THE Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) has described as a proverbial “slap in the face” Tobago’s allocation in the national budget.
In his presentation on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the island will receive an allocation of $2.357 billion to manage its affairs over the next 12 months. This represents 4.5 per cent of the budget.
Imbert said $2,075 billion has been set aside for recurrent expenditure, $264 million for capital expenditure and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme. Tobago got $2.283 billion in last year’s budget.
In a statement on Tuesday, issued by the party’s PRO Kaye Trotman, the IDA called Tobago’s 2022 budget allocation unsatisfactory.
It said, “At a time when the economy of Tobago has been decimated by the covid19 pandemic and Tobagonians are left devastated and in distress, the fact that the Government’s response to this dilemma is the usual 4.5 per cent share of the national pie that is apportioned in similar manner with past allocations where the majority is to be spent on recurrent expenditure and very little on development projects, reflects the stifling approach of this Government.”
Saying it appears Tobago’s development is treated with a “copy and paste”-type approach, the IDA also regarded the allocation as disingenuous, considering the recently debated "autonomy" bill in the Parliament, which proposed a minimum 6.8 per cent allocation for Tobago.
“The fact that the DRC (Dispute Resolution Commission) allows for Tobago to receive an allocation of up to 6.9 per cent currently and the Government did not deem it fit to increase Tobago’s allocation at this time of crisis, makes one wonder if the intent of the Government is to keep Tobago and Tobagonians hand to mouth.”
It said the budget did not reflect the "deliberate and surgically precise approach" needed to lift the Tobago economy "out of the quagmire it is currently in."The IDA said as well as focusing on survival in the immediate and short term, this must be "intricately" balanced with planning for medium- and long-term growth and development.