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Tobago not ready for Sandals---Minority Councillor
Tobagonians will not reap maximum
benefits from the Sandals Hotel Project.
Minority Councillor in the Tobago House
of Assembly Dr Faith Yisrael shared this
view while responding to the Tobago House
of Assembly's Fiscal 2018 Budget Statement,
on June 24 , Assembly Legislature Building,
Jerningham Street, Scarborough.
According to Dr Yisrael, the statement
placed in the House by Secretary of Finance
and Enterprise Development Joel Jack lacked
many details including a long-term plan for
the development of the island.
"Madame Presiding Officer the Secretary
for Finance based the 2017- 2018 budget
on the Comprehensive Economic Develop-
ment Plan which ends in in 2017. How are
we planning for 2018 on a document that
ends in 2017?"
According to Dr Yisrael, although the
leadership of the Tobago House of Assem-
bly considers the Sandals project- "Tobago's
manna from Heaven," the administration
failed to prepare Tobagonians to benefit fully
from the project.
"We should be rolling out a very com-
prehensive plan to ensure that the people
of Tobago- the fishermen and farmers- are
really prepared for what Sandals will bring,"
the Minority Councillor said.
She added: "By the way, that document
was already done in collaboration with the
Travel Foundation in 2004. That document
was repared giving details about what we
in Tobago need to do to be prepared for
these all-inclusive hotels. That document
was completely ignored."
She said because the action was not taken
to get the island ready for an all-inclusive
establishment, it would provide an avenue
for the hotel to get out of its obligations.
"Since we've wasted those thirteen years
and they are coming anytime now what they
will do, as they have done in other countries,
is have agreements where they say they are
going to buy from locals or hire locals."
Yisrael added: "But they have set the bar
so high that within a year what you have
happening is that the locals can't compete,
the locals haven't met the standard so you
now have Sandals saying they have tried
and they will go somewhere and you can't
The PDP Councillor also said the budget
statement lacked a number of other details
about how the money , requested for the
next fiscal year, will be spent.
"Madam Presiding Officer, we are asking
for $77 million for URP, what are we doing
with that money? At the end of that $77
million how many walls, how many drains
how many whatever you plan to build are
we going to have?"
She also asked the ruling party what was
their plan to address crime in Tobago. "
What about crime? Certainly, I'm hoping
that somebody will tell us about the plan
Dr Yisrael also called on the Secretary of
Finance to give an account of the money
allocated for projects in the past which have
not been spent. "I can't remember anywhere,
anything saying anything about the consol-
She called on Secretary Jack to "stand on
a point of order" and indicate where, and
if any reference was made to that account
in the statement.
Tobago-born economist and UWI
lecturer Anthony Birchwood says
Tobago's economy "is facing a dras-
tic downturn because of the problems
on the air and sea bridges but it will
not crash anytime soon."
Birchwood was addressing fears
by the Tobago business community
that the economy is heading for a
Members of the Tobago Chapter of
the Chamber of Industry and Com-
merce are saying their incomes have
reduced significantly---by over 40 per
cent---and have begun decreasing the
working hours of some of their
The business owners also cannot
meet their financial obligations to the
bank because of the air and sea bridge
They say if the situation continues
some of them will go bankrupt and
the island's economy will collapse.
Responding to the claims, the econ-
omist said, "If the economy collaps-
es then you would experience massive
unemployment, high inflation and
He noted that Tobago's economy is
"not close to experiencing any of those
things but is rather feeling the brunt
of two major economic situations."
"First through reduced income from
Trinidad and secondly because of a
breakdown in the transportation links
between the two islands."
He said a distinction has to be made
between the lengths of time the prob-
lems are affecting Tobago to determine
the effect it will have on the economy.
"The problems, the island is experi-
encing, are temporary and not a per-
manent setback and once those prob-
lems are solved things should be back
On the issue of Tobago receiving a
reduced income from Trinidad, the
economist explained that "because
Tobago's economy is so heavily depen-
dent on Trinidad's, once there is a
reduction in energy prices the island
will receive less income from the Trin-
He said Trinidad and Tobago's econ-
omy collapsed back in the early 80s
when the country visited the Inter-
national Monetary Fund (IMF) for
"Back then, as a country, we had
to get specific forms to get foreign
exchange as dictated by the IMF and
we underwent austerity programs that
had to be agreed on to access the
Countries that borrow from the IMF
do so under specific conditions. Those
conditions include changing econom-
ic policies to facilitate repayment of
the loan. The loan must be repaid to
allow other member countries to
access the institution's funds.
He said notwithstanding what is
being said about Tobago's economy,
"It has grown over the years and this
is evident by the effect the broken
transport linkages are having on the
"Birchwood added: "If the island's
tourism industry had not grown then
it would not have affected the indus-
try as much. There would have been
a little effect if the linkages were not
Asked if Tobago was too econom-
ically dependent on Trinidad, Birch-
wood said "the island is showing some
independence because it has been
growing. If it was not growing we
would not have the present reaction
to the problems."
He added: "Perhaps it is not grow-
ing in the direction some people will
like, but it is certainly growing."
Partially empty shelves show the problems grocery owners are experiencing to get their goods to Tobago.
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