Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Howai promises Tobago fair share of national budget

As Government gets set to present its National Budget for 2013-2014, Finance Minister Larry Howai is  promising Tobago its fair share.

 This was after a meeting among members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Minister  Howai and Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz.

Howai said he will meet with the THA  at month-end to speak further on budgetary  matters.
“As the Chief  Secretary indicated, the intention would be for us to meet again towards the end of this month to discuss in detail the request which Tobago has, not just for recurrent expenditure, but also for dealing with the national development needs,” Howai said.

The meeting was held on Sunday at Magdalena Resort, Lowlands.
On June 24, THA Finance Secretary Joel Jack, who was also present at Sunday’s  meeting, presented a $4.95 billion budget for Tobago.

Other matters discussed at the meeting included land licensing issues and the air bridge.
Howai said he has mandated Caribbean Airlines to meet with major stakeholders in Tobago to address their concerns.

The delay in refurbishment works at ANR Robinson International Airport and the building of a new airport was also discussed.

“The build time for that is approximately 24 months, 18-24 months, and I believe the Ministry of Transport has actually contracted the final designs for it,” said Cadiz.

Earlier  this year a meeting was held with officials of the Airports Authority when it was  promised that refurbishment works at the airport will commence soon, but to date that has not materialised. The issue of outstanding arrears for the Tobago House of Assembly was also discussed with Howai.

“The Minister has  given us the assurance there has been a sign-off at his level and all we need to do is to see where the funds are at this point in time,” said THA Chief Secretary Orville London.

Minister Howai did admit to bureaucracy in the process as he has signed off on the warrant  for some time now to push forward money owed to the THA.

 In January, following the THA election, outstanding money owed to the THA was made available through  the Ministry of Tobago Development.

“And then it  goes to the Ministry of Tobago Development  and from the Ministry of Tobago  Development it comes to the THA, so I think it’s just a process in terms of bureaucracy that needs to be dealt with,” said Howai.

The Minister said he will make the necessary  checks to determine where are the delays in the disbursement of funds for the THA.

The Tobago House of Assembly has faced several protests from teachers and public servants, calling for their outstanding arrears, and has made it clear it awaits the necessary disbursements from the Ministry of Finance in moving to pay workers.  


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