have about fifty (50) calls at present, bringing somewhere in the vicinity of ninety thousand (90,000) passengers.  We will try to maintain that but at the same time we are also focused on building a year-round cruise industry and we are hoping that as a first priority, to have at least two (2) ships call to the destination during the off-peak season.


We will continue to “knock on the door” of the Cruise Executives to make sure that this happens going forward.


In the area of airlift, our strategy is to seek out new air lifts because as I would have mentioned earlier we have lost two (2) major carriers which brought significant load factors to the destination.  We have determined that we need direct services from Scandinavia, (and note I am saying need as oppose to want).


We need a direct service from North America and also we have been pursuing a direct connection from Barbados because that will help to build our tourist arrivals to the destination as well because Barbados is one of the major hubs in the Caribbean at this point.  


We will also maintain those that we currently have, the frequent rotations from British Airways. 


We have brought back Virgin to the destination.  We have Gol.  We are at this point renegotiating a new arrangement for the next season and we have recently announced the Manchester Flight to the destination which opens up twelve thousand (12,000) seats for us and so the marketing has started.   The flight is now open for sale and we are pushing to ensure that we fill all the seats to the destination for a flight that starts in winter 2016/2017.


Mr. Presiding Officer, what about our local input?   This is necessary, especially in a situation where we have a down turn in the economy.  We need better strategies and we have to be able to persuade the potential tourist into spending.  As a consequence, internal cost cutting would be explored and I know hotels will have to focus on how they re-brand the operations and utilize more domestic inputs going forward.  As foreign exchange earnings are reduced, there would be a corresponding reduction in the demand for imported food.  This therefore creates an opportunity for the local agricultural sector and the establishment of effective partnerships between agriculture and the tourism stakeholders.  Consideration must be given to buying more local products and supporting local farmers and as such, a net foreign exchange (you know the position) will increase.


    Restaurants to my mind, would have to consider having promotions such a Total Local Day in their various eating establishments.  Hoteliers can partner with the Division of Marine Affairs, Marketing, and the Environment (DAMME) to adopt a farmer and to have such programmes as happening in Jamaica.


Mr. Presiding Officer, in terms of cruise, the opportunities is there as well.  These positive developments in the cruise sector provides an excellent opportunity for cruise stakeholders, craft vendors, and tourism concessionaires on the island to maximize and to use more authentic products for cruise visitors.  


Instead of Duty Free Shops with imported goods, the concentration can be on Tobago-made products where the leakage of foreign exchange would be minimized or even non-existent.   That is one of the things that Tobago enjoys at this point in time, with the seventy-four US dollars ($US74.00) spent on a daily basis per passenger coming from the cruise you would find that all of it stays within the Tobago economy as opposed to being exported to other jurisdictions because of the lack of duty-free shopping.  [Desk thumping] 


Mr. Presiding Officer, we are also focusing on building our research capabilities within the Division.  I am pleased to inform the Honourable House that we have already and have been working for some time now on developing our capacity to improve our monitoring of the developments in our source markets.  Since 2014, we have embarked on a system that will treat with the Tourism Monitoring and Web System because this we feel is very critical so that policy makers like myself and planners can have timely data on the international industry and the tourism sector.  

Assemblyman
2.44 P.M

The response from the Division of Tourism and Transportation to this debate is that we will continue to strive; we will continue to strategize to build this sector, given the challenge of declining resources and downturns in some of our key markets.  We all, collectively, individually, remain steadfast in our tourism efforts and we have conscientiously focused on our mandate of revitalizing the island’s tourism sector to ensure that the tourism product remains one that is all inclusive, sustainable and competitive year round. So this is critical, as we strongly believe that tourism can play a significant role in the economic expansion and diversification of the Tobago economy and by extension the national economy. Therefore, we in the Division of Tourism and Transportation, while we joined with the position of the Tobago House of Assembly and Central Government, we will be exceedingly careful to make cuts in areas that will not handicap our efforts to effectively function as the facilitator of the Tourism Industry on this island.  So I say this on the premise that the recent statistics released by the Research Unit of the Division of Tourism and Transportation of the Tobago House of Assembly, reveal that there are opportunities for growth.  It reveals that we have been consistently seeing upward trends in certain areas, Mr. Presiding Officer.   



    So even when you look at the total passenger arrivals in Tobago, we are now seeing increases in the vicinity of three point two percent (3.2%) when we compare the arrivals over 2014, Mr. Presiding Officer.  We are seeing growth in arrivals in the cruise sector, we are also seeing growth in domestic arrivals where there were ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty-one (99,981) passengers arriving in Tobago up thirty percent (30%) from last month.  So when compared even to the corresponding last year figures which is 2014, it shows a growth of three point three percent (3.3%) in passengers arrivals, Mr. Presiding Officer.  So when you look at the breakdown, forty-four percent (44%) were transported via the inter island ferry service, forty-seven (47) via the domestic air bridge and then we have nine percent (9%) being attributed to flights internationally and also via cruise ships, Mr. Presiding Officer.    So there are opportunities.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, I must put on the table, however, that the overall position for the winter period is not yet known as it ends in April 2016.   However, given the withdrawal of the Monarch Flight and Croni Apollo, we have anticipated that this winter season will not be as rosy as those which we have enjoyed in 2013 and 2014 because these were two (2) of Tobago’s major airlines which brought in load factors in the vicinity of ninety-eight percent (98%) and upwards on each rotation. Through no fault of the Division, we lost two (2) major carriers and as a result of a change in strategic priorities of these organizations.  But moving forward, Mr. Presiding Officer, we are very committed and we will treat with the challenges facing us at this time.    I must assure you, I must assure the sector and of course the Tobago public that we will not sit on our hands, we have for some time now begun work to address the loss of these flights to the destination.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we continue to be focused on driving investment in the sector.  During the global financial crisis in 2008/2009, the Tobago House of Assembly was at the forefront in making representation for the initiation of a Tourism Development Fund, to promote investment to boost the industry.  The calls for such a Programme were further strengthened by the voices coming from the private sector but while the fund is in place not much has happened with this Loan Guarantee Programme as there are challenges with accessing the funds, there are challenges with the criteria and most importantly as I said before, challenges with accessibility.  So, on Monday the THTA and the members of staff in the Division of Tourism and Transportation sat down and we hammered out an approach within which we will treat with this issue and it is suggested that immediately after Carnival, that the THTA will partner with the Division of Tourism and Transportation to invite representatives from the Banking Sector to a discussion where we seek to understand what are the issues and to try to iron out some of the challenges and basically to have a better understanding of what the expectations are from the Banking Sector, because there are some challenges there.


On the topic of investment, we have also met on several occasions with the Minister of Tourism and have to date set up a Committee to treat with the review of the Tourism Development Act, and to put forward a Tobago position.  The intention is to determine the incentives that need to be revisited, to boost investment in Tobago, and when that document is prepared to have the document tabled both here in Plenary and also in Parliament with a view to making changes within the shortest possible time frame.  So the Senior Consultant, Mr. Neil Wilson and the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Transportation are both spearheading such document at this time.  


    I must of course, praise the Minister of Tourism and Transport for quick action for treating with the Room Upgrade Programme and for making the necessary amendment so that Tobago can be included in the administrative arrangements.  Our hotels, our bed and breakfast, our properties here will now be able to access a maximum of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) per room to upgrade their respective properties. So, we expect no excuses after this, Mr. Presiding Officer.


     The work on Sanctuary and Mantra Resort will continue as these will provide much needed accommodation to the destination.  Our efforts to woo investors to the destinations will also continue and you heard the Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development praising the Chief Secretary and myself for efforts to woo Mr. Bud Stewart to this destination and of course, those initiatives will continue where we try to get businessmen to come to the island to see Tobago as a place where they can make the required investment.  


    I am pleased, I must say, at the level of upgrades taking place at various properties across the island.  I must say that I saw Mt. Irvine Beach Hotel through another lens on Tuesday, and it was the first time, Mr. Presiding Officer, though I visited the property on several occasions that I was able to see the endless potential, the opportunities that property has for the sector and for Tobago in general.  So I really commend the team there for their efforts and most importantly, their vision, their commitment to doing the upgrades on that property.


   Bunkers now called, “Shepherds Inn” will open its doors on Saturday with a newly refurbished arrangement.  I am also pleased of the level of activities I see on the western end of the island, the bars, the restaurants are all innovating and recreating and of course this will go well in attracting visitors to our shores.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, Marketing will always be a challenge for us. The resources are always never enough.  Apart from that, we as a people in the process must understand the importance of “word of mouth” in selling a destination.  When you do the research it tells you that the No. 1 mode of communication is “word of mouth”.

Assemblyman

Thank you very much Mr. Presiding Officer for allowing me the opportunity to speak and to contribute to this very important Motion where we try to indicate to the public at large how we will treat with the challenges that we face currently.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I just want to put on record that the speakers before me, both the Chief Secretary and also the Secretary with responsibilities for Finance and Enterprise Development have made very important points that we must not lose sight of.    That is, in essence that Tobago is a part of a global community and as such we must not and cannot view our situation from a myopic perspective and that the situation that we currently face is not only unique to Trinidad and Tobago.


     When we look at the television, when we read the newspaper whether it be CNN or otherwise, all around us, we are seeing meltdowns, we are seeing significant adjustments to budgets, whether it be in the oil companies, in big countries like Saudi Arabia, China and even Brazil and right here in our own backyard which is Venezuela, they are constantly making significant adjustments and we as a people must never believe that we are insulated and that the occurrences in the International arena cannot affect us here in Trinidad and even in Tobago.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, and so for me, the important thing going forward is that whatever comes our way we must at all times be focused, we must at all times have a plan of action whether it is a plan of action in our heads or whether it is a plan of action on paper, we must always have at the forefront how we can manage any situation or whatever situation confronts us.


You heard from the Chief Secretary that the Administration will engage in a number of planning and re-planning exercises so that we are able to treat with the needs and the wants of our people.


Mr. Presiding Officer, the declining oil and gas prices are cause for serious concern and so I have noted with interest the various public expressions on this troubling issues. Some have articulated the need for diversification.  The Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development did point out how in the Tobago context we will be treating with diversification while others have articulated the need for reduced expenditures in the short term and in many instances, we have heard of the need to increase expenditures, to revive the press sectors, whatever the actions are, we must all be cognizant of the implications that this reduced allocation is likely to have on all of us.


Mr. Presiding Officer, in that vein, you know I am very pleased at the level of focus and even the level of commitment from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to not only steer us out of this challenge and integrate our opportunities but also to the commitment that they have been showing to improving governance and even building a better relationship between our twin island State of Trinidad and Tobago and in ensuring most importantly, that in Tobago we have a system, a mechanism that can strengthen our government systems here on this island through impending autonomy for Tobago, and this will of course allow us to realize our full potential.


Mr. Presiding Officer, there is a quote which says that, “Life is at its best when everything has fallen out of place.”  When you decide that you are going to fight to get it right, what this is basically saying to all of us here, is that there is an opportunity, there is a chance for us as a society to reflect on the way we are conducting business, there is an opportunity for us to reflect on our values, an opportunity for us to re-prioritarize, to collaborate, to remove redundancies and to engage in innovative and creative ways.


Mr. Presiding Officer, for me, and I am sure for all of us sitting around this horseshoe, the time has come for us as a people to step up our game and most importantly we must ensure that we implement so that we can treat with that. 


When you look over there in Trinidad, you hear utterances from the Prime Minister and how he will treat with restoring the economic stability and ensuring that the economy is returned to a sustainable growth path and he of course has initiated several strategies for that. 


The Chief Secretary in times before has also indicated how we will manage here in Tobago. As a responsible Division, as the Division of Tourism and Transportation we are joined with the Central Government, we are joined with the Tobago House of Assembly in ensuring that we exercise prudence in our administrative and our operational initiatives.


Mr. Presiding Officer, within this context, I must say, that the objective of achieving growth and development of our people is fundamental and so, in this regard, we in the Division of Tourism and Transportation will work diligently to ensure that the sector, that Tobagonians continue to enjoy  the level of progress and prosperity that we have been afforded over the last fifteen (15) years or so. 

Assemblyman

No, I am going to borrow some of the Chief Secretary’s time.  [Laughter]

2.34 P.M

The same thing with energy.  I want to tell all the young boys and the young girls out there, when they finish playing on the playing fields, turn off the lights.  I want to tell people in offices, including the Chief Secretary when you leave your office turn off the air-condition, turn off the lights.  In that way you can save millions of dollars - all of this is important.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to just indicate to all of us, that things could get worse before they get better and therefore, we have to have understanding, we have to recognize that the decision-makers are not our enemies.   Even when we have to take hard decisions, just as how a father sometimes have to take hard decisions and tell the children, “No holidays this year or no cinema this year or no ice cream today,” in that same way, we the decision-makers will have to tell the people, “No ice cream today, I am sorry, I do not have no money.”   That has to be the situation and you have to understand and resist the temptation to lay blame and point fingers and understand that we got to make the sacrifices together.


Mr. Presiding Officer, finally, pressure affords us the opportunity to demonstrate resilience, but it also affords us the opportunity to display innovativeness and I am challenging all of us here – look at many of the discoveries and one of the things that I have noted, that those who survive through difficult recession times bloom in the period after recession.  Whether you are businessman, whether you are businesswoman, whether you consider yourself an entrepreneur, now is the time to use your brains not to be too “risk averse” because once you make it through this period you are going to make it.  


      I am saying, Mr. Presiding Officer, that one of the things about which the people of Tobago could be assured is that this is not a reckless Administration, this is not an uncaring Administration, this is not an inexperienced Administration and therefore, if I am a Tobagonian and I want an Administration to guide me through this process it will be this Administration.  [Desk thumping]   I am therefore, even though things might be bad they are not desperate because you are going to be well then, you are going to be well guided, and I have confidence in the qualities of the Tobagonians that have made us a special breed and I am saying that we have made it through difficult times before and I have every confidence that the strategies which we are going to be enunciating throughout this session that those strategies, if properly implemented by us and enthusiastically supported by the people of Tobago that we are going to come out of this difficult period and be able to move into a much more favourable phase in a very short time.


I want to just say, that I have every confidence in my colleagues, I have confidence in the people of Tobago, I believe that we are going to make it.  I am confident that we have the quality so to do.   With that I want to express my wholehearted support for the Motion and I urge all of us as Tobagonians to recognize that we got to share the responsibility and if we share the responsibility we will surmount all the difficulties.


I thank you.   [Desk thumping]


Thank you very much. Yes.  WASA is saying that we used twice as much water as most of the other islands in the Caribbean.  I am saying, therefore, that if we can conserve water, even without metering, we are going to be in a much better position.


The Member is advised that his authorical flight notwithstanding, he has utilized fourteen (14) minutes of his speaking time.

2.24 P.M

It does not talk about what WASA (Water and Sewerage Authority) borrow; it does not talk about monies owed by the Ministry of National Security; money owes to contractors.  It is tens of billions of dollars we are talking about.  We in the Tobago House of Assembly do not have that problem. But I am saying, Mr. Presiding Officer, as the Secretary of Finance indicated, there are some changes that have to be made.  There are some adjustments that have to be made.  It is in that context, I want to just indicate to the people of Tobago, a number of “Ps” that to a certain extent encapsulates what we are trying to do. 


      The first is “Planning”.  Just as in your household, the tighter the budgets becomes, the more important it is that you plan as effectively and as efficiently as possible.  We in the Tobago House of Assembly have beefed up our planning processes: 


  • The CEDP Secretariat; 

  • The Division of Planning and Development; 

  • The Office of the Chief Secretary; and 

  • The Planning Units in all the Divisions. 


We are now going to be operating a system whereby all of these entities would be meeting at regular intervals and ensuring that they are able to synchronize the processes and to collaborate in such a way that a lot of the leakages and a lot of the inefficiencies which were in effect, too evident over the years that these will be alleviated, maybe not eradicated, but at least alleviated.  


      Then the question of “Procurement” -   Again, if money is scarce and you go to the grocery, you want to make sure that when you come back you get as much in your basket as you could.  You cannot afford to be profligate in your spending.  It is in that context, Mr. Presiding Officer, that I want to give the people of Tobago the comfort level, that we are “walking the talk” where procurement and value for money are concerned. [Desk thumping] There is a document here [Demonstrating] called, “The Tobago House of Assembly’s Procurement System”.  


      Mr. Presiding Officer, we did not go about this by guess.  We recognized our shortcomings and we recognized that there were short- comings in the way in which we conducted our business.  So therefore, we brought in the experts, and let the experts see what was going on, and let the experts advise  us as to how we could do things better.  Then, recognizing that there is a need for buy-in, Mr. Presiding Officer,  we will have had the experts coming in and discuss with all the decision makers at all levels:


  • The Secretaries; 

  • The Assistant Secretaries; 

  • The Administrators; 

  • The Accounting people; 

  • The Budgets people. 


and agree on the process and then the expert would have gone back and prepare the documentation.  This documentation is now available to all the Secretaries and of course, the Assistant Secretaries.  Each level have to be committed to ensuring that it is operational.   


I just want to draw your attention to the Note or the message that went out when the Chief Administrator sent out this Executive Order.  It came from an Executive Council Note that mandated: 


  • That the Chief Administrator must ensure that the existing Procurement System in the various Divisions and the Assembly be properly and expeditiously upgraded in accordance with the approved system referred to above. 


It further mandated that: 


  • The Chief Administrator should provide technical support and oversee the implementation of the necessary structure.

  • The Administrator also mandated to submit a report on the progress of implementation of the approved Procurement System to their respective Secretaries by the February 10, 2016.”



I am fairly confident, Mr. Presiding Officer, that with the introduction of this Procurement System, we are going to have more efficiency and more predictability on the way in which we go about spending the monies entrusted to us by the people of Tobago.


Mr. Presiding Officer, this is also about people participation.   Nothing can be achieved except we get the people involved.  It is in that context, that this Assembly continues to fulfill its commitment or honour its commitment to the people of Tobago to get them involved in the process. It is for that reason, Mr. Presiding Officer, that this is the third occasion in the last six (6) months that we have come to this House to speak about the finances and the economic business of the people of Tobago with the people of Tobago.  We understand the need for the people of Tobago to be in the picture, in the loop, for them to understand what the issues are, for them to be sensitized to the challenges and for them to be made aware of what our strategies are and to comment and to make further recommendations.  

 

      I am saying to the people that the success of this whole exercise depends on another “P”, their posture.  Because you see, Mr. Presiding Officer, when people are under pressure, they can react in a number of ways.  The most obvious way is to “point fingers”, to label you, to “cuss” somebody, to look for “scapegoats” and we here are natural “scapegoats.”  But I am saying, Mr. Presiding Officer, that the people of Tobago have got to understand that yes, it might ease the tension for a little while, but it does not solve the problem.  They must understand that they have a critical role to play.  In order to play that role, and in order for that role to lead to a situation where we are able to treat with the crises, there are a number of things that Tobagonians must know.

 

(1) . This might sound trite, but we have got to be more productive. 

It is as simple as that.  We have got to be more productive because it is now no longer a request, it is a survival strategy.  If we are not more productive, we are not going to survive.  I am saying to the people of Tobago, that you have to play your role. We have made a commitment as an Assembly, as an Administration, that in the final analysis, the welfare of the people of  Tobago will be our major concern, and that we will do everything to protect the jobs and to protect the quality of life of the people of Tobago. But I am saying, that that cannot be achieved except the people of Tobago collaborate in ensuring that their own welfare is protected and their own quality of life is your welfare and your quality of life.  You have to ensure that you do your best to make sure you give us the kind of productivity. 

 

         I am saying therefore, that we have got to as a people to be more conscious of our responsibilities. I am saying, Mr. Presiding Officer, that being conscious of your responsibilities; it is not just about what you do, but what you do not do.  You can in effect contribute to the economic situation and the economic survival of Tobago and you do not have to earn a cent, but you can save millions.  


     Therefore, this is why we are going to be launching within the next couple weeks, “A Conservation Week, or Month, or Year”, our conservation process in Tobago, whereby we are going to be urging Tobagonians to conserve water and conserve energy in the first place. Mr. Presiding Officer, in order to ensure that we can get water in the next dry season, there has to be at least an investment of nineteen million dollars ($19m.) to ensure that we bring on stream the wells that have been tested last year.  We have to start a process in fixing leaks in Tobago.  The total cost of fixing all the leaks is, two hundred and three million dollars ($203m.).  Obviously we are not our water consumption in Trinidad and Tobago is more than … [Interruption]

Fourteen! Yes. And I know why. [Laughter]

Mr. Presiding Officer, I do not see this as just a debate. In fact, to me it is not even just a discussion, to me it is the continuation of a conversation among the decision-makers but most importantly, the continuation of a conversation between the decision-makers and the people. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, it is a conversation that has to take place.  All of us have got to recognize that we are in trouble and if we are to get it out of this particular predicament - I would not say in which we have found ourselves but in which we have been placed.  We have a responsibility, all of us.  All sectors, all communities, all agencies, all individuals to take responsibility for the processes as we go forward.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to indicate very clearly that if we do not make the right decisions now as a country and as an island the decision will be made for us by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).    Those of us who are old enough would recognize and understand that to a certain extent this is a repetition of the 1986 experience.  The only difference is that in 1986, the decision makers had no “wiggle room” – they had no time and therefore, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took over and the rest is history - another very pleasant history at that.  We have a little time, we have a little “wiggle room” and whether we are able to extricate ourselves from the clutches of the IMF and all that comes with that will depend on how we manage through this time.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to suggest to all of us and especially to the people out there who see us here and believe that we in effect have some kind of capacity that they do not have.  Running an island is not particularly different from running a household, it all comes down to the arithmetic and if the resources, the revenue, the income (call it what you will) if that declines then you have to make adjustments.


Mr. Presiding Officer, we today and over the next many months have to look at where we are but I think that we should take a little time to indicate how we got here but most importantly to deal to how we strive to get to a better place.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I do not want us to forget that we are in a very desperate place but we are in a very desperate place for a reason.  I want us as Tobagonians to understand that we were placed here because of the criminal reckless behaviour of the previous Government and for that reason, I want the people of Tobago to appreciate what happens when you have responsible governance as against reckless governance.  Because there is one significant difference between the circumstances that face the Central Government and the circumstances that face the Tobago House of Assembly.  Both entities have to operate with lessened or limited resources but because of the very responsible manner in which this PNM Administration would have functioned and operated in the Tobago House of Assembly, the limited resources that we have in the Tobago House of Assembly can in fact be focused on ensuring that we treat with the business of the people of Tobago in fiscal 2016 instead of having to pay billions of dollars of debt incurred in fiscal 2015 and before.  So that even if our situation is desperate or difficult, (call it what you will) I am saying to the people of Tobago that it would have been much worse had it not been for the responsible management of Tobago’s fiscal affairs in the years prior to now.  [Desk thumping]


I just want to draw your attention to this article from yesterday’s Express (January 27th, 2016):


“State Sector Borrowed four point seven billion dollars ($4.7b.) in 2015.”


 And this is just a “drop in the bucket” because this just deals with certain of the State Sectors.


Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer, and let me just say that I am very pleased to join this activity. I will like to crave your indulgence Mr. Presiding Officer, I know it is a strange request but lest I fall into the time trap could you just give me a nod when I reach fourteen minutes please? [Laughter]

2.14 PM

It must be emphasized that improvements in productivity will assist us in ensuring that we get greater value for money and will go a long way in assisting in adjusting to current realities.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, while I take my seat to allow my colleagues to contribute, I just wish to state as I wrap up, that the challenges facing our island and country are severe but notwithstanding these challenges I am confident that we can surmount them if we work together. 


    Mr. Presiding Officer, we cannot adopt a defeated posture nor can it be business as usual. The challenges facing us are not unique, we have been here before and there are many oil exporting countries around the world experiencing similar challenges.  For example, countries like: 

  • Saudi Arabia; 

  • Brazil; 

  • Russia; and 

  • Angola 


are struggling to balance their budgets and are suffering from a major revenue crunch.    They all face the challenge of: 


  • Declining fiscal revenues; 

  • Increased public debt; 

  • Currency depreciation;

  •  Deteriorating terms of trade and balance of payments; and 

  • Economic contraction.

The countries that will respond to these challenges will be those who plan well and make the requisite fiscal adjustments.  Some of these measures may not be popular but what is popular is not always what is right and what is right is always not popular.  As an island and country, we must be prepared to do the right thing in the best interest of island and country and for the long term benefit of Trinidad and Tobago.  [Desk thumping]


    Mr. Presiding Officer, with these few words, I take my leave and allow my colleagues to join in the debate. [Desk thumping]

Question proposed.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, relatedly, the Executive Council recently approved a Note that would modernize the Procurement System throughout the entire Assembly and reduce the potential for mismanagement and waste.  The new Procurement System is intended to streamline assonatize procurement procedures, processes and practices throughout the Assembly, with a view to fixing the dysfunctional aspects of the existing Procurement System. Mr. Presiding Officer, the new Procurement System, just like IPSAS is intended to ensure that the Assembly receives greater value for money that we spend.


    Mr. Presiding Officer, in addition to our strategy to curtail and control expenditure, our strategy to respond to our country’s current economic challenges, also entails the implementation of some revenue generating enhancement measures.  These are aimed at boosting and increasing the level of revenue on the island.  In this regard, the Assembly will continue to work towards restructuring the important Studley Park Quarry to achieve greater efficiency in its operations, and the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities is currently undertaking the necessary review exercise, to outline the way forward for the creation of a modern and efficient quarry with the potential to earn significant and predictable revenue streams for the Assembly.


     Additionally, we are also exploring the possibility of implementing user charges for some of our tourist attractions on the island.  The Division of Tourism and Transportation is working on a proposal to implement this measure which should commence at the Fort King George.


      We will also ensure that our Inland Revenue Department receives the necessary financial and technical support to improve the efficiency of revenue collection on the island.  


     Moreover, Mr. Presiding Officer, our economic situation also highlights the need for us to accelerate our Public Private Partnership Programme, to fund developmental projects in Tobago which have quantifiable output specifications and revenue generating capacity.


     Currently, there is also a need for us to intensify our efforts to source grant funding and technical assistance from international agencies for specific developmental projects and activities here on the island.


Mr. Presiding Officer, in addition, to the measures which deals with expenditure control and revenue enhancement, there are a number of other measures being implemented by the Assembly, to assist the people of Tobago to adjust to our current economic challenges.  


     Mr. Presiding Officer, please permit me to detail some of the other measures we are undertaking to respond effectively to our country’s current economic crisis.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, one of the strategies being implemented by the Assembly to treat with our current economic challenges, includes the intensification of our diversification efforts in Tobago. The country’s current economic situation brings to the fore the urgent need to diversify the national economy away from its dependants on the fortunes of the energy sector. The Assembly will therefore, intensify its diversification efforts in Tobago in the medium and long term. In this regard, the Assembly will continue to provide financial technical support, to allow Tobagonians to establish and expand their businesses particularly through two (2) of our programmes in the Division of Finance, through the Cove Eco and Industrial Business Park and through the Venture Capital Company. These entities will operate as defacto pipelines for business development with smaller businesses assessing the Enterprise Assistance Fund and the Enterprise Assistance Grant Programme under the Business Development Unit; and the medium sized and larger businesses, accessing funding through the Venture Capital Equity Funding Limited. I am pleased to report, Mr. Presiding Officer, that to date, close to three million dollars ($3m.) has been disbursed to three (3) clients under the Venture Capital Fund and another two point two million dollars($2.2m.) is in trained. 

 

     In addition, a review exercise on the performance of State Enterprises under the purview of the Division of Finance is currently being undertaken with the aim of improving efficiency through effective realignment of operations and also engendering greater private sector participation. 

 

     Mr. Presiding Officer, this exercise will also support our diversification thrust and to ensure that these entities achieve the objectives for which they were created.  These diversification strategies will have the effect of ensuring that Tobagonians are afforded the opportunities to become self-reliant and placed our people in a better position to treat with any negative fallout that may emanate from our current economic challenges.


Mr. Presiding Officer, another initiative of the Assembly to respond to our country’s current economic situation, is Enhanced Support for the Tourism Sector.  In this regard, we recognized that the Tourism Sector in Tobago has a critical role to play in any national diversification strategy.  As an Assembly, we would provide the necessary support to improve the  quality of our tourism product so as to boost international and domestic arrivals to Tobago.  As we tackle the economic challenges, it is also important that we recognized the potential of the tourism sector as a source of job creation and as a source of much needed foreign exchange.  Our support for the tourism sector in Tobago will benefit tremendously from our new spirit of collaboration and cooperation that now exists between the Ministry of Tourism and the Tobago House of Assembly.


On this note, I wish to congratulate the Chief Secretary and Secretary of Tourism regarding the direction of the Tourism Industry and in terms of attempting to attract investors to the island [Desk thumping] and on the recent visit by Mr. Bud Stewart, the owner of Sandals.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, another strategy that we will implement in treating with our current economic climate is our focus on construction activities and our accelerated Housing Programme and other initiatives by the Assembly. We will ensure that the Construction Industry on the island receives the necessary boost in order to stimulate economic activity.  Mr. Presiding Officer, decrease activity in construction would affect positively economic activities in other sectors via the multiplier effect.  In fact, most of the projects in Category 1, the Tobago House of Assembly’s revised priorities that I mentioned earlier, are construction related projects.  I will allow my Colleague to my right during his presentation, Councillor Gary Melville to expand on the projects under his purview.


Mr. Presiding Officer, issues such as productivity are important during these spirits of economic uncertainty.  In the Division of Finance as a precursor with the salvation of the Productivity Council, last year we undertook a survey of productivity in Tobago.  The results of this survey together with a consultation on, “Productivity” will be held shortly and we will significantly inform our approach to the establishment of the Productivity Council and our approach to treating with the issues of productivity in Tobago in the short and long term.




2.04 P.M

What is even more alarming and frightening is that the experts are telling us that it is unlikely that our economic fortunes will improve in the near future.


     The prediction is based on the prognosis that energy prices will not rebound any time soon.  In fact, the International Monetary Funds World Economic Outlook update release last week indicated only modest increases in the price of oil in 2016 and 2017.   These developments in the global energy markets over which we have no control as a country but no doubt they have significant implication for our country, for our ability as a country to balance our budget as well as our balance of payments and our exchange rates.  In these circumstances and against this backdrop, Mr. Presiding Officer, tough decisions have to be taken and sacrifices have to be made if we have to treat effectively with our current economic situation and for us to prevent matters from getting worse. 


Mr. Presiding Officer, we in Tobago like the rest of the country, we all have a responsibility to work towards surmounting the many challenges which our current economic situation presents.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, therefore, and in keeping with the directive of the Prime Minister, the Assembly has made the required seven percent (7%) reduction its proposed expenditure for fiscal 2016.  Overall, this seven percent (7%) reduction means that the Assembly’s overall allocation of two point seven, seven, nine billion TT dollars ($2.779b.) for fiscal 2016 has been reduced by one hundred and ninety-two point four million dollars ($192.4m.) to two point five, five, six billion dollars ($2.556b.) for this fiscal year.


Mr. Presiding Officer, our proposed cuts in expenditure were not done in any arbitrary or haphazard manner.   In fact, our downward adjustments were done with two basic principles in mind.  First, they were undertaken in a way that will minimize any negative impact on employment levels and on the welfare of Tobagonians. 


Second, they primarily targeted recurrent allocation rather than the Development Programme allocation so that our important developmental momentum will not be compromised.  Under these adjustments we have reviewed several of our larger outlays of funding and decided that in addition to reducing expenditure on Carnival, we also proposed to reduce expenditure on both the Jazz and Heritage Festivals further on a more micro level.  


The Assembly also proposes to place greater emphasis on negotiating lower prices for goods and services and will review the reward of grants and financial assistances to individuals and organizations under various programmes to ensure more effective delivery. 


On an administrative level, we will also increase our monitoring in areas where we believe that significant core savings can be achieved.


Mr. Presiding Officer, it must also be noted that while recurrent expenditure was our primary focus, this seven percent (7%) reduction will impact the funding earmarked for the reallocation towards our development programme priorities that are outlined in my November presentation.


Mr. Presiding Officer, what this reduction of just under two hundred million dollars ($200m.) means is a reduction in our transfers from recurrent expenditure to fund the Tobago House of Assembly’s list of priority projects for fiscal 2016.  As a result of this, the Executive Council convened a session to further revise the list of priority projects and to further postpone the execution of several planned initiatives. Additionally, projects coming out of the meeting were categorized in three (3) categories from one to three and category one (1) projects received the highest priority.  


    Mr. Presiding Officer, in addition to looking at the impact of the seven percent (7%) reduction in the Assembly’s allocation, we are closely monitoring the international environment and conducting the necessary sensitivity analysis to assess possibly outcomes should there be a further deterioration in the country’s revenue.  This exercise is a proactive measure to assist in shaping the Assembly’s response through the country’s economic circumstances if it continues to decline by the time of the mid-year review. 


 As an Assembly, we must be proactive and be prepared to constantly re-examine our priorities and to make the necessary adjustments if and when necessary.


Mr. Presiding Officer, I am confident that the strategies of expenditure reduction adopted by the Assembly will not adversely affect the quality of life of Tobagonians.  I say this because our cutting expenditure will not have any direct negative implications on employment levels in Tobago and the welfare of Tobagonians.  Also, as it relates to our Social Safety Net Programmes which provide support for vulnerable groups in societies, we have no immediate plans to reduce expenditure under these programmes.  We therefore believe that the most vulnerable groups in society will receive adequate protection in these difficult economic circumstances and the standard of living and the quality of live of Tobagonians will not deteriorate significantly as a result of our expenditure reduction strategy.


Mr. Presiding Officer, to compliment our expenditure reductions, we will intensify our efforts to ensure that the Assembly receives optimal value for the expenditure that we undertake.  Our current economic situation demands that as an Assembly, we exercise even more prudence in the way we manage our expenditure.  


All Divisions in the Assembly have been mandated to review their operations and to implement the necessary cost cutting measures.  In this context, we are intensifying our efforts to effect the full implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) throughout the Assembly.  The full implementation of IPSAS will assist in ensuring that we have greater accountability and transparency within the Assembly and assist in ensuring that the Assembly receives greater value for money for the expenditure that we undertake.  


Mr. Presiding Officer, additionally, the implementation of IPSAS will facilitate improvements in the Assembly’s payment processes and allow for the timely settlement of salaries, gratuities and payment to suppliers and other creditors within the designated benchmark of ten (10) working days.  





Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.

I beg to move the motion standing in my name and it reads:


WHEREAS the challenges facing the national economy have forced the Central Government to mandate a 7% reduction in the proposed operating expenses for all Ministries and the Tobago House of Assembly; 


AND WHEREAS the Tobago House of Assembly, mindful of the

Responsibility of all agencies, sectors and institutions to share the burden of readjustments, has reviewed its operations and has recommended identifiable adjustments of 7% reduction in proposed operating expenses;


AND WHEREAS significant modifications to the approved budget estimates should be submitted to the people, through this august chamber;


AND WHEREAS it is imperative that the people of Tobago appreciate the implications and support the policies and programmes inherent in the adjusted policy approach;


BE IT RESOLVED that this House support the recommendations of the Executive Council to facilitate the 7% reduction in operating costs;


AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this House support the strategies recommended to ensure even more rigourous adherence to the policies and processes that would increase efficiency and productivity, improve delivery and guarantee better value for money;


AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this House urge all Tobagonians to collaborate in making the requisite adjustments, during this critical period, as we strive to protect the gains, which we have made, in the development of this island and its people.”


     Mr. Presiding Officer, this afternoon, I am indeed grateful, for the opportunity to pilot this Motion, which seeks to solicit the support of this Honourable House, to adopt the measures proposed by the Executive Council, to assist the Assembly in adjusting to our country’s challenging economic times.  Today’s motion is both important and timely, in view of the prevailing economic circumstances in which our country now operates.


Mr. Presiding Officer, you may recall that our National Budget for the fiscal period 2016 was predicated on an oil price of US Forty-five dollars ($45US) per barrel and a gas price of US Two dollars and seventy-five cents ($2.75US) per MMBTU.  In the past eighteen (18) months, the price of oil has plummeted some seventy-five percent (75%) from a high of US One hundred and ten dollars ($110 US) per barrel, to US twenty-seven dollars  ($27.00US) per barrel, and the Henry Hub price for gas has hit a low of US one dollar and sixty-eight cents ($1.68US) per MMBTU.  What this means,is that the expected national revenue of Trinidad and Tobago, forty-one point six billion dollars ($41.6b.) upon which the national budget was based will not be realized.


     Recently in his address to the nation, the Honourable Prime Minister announced a series of measures geared towards treating with our country’s deteriorating economic circumstances. One of these measures call for all Government Ministries and the Tobago House of Assembly to reduceplanned expenditure by seven percent (7%). Therefore, today’s motion seeks to outline and discuss in some detail, the various measures proposed by the Assembly to facilitate the seven percent (7%) reduction in planned expenditure for fiscal 2016. Mr. Presiding Officer, it is in this context that today’s motion is particularly important.


     Mr. Presiding Officer, this country’s current economic situation did not take us in the Assembly by surprise. You may recall in my last budget presentation in June of 2015, as well as the motion that I tabled in November of last year on the revised priorities of the Tobago House of Assembly for fiscal 2016, I made several pronouncements. At that time, I notified the people of Tobago and the national community, of the economic uncertainties facing not only the national economy, but regional and global economies as well. In this context, one of the primary sources of uncertainty that I had identified then, pertained to the situation with oil and gas prices.


     In the Plenary Session in November of last year, I reported the significant adjustments that the Assembly had to make to its development priorities following its shortfall in budgetary allocations.  As part of the adjustments, we reprioritized our Development Projects and came up with a reduced list of Tobago House of Assembly priority projects for implementation in this fiscal year. Indeed, some of the projects which we viewed at that time as not urgent were postponed.  The sum of four hundred and five million dollars ($405m.) or seventeen point three percent (17.3%) of Recurrent Expenditure was reallocated towards these development priorities.


Mr. Presiding Officer, since that time, our country’s economic situation has deteriorated. 



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

TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

28 January 2016
UNREVISED
REVISED
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