President of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George says with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election due soon, he expects ‘sweeteners’ for Tobago in the upcoming budget presentation.
In an interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew with host Jason Williams yesterday, George said although there was no clear winner in the THA election in January, with a six-six deadlock, he believes there was a clear loser.
“I think it is obvious that we are going to see from the Central Government is an attempt to boost their fortunes in the upcoming THA elections and along with that would come the added sweeteners which would seek to entice the population in that regard,” George said.
But George said as a business owner, he was not so much interested in sweeteners as he was in ‘owning the sugar factory.’
He said Tobago business owners want to be able to catch their own fish, without depending on the Central Government.
“We as a business community, we have said repeatedly we need to see long-term sustainable strategies rather than the piecemeal handouts, I don’t want to be coming like Oliver Twist, coming every year and begging to Central Government “Can I have some more please?”
He said Tobago has long been kept on a system of dependency and unable to walk stand on its own.
George has several recommendations on how the Sister Isle can find its footing.
“I have made several suggestions, for instance, one is the repeal of the Foreign Investment Act because there are a lot of persons who would love to make direct foreign investments in Tobago but that act has crippled and stifled all foreign investment in Tobago since 2008. I’ve said that Tobago should be made a VAT-free zone, and that will benefit not just Tobagonians but it will benefit Trinbagonians generally,” he said.
George said if Tobago was a VAT-free zone, Trinidadians would be able to see the island as a viable option for living out their retirement.
The businessman said the association has also been pleading with the Government to increase the number of flights between the islands as he said reduced flights mean it is more difficult to get to Trinidad to conduct business. He said while T&T was ranked 105 on the Ease of king Business Index, Tobagonians have it significantly worse.
“It multiplied tenfold because there are still several things that you must come to Trinidad, you must come to Port- of- Spain in order to facilitate getting it done and I am talking about simply statutory regulatory things, you must come to Trinidad to get that done. Getting to Trinidad as a business person or for business purposes is increasingly difficult because of the reduced number of flights, we have repeatedly called on the Government to bring the flight quota back up to full and still have reduced capacity on the flight,” he said.
He said as a businessman, it was not feasible to use the Inter-Island ferry service between the islands because of the length of time the ferries take.
George said there has been no justification given for the reduction in the number of flights.
Commenting on the recently announced Marriott hotel for Tobago, George said the association was in complete support of the project.
He said any opportunity to create more jobs for Tobagonians was always welcome.
“I would say definitely its something that we would lend our support to because we see it as a good step and the point is, success breeds success because if you have major international brands that are seeking to establish in Tobago, that itself will bring more international brands, that will help with your marketing thrust.”