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

Camille McEachnie

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Finance Secretary Joel Jack said despite the effects of COVID-19 and a reduced allocation from the Central Government of $148.63 million for fiscal 2021, Tobago’s economy is on a path for growth.

He was speaking at the THA’s 41st Plenary Sitting for the 2017-2021 term yesterday.

Jack said Tobago was allocated $2.6 billion, 4.3 per cent of the national budget and 54.4 per cent, less than in fiscal 2020.

He said the THA has projected a decline in the economy by 14.3 per cent.

“Mr Presiding Officer, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn for 2020, we project a 14.3 per cent decline in the Tobago economy.

However, he said that after the Assembly prioritized its projects, this projection has changed.

“It’s estimated that we have a spending profile of recurrent expenditure of $1.7 billion, development programme expenditure of exceeding $700 million and a further $750 million being spent by other Central Government ministries. Given this level of spending, we have conservatively projected a 3.3 per cent growth in economic output for the Tobago economy in 2021 and sustained growth in 2022.”

He said projects such as the ANR Robinson airport expansion project and desilting of the Hillsborough Dam remain on the agenda.

He shared the reasoning behind the reprioritized spending.

“These include stimulating the Tobago economy, enhancing our governance framework, revitalizing the tourism sector, revitalizing agriculture and improving food security, strengthening small and medium enterprises, building strategic digital, enriching educational opportunities and enhancing capital development.”

Meanwhile, Minority councillor Faith B. Yisrael expressed disappointment with the Executive Council’s decision not to present a new budget.

She highlighted several key projects that should be among the THA’s priority projects in my Goodwood/Belle Garden West area.

She identified the youth development programme, development of Richmond Beach, and housing in Glamorgan as key projects.

She suggested the Pembroke Heritage Park be a full-time theme park similar to Disneyland in the USA.

She also suggested the usage of the Agriculture Facilities in Goldsborough as Centres of Excellence for aquaponics and green housing.

Dr Yisrael begged the THA to also build a pavilion on the Goodwood playfield.

She rounded up her contribution by asking the THA to develop a comprehensive waste management plan for Tobago.

In 2013, the THA began sitting in November to outline how it intends to spend its allocation from Trinidad. It sends its budget to Trinidad in June, annually. For fiscal 2021 it requested $4.71 billion to run the island’s affairs.