Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 5th 2016 Contents tobagotoday.co.tt OCTOBER 5-11, 2016
CAMILLE MC EACHNIE
The Tobago Division of the Trinidad and
Tobago Chamber of Industry of Commerce
has given mixed reviews about the
2016/2017 fiscal package presented by
Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
The reviews, expressed by various busi-
nessmen and women within the organisa-
tion, run the gamut from "manageable"
and "hopeful" to "spinning top in mud"
The Chamber s current Tobago chairman,
Demi-John Cruickshank, said he felt Toba-
go s allocation of $2.354 billion was "man-
ageable" and he does not expect workers
to lose their jobs.
Expressing similar sentiments, Chris
James, president of the Tobago Hotel and
Tourism Association (THTA), said the con-
tinued refurbishment of the ANR Robinson
International Airport and construction of
a new terminal sent "hopeful" signals that
the Government was interested in giving
the tourism sector a boost.
However, dissenting views on the absence
of proposals in the budget came from many
of the Chamber s members.
Former Tobago Chamber chairman Janet
Arnold-Parks said the country "is not open
for business" as things take too long to get
She said Imbert s ten-year projection for
diversification of the economy did not sur-
prise her, as "simple business approvals"
were a lengthy process.
"As far as we are concerned, we are not
really ready for business to invite outside
investors. Simple things like EMA and Town
and Country approvals in Tobago, we have
to wait two, three years to get simple house
plans approved and simple plans for devel-
opment...so I was really disappointed about
Another former Chamber chairman,
Diane Hadad, said Imbert s opening remarks
gave her hope but in the end she was "dis-
appointed" because it was "more of the
"... At the end, we came down to a typ-
ical budget which was taxes on tobacco...
alcohol...the people who work the hardest
and disincentives to the persons who devel-
op and contribute from a private sector
standpoint ... and I was very disappointed
in hearing that as it was, more of the same
persons ... taking the licks again."
Likewise, former Tobago Chamber chair-
man David Wong noted he too expected the
budget to handle more development issues.
He said: "On the whole, I was expecting
a little more conservatism on the budget, but
we didn t have the information on the oil
price from the OPEC meeting ...on the whole,
for the THA expenditure we have always had
an imbalance between recurrent and capital
Wong said although he is not an economist,
he could safely say if recurrent expenditure
is always higher than capital expenditure, the
economy will not grow and if the pattern of
spending continued it was "like spinning top
in mud and really not planning to go any-
He said the private sector needed to sit
with Finance Secretary Joel Jack to see how
they could "retool" much of the recurrent
expenditure for capital investment.
Wong concluded by noting that given the
current expectation of higher oil and gas
prices, he hoped the Government would use
any extra revenue it collected to reduce debt
and invest in the country s future.
Tobago s Hotel and Tourism Association
(THTA) president Chris James is describing
the 2017 fiscal package presented by Finance
Minister Colm Imbert as "hopeful." But
James says he is, however, "still waiting to
He made the comment while speaking at
the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry
and Commerce Tobago Division s post-budget
media briefing at the chamber s office in
ANSA McAL Building, Milford Road, Scar-
borough, last Friday.
James said he welcomed the tourism indus-
try initiatives outlined, as the industry needed
help now. He explained the industry s present
"We in the tourism industry are in a very
dire state, single figure occupancy and
although Sandals is something we embrace,
we need something now to help us survive
... until Sandals is built," James said.
Imbert gave a projected timeframe of two and
a half years for the construction of Sandals.
"During the construction period of the
project, estimated to last two and a half years,
an average of 2,000 persons would be directly
employed in the construction," Imbert said
during his presentation.
But before the international chain of hotels
can be built here, Chief Secretary Orville
London has promised Tobagonians they will
be invited to another round of consultations.
The timeframe involved in the construction
of the resort, coupled with the promised con-
sultations by London, were not lost on James,
as the THTA president happiness about the
budgetary allocation to market Tobago.
"It s interesting that the Government has
outlined giving the Tobago House of Assembly
funds for destination marketing, as it is some-
thing we desperately need."
He was also pleased that funds were allo-
cated to enhance the island s room stock.
"Over the last ten years we have had all
sorts of government loans guarantees and
different offers made, but none of it has ever
materialised for Tobago."
Back in 2012, the government offered the
Tobago hoteliers a helping hand through the
Government s Loan Guarantee Programme,
which was administered by the Export-Import
Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.
The hoteliers also had access to investment
funds from the Tourism Development Fund,
which was controlled by the Tobago Tourism
Development Company Ltd.
However, guest house owners and hoteliers
had complained bitterly that they could not
access either of the financial programs.
Commenting further on the budget, James
said the increase in taxes on cigarettes and
alcohol would push Tobago out of the price
competitive range in relation to its Caribbean
"It has long been proven that we cannot
compete with the other islands ...based on
the cost of our alcohol ... and it has just risen
again, that puts us at a serious disadvantage,"
he told reporters. He said he was happy refur-
bishment works will continue on the ANR
Robinson International Airport and construc-
tion of a new terminal will begin next year.
From left, David James, Demi-John Cruickshank and Jason Arthur at last week's press conference. PHOTOS: CASWELL GORDON
Members of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce take in last week's budget's speech from
Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
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