Chairman of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Demi John Cruickshank, is calling for a meeting with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
Cruickshank, commenting in Scarborough after the national budget presentation in Port of Spain, said the chamber felt comforted by the estimated $2.2 billion allocation to Tobago. And so, he made a call for a meeting with the THA aimed at moving Tobago forward. Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday announced the THA would receive $2.1936 billion, of which $1.86 billion will be for recurrent expenditure, $315,683 million for capital expenditure and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.
Cruickshank said the THA allocation accounted for 4.34 per cent of the $50 billion budget, and saw this as “an upward figure” since the assembly normally received 4.03 per cent. “We are also pleased that the Tobago House of Assembly would have received some ability to borrow coming out into the fiscal year ... it would be interesting to see how we now deal with that scenario in terms of borrowing externally or domestically,” he said.
The Tobago private sector is willing to help the THA implement its programmes and again urging discussions on expenditure.
“The Tobago House of Assembly has to tighten up on a lot of wastage that happened in the past...What they need to do is come and have a serious plan as to how you will move the economy forward.”
Cruickshank also welcomed the news that the legislation for self-government is before Cabinet.
He commended initiatives such as the return of the Loan Guarantee Programme, along with the introduction of the cash payment of $100,000 per house to private developers who construct houses according to Government’s design specifications.
There were no announcements in the budget about a long term solution to the air and seabridge operations, nor land licences for investment, which Cruickshank felt should have been addressed.
Increases in gas prices and corporation tax, also concerned Cruickshank. “This would push the production cost and transportation cost especially between Trinidad and Tobago and bringing goods from Trinidad for resale in Tobago. That is definitely something that we would have to look at because if the business owners get these expenses obviously we would have to pass it on to the consumers...we have been holding out a lot in the past by not adding any cost to our operations.”
Cruickshank added: “It seems like operating business in this country is getting harder and harder, with the increase in corporation tax from 25 to 30 per cent, it is something that we as a chamber really and truly have to look at... it is going to hit the small people hard every day.”