Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Farley Augustine says the latest Moody’s Investors Service report on the performance of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) highlights how badly the covid19 pandemic continues to affect the island’s tourism-based economy.
He told Newsday it also highlights the unsustainable nature of the THA’s existing economic structure.
On Monday, Moody’s downgraded the THA’s issuer rating to Ba2 from Ba1 but changed its outlook to stable from negative.
It follows Moody’s November 17 rating in which the agency downgraded Trinidad and Tobago Government’s bond rating to Ba2 from Ba1 and also changed its outlook to stable from negative.
Augustine said this was one of the reasons why, prior to the national budget, he went on public record to ask for an extra $1 billion “to deal with the kind of bailouts that would be required on the island.”
The PNM has criticised the PDP for not supporting the autonomy bill, which stipulates a 6.8 per cent allocation of the national pie for Tobago. Tobago's minimum allocation is 4.03 per cent, as mandated by the Dispute Resolution Commission.
The PDP has argued that the bill does not reflect Tobago's will and does not properly address a number of issues, including Tobago's marine boundaries.
In the October 4 budget, Tobago received an allocation of $2.357 billion to manage its affairs over the next year. The figure represents 4.5 per cent of the national budget.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, in the presentation, also announced that $50 million will be allocated to Tobago’s hotel and tourism sector to provide much-needed capital for stakeholders whose establishments or businesses have been devastated by the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
Last Wednesday, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced the assembly received the allocation to assist hoteliers, displaced workers in the tourism sector and small and medium-sized enterprises. Details of how the initiative will be operationalised are still being worked out.
But Augustine believes comprehensive plans must be implemented to rebuild Tobago’s economy.
“We have to prop up our small and micro enterprises,” he said.
“We have to get our airport reopened to international flights and have our hotels and beaches reopened and put our people back to work.”
Augustine also believes not enough has been done over the last 21 years to build a strong private sector.
He claimed the former Kelvin Charles-led THA administration failed in its efforts to develop a light manufacturing sector and attract foreign direct investment.
“For the longest while we have been asking for a mobilisation around a coherent recovery plan for Tobago. Instead, we have had a set of talk and beautifully-written proposals with little or no action.
“It is, therefore, critical that the next executive of the THA operate differently to how the THA has managed over the last 21 years. This is why the PDP is here.”