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

Tobago House of Assembly Secretary for Finance and the Economy Joel Jack is warning Tobagonians against investing their hard-earned money in the many pyramid schemes and blessing circles now prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking at the post-Executive Council news conference yesterday, Jack said people should be wiser with their finances. Blessing circles and pyramid schemes have taken Tobago by storm and while some have benefitted, there are several reports of circles crashing and people losing their monies.

Jack described all such initiatives as fraudulent, saying while we live in a free country and cannot dictate what an individual chooses to do with their scarce financial resources, good sense should prevail

“I therefore wish to urge Tobagonians to be careful. Any offer that sounds too good to be true probably is, so please, I implore all of you to exercise caution as I don’t want to hear any horror stories regarding persons who lost their hard-earned financial resources owing to these fraudulent activities,” Jack said

He said there was a risk-reward trade-off which meant the greater the return, the greater the risk. But he said people should be cautious during these economically challenging times.

“These programmes are just schemes, they are not meant to bless you, they are meant to rob you of your scarce, earned financial resources,” Jack said.

“In our day, we pooled our resources together via sou-sou, that has been traditional as we know it, but they have taken the sou-sou to another extreme and have now bastardised it, so I want to encourage persons to be careful.”

He said the Financial Literacy Secretariat within the Division of Finance and the Economy has been advising Tobagonians on ways to plan and to manage their financial resources during these challenging times.

Meanwhile, with the national Budget mere weeks away, Jack said he is anticipating a favourable allocation for Tobago in order to continue the island’s developmental thrust.

“Notwithstanding our country’s current economic challenges, we expect an allocation and budgetary support such that or developmental momentum on the island will continue apace and we also expect that our allocation will be in keeping with the recommendations of the Dispute Resolution Commission,” he said.

Jack said he anticipates allocations through various Government ministries and statutory bodies for projects in Tobago.

In 2019, the Tobago House of Assembly received $2.283 billion, with $2.033 billion allocated for recurrent expenditure, $231.6 million for capital expenditure and $18.0 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.

Commenting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Tobago economy, Jack said the situation is being constantly monitored and it has been forecast that there will be a decline in the island’s GDP for 2020 and an increase in inflation.

He said Tobago has seen declines in the tourism, manufacturing and financial service sectors, while there is also an anticipated rise in inflation, owing to supply chain disruptions and the increase in unemployment in private sector.