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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Dumas: No clear idea of Tobago's direction

Retired head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas.
Retired head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas.

RETIRED head of the public service Reginald Dumas believes Tobago, over the years, has not been doing a very good job of coming up with the kinds of data, plans, statistics and proposals that are necessary for the proper socio-economic development of the island.

Asked about his expectations, for Tobago, in the October 7 national budget, Dumas painted a dismal picture of the island's performance in several key areas, including the perceived lack of accountability within the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

He said he has not seen anything to suggest the island is on a progressive path.

"The issue starts in Tobago because the Auditor General has not been able to accept any of the audits put forward to him, which leads to another problem because you start asking, 'How is the money being spent?'

"If the Auditor General qualifies the accounts every time he is presented with them, then that does not say a great deal for Tobago."

Dumas wondered about the extent to which budgets presented by the THA influence the national fiscal package.

He claimed Finance Secretary Joel Jack trumps up figures which have been disputed by economist Dr Vanus James.

"But if the figures are not accurate, then what is the Minister of Finance (Colm Imbert) to do?" Dumas asked.

"I don't know on what basis these budget statements by the THA are being done and what relevance they have in reality. I don't know about the quality of the statistics that they use."

He added: "There are a number of questions that have to be answered at the Tobago end before we start looking at what the Minister of Finance has to say because the minister, presumably, will go to a large extent on the basis of what he is presented with. And if he is presented with things that are not accurate, then we have a problem."

Dumas believes there is no serious consultation in communities between the THA and the people regarding plans, complaints, ideas and proposals "to try to pull everything together.

"I have not seen that."

He also said he is yet to get a clear sense about what is being done to improve the Tobago economy.

"I am not going to point fingers at the Minister of Finance. I am going to ask rather, 'What plans does the THA have for the economy of Tobago?' And, if any, I don't know what they are.

"Also, what are the plans for industry, if any? What are the plans for agriculture, education? What are you educating people for?"

Saying he is eagerly anticipating next month's budget presentation, Dumas noted Tobago has no manufacturing sector of which it can boast.

And travellers, he observed, continue to experience difficulties on the sea bridge.

"I went a week ago to get a ferry ticket to go to Trinidad and I was told I could go but my car couldn't go. So, what was the point? the idea is that you want to bring back things.

"The ferry service does not seem to be functioning yet as it should so that affects adversely the situation here because people have to go to Trinidad to buy their goods to bring back."

In last year's budget, Tobago received $2.229 billion. Of the sum, $1.979 billion was allocated for recurrent expenditure, $231.63 million for capital expenditure and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme. The allocation to the Assembly represented 4.03 per cent of the national budget.

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