Ex-Tobago chamber head: ‘This is an ambitious budget’
FORMER chairman of the Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce, Demi John Cruickshank, has described the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) budget presentation for fiscal 2022-2023 as “ambitious.”
On Thursday, the assembly through Chief Secretary Farley Augustine requested an allocation of $3.97 billion from central government to manage the island’s affairs for the next fiscal year.
This sum is reflective of 6.9 per cent of the national budget which Augustine anticipated to be $57.4 billion.
The 6.9 per cent slice of the national budget pie is the maximum amount set for Tobago’s annual budget as recommended by the Dispute Resolution Committee. The minimum recommended percentage is 4.03 per cent.
Cruickshank represented the chamber at the sitting at which the budget was read in the Assembly Legislature. He made his statement that the budget was “ambitious” as he spoke with reporters after the budget presentation.
“We look at the size of the budget – it’s very ambitious. The chief secretary is touting and pegging the budget on 6.9 per cent of the national budget. We all in Tobago, as Tobagonians, hope that the Minister of Finance will give him 6.9 per cent of the national budget, but again, it’s a lot of negotiation the chief secretary will have to do.
“And whatever the private sector can do, we will lobby from our end to hope that the assembly gets the 6.9 per cent or the $3.97 billion that the assembly is looking at in order to properly run and manage the island’s affairs for the next fiscal year,” Cruickshank said.
Proper accountability, he added, must also be given for the funds.
“Proper accountability has been one of the things the chamber has always been mandating the assembly to do. Account for public funds you receive, that is something we are going to look on at as a watchdog.”
Meantime, chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George described the presentation as “aspirational with some good ideas…if they come to fruition.”
“It’s definitely an aspirational budget. It is one that seeks to reach probably beyond its borders and punch above its weight, but we hope that in essence, most of the basic fundamentals would be able to be carried out,” George said.
He said while in many cases it appears to be a budget that is aspirational in terms of some of the objectives, aims and the perspectives particularly as to the achievement of autonomy, there are certain elements which are worthy of praise.
“There is mention of the intent to pressure central government to repeal immediately, the foreign investment act and the land licensing regime, which would lead to facilitation of direct foreign investment into Tobago and that’s one of the things we made a clear and direct recommendation in respect of.”
Additionally, he said, it is a scenario where 77 per cent of the budget is also going on recurrent expenditure.
“We of the Tobago Business Chamber have always said those figures are too high but at least it’s an improvement from last years’ budget which was 88 per cent of that budget.
“In those circumstances, we wait to see how this is going to play out and we in the chamber stand ready, willing and able to support this THA administration as we move forward.”
BY: KINNESHA GEORGE