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THA Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack presents the 2020/2021 fiscal package yesterday.

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack says the 2020-2021 Budget presented by the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert on Monday is well balanced.

He made the comment at this week’s post-Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday.

The THA was allocated $2.134 billion by Imbert, some 4.3 per cent of the national Budget. Of this amount, $1.916 billion went to Recurrent Expenditure, $200 million to Capital Development and $18 million to the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).

Last year, the THA got Central Government’s approval to access bond financing up to $300 million to boost its Capital Expenditure. However, the loan facility has not been utilised as yet. But Jack said the process for the loan will be completed this month.

He said the planned THA programmes will assist in stimulating the construction sector and subsequently the rest of the island’s economy to return it to a growth path by 2021.

“Under the current circumstances and given the deleterious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy, coupled with reduced revenue from the oil and gas sector, I think the minister was able to strike a balance providing the economic stimulus that is required to restore this country to a path to positive growth,” Jack said.

He added: “Overall, the allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly represents a 6.5 per cent decrease from the 2020 allocation and this is in keeping with the reduction in the budget, down from 53 billion in the last financial year to 49 billion.”

The THA requested $4.71 billion to run the island’s affairs in June.

Jack said despite the budgetary shortfall, the THA will focus on several areas such as the revival of the economy, especially tourism, a major focal point for the island’s development.

He said refurbishment works at the THA-owned Manta Lodge hotel will be complete before the end of 2020.

He also said agriculture would receive urgent attention.

“We have a number of programmes already in train, such as the Agriculture Access Roads Programme … (and) the Goldsborough Irrigation project.”

He said Tobago will also continue to pursue its objective to become an “ICT Intelligent” island. The THA has undertaken a formal study to determine what is needed for the project.

In the 2019-2020 budget, the THA received a total of $2.283 billion – $2.033 billion for recurrent expenditure, $0.232 billion- Capital expenditure and $18 million went to the URP. (LV)