Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Joel Jack, has moved a motion that the assembly’s programmes should proceed without delay. Speaking at the THA’s budget allocation review yesterday Jack said the motion was geared at exploring alternative funding and financing mechanisms within the framework of the THA to advance and accelerate the implementation and execution of capital projects in Tobago. Under the theme, “Broken Promises”, Jack said the promise made during the assembly’s election campaign by Prime Minister Kamla Persad–Bissessar to increase the budgetary allocation to Tobago from a minimum of 4.03 per cent and a maximum of 6.09 per cent to a predictable six to eight per cent of the national budget and Finance Minister Larry Howai’s pledge to give Tobago its “fair share” were not honoured. He said all divisions within the assembly were affected by the shortfall.
Jack listed the he shortfall as:
• Assembly legislature: Requested $18.55 million: Allocated $14.29 million—a shortfall of 23 per cent.
• Office of the Chief Secretary: Requested $195 million: Allocated $108 million—a shortfall of 44 per cent.
• Finance and Enterprise Development: Requested $215.24 million: Allocated $134 million—a shortfall of 37.7 per cent.
• Tourism and Transportation: Requested $381.5 million: Allocated $229 million—a shortfall of 40 per cent.
• Education, Youth Affairs and Sports: Requested $536.2 million: Allocated $410 million—a shortfall of 23 per cent.
• Community Development and Culture: Requested $123.2 million: Allocated $88.79 million—a shortfall of 27.9 per cent.
• Infrastructure and Public Utilities: Requested $409.79 million: Allocated $360.48 million—a shortfall of 12 per cent.
• Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment: Requested $186.83 million: Allocated $137.67 million—a shortfall of 26 per cent.
• Health and Social Services: Requested $845.75 million: Allocated $583.05 million—a shortfall of 31 per cent.
• Settlements and Labour: Requested $31 million: Allocated $16 million—a shortfall of 48 per cent.
• Planning and Development: Requested $28 million: Allocated $11.68 million—a shortfall of $59.5 per cent.
He added that the total shortfall under recurrent estimates was $877 million or 29.5 per cent while development programmes experienced an 80 per cent shortfall. Jack noted that the under-funding by the Central Government had constricted the assembly’s pace to pursue its goals for Tobago. “This approach to limiting Tobago’s capacity to contribute to its own development and that of the nation seems to occupy higher priority by the current administration in Trinidad despite the promises that were given to Tobago,” he added. Jack said he was not satisfied with the budgetary allocation since the THA would be forced to use several strategies to mitigate the impact. He added: “While there are several possible financial options available to Tobago with the option to borrow, the THA Act No 40 of 1996 Section 51B limits the ability of Tobago to fund urgent and import capital expenditure by way of borrowing without the expressed approval of the Minister of Finance. “As a consequence we have begun to explore a number of financing initiatives to ensure that viable development projects in Tobago can proceed without delay.”