The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) 2021 budget will be read on Monday at the Legislative Chamber in Scarborough with a focus on countering the negative impact of covid19 and stimulating the economy.
In 2019, the THA requested $4.5 billion but received $2.283 billion when the national budget was read by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
At Wednesday’s weekly post Executive Council media briefing at the Scarborough Library, Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack said the THA 2020/2021 budget presentation will focus on strategies for job preservation and creation as well as to stimulate aggregate demand, “as we seek to protect the vulnerable groups in our society. ”
He added, "This period presents a wonderful opportunity for us to reset, to re-prioritise and to re-engineer. Come Monday, I believe all of Tobago would appreciate some of the measures that we have taken thus far and our policy prescriptions moving forward."
Giving further details about the budget, Jack said the focus will be on economic stimulus and support for critical economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sectors.
"Additionally, ICT and Tobago as an intelligent island would be another focal point; our social safety net support; our continued focus and investment on our human capital development as well our strategic investment in infrastructure and domestic and foreign, as we seek to attract domestic and foreign investment to Tobago.”
Jack said the team at the division has been working diligently even during the lockdown period to ensure that they meet the deadlines established by the THA Act #40 of 1996.
“To ensure that the budget is tabled on time and sent to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister by June 30.
“We’ve had some delays in terms of meeting face to face with our stakeholders but we would have conducted extensive consultations prior to treat with the suggestions coming from them.”
Jack said the division has been looking at and quantifying the economic impact of the pandemic.
“This time calls for us to recalibrate our priorities. I would have tabled at least three or four Executive Council minutes policy proposals to the Executive Council for us to manage the fallout, to prescribe certain policy measures and for us to recalibrate our spending.
“What this time calls for us to re-prioritise, to facilitate economic activity and to give greater focus and priority to construction to ensure that we assist the tourism sector and the wider SME sector, and also provide the necessary support and stimulus for the Tobago economy to ensure that we recover from this period."
Jack said apart from the tourism sector, the wider Tobago economy has been affected and his presentation will outlining in detail what the counter measures will be.
Jack recalled that in fiscal 2020, the Assembly was allocated $2.283 billion, of which $2.033 billion went to recurrent expenditure, $231.6 million for development programme expenditure and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).
The overall allocation to the Assembly, he said represented 4.03 per cent of the national budget and was consistent with the recommendations of the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC), adding that the overall allocation represented an increase of approximately $54 million or 2.4 per cent over the allocation in fiscal 2019.
“Last year’s budget totalled just over $5 billion. We requested $3.26 billion for recurrent expenditure, $1.45 billion for development programme expenditure and $73.3 million and $39.2 million for the URP programme and Cepep programmes, respectively,” he said.