Coalition to protect Tobago's interests

Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine. PHOTO COURTESY THA -
Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine. PHOTO COURTESY THA -

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine has said the party is to embark on a series of stakeholder consultations aimed at helping Tobagonians to withstand the fallout from several global occurrences.

They include the drop in the US stock exchange, the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and other countries and the coronavirus (covid19).

Addressing a news conference at the PDP's Scarborough headquarters on Tuesday, Augustine said the meetings, which are expected to begin next week, will seek to encourage Tobagonians to be more creative given the potential damaging effects of the downward trend in the global economy.

He said the meetings are expected to include businessmen, farmers, expatriates, housewives, daily-rated workers and other groups.

"We want to create a coalition for all of us so that we can together, move this island to the next place, that we can move the island out of the doldrums that we have found ourselves in to a place where we are viable in terms of our economics.

"But to do that we have to create a coalition of the willing," he told reporters.

Insisting the consultations will not be political, the minority assemblyman said the discussions will focus on policy initiatives that can be formulated by the State as well as strategies which could be implemented within communities.

"The situation calls for community creativity and commerce and for family businesses to dig their heels in. Families need to stop bickering with each other and to stop the infighting and start working together."

Saying he does not want to be a prophet of gloom and doom, Augustine added: "I will be most elated if things could turn upward, if we could find a vaccine for the coronavirus in the morning, if we stop seeing deaths around the world.

"But we have to prepare for what the realities are now."

The Speyside/L'Anse Foumi/Parlatuvier representative said Tobago's status as a tourism-based island made it even more vulnerable to external shocks.

"So it is a case of more on top of more. I think Tobagonians need to sit up and pay attention as to what that might mean for us and how we will be required to be even more creative in not only how we manage the state coffers but also how we manage our private enterprise and our private monies.

"This calls for us to market our businesses more. This calls for us to ensure that our Airbnbs are well-maintained, clean and we get good reviews. This calls for us to give service with a smile and ensure we are polite to visitors."

Augustine said the State also needs to be more responsible in managing its resources.

"Our economy is not as robust as some would like us to believe."

He said Scotiabank Ltd has already announced its decision to have just one outlet in Tobago, at Lowlands Mall. The bank's Scarborough branch, which was damaged during the passage of Tropical Storm Karen, last September, is expected to close its doors within the next three months. The bank said its customers will be accommodated at its Lowlands branch.

"So we are seeing several signs on the island where private enterprise are already in trouble, long before coronavirus and long before the oil wars happening between the oil giants," said Augustine.

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"Coalition to protect Tobago's interests"

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