The Government has unveiled a new $50 million initiative to assist hotels and other tourism-related businesses in Tobago which have been severely affected by the covid19 pandemic over the past 18 months.
Delivering the 2022 budget in the House of Representatives on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the programme, titled Tobago Hotel and Tourism Support, will be managed by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in collaboration with Evolving TecKnologies and Enterprise Development Ltd.
He added both entities will screen applications and assist the THA in designing and administering the programme.
“The purpose of this support programme is to provide access to much needed working capital for the hotel and tourism industry in Tobago, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.”
Imbert said Tobago has been deeply affected by covid19 and the Government is willing to put it on a sustainable path of recovery and resilience.
“As Minister of Finance, I am committed to implement the requisite measures to assist the island to accelerate the pace of economic recovery.”
The $50 million initiative was one of the highlights of the fiscal package for Tobago. The island has received an allocation of $2.357 billion to manage its affairs during the next 12 months. It represents 4.5 per cent of the national budget.
Of the sum, $2.075 billion has been set aside for recurrent expenditure, 264 million for capital expenditure and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.
Imbert also announced an allocation of $30 million for farmland development in Tobago.
“This funding is designed to allow for the rehabilitation of abandoned or underutilised agricultural estates and to assist farmers in Tobago to upgrade existing farmland infrastructure, equipment and technology and bring new areas into production.”
Consistent with the theme of preserving and protecting the environment and branding Tobago as "clean, green and serene," he said $20 million has also been allocated for developing green spaces on the island in 2022.
Imbert said money will also be provided to support the ongoing fight against covid19 as well as through the assembly’s social safety net programmes to assist those adversely affected by the pandemic.
Funding will also be allocated to cover road and drainage infrastructure, upgrades to the coastal infrastructure, climate-change adaptation and to mitigate against coastal erosion related to global warming and rising sea levels.
In addition, funding will also be provided to enhance ICT and digital infrastructure as Tobago adjusts to the new normal “and rolls out its 'intelligent island' mandate.”
Imbert said $788 million will be spent in Tobago by various government ministries and statutory authorities in keeping with the obligations under the sixth schedule of Act 30 of 1996.
He recalled in fiscal 2021, with the approval of the Cabinet, the THA was able to mobilise $164.1 million through bond financing to fund selected development projects.
“In the next fiscal year, additional resources will be made available through this medium to fund capital projects in Tobago.
“It is envisaged that this financial flexibility will provide the required fillip for the mobilisation of financial resources to advance Tobago’s developmental momentum.”