THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine addressed members of the THA Executive Council yesterday.

Sharlene Rampersad

The new Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has returned from its retreat with a basket of goodies for Tobagonians—including immediate three-year contracts for temporary workers at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA).

Speaking during a media briefing yesterday, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said his Assembly has a number of goals set for the first quarter of 2022.

Augustine said while all of those goals may not be achieved in the first quarter, he was revealing the list so the public could hold the Assemblymen to account.

“There will be some things that we have not yet discussed or have not yet come to an agreement on that we will do in the quarter, so this is by no means an exhaustive list or the only things we will do in the quarter,” Augustine said.

The issue of temporary employees was one Augustine said he has addressed.

“We are starting with the people who have been on the forefront of the fight against COVID and based on assessment we have 133 employees whose status are viewed as temporary, it can be COVID-temporary or just temporary.

“For these 133 workers, once you are under the age of 60, you will be automatically be offered a three-year contract immediately,” Augustine said.

He said this is being done so employees will have more stability until their positions can be made permanent.

Those over 60 will be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Temporary employees within the Agricultural Division will also be taken care of, Augustine vowed.

“We can’t have people working for 20-plus years, retire from a programme and there are no benefits accrued from doing that—that cannot meet any best practices so far as industrial relations go,” Augustine said.

The Chief Secretary also announced a number of other initiatives—including a pothole repair programme called Show-Me-A-Road Tobago (SMART).

“That’s where using some online platform, you will be able to self report those potholes in your streets and your community and we will use a mixture of the Division’s resources with labour from the community to be able to start to patch these holes that WASA has left all over the place.”

The Assembly will also seek to install new traffic mirrors across the island, mill and resurface the entrance to the Pigeon Point beach facility, construct a new bridge in Grou Grou Patch, complete a stalled project in James Street, Goodwood, conduct an assessment of widening #1 Village Street in Goodwood, construct a traffic lay-by in Signal Hill and resume the island’s rural electrification programme.

“We have a set of darkness. I don’t know if T&TEC was preparing for the blackout before the election but we have to treat with that as a matter of security and ensuring the roadways are safe at night. We cannot do all but we are going to resume the project with vigour,” Augustine said.

He said the Assembly is also seeking to increase international flights to the island as Tobago will welcome its first international flight in two years today.

Grants for 320 tourism workers will be processed and Augustine vowed to reopen the application process, so those who did not previously apply could do so now.

The Assembly will try meeting with business owners who are struggling because of the pandemic to determine whether they can provide financial assistance to save faltering small businesses.

Housing was also high on Augustine’s agenda as he revealed that lots in the Belle Garden Housing Estate will be distributed before the end of the first quarter and all other available housing lots on the island would be given out soon.

“This is a sign that this administration is going on an aggressive land for house distribution programme, it is starting this quarter and it’s starting with the lots we have available and that are just there in bush right now.”

He also said the assembly will begin works on recreation grounds across the island and begin giving out contracts for the maintenance of playing fields.

Augustine said a new board for the Tobago Agribusiness Development Company Limited (TADCO) will be appointed soon and small business owners who make flour from cassava will receive THA assistance in expanding their businesses.

“By the end of this quarter, Tobago must be well on its way to becoming the largest producer of alternative flours across the Caribbean region,” he said.

Augustine said the boat that washed ashore in Belle Garden with a number of dead bodies last year will be removed from the Bay.

He also announced the Tobago Sea School will work with the THA to provide free diving lessons and training for all fishermen.

The Assembly will also work to bring fishermen on the island up to speed with regulations that will soon be implemented for their industry.

Augustine said the Assembly will try to identify lands across Tobago to create cemeteries as he said the existing spaces were “bursting at their seams” pre-COVID.

He also promised to provide foggers for schools and have the Secretary of Education resolve all outstanding leave and payment issues facing teachers.

Augustine said the long-awaited Plymouth Jetty project is being addressed and he hopes it will begin soon.

He also promised a jetty for Little Tobago will be started in the first quarter of 2022.

The Chief Secretary rounded out his list of promises with the implementation of a new policy for Tobago—removing the dress code requirement for the public at THA offices.

Augustine said this move was to “shake off” the last vestiges of colonialism and ensure that members of the public receive the service they require regardless of their attire.

He said schools and other specialised areas that require PPE to enter will retain their dress codes.