The Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) believes the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THAs) $50 million fund to further assist hoteliers, guesthouse operators and displaced tourism sector workers affected by the covid19 pandemic is an election gimmick.
THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced the fund on Wednesday during the post-executive council news conference, saying $15 million will go to the accommodation sector and $5 million is to be made available for small and medium businesses.
He said $20 million is to be set aside for displaced workers in the tourism sector and $10 million will be made available to the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd to digitise businesses in the sector.
In a statement on Thursday, the IDA said while it understands the plight of the tourism sector in general and the accommodation sector, more specifically, over the past year and a half, “The timing of this $50 million fund for tourism accommodations and displaced tourism workers on the eve of an election is nothing short of a desperate election tool of the administration to stay in office.”
The party said it is confident that in the December 6 THA elections, “Tobagonians will not be bribed, bought or bullied.
“They will see through the manoeuvrings of the administration and after accepting the fund, which is long overdue, they will decide that it is ‘too little too late’ and will act accordingly on December 6 and vote in the best interest of Tobago so that we can move ahead in building a better future for all.”
Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke believes the fund does not make sense and will not adequately benefit hoteliers, guesthouse operators and retrenched workers.
“Somebody need to remind the child king (Dennis) that he no longer a child and he must not speak about things as if it was wishful thinking. He must speak of things as if he is in the real world. How can he spend $50 million on the accommodation sector and those who have been displaced?” Duke asked. “That is ridiculous. it is unbelievable and it is unjustified. Nobody is going to get anything significant that will make sense.”
Duke recalled the Government had implemented a $50 million fund facility for Tobago hoteliers, guesthouse operators and bed-and-breakfast owners in March 2020.
“Earlier in the pandemic, $50 million was just spent in the accommodation sector and a lot of those persons involved in the business got nothing, zero, zilch, nada. How could you now take the same $50 million again in 2021 and split it between the same accommodation sector who complained about not getting and who got received little and those who have been displaced?
"It is a wide stretch for me and I think he needs to chill out and allow the PDP to govern.”
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James said he needs to see details of the fund before making a comprehensive statement.