Chief Sec: More domestic flights needed

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. - File photo
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. - File photo

Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has again raised the matter of the airbridge between Trinidad and Tobago. He said the daily number of flights has not been raised from 12 since it was reduced during the pandemic.

Speaking at the weekly meeting of the Port of Spain Rotary Club at Goodwill Industries, 9 Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook, he said the issue of efficient public transportation and connectivity was urgent.

“That has to be a Cabinet decision, as there are subsidies on the flights.

“It’s a cost-saving mechanism to have fewer flights because you spend less for subsidies, so it’s outside the reach of the CAL board and is a Cabinet decision.

“We have to connect the two islands, and the only ways to do that are by air and by sea.

“Around the world, governments invest in public transportation. The profits you see from investing in public transportation are not from people spending money on tickets but for the economic activities that happen as a result, by people using hotels and guesthouses on the island, by people being able to access services on both islands, as a lot of Tobagonians use services in Trinidad, so it goes both ways.

“So the benefits we should be looking for from a much more efficient inter-island ferry and airlift situation are from the economic spend as opposed to ticket sales.”

Augustine said that would also help with tourism, as it would mean tourists flying to Tobago through Trinidad would be able to move between the two islands efficiently.

He called for the upgrading and digitization of the customs and immigration department as well as the installation of an in-transit counter at the Piarco International Airport so that tourists would not have to risk missing their connecting flight to Tobago.

He said TT had a larger airport than many smaller countries in the region but was not receiving as many visitors.

He said tourism did not work unless there were heads in beds, and while there had been a boom in domestic tourism, the same had not happened with foreign visitors.

Turning to the issue of autonomy, Augustine said Tobagonians voted more in local government elections than in general elections.

“If you check the data, more Tobagonians vote in a THA election than usually will vote in a central government or general election, which tells you people are more concerned with the island of Tobago, simply because they have realized that the vast majority of our services come from the island that is next door to them.

“You know what it is to be able to go through your yard, shout over your fence, and have your neighbor be the person that represents you.

“You know what it is to be in your father’s house taking a rest and people knocking on your door at all hours? It’s because people recognize that their government is very close to them, physically and administratively, and that helps with efficiency.”

Augustine said it is common, both internationally and locally, for countries to have self-government when there is more than one landmass involved.

He used the example of Wales and Scotland in the United Kingdom and St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

“There are examples of how we can be decentralized. We see you are struggling to do it with local government, and you’re doing it bit by bit, but Tobago is ready; we have had enough experience to know that with greater autonomy, services get closer to the people.”


"Chief Sec: More domestic flights needed"

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