PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine said she is not surprised by Tobago’s allocation in the 2022 budget.
Tobago received an allocation of $2.357 billion. The figure represents 4.5 per cent of the national budget.
Davidson-Celestine believes Tobago would have received a significantly higher allocation if the Opposition had supported the Joint Select Committee’s (JSC’s) report on the Tobago "autonomy" bill in the Parliament, four months ago.
The Tobago Self-Government Bill and the Tobago Island Administration Bill – were debated in the House of Representatives on June 28 and 29. The debate reached the committee stage but no vote was taken as there were no Opposition MPs in the House.
This was because the UNC MPs, led by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, walked out of the Parliament chamber after the Prime Minister was allowed an additional 60 minutes to wind up the debate on the government motion.
The motion called for the House to adopt the JSC’s report on the legislation, which requires a three-fifths majority for passage.
Dr Rowley subsequently moved a motion fort the House to consider the bills when Parliament resumed after the July-August recess. The motion was passed but the debate is yet to resume.
Davidson-Celestine said, “I can’t say that I am surprised at anything that was presented, in light of the Opposition’s denial of Tobago’s autonomy. Significant opportunity was lost to do more for Tobago with the additional funding that would have come in this budget. As a result, I’m sure that every Tobagonian feels a sense of frustration.”
She said several factors, political and otherwise, are standing in the way of Tobago’s development.
“There’s the pandemic, the economic contraction, the continued covid19 restrictions and the political deadlock in the THA.
"If the PDP and the UNC had treated properly with the autonomy bill, that would have guaranteed at minimum 6.8 per cent (of the national budget), an extra billion to Tobago out of every national budget as opposed to the bare minimum that is now received (4.03 per cent, as stipulated by the Dispute Resolution Commission). But they did what they did.”
Davidson-Celestine accused the PDP of trying to “mamaguy” the people of Tobago with its “Let’s Fix This” mantra (for the upcoming THA election), when in fact, “they are the cause of many of the recent challenges that this island faces in moving its development agenda forward.
“Let’s Fix This really means that we have to have the financial resources. Let’s Fix This means that we have to have the legislative framework. Let’s Fix This means that we must be in a position to attract direct foreign investment, like Sandals and the Marriott, even the (ANR Robinson) airport development project.
“All of these are projects that the PDP has been critical of and have even boasted about being the mastermind behind the death of the largest hotel chain regionally in Tobago.”
This was a reference to the plans for a Sandals resort in Tobago. The chain eventually abandoned the project, citing negative publicity.
She recalled the PDP had even pushed for Tobago to sever its relationship with Trinidad and move for independence.