JSC: Give Tobago 6.8% of national budget

Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack  - THA
Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack - THA

A joint select committee (JSC) has proposed Tobago receive 6.8 per cent of the national budget, after its review of the Tobago Self-Government Bill.

Tobago's minimum allocation is 4.03 per cent, as mandated by the Dispute Resolution Commission.

In addition, the JSC noted that the bill needs "companion legislation" for it to work effectively.

The JSC has opened its recommendations to the public, which has until the end of April to make comments.

According to the Parliament website, having now concluded its extensive review of the bill, the committee is holding public consultations and wants the public’s comments on the preliminary findings and proposals. It said written submissions can be e-mailed to parl101@ttparliament.org

At Wednesday's post-Executive Council briefing in Scarborough, Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack said one of the major findings of the JSC was that companion legislation is needed for the effective functioning of the institutions to be established when the Constitution is amended.

"As such, in order to guarantee legal certainty, the JSC has proposed that the Tobago Self-Government Bill be revised and accompanied by the Tobago Island Administration Bill 2021."

On the suggestion to increase Tobago's fiscal allocation, the JSC said any increase can be done by the fiscal review commission, which is also a part of the bill.

Jack said his division is "reviewing the implications of the bill for Tobago ."

He encouraged all Tobagonians to review the bill and submit their recommendations to the JSC, "as we continue to work towards Tobago's autonomy."

In a previous interview on Tobago Channel 5, Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe, who is a member of the committee, called on Tobagonians to let their voices be heard.

“This is your opportunity to come out and own this project. I am really excited to be a part of this process and to see us get to the point where we would have completed these consultations under the John Prince Committee and so on, that we would have banded together as a Tobago public from all different parts of the political divide, saying we are going to speak to Trinidad, with one voice, that this is the Tobago position."

She added: “I’m pleased that in 2015, Prime Minister Rowley, when he got in office, he said, 'You know what? We are going to accept whatever is given to us by the Tobago House of Assembly on behalf of the people of Tobago. We’re going to take it before the Parliament' – so we have kept our word as a government, and we installed the first JSC in 2018 and again a second JSC in 2020.”

She said the committee has done the work, mapped the progress, done the research, done the consultations in Tobago and the public is invited again to make an input.

“So I’m excited that we are at this point, this is the first time that any government would have taken (this step) – or any people, because the government alone cannot own it, PNM alone cannot own it: this is a Tobago people thing, so I am excited about it.

“We are so close to seeing this thing come to life, seeing this thing come to fruition and I am pleased to be on board.”

She called on other MPs to support the bills.

“My hope is that we get the support from the Opposition and the Independents when we finally get to the parliamentary floor, so we can finally bring this thing home and this would be a victory for the Tobago people.”


"JSC: Give Tobago 6.8% of national budget"

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