Technical adviser in the THA Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy Anselm Richards says the assembly is prepared to look at adjustments to its own financial plans when the national budget is presented in Parliament next month.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said October 2 will be Budget Day.
The assembly has requested $4.54 billion from Central Government to run Tobago’s affairs for fiscal 2023-2024.
Speaking on the Tobago Updates morning show on Tuesday, Richards said the amount requested was predicated against a projected national budget of $65.7 billion.
“We continue to move our demands to the upper end of the DRC (Dispute Resolution Committee) recommendations of 6.9 per cent, which works down to $6.90 of every $100 the government proposes to spend in this budget. I think that is a fair ask: we have plenty development work to do.”
He said in Tobago, development has been stymied over the years because of no resource flow into the island.
“We are saying that we have developed a comprehensive work programme: this is the required funding to execute that programme in fiscal 2024 – that is the ask. We know that the country, even in our calculations – we thought that it was a bit – given where the oil price was trending, it would be a bit challenging for the national economy coming with a budget of $65.7 billion, but that is what the numbers turned out, and when we did our internal recalibrations, we recognise there was very little fiscal room for us to make the adjustments, based upon what the Chief Secretary and the Secretary of Finance and the executive council had proposed they wanted to deliver to the people of Tobago for fiscal 2024.”
He said the projections were retained as well as the amount. He believes this year’s presentation will be heavily reliant on the energy sector.
“The numbers and the global price for oil are not really favourable for us, and therefore we expect that we would have to make some adjustments. Cash in, cash out – the minister can only spend what is available, and the prime minister also signalled that this would be a deficit budget.
"Therefore the expenditure would be more than our revenue. That signals that our revenue incomes are low, based upon the projected expenditure. Therefore we are prepared to look at what the adjustments are when the numbers are presented.”
He said additionally, there must be a conversation around the need for diversification.
“We’ve been having that conversation for over 40 years in this country, and we have not seen any affirmative action that speaks that the government is committed to move in that direction. Tobago has been crying out and saying, 'I’m a virgin destination, look me here, invest in me, I would bring all the men who are looking for virgins. They would come with their wallets, they would come with their credit cards,' and so forth.”
He added that Tobago presents a very viable and immediate option for the country to start that diversification.
“Even more than that, we are in this climate crisis globally. There is a new emerging sector in the tourism industry when you speak about green visitors who are looking for these green destinations, and Tobago presents a very viable option where that is concerned. So we can now package Tobago as the green island of festivals – call it what you want and market (it). We have the oldest rainforest (reserve) in the western hemisphere. Trinidad and Tobago can sit at the table and really develop it.
"Trinidad has to make the investment, Tobago don’t have the kind of resources (needed), unless we bring in the foreign exchange, but the Government of TT has to set the tone and say, 'We recognise that we have a gem here in the Caribbean, we can monetise the gem, we are going to make the investment, we are going to put in the infrastructure and we are going to put Tobago where it should be in terms of global tourism.'”