An incompetent People’s National Movement (PNM) administration has caused the collapse of the Tobago economy.
Former Minority Leader and Political Leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), Ashworth Jack said the island’s economy was in a terrible condition, especially the tourism industry, despite billions of dollars being spent annually.
“When an administration in an island our size, 45-55,000 people, spends $3/4 billion per year and in the position that we are in… we have no international tourists, so our biggest tourism market is domestic…between the THA (Tobago House of Assembly) and the central government, they have effectively killed local tourism,” he said.
Jack noted the value of the efficient inter-island transport system to Tobago’s economy.
“You had to know that in order for people to move between the islands, the air and sea bridge would have become the most critical part of Tobago economy. That have not been dealt with at all, we play games with it all the time. This (inter-island transport) transcends politics, it has to do with the survival of a people,” he said.
Jack said that it must be understood that if Tobago does well economically, then Trinidad and Tobago also does well.
“There would be less need for transfers from the national treasury to Tobago and so that needs to be dealt with, but I don’t know if the administration has the competence…that is a major problem for us. Even the way we spend money as an administration in Tobago, you wonder if we are getting the best value for our money. The Tobago economy will continue to flounder unless we recognise that we have a responsibility, not only to provide for the present generation but to set up a system where future generations will benefit from the wise decision-making of this generation. This transcends us,” he said.
Jack suggested that the population must be educated to understand the ramifications of choosing leaders.
“It is like telling a diabetic not to eat sugar… they know there are certain things that are not good for them but they like it, so they actually eat themselves to death. I used that analogy because I think Tobago is eating itself to death. We’re not understanding that there are some people who just cannot manage anything and therefore you have to find people who can manage your economy, who understands, who has seen the world in a different light and know that in order for us to move forward, we need to set things in motion. We need to work on the mindset… we need to stop playing games with people,” he said.
Asked about a rescue package for the Tobago economy as has been proposed by economist Dr Vanus James, Jack said such any injection of cask would only help in the short term.
“Tobago has been underfunded for years and therefore a cash injection may be one of those things that will have a boost, but how will it be spent and how will it be accounted for so that you get value for every cent spent?
“If you inject a billion dollars into the Tobago economy and not fix the loopholes, it would just be a stopguard measure and it will go right back into where we are because we have had billions of dollars pass through Tobago and very little has happened because the systems were not in place and once those systems are not in place and the accountability is not in place, then you find that we would go right back,” he said.