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Monday 11 December 2017
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Budget silent on diversification of Tobago economy

Kay Trotman, President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast Association

Kay Trotman, President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast Association, says the 2018 budget statement presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on October 2, is lacking details regarding diversification of the Tobago economy.

“We still have to wait on the Minister of Tourism to let us know the exact direction… there was not enough, at least to me, not enough said in terms of the definitive actions for diversifying the Tobago economy.

“The pillars were not there and we are also now waiting on the THA (Tobago House of Assembly) to make some statements,” Trotman told Newsday Tobago.

“Yes, we were glad of the increase in the reimbursement re the room upgrade but our issue was also the criteria for accessing that and the fact that we really want access to direct funds, we don’t have the funds to spend to do upgrades and then get back the reimbursements, that was the challenge with that. That hasn’t changed but we’re glad that it has increased so access for us will still be difficult unless some of the criteria are changed,” she said.

Trotman said private sector engagement remains a critical factor in moving forward in terms of diversification.

“Now what is critical is that the THA and the Tobago private sector needs to be engaged to determine what the THA should be borrowing for to facilitate diversification. If that happens, then that facility will be hopeful but if it doesn’t happen and the THA just decides on its own without any input from the private sector as to what they suggest are the pillars for moving the economy, then it doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

Trotman said alternative sources of energy must be found as part of the solution towards reducing operating costs.

“The fact that taxes have been increased would impact negatively on business operations, especially the small businesses that are now asked to pay that 30 percent corporate tax. Exactly who are the SMEs that they are now calling upon to pay this and it may mean hardship for some of them.

“We are likely to see some increase in operating costs for business with the fuel subsidy removed, although we knew it was coming but it still would mean increases in operating costs for businesses and how that is going to impact and be passed on to the general public because it means that there would be some price adjustments for some businesses, unless it is we can find alternative sources of energy,” she said.

Noting nothing definite was said with regards to the sea bridge, Trotman said Tobagonians will have to hope that the procurement process doesn’t have any interruptions such as the last one.

“From what we mentioned with the JSC (Joint Select Committee), I don’t think anything will come out of that before the six months, there is no immediate or short-term solutions that I can see because they are going through the process and do whatever they have to do so there is nothing there.

“We can only now hope that the procurement process doesn’t have any hiccups as the last one did but no direct solution was given on that and it seems as though it is just running it course, so to speak,” she said.

Vice-President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) Carol-Ann Birchwood-James also felt the budget presentation lacked details, and she was particularly concerned about the lack of information on destination marketing.

“They talked about the yachting situation and they have also spoken a bit about the incentives for tourism… they need to go into more details. Though the incentives are already there, some of them we cannot get good access to them and what we need to be hearing about is destination marketing.

“They are not talking too much about destination marketing, which is something Tobago and Trinidad tourism needs,” Birchwood-James said.

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