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Joel Jack

Loyse Vincent

THA Finance Secretary Joel Jack says he will submit a budget proposal of $3 billion dollars to Minister of Finance Colm Imbert, to cover THA spending for the next fiscal year.

Jack, who made the announcement during yesterday’s Post Executive Council media briefing, said the figure was derived after consultations with various interest groups and divisional heads.

However, he said the draft proposals were developed without the contributions of the six Assemblymen elected under the PDP, in spite of several attempts to include them in the process.

According to Jack, the normal procedure could not be followed due to the 6-6 tie in the Tobago House of Assembly, however the law provides for this instance

He said, “Section #113. 1 which mandates the Minister of Finance to prepare the draft estimates of expenditure for Tobago and Trinidad and Tobago to be tabled before parliament before the end of the financial year, and therefore it’s against this background that divisions have prepared their draft estimates for recurrent expenditure and development expenditure.”

Jack said the budgetary request is also based on one of the recommendations of the Tobago Self Government Bills currently before Parliament Committee, which will see the THA receive significantly more that the 4.6 per cent of the national budget recommended by the Dispute Resolution Commission.

“The estimates are currently over the minimum established by the new draft legislation which indicates a minimum of 6.8 per cent of the national budget and you may recall that if this legislation was approved an additional sum at a minimum of $1.2 billion dollars over this year . With this year’s budget of $48 – 49 billion dollars, the Assembly stands to receive over $3 billion dollars,” he said.

Last year, the THA submitted a request for $4.71 billion to the Central Government. However only $2.134 billion – 4.3 per cent of the national budget was approved.

The Finance Secretary said he met with various interest groups including NGOs, the Tobago division of the T&T Chamber of Commerce, the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, the Agricultural Sector and Trade Unions to gather recommendations.

However, in spite of several invitations being sent to the six elected PDP Assemblymen to be included in the consultations the invitations were declined.

“It was envisioned that members of the PDP would have an opportunity for all Assemblymen to discuss programs of their constituents and they would give recommendations and it is unfortunate that the members of the PDP did not choose to make use of the opportunity to provide representation.”

In response, PDP members stated that according to the THA ACT #40 “all budget approvals have to pass through the Assembly and issued a call for the Assembly to be constituted.”

However, Jack said the THA act provides for circumstances where the budget request cannot be developed within the stipulated time frame.

“ Section #42.2 says that the minister shall proceed to provide such draft estimates as he thinks fit. We are unable to debate and we are unable to approve, so if you are quoting a standing order, standing orders only come into place after the law,” =he said

According to Jack, the due date for the placement, debate and submission of the THA budget–June 30– has also passed.