Tobago’s future awaits
Thursday, January 31 2013
WITH the hard fought Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, which resulted in a 12-nil defeat by the People’s National Movement (PNM) of the ruling People’s Partnership’s (PP) Tobago arm, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), now over and Orville London serving yet another term as Chief Secretary of the THA, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should heed Mr London’s call and work with him to develop Tobago.
We need not remind the Prime Minister that it was she, who in announcing the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2013, had spoken of economic benefits for Tobago under the Bill, the principal of which was the expanding of Tobago’s annual allocation of a four to six percent ratio of the national Budget to 6.9 to 8 percent. We can only hope that the PP Government’s enthusiasm to implement this measure has not waned following on the historic January 21 election whitewash of the TOP, which saw the party’s political leader, Ashworth Jack, losing the THA seat he had held for 16 years.
Now that London has scored such a resounding victory against Jack, whom the Prime Minister had favoured, and understandably, for the Office of Chief Secretary of the THA, it is time for her and her Administration to demonstrate that the PM’s commitment to Tobago was not merely part of the election campaigning and will seek to secure for the PNM controlled THA increased benefits.
While, admittedly, the Leader of the Opposition and Political Leader of the PNM, Tobago-born Dr Keith Rowley, is on record as stating that his party would not support the Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2013, all this may require will be the Government sitting down with the Opposition and the Tobago House of Assembly and a new Constitution Amendment Bill being worked out. Clearly, the THA should have a major input. There should be a clear demonstration by the Central Government of respect for the THA and that it is prepared to cooperate with it both in the areas of constitution reform and expansion of the island’s economy. The PP administration needs to show it is prepared to improve and increase services to Tobagonians. In the meantime, we hope to see in the wider interests of Tobago and Trinidad positive and meaningful collaboration between the Central Government and the THA in such areas as energy and tourism where Tobago is concerned. There is a clear gap in the levels of growth between the two islands, what with the century old emphasis placed in Trinidad on the exploiting of crude oil and from the 1960s, of natural gas, this, largely, off Trinidad’s East Coast, as opposed to the stress laid on tourism development in Tobago.
While there are several industrial estates in Trinidad, with the largest being the energy-based Point Lisas Industrial Estate, the emphasis in Tobago has been on hotel and guest house development and tourist attractions, for example, Buccoo Reef. Meanwhile, although there were indications of large reserves of natural gas offshore Tobago, because they were located in (very) deepwater areas, this has posed an exploration problem.
However, with today’s advance in technology, BHP Billiton, an international energy major, is poised, for example, to begin deep water exploration off the North West Coast of Tobago. Actual production, though, is not expected to begin before 2017. The anticipated success by BHP Billiton will fuel growth in Tobago.
In the process scores of jobs will be created in the sister isle. We congratulate Mr London and his PNM team for their election victory and express the hope that by their appreciating the significance ofthe mandate given them, the wider Tobago community can expect them to commit themselves to deliver the goods and services needed to improve the lives of Tobagonians. The THA election is over. The future of Tobago awaits.