Tobago asks Imbert for $4.7b for fiscal year


Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack – THA

Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack has requested $4.7 billion from Minister of Finance Colm Imbert for the next fiscal year.

Imbert will present the national budget in Parliament on Monday.

On the Tobago Matters programme over the weekend, Jack said his initial budget estimate was around $4.3 billion but had to be revised after consultation with various stakeholders.

“The budget request moved upwards from $4.3 billion, and the estimate submitted included $3.07 billion for recurrent expenditure, $1.5 billion for development, $61.4 million for URP and $44.3 million for Cepep.”

Last year Tobago requested $4.71 billion but received just $2.134 billion.

Jack said he is optimistic Tobago will receive more than the minimum mandated by the Dispute Resolutions Commission.

“We anticipate the minister will keep giving and providing the assembly with funding beyond the barest minimum – 4.03 per cent – as he has done since coming into office in 2015.”

He is also looking forward to being able to access alternative financing mechanism similarly to last year when the assembly borrowed on the bond market for the first time.

“In terms of my expectations and outlook, in addition to the direct allocation, we anticipate the minister will afford funding through various ministries –­ over a billion (dollars) ­– for various projects earmarked for Tobago.”

Jack also addressed the issue of cost of living, acknowledging price increases for certain items on the island.

“When we look at prices, inflation remains relatively subdued in the Tobago context. We had headline core and food price inflation for Tobago as at June 2021 recorded at 0.9, 0.7 and 1.9 per cent, respectively, But persons might say, ‘Secretary, that doesn’t reflect what is happening at the grocery nor what is happening at the pharmacy,’ and you are quite correct.

‘We in the THA, primarily the Division of Finance and the Economy, have been monitoring the prices at the supermarket, pharmacy and the hardware stores – we have seen an increase in prices at approximately six per cent.”

Jack noted unemployment is also on the rise even as he revealed the data he had available was pre-covid19.

“We anticipate with the decline in the tourism sector, closure and lockdown measures that were implemented, that this figure would increase significantly. And we are seeing it in the number of applications coming before us for assistance through the various THA divisions.”

He added that Tobago is looking to establish its own heritage fund.

“Some may ask how yuh saving when we already getting so little, but this rainy day, forward-thinking is what is needed right now.”

Jack believes Tobago economy “will return to positive growth in 2022, and that is contingent on the management of the pandemic and the rolling out of the various sectors.”

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