Was PDP’s THA budget designed to spark conflict?


Laurence Hislop –

PNM Senator Laurence Hislop is wondering whether the inaugural Tobago House of Assembly (THA) budget presented by the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) administration was designed to set-up an argument with Central Government.

Hislop, one of the PNM’s unsuccessful candidate in the THA elections, was speaking on Monday on the weekly Minority Report, broadcast on Tobago Updates Facebook page.

Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance Farley Augustine, on June 23, requested $3.97 billion for fiscal 2022-2023. The figure represents approximately 6.9 per cent of what the Executive Council anticipates the national budget to be.

Last year, then finance secretary Joel Jack requested $4.7 billion for Tobago, but the island only received $2.357 billion – 4.5 per cent of the national pie.

Hislop accused the PDP of being hypocritical as they had criticised the budget requests of past PNM administrations for being unrealistic.

Hislop said, “I want us to be careful that we are not creating a scenario to start an argument. I’m hoping we not setting up the play so if and when we don’t get the $3.9 billion, that there is not an argument that Trinidad don’t want to give us the money.”

Hislop said he has noticed a trend in the approach of the new administration.

“I’m starting to get this sinking feeling that we are creating a a space for an argument between Trinidad and Tobago. That was tried in the past. That argument that Trinidad don’t care – that was tried.

“I might get some flak for his but that’s fine – but why do we think we need to be argumentative with Central Government?

“How does that benefit Tobago?

“To me, more gets accomplished when you quietly do things, when you negotiate properly – rather than you standing on a bully pulpit and shouting to someone that this is what I want.”

Hislop said if the situation is reversed then people would understand that shouting is not the right approach.

Hislop also criticised calls from members of the PDP for royalties from revenue derived from energy resources in Tobago waters to be paid directly to the THA.

“If persons from the south-western peninsular of Trinidad, if people in Couva where Point Lisas (Industrial Estate) is say all the money that Point Lisas generates has to spend in Couva. What would people in Tobago say?

“We are part of a country called Trinidad and Tobago. Whether the argument is that we should be part or we should be on our own, that is not the argument. As it stand now, we are part of a country called Trinidad and Tobago.

“The resources that are found in what we call Tobago waters is found in the waters of TT, because we are a country.”

Hislop also criticised part of Augustine’s presentation where he envisioned a “standard of living that surpasses those of other small-island states with a highly innovative and educated population.”

Hislop argued that Tobagonians enjoy a standard of living that is “better off” than most Caricom countries.

He argued that there has been significant infrastructural and human resource development under the PNM.

He said if one goes to the hospital, the majority of doctors there now are Tobagonains.

“If we are truly honest with ourselves, we ought to see the great positives that we have on the island as compared to the negative.”

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