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Tobago stakeholders hoping for answers

Published: 
Monday, January 22, 2018
PM, Ministers meet at Magdalena today
President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Demi John Cruickshank

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and a high-powered ministerial team will sit today for talks with the business community in Tobago.

Stakeholders in Tobago told the T&T Guardian that they will be going to the talks armed with folders of documents on just how the island, which is dependent on the tourism product, has suffered in the past year because of problems on the seabridge which contributed to problems on the airbridge.

President of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Demi John Cruickshank told the T&T Guardian that from the information they have received, the Prime Minister will himself be coming with his own “artillery” bringing several “senior Cabinet Ministers, and chairmen of State boards,” to the meeting which he said will also be attended by Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and other Secretaries of the Tobago House of Assembly.

The ministerial team which will accompany the PM to the meeting are Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat.

Also expected to attend the talks which begin at 10 am at the Magdalena Grand Hotel are the chairman of Caribbean Airlines and a team from CAL, the chairman of the Port Authority and a team from the Port, the chairman of Nidco and a team from NIDCO, as well Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack, Secretary for Tourism Nadine Stewart and others.

The Chamber team will include officials from the Hotel Association, the Bread and Breakfast Association, Tour Operators, Maxi Taxi Operators, vendors and others.

The talks were requested by the Tobago-arm of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in the face of a worsening situation with the economy and in the hope of finding workable solutions to get the island back on track.

Cruickshank said: “It is a large gathering of people. Let us sit down and talk. We don’t need to shout across the table.

“Let us sit down and discuss the issues and see if we can get some genuine solutions to the many problems we face.”

Describing the current situation in Tobago as “concerning,” Cruickshank said there is currently a feeling of uncertainty.

“We are not confident right now as to what will happen in 2018,” he said.

He said while businesses were looking on with optimism to the new year “with the uncertainty of plans and direction from the government and the assembly we are left to wonder what would happen.”

In the past months, he said, hoteliers and guest house owners have seen a significant decline in local tourists. But a number of businesses have also closed their doors.

Stakeholders, he said, will also seek answers from the Prime Minister and his team on the vessel which they announced has been purchased for the seabridge.

Declaring that the stakeholders have a “major concern,” that they had not “heard from the present leadership of the THA on what is their economic development plan for Tobago,” Cruickshank said they will use the opportunity to get some answers, “what are they going to do for tourism. There is a new tourism agency in place and we have not really heard from them since they were installed.”

By now, he said, Tobago should be “preparing for the winter season. All those things will be raised with the Prime Minister in a serious way.”

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