“One voice, one vision, one PNM.”
This is the slogan adopted by Joel Jack as he seeks to become the next political leader of the PNM Tobago Council in the January 19 internal election.
Jack, currently as the Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), filed his nomination papers on December 16 to contest the election.
In an interview with Newsday on Monday, Jack said: “I believe I am the right person for the job at this time."
He added: "Given the fact that we are going into a new decade, the party is now advancing towards general elections, so this is the right time for new leadership as we work together with all genders, both the young persons and the not so young – all the persons within the party.”
Jack worked as a technocrat under late Secretary of Finance Dr Anselm London before becoming secretary himself.
He said his performance as Bacolet/ Mt St George representative, Secretary of Finance for two terms and currently that of Deputy Chief Secretary, were testimony to his abilities.
Asked why, as Deputy Chief Secretary, he decided to challenge the incumbent, Kelvin Charles, Jack responded: “I am an investment and a product of the party and the party’s policies for human capital development, and persons have been clamouring and asking me to step forward since 2016 to provide the leadership for the party and I believe that I have a responsibility to answer that call.
“As an institution, we have been nurturing and grooming leaders...I have a responsibility now to provide the servant leadership that persons in the party are clamouring for,” he said.
He said the support so far has been overwhelming. He pledged to his supporters, “My promise to you when elected is to create opportunities for your unique expression, to listen and to champion your cause, to represent your views and to action your interest. My promise to you is to do all in my power to keep Tobago whole and strengthened by greater autonomy and greater self-government with the unitary state of TT.”
Jack said he intends to lead with passion, competence, inclusivity and effective representation.
“I believe that Tobago has a small economy, that we have the opportunity for the island to be a model for others to follow and that is what I’ve attempted – that is what I’ve been doing since assuming the mantle as Secretary of Finance, in terms of developing an alternate financing mechanism, so that we can have funding beyond our annual subvention."
He added: "That is why we looked at the private-public partnership funding mechanism, that is why I am leading for us to raise...bond financing in the first instance of $300 million. That is why I am also leading the charge meeting with our multilateral partners on a regular basis to provide the necessary technical assistance and grant funding to the assembly...to accelerate this island’s development.”
Jack said more focus on economic resilience is needed.
“How do we ensure that we’re not just dependent on that subvention from Central Government? How can we attract and grow sectors here in Tobago to ensure that...the oil price, the movement in the oil and gas prices and its impact on government revenues does not have a resultant impact on us here in Tobago?
"That is anchored on the tourism sector being the catalyst of economic activities with the necessary linkages with a number of sectors, including agriculture."
Jack said there is a need to move away from the traditional mode of agriculture and get into agriculture using modern farming techniques.
He said he intends to accelerate the pace of development on the island in the next five-ten years.
"There is a plan/vision outlined in the medium-term framework for the next five years, which would further be developed into a long-term Vision 2030. "