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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Jack ‘buoyed’ by mid-year review

Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Joel Jack
Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Joel Jack

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy, Assemblyman Joel Jack is heartened by Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s statement that plans are well advanced with respect to the construction of a new modern airport terminal building at the ANR Robinson International Airport.

Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, Jack was responding to Monday’s mid-year budget review.

“As the Minister indicated, the project is expected to commence under a PPP type arrangement in December 2019, with an estimated completion date by early 2021.”

Jack said he was pleased to see the Minister address the challenges of the air and seabridge.

“As we are all aware, the air and seabridges, just like the new airport terminal, are critical elements of our tourism product in Tobago. I was quite pleased with the continued commitment of the Central Government to work in collaboration with the THA to find feasible and sustainable solutions to the ongoing challenges.

“The Minister also indicated that Caribbean Airlines continues to adjust its scheduling to effectively and efficiently manage travel on the airbridge between Trinidad and Tobago. This is also indicative of the recent wet lease of an ATR aircraft for the airbridge. With regards to the seabridge, the Minister also announced plans for the arrival of the new modern fast ferry, the Jean de La Valette, which has been leased for a one-year period and will provide an additional capacity for 800 passengers and 230 cars. I am hopeful that this fast ferry would provide the necessary support and capacity to allow citizens to travel smoothly between the islands.

He said this short term solution is welcomed while awaiting the arrival of the two new fast ferries under construction.

The Finance Secretary said he is “buoyed” by the continued commitment from the Minister to allow the Tobago House of Assembly to source additional funding for capital expenditure in Tobago.

“Following earlier assurances in his 2019 Budget Statement, the Minister indicated his intention to grant approval for the THA to secure loan financing on the local market in the sum of $300 million. This additional funding will be used to finance development projects on the island in the areas of health and sporting facilities, housing, roads and bridges, coastal protection and the transformation into our ‘Intelligent Island’ ICT project. Further, there are a number of joint THA/Central Government projects expected to commence shortly. These include: the new fire stations at Roxborough and Black Rock, a marina in south-west Tobago and the delisting of Hillsborough Dam.”

Jack said this additional funding and the collaborative projects will help in the developmental thrust and improve the standard of living.

Jack congratulate Imbert on his presentation, which he said indicated the economy is improving

“I was also encouraged by the continued assurances of the Minister of Finance that the national economy has in fact turned around and there is a return to positive economic growth following economic decline since 2017.

“The Minister also highlighted the recent GDP data from the Central Statistical Office indicating three consecutive quarters of positive growth for the first three quarters of 2018.

The return to growth suggests that the economic adjustments and strategies implemented by the PNM administration since 2015 are bearing fruit.”

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