Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Tuesday announced the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will receive an additional $20 million to improve agricultural access roads in Tobago. Imbert also announced the Assembly will get $100 million to assist in replenishing funds used to pay outstanding monies owed to Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) workers. He made these statements before these respective sums were approved by the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives.
On the $20 million allocation, Imbert explained this was to “open up areas for agriculture and to promote and boost agricultural production in Tobago.” He said this was necessary “especially with the imminent arrival of the Tobago Sandals hotel which will require a lot of indigenous agricultural products.”
Hoping these products will be produced first in Tobago, Imbert said more details will be provided on efforts to boost agriculture in Tobago in the Mid-Year Review today.
He added that $20 million was allocated for agricultural access roads in Tobago in the 2017/2018 Budget.
Responding to a comment from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Imbert said additional funding for agriculture in Tobago would be considered. Imbert said the THA received no advances or supplementations to deal with back pay for workers. The Assembly spent $138 million on back pay for TRHA workers and the $100 million supplementation from Government will “partially correct” that, Imbert said.
He told Opposition MPs the TRHA backpay issue was the result of the former People’s Partnership (PP) government approving a 14 percent increase for public officers but making “no provision to pay their back pay.” As Opposition MPs complained, Imbert claimed it cost the Government $6 billion “just to settle the back pay liability gifted to us by the outgoing administration on the edge of election after they raided the National Gas Company (NGC).”