PDP/PNM make significant economic promises to Tobagonians

The five are Food Se­cu­ri­ty and Agro-Pro­cess­ing, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment and For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ments, Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion, Au­ton­o­my and Self Gov­ern­ment, and In­fra­struc­ture, Hous­ing and Land De­vel­op­ment

The is­land of To­ba­go is not un­ac­cus­tomed to peo­ple fight­ing over her. To­ba­go has been fought over by nu­mer­ous pow­ers, nu­mer­ous times. Ac­cord­ing to the his­to­ry books, the orig­i­nal Kali­na­go pop­u­la­tion was forced to de­fend their is­land against oth­er Amerindi­an tribes.

And when Christo­pher Colum­bus and the first set of colonis­ers sight­ed To­ba­go in 1498, the fight for the is­land did not stop.

There were nu­mer­ous up­heavals dur­ing the quest for own­er­ship by the Cour­lan­ders, the Dutch, Eng­lish, Span­ish, Swedish and French. The is­land was a bat­tle zone as it changed hands no few­er than 33 times, the most in West In­di­an his­to­ry, be­fore it was fi­nal­ly ced­ed to the British un­der the Treaty of Paris.

To­ba­go is again be­ing fought for. How­ev­er, this time around, in­stead of vi­o­lence, those seek­ing con­trol are us­ing promis­es to win the is­land over. On Jan­u­ary 25 the To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly (THA) elec­tion end­ed with a six-six dead­lock be­tween the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) and the Pro­gres­sive De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Pa­tri­ots (PDP). To­bag­o­ni­ans will now re­turn to the polls on De­cem­ber 6 to break that dead­lock.

Forty-five can­di­dates from five po­lit­i­cal par­ties have reg­is­tered to con­test the up­com­ing THA Elec­tion. The PNM and the PDP have field­ed can­di­dates in all fif­teen elec­toral dis­tricts.

The In­no­v­a­tive De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Al­liance will con­test 13 of the 15 elec­toral dis­tricts, with no can­di­dates vy­ing for the elec­toral dis­tricts of Belle Gar­den/Glam­or­gan and Rox­bor­ough/Ar­gyle.

The Class Ac­tion Re­form Move­ment and Uni­ty of the Peo­ple po­lit­i­cal par­ties have each field­ed one can­di­date in the elec­toral dis­trict of Buc­coo/Mt Pleas­ant, which is the on­ly elec­toral dis­trict be­ing con­test­ed by five can­di­dates. On the hus­tings, there has been no end to the promis­es be­ing made to To­bag­o­ni­ans. PNM To­ba­go Coun­cil leader Tra­cy David­son-Ce­les­tine re­vealed plans for a $60 mil­lion re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of the Scar­bor­ough wa­ter­front.

David­son-Ce­les­tine stat­ed the up­grade works in­clude a 2,000-foot long board­walk, mar­ket­place, food court, restau­rants, bars, cafes and en­ter­tain­ment and re­tail shop­ping spaces. David­son-Ce­les­tine said the project has been in the works for the past three years and is be­ing joint­ly fund­ed by the State and the In­ter Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank. The pro­posed works are ex­pect­ed to be­gin in Jan­u­ary.

David­son-Ce­les­tine said To­bag­o­ni­ans will have a “new and im­proved Scar­bor­ough.”

This first phase of the cap­i­tal’s re­de­vel­op­ment is ex­pect­ed to take 18 months. On Jan­u­ary 20, the PDP un­veiled a 12-point plan high­light­ing its vi­sion for the New City of Scar­bor­ough. Ma­jor projects of this plan in­clude a new fer­ry ter­mi­nal, a round­about and open­ing a mu­se­um. As a way to stim­u­late busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ty and sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost the is­land’s tourism, PDP can­di­date for Scar­bor­ough/Mt Grace Trevor James said he be­lieves the is­land needs three piers to al­low the si­mul­ta­ne­ous dock­ing of three large cruise ships.

James ac­cused the PNM, of “hi­jack­ing” the plans for the cap­i­tal city. The promis­es have not been lim­it­ed to the cap­i­tal city though.

PDP po­lit­i­cal leader Wat­son Duke al­so promised THA em­ploy­ees that if his par­ty wins the elec­tion, they will re­ceive an ex gra­tia pay­ment for Christ­mas.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice (CSO), the THA cur­rent­ly em­ploys around 60 per cent of the is­land’s work­force.

THA’s chief sec­re­tary and PNM can­di­date for Buc­coo/Mt Pleas­ant An­cil Den­nis an­nounced a $50 mil­lion stim­u­lus pack­age to sup­port strug­gling To­bag­o­ni­ans and busi­ness own­ers as well as to en­hance the is­land’s tourism sec­tor.

Den­nis said $20 mil­lion will go to­wards work­ers dis­placed by the pan­dem­ic; $15 mil­lion will be for the ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor; $5 mil­lion for small and medi­um-sized en­ter­pris­es (SMEs); and $10 mil­lion to the To­ba­go Tourism Agency Ltd to as­sist in the digi­ti­sa­tion of busi­ness­es in that sec­tor.

In its To­ba­go man­i­festo 2021-2025, the PNM has list­ed five pri­or­i­ty ar­eas it be­lieves is a strong foun­da­tion to build up­on.

The five are Food Se­cu­ri­ty and Agro-Pro­cess­ing, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment and For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ments, Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion, Au­ton­o­my and Self Gov­ern­ment, and In­fra­struc­ture, Hous­ing and Land De­vel­op­ment.

The PNM said it will take steps to meet the high de­mand for hous­ing, and in so do­ing, gen­er­ate new jobs, re­vive the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and stim­u­late the build­ing ma­te­ri­als, man­u­fac­tur­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion and trans­porta­tion sec­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to the man­i­festo the PNM will pro­vide ful­ly ser­viced lots to en­cour­age build­ing con­struc­tion and guar­an­tee own­er­ship of prop­er­ty by res­i­dents.

It stat­ed that it in­tends to con­struct 400 new homes at Cour­land Es­tate, Shir­van Es­tate, Adel­phi Es­tate, Rox­bor­ough Es­tate, In­di­an Walk Es­tate and Rise­land Es­tate.

The PNM said it al­so in­tends to pro­vide 250 sub­sidised rental units for low in­come earn­ers, the el­der­ly, the phys­i­cal­ly chal­lenged and the in­di­gent. It al­so stat­ed plans to use State lands to cre­ate res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments “with starter homes that will make it af­ford­able for per­sons to get on the hous­ing lad­der.”

“Start­ing from 2022, dis­trib­ute at least 25 starter homes to el­i­gi­ble per­sons, mak­ing at least 300 homes per year,” it stat­ed. It al­so promised to as­sist sin­gle moth­er with pay­ments for kinder­garten. PDP deputy leader Far­ley Au­gus­tine, the par­ty’s choice for chief sec­re­tary, has al­so been ad­vo­cat­ing for greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to own land.

The PNM in its man­i­festo al­so called for the con­struc­tion of “at least” one de­sali­na­tion plan on the is­land. “Work with the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment to con­struct at least one de­sali­na­tion plant where res­i­dents and in­dus­try can ac­cess the vast nat­ur­al re­source just off our shores. Through PPP (pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship) more rur­al ar­eas will be able to ac­cess an al­ter­na­tive source of wa­ter thus vast­ly cut­ting down on ex­ist­ing chal­lenges,” it stat­ed.

In­stead of a man­i­festo, the PDP pro­duced a man­date.

In the man­date the PDP called for a high­er al­lo­ca­tion from the an­nu­al na­tion­al bud­get: “Via the Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Com­mis­sion (DRC), To­ba­go is en­ti­tled to ac­cess be­tween 4.03 per cent and 6.9 per cent of the Na­tion­al Bud­get. To­ba­go has been short-changed every year for past 20 years. The PDP will be seek­ing an al­lo­ca­tion clos­er to 6.9 per cent in­stead of the usu­al 4-5 per cent. This will give us the ad­di­tion­al fi­nances which we are en­ti­tled to and bring us clos­er to achiev­ing our de­vel­op­men­tal goals,” it stat­ed.

The PDP al­so called for the cre­ation of a To­ba­go Na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment Bank, whose main share­hold­ers will be the THA, To­ba­go co­op­er­a­tives, and the To­bag­on­ian di­as­po­ra. The TNDB will have four ( branch­es – most like­ly in Rox­bor­ough, Ma­son Hall, Bon Ac­cord and Scar­bor­ough. Dr Faith B Yis­rael said the PDP is up­dat­ing its man­date ahead of the up­com­ing elec­tion.

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