Deputy THA Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Joel Jack has called on Tobagonians to reject Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke's proposal for the island to secede from Trinidad.
He made the appeal last Friday while delivering remarks at the launch of the TT Trade Policy 2019-2023 at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough. The policy has already been launched in Trinidad. Jack raised the issue as he highlighted the importance of the four-year trade policy to small islands like Tobago.
"We are well aware that Tobago is a small, open economy. Being small and open means we are extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the international economic environment and also the opportunities that arise from economies of scale are not always readily available to us," he said.
Jack said given Tobago's size, citizenry and transient population, there are natural limits in terms of its island market size. He added if producers are to derive the maximum benefit of economies of scale, it is imperative that market opportunities outside of Tobago be explored.
"This is one of the reasons why recent talks about separation and independence for Tobago deeply concerns me. I think if we examine the implications of what is being proposed, all right-thinking Tobagonians as well as citizens should be concerned and must collectively reject this idea."
Duke had revealed his proposal for Tobago to be independent from Trinidad on Tuesday last, during a news conference at the Public Services Association headquarters in Port of Spain. In his address last Friday, Jack said for Tobago to trade successfully as a small island, citizens must have the right mindset.
He said: "Our entrepreneurs need to see the globe as their marketplace and to make use of the opportunities to explore new and emerging markets.
"The fact is, although they may be operating in little Tobago in a relatively small, economic space, our entrepreneurs must have a global outlook. As the saying goes, we ought to think big and act global. As well, we need to think big and make it happen."
Jack said it is by exporting that islands such as Tobago can generate high-paying jobs and much-needed foreign exchange "that is so crucial to our overall economic development."
He said in this regard, Tobagonians must be prepared to produce globally competitive, high quality niche goods and services. "For this to happen, we must actively seek to find goods and services for which we have a comparative advantage and place our energies and direct our resources towards their production."
Jack urged entrepreneurs to place greater emphasis on innovation, research and development. He said entrepreneurs must have a global outlook.
"As we seek to boost our trade as a small, open economy, an avenue which has significant potential but remains largely untapped is our diaspora market.
"The onus is on us, therefore, to leverage our diaspora and to build meaningful and lasting trade relationships with many of our fellow, West-Indian brothers and sisters who live in metropolitan cities like New York and London. If we successfully leverage this market segment, the possibilities are endless."