The 2021-2022 Tobago House of Assembly budget presentation will not be presented or debated in the House this month, as it is yet to be constituted, owing to the six-six tie in the January 25 election.
Nevertheless, Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack said the notice has gone out to all THA divisions to prepare estimates for fiscal 2021-2022.
Jack was speaking during an interview on Tobago Channel Five’s morning show recently.
“We're unable to table and debate as you know, given the six-six tie...The budget section is currently preparing and reviewing the submissions and thereafter we'll meet with the Minister of Finance to discuss the way forward," he said.
Jack said stakeholders are being consulted in the development of the budget estimates.
Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine said members of his team were not consulted.
"Maybe the stakeholders he consulted are his friends. What budget is he really constructing? On whose behalf? No assembly has met to approve a budget. Anything he constructs will be illegitimate and cannot be seen as the budgetary priorities of Tobago."
Augustine added: "At this point, it is becoming painfully clear that there won’t be a Tobago budget. That means that Colm Imbert will make the Tobago budget and decide from Trinidad what will happen in Tobago over the next fiscal year.
"This is an embarrassment. This is ridiculous. We have just handed back the little autonomy we have to Trinidad. But PNM will have it no other way. This is what they want. Meanwhile, everything in Tobago is at a standstill.”
For its fiscal 2020/2021 budget, the THA requested a total of $4.71 billion from Central Government. They were allocated $2.134 billion – 4.3 per cent of the national budget. Of this amount, $1.916 billion went to recurrent expenditure, $200 million to capital development and $18 million to the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).
In the 2019-2020 budget, the THA received a total of $2.283 billion – $2.033 billion for recurrent expenditure, $0.232 billion- capital expenditure and $18 million to the URP.
The question of what Tobago deserves has become a hot topic amid the Joint Select Committee's deliberations on the Tobago Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill. The latter recommends that Tobago be allocated a minimum of 6.8 % of the national budget.
Tobago's minimum allocation is 4.03 per cent, as mandated by the Dispute Resolution Commission.