Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Farley Augustine believes the Government will try to sweeten Tobagonians in the October 4 national budget, ahead of the next THA election. He believes Tobago, for the first time, will receive the maximum allocation as mandated by the Dispute Resolution Commission.
The island is poised to hold a THA election before the end of the year, after the Elections and Boundaries Commission completed its report creating 15 electoral districts in Tobago.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has been deadlocked since the January 25 election ended in an unprecedented six-six tie between the PDP and People's National Movement (PNM).
Parliament is set to debate the EBC order on Wednesday.
The draft order, once approved, will then be submitted to the President who will make the order declaring that there will now be 15 seats in Tobago. This clears the way for an election to be called.
"The date for the primary election cannot be earlier than two months from the making of the order, nor can it be later than three months after the making of the order," the Prime Minister said in July.
Augustine said on Tuesday, “This is an election that they know they are on their way to losing, so they will behave like an abusive spouse and try to buy back our love with a big budget gift. Fingers crossed, Tobago will get the maximum of 6.9 per cent of the national budget. Tobago will need that kind of budget for rebuilding Tobago after the last 21 years of decay under the PNM.”
Last year Tobago requested $4.71 billion but received just $2.134 billion.
Although predicting a large slice for Tobago, Augustine believes “the budget nationally will be a difficult pill for the entire nation to swallow.
“The trajectory of the national economy points to difficult days ahead."
He said state entities like NGC are struggling and will make matters worse.
"The absence of a clear plan for reopening the economy makes planning for the business sector difficult,” Augustine said.
Also weighing in on budget expectations was PDP political leader Watson Duke.
In an interview with Newsday on Tuesday, Duke said he had no major expectations ahead of the budget.
“There is nothing grand about the budget that I am expecting – only old talk.
“My expectation for the 2021/2022 budget is more fancy talk about diversifying the economy, collecting revenues that have been uncollected – all these fancy talks. Talks of putting Tobago’s development on steroids, as if they were interested in Tobago, but at the end of the day the budget, Tobago budget, would be the same or less.”
He predicted the proposals made in the Tobago Self-Government Bill would be brought up for political mileage.
“They would only talk of a better Tobago for political gains, saying that we rejected the bill, while we should have gotten 6.8 per cent (as propose din the bill), they have to now give us 4.3 per cent because the people of Tobago listened to the advice of certain political persons and rejected the bill.
"This is how they would make Tobagonians feel as if they are not getting 6.8 per cent – take less because you didn’t want more, take that. That is the kind of politics the PNM plays and we expect them to stay true to their playbook,” Duke said.
Duke said Tobago wants to contribute meaningfully to the national GDP and the first step towards that is installing the PDP to manage the THA. He said it is only then Tobagonians can achieve their vision.
“A vision that is not tied to the PNM nightmare but tied to a Tobago that is more self-reliant; a Tobago that is self-determined; a Tobago that is self-driven; a Tobago that is empowered from within; and a Tobago that wants to contribute to the national economy of Trinidad and Tobago.
"That is what the election would be based on, that is what our campaign would be based on – we are saying let us fix this and let us fix the future projects by fixing this THA elections.”