The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) 2019 budget will be read today at the Legislative Chamber in Scarborough, but many of the island’s stakeholders aren't excited. Some said they are still waiting for old promises made by Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack to be fulfilled.
Darlyn Smart, the president of the Tobago Agro-processors Association, said she is not expecting anything to boost the sector in this year's budget.
She told Newsday last week, “We have been making recommendations for the past three years and haven’t seen anything. We didn’t make any submission this year to the budget so I’m not sure if anything would be there or not. I don’t really have any expectations. I am expecting to hear the promises and not receive anything for it – since requests made in the past are yet to materialise.”
President of Tobago Wildlife Association Lyndon Roberts said he hopes the assembly remembered its responsibility to wildlife.
“Normally nothing is mentioned about wildlife, so we look forward to hear what will be said to assist this sector. This sector has been a forgotten sector by the THA and the only time you hear about wildlife is when we host World Food Day. Other than that, it is not being catered for.”
He said the lack of conservation officers has been a main concern of the association for many years.
“There has been a decline in the number of game wardens and even for auxiliary game wardens we have been asking for...I hope that is something that is at least considered.”
Roberts said the association needs a proper office space to conduct its business.
“Right now we are using an office out of the Agriculture Division in Glen Road as our home. It is hoped there is some kind of provision made to give us our own office. We haven’t been doing any major projects to be looking at funding, so that is not a major issue right now."
Kaye Trotman, president of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association, said she expects nothing in this year’s THA budget to materialise. She said the association had previously made a number of recommendations to improve the sector but had been left with broken promises.
“Don’t know what to say but I will just keep hoping for the best. There is nothing different that they keep promising, for me to hope to hear for this budget. Along the years we have looked out for opportunities for the small property sector, bearing in mind their challenges with some of the properties being unable to access the loan guarantee programme or the room upgrade grants. We hope they would look at what are some of the challenges that would have stifled the sector to see if there is anything that could be done.”She acknowledged, however, that Government revenue was "very tight" currently.
Cloyd Williams, president of the Tobago Maxi Taxi Association, hopes more money is injected into the tourism sector to help develop the island’s product, which he said remains fragile. He believes more needs to be done to boost the sector.
“I didn’t give the Tobago budget a thought. However, I think this year the focus of the budget should be education, tourism, security of Tobago, in terms of crime. I want to see more resources being pumped into these areas because greater attention is needed.”
He also hopes the transportation sector will strengthen its voices and become more involved in issues affecting Tobagonians when dealing with the air- and seabridge.
The Finance Secretary said the package would be heavily influenced by the medium-term policy and planning framework of the assembly for 2019-2023. This includes a focus on employment in the private sector, improving productivity through appropriate infrastructural development, capacity-building in the private sector, improving food and energy security and restoring growth and promoting diversification.