The Tobago economy
Thursday, June 21 2012
THE Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce is pleased to note the Prime Ministerís announcement that Cabinet has approved the establishment of a $250 million Tobago Tourism Development Fund over 2013 to 2015, aimed at providing resources for two major business categories, namely, debt restructuring for tourism related businesses, and upgrade and maintenance of hotels having below 50 rooms.
We believe this was long overdue, since the Chamber, guided by our Tobago Division, along with the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, has been a key driver in proposing a debt restructuring plan, aimed at businesses which would be viable, save for cash flow difficulties due to the slow-down of activity in Tobagoís tourism sector. This plan was presented to central government, the Tobago House of Assembly and other key stakeholders at several meetings during 2010 and 2011. It was a culmination of four years of dedicated work and determination.
We stress however, that the injection of the money into Tobagoís cash-strapped businesses is paramount and urgent. Consequently, steps must now be taken to accelerate the process, so that businesses can take advantage of the windows of opportunity which may open from the initiatives announced by the Prime Minister. The Chamber looks forward to continuing to work with central government, the Bankers Association and the THA in order to fulfill our mandate with regards to ensuring the economic survival and viability of Tobagoís businesses.
As the very survival of the Tobago economy rests with a well-functioning tourism industry, we welcome the other proposals announced to boost tourism in Tobago. These include Tobago as a duty free economic zone for shopping, and construction of additional hotel rooms and first-class marinas. Once it has been reasonably demonstrated that the proposals are economically sound, these initiatives should have significant impact on the development and modernisation of the islandís tourism product, and the creation of much-needed sustainable employment.
We call for further commitments to additional research and a time frame for implementation of these projects. Further the net economic benefits of these projects for Tobago must be convincing.
We note with concern however, that no fully developed, holistic economic plan for Tobago has been developed. The Chamber strongly believes that in order to reap the fruits of these initiatives, an overall economic development plan for the island must be established using stakeholder input and with goals and timelines clearly defined. This is imperative if we are to attract investors wishing to participate in our development drive.
The arrival of the energy industry to Tobago is imminent with the announcement that Centrica Energy is in discussions with the Ministry of Energy over the commercialisation of gas off the north coast of Tobago. Since this could represent the largest investment in the islandís history, it is expected that numerous business opportunities will emanate from this activity. We hope that central government and the THA will collaborate in ensuring that residents of Tobago are sensitised, and offered the necessary technical and artisan training to equip them to take advantage of new business and employment opportunities.
The Chamber is positive that Tobago can continue to build on this renewed momentum for a prosperous economy. We reconfirm our commitment to be part of the process that will be of benefit to the islandís business sector and indeed, all Tobagonians.