A failed economy.
This was how economist Dr Vanus James described Tobago on Friday during his presentation at a post- Tobago budget forum, hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors at Rovanel’s Resort, Bon Accord.
On June 23, 2022, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine presented a $3.97 billion budget in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough, to manage Tobago’s affairs over the next year.
It was the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ first Tobago budget presentation since assuming the reins of the THA after the party’s overwhelming 14-1 victory over the People’s National Movement in the December 6, 2021, THA election.
Saying the sum was predicated on an anticipated national budget of $54.7 billion, Augustine said he also hoped it will reflect 6.9 per cent of the national budget in keeping with the upper end of the Dispute Resolution Committee’s recommendation.
But at the forum, James painted a grim picture of the economic situation in Tobago, one which he said has existed for a long time.
Alluding to statistics provided by the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy in the budget, James noted Tobago produced about $1.68 billion in 2021.
It also said that the THA routinely spends about $2.3 billion annually.
“So you see where that takes you right away. The THA spends 37 per cent more than Tobago as a whole produces in a year,” he said.
“Now if that doesn’t tell you you working in a crisis, nothing else will. Add another billion dollars to that for central government services and that gets you to the frightening picture that government in Tobago spends approximately twice the output of the economy. Government alone.”
He added, “We’re not even talking about private sector consumption and investment and we are not even talking about exports, foreigners spending on our economy. This is just the government spending twice what is produced.
“So you have to ask yourself, ‘What are we doing here?’ This is about living way above our means and that is the definition of a failed economy.”