Tobago Youth Council president Janae Campbell believes the Joint Select Committee’s (JSC) proposal to give Tobago 6.8 per cent of the national budget to manage its affairs is insufficient.
Tobago’s minimum allocation is 4.03 per cent, as directed by the Dispute Resolution Commission.
“My main concern, as with many other Tobagonians, is the 6.8 per cent allocation and as a Tobago youth, 18 years of age, president of the Tobago Youth Council, I would just like to express my confidence in saying that I think that is an insufficient amount to really transform the island,” she said.
Campbell was speaking on Saturday at the close of a two-day public consultation on the Constitution Amendment Tobago Self-Government Bill 2020 and the Tobago Island Administration Bill 2021.
The consultation, hosted by the JSC, which reviewed both pieces of legislation, was held at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough.
Campbell noted that while people can advocate for the sum to be increased with each financial year, “I think if we are setting the precedent, we should set it high.”
She dismissed the argument that Tobago’s small population of just 60,000 somehow justifies the allocations it has received over the years.
“But while I understand that, I will just like to add that Tobago should just not be considered by its population. When we think of the country we are speaking about Trinidad and Tobago and Tobago should not be seen as a dependent.
“So, as a proud Tobagonian, I have problems with Tobago being allocated this amount of money from Trinidad. It is one country and I believe that the idea of Tobago being left back is a colonial mindset.”
Campbell made it clear she was not trying to impute improper motives by saying this was the perception of the Parliament.
“I am just saying that it is something that we need to take into consideration because we all know that if we are talking about the development of Trinidad and Tobago, we will recognise that Tobago is far behind.”
She added: “So, if we really want to advance our development. If we really want Tobago to be meeting the needs of the international market. If we really want Tobago to raise our standard, then I think that 6.8 per cent minimum would not work, especially considering the fact that we are far behind.”
JSC member Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal said she was impressed by Campbell’s submission and moreso, the participation of young people in the consultative process.
She said the youth voice is a key component in the drafting of the legislation.
“So, I just want the record to reflect how very much, as a relatively younger parliamentarian, how very impressed I was with Ms Campbell and her team in recognising the responsibility that the young voices play in the drafting of this legislation,” she said
“Ms Campbell, as one of the young members of this committee, you can rest assured that the voices of the youths are being heard and considered in the drafting of this legislation.”
Tobago West MP and JSC member Shamfa Cudjoe endorsed Sagramsingh-Sooklal’s sentiments.
“As a former president of the Tobago Youth Council, I want to commend and congratulate Ms Campbell. I think that the future of Tobago and the young people in Tobago is certainly in good hands,” she said.
JSC member Foster Cummings assured Campbell the committee will consider all of her comments going forward.