Wednesday 28th September, 2005

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Mr. Speaker, this House is well aware of the significant progress made by the Tobago House of Assembly in recent years which can be best summarized by the achievements of the tourism sector. Indeed, what the energy sector has so successfully achieved in Trinidad, the tourism sector has done in Tobago, and magnificently so!

For instance, when the Standing Committee on Tourism was set up in 2002, the number of persons employed in the tourism industry in Tobago was estimated at 7,000. Two years later, that number more than doubled. Thus, Tobago accomplished, in three years, the target of 15,000.

Similarly, the island's hotel occupancy rate, currently at 70 percent, is now close to achieving the set target of 75 percent, compared to the 17 percent realised in 2002.

But, Mr. Speaker, Tobago's achievements are not confined to the tourism sector. Other significant recent achievements include:

* Steady advances by health promotion clinic and the encouraging progress in dealing with the HIV/AIDS situation;

* The swift, steady and effective response to the human suffering and physical destruction associated with Hurricane Ivan and the landslides in Windward Tobago;

* The peaceful acquisition of Pigeon Point that placed one of our nation's treasures forever in the hands of the Assembly and the people of Tobago; and

* The achievement of virtual full employment

I take this opportunity to congratulate the THA-led Task Force which developed the Comprehensive Economic Development Plan for Tobago, a plan which accords with the Vision 2020 National Strategic Plan and carefully maps for Tobago the necessary development strategies using natural gas as an engine of growth.

Recognising the paramount need at all times to ensure that the people of Tobago know that their support has not been misplaced, the air bridge must be made more reliable. At the same time, discussions are ongoing regarding the purchase of two fast ferries to adequately serve the sea-bridge. In keeping with the THA's commitment to facilitating the Tobago Heritage Land Trust, Pigeon Point has been purchased. Cove Industrial Estate is being established as T&TEC is in the design stage of the electricity generation station there, human resource development is high on the agenda as it is an imperative for the quantum leap that Tobago must make, thus TTHTI has established a campus and the UTT is also doing the same.

Mr. Speaker, this Budget includes an overall allocation to Tobago of $1.3 billion, of which $1.1 million is for recurrent expenditures; and $240.9 million for the regular development programme, of which $80.7 million is allocated to the Infrastructure Development Fund. A further $470.9 million would be expended under various heads of expenditure for the direct benefit of the people of Tobago.

Indeed, as in recent years, the $500 million Capital Expenditure Borrowing Facility for Tobago is retained in this Budget; and will be activated by the Assembly in the next fiscal year, in accordance with existing administrative arrangements.

The people of Tobago will therefore have access to resources in excess of $2.3 billion for this fiscal year.

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