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Jack: Tobago economy stable

Friday, August 18, 2017

Secretary of Finance and Economy in the Tobago House of Assembly, Joel Jack, says the Tobago economy is stable.

Speaking on a recent radio interview, Jack said in spite of the slowdown in the national economy and the challenges on both the air and sea bridges, Tobago has been able to increase its contribution to the national economy.

“The Tobago economy should be commended in terms of the management of the economy. Just to put it in context, last year the budgetary allocation was reduced by a little over $4 million and we were able to strategically manage the Tobago economy to prevent any fallout in terms of investment to keep the Tobago economy on a stable footing.”

Jack said over the past four years the Tobago economy has grown on an average of 2.7 per cent.

“... Within recent time Tobago’s contribution to the GDP has increased from 1.9 per cent to over 2.2 per cent,” he said, adding the rate of growth will continue as additional investments will be made.

“As we look forward to increased investment in the tourism sector with Sandals coming soon and all the ancillary investments in terms of the new airline terminal, in terms of the new electricity generating plant at Cove and the construction of the desalination plant and all the other major projects by the Tobago House of Assembly.”

But Jack's claims are in stark contrast to reports from three prominent business associations - the Tobago Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce, Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association and the Inter-island Truckers and Traders Association - and one economist.

Only last week during a joint press conference, Chamber president Demi John Cruickshank reported "a serious decline in terms of the economy of Tobago since the departure of the Super Fast Galicia."

The Super Fast Galicia was the lone designated cargo vessel on the sea bridge before it left the route in April this year following a contract dispute with the Port Authority of T&T.

At the time, Cruickshank was lamenting the cancellation of the contract for the Ocean Flower 2.

Speaking further about the economy, Cruickshank said, "...It is very heart-breaking to learn this, we are already in a hole and this will further put us as private sector members deeper in a hole.”

Echoing similar sentiments on the state of the economy, Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association president Chris James said the accommodation industry has lost $25 million. He also said members were finding it difficult to pay their bills since they could only do so when their occupancy rate was at 50 per cent, but noted the rate had fallen steadily as a direct result of the inter-island ferry debacle.

James said between January to June 2017 the occupancy rate at hotels and guest houses reported at of 34 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

The Inter-island Truckers and Traders Association have also reported millions of dollars in losses.

Jack’s statements are also not sitting well with socio-economic analyst Anselm Richards.

“A casual anecdotal assessment on the Tobago economy will prove that a number of Tobago businessmen are facing foreclosure due to a limited cash flow. Is that an indicator of a stable economy?” Richards asked.

Adding that “just last week the Hotel and Tourism Association reported an amalgamated loss of 25 million dollars in booking cancellation for the January to August period,” Richards said that information does not point to a stable economy.

“That does not include the losses from restaurants and other service providers,” Richards said, noting Jack needs to understand that “that persons are existing in a state of enlightenment, where access to information is easily accessible and persons no longer wish to accept what they are told without doing the necessary research.”


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