TOP: THA Budget is a “laughable” document

28 Jun 2015
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The Political Leader of the TOP, Ashworth Jack speaking at the press conference on Tuesday. The Political Leader of the TOP, Ashworth Jack speaking at the press conference on Tuesday.

SOME of the specifics of the Tobago House of Assembly’s 2016 Budget are almost "laughable", according to the Political Leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), Ashworth Jack.

During a press conference held on Tuesday at the headquarters of the TOP, Jack wasted no time in commenting on a number of statements in the Budget, which was presented the previous day by the Secretary of the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development, Joel Jack.

Highlighting specifics from the tourism section of the Budget presentation, Jack says, "There is one that I find almost laughable and is one called tourism."

Quoting directly from the THA Budget document he says, "As a result of the various initiatives of the Division of Tourism there has been an increase in tourist arrivals in Tobago. For the winter season December 2014 to April 2015, international air passenger arrivals increased moderately to 17,991 from 17,883."

This is an increase of 108 passengers, as reported by the Tobago News on May 31.

However, the TOP Leader exclaimed, "Eight, eight, exactly eight, an increase of eight persons, and that is seen as an achievement as a result of the initiative."

The Political Leader also finds "interesting" the details about the Brazilian airlift to Tobago, which was included in the Budget. "There is another boast that I find almost interesting, but they (THA) were smart enough not to tell you what have been the numbers".

Jack also took issues with the increase in cruise arrivals quoted in the Budget, which states that arrivals rose to 51,273 from 15,903 for the period December 2014 to April 2015. He claims that when the People’s National Movement (PNM) took over the Assembly in 2001, the cruise arrivals were nearly double what it has increased to now. "I am quite sure there was a time that the Assembly boast that there was a million people coming to Tobago as domestic passengers," he adds.

He also quoted the 6% decline in domestic ferry arrivals from 190,975 to 179,933 in the period December 2014 to April 2015, and the increase in domestic air arrivals from 187,414 to 191,926 over the same period.

"So, when you are speaking about an increase there is actually a decrease and I am not just saying that, the figures are here to show," states Jack.

He asks the question, "What does that speak to in terms of businesses in Tobago?" Further, he says that business owners in Tobago would characterise business activities as "dead" or "dormant" and "boy, I don’t know what to say".

Jack believes that the biggest boast of any Budget should be the ability of the Government to attract foreign investments. "Nowhere in this document does it speak about the attraction of foreign investment and how it will be done to the benefit of the people of Tobago, because an island our size will not be able to have all the resources to develop ourselves as quickly as we should," he notes.

In addition, Jack states that there seems to be a fear of developing the private sector here in Tobago.

"I have no problem with this Assembly asking for five or ten million dollars if it is properly spent. You look at some of the projects and then you ask yourself, where do we expect to see Tobago within the next five years?"



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