On June 7, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hosted an environment symposium to discuss the sustainability of a ‘Green Economy’ in Tobago.
The event, held at the the Mr Irvine Bay Hotel, recognised World Environment Day on June 5, and featured Economist Dr Roger Hosein, Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and Willard Phillips, Economic Affairs Officer of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The theme of the symposium was “Focusing on the Green: Resources, Reliance and Opportunities.”
Hosein said the dependency on natural gas and oil to drive and sustain the TT economy was a mindset that must change as these resources would be depleted one day. Speaking on the topic, “Managing Sustainable Development in the Medium Term: Considerations for Tobago,” he demonstrated the impact of the fluctuations pf oil and natural gas prices on the economy and said Tobago in particular should focus its investments into tourism and preservation, conservation and enhancement of its natural resources.
Hosein also suggested the THA lobby Government to get national crime under control as Tobago’s tourism industry may be adversely affected by being tagged together with Trinidad as a high-risk destination. He also suggested that Tobago consider a Citizenship by Investment programme to attract commercial and tourism-related development in exchange for selling a passport to an investor.
Hosein called on the THA to consider not only unemployment figures but the effects of underemployment - where a person may have a part time job or a job where he works under the standard 40 hours per week- on economic activity in Tobago.
He also stakeholders to come up with a formal programme to determine the relationship between tourist arrivals and economic development in Tobago and the relationship between crime and international tourist arrivals to the island.
Hosein also suggested looking into the merits of an offshore medical university in Tobago; and encouraging at least one multinational company to set up a MIPED - a small loan arrangement – as he noted a MIPED set up by BPTT in Mayaro began with TT$6 million and was now worth about TT$9 million.
“I have seen it work well with BPTT and what it does is promote something called localised economy development, it creates small loans for the community so that employment opportunities of entrepreneurs between one to about fifteen people is promoted,” he said.
ECLAC’s Phillips, in his presentation, challenged the THA, and participants to evaluate their views on the environment and heritage of Tobago, because their take on the island’s natural resources were key to building a strong ‘green economy.’
He said while a ‘green economy’ was attractive, it was also an expensive task and needs to be fully thought through to become a future driving force of the Tobago economy of Tobago.
Noting Tobago’s legacy of deep-rooted heritage and natural resources, Phillips said questions that must be asked, and answered, must focus on the economic value of the natural environment, whether maximum benefits were being rom our natural assets and whether these values were being preserved over time.
He said the answers to those questions were key to developing infrastructure, policies, philosophies and attitudes toward promoting the “Green” in “Clean, Green, Safe and Serene” theme of the THA.
Phillips also noted the role of agriculture in a ‘green economy,’ noting that historically, this sector generates the most benefits from use of the natural resources base.