Duke: Budget puts Tobago in $4.5b debt

Minority Leader Watson Duke
Minority Leader Watson Duke

Compounded bad judgment.

This was how Minority Leader Watson Duke described Finance Secretary Joel Jack’s 2020/2021 budget presentation on Monday in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough.

The THA is requesting a $4.71 billion allocation from central government to manage Tobago’s affairs over the next fiscal year.

Duke said the budget’s arithmetic is fundamentally skewed because revenue does not match expenditure.

“I must say the Secretary for Finance was not himself today and apart from taking an inordinate amount of time to deliver the substance of the budget, I think he made for yet another time, compounded bad judgement,” he told reporters.

“Where in the world could we expect a finance secretary or finance minister to stand and tell the country for which he governs the finance, that I want to have a budget of $4.7 billion but I am only able to make revenue of about $200 million.”

He added: “What he is saying to Tobago is that I am going to put this country in $4.5 billion debt because I cannot make more revenue than about $200 million.”

Duke, who is also the Progressive Democratic Patriots political leader, said the budget was not properly thought out.

“The PNM plan has failed because they have gone now from talking nice talks, as if it is the good times, to talking talks that people will question.”

The Roxborough/Delaford representative asked: “What are the plans for generating revenue – revenue that will match expenditure?”

He claimed the economy is already in debt by some $10 billion.

“But now he wants to put Tobago in a position where we must be in debt of $4.5 billion; because all that they can make in so far as revenue is about $200 million. Something is wrong with that.”

Duke also regarded the budget as a rehash of initiatives that were announced since 2001.

“We are prepared to address those on Thursday. I will take the same amount of time debunking the folly that he (Jack) put up as if it was glorified wisdom.”

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