MINORITY COUNCILLOR Dr Faith BYisrael is disappointed with the Prime Minister’s response on Saturday to criticism by members of the Tobago business community. The community has been calling for more initiatives to help them stay afloat amid the collapse of the tourism industry. Hotels and other tourism-related industries have been crippled by the border closure and other measures to combat the spread of covid19.
On Saturday, during a media press conference at the Scarborough Library, Dr Rowley said the government has given Tobago its “fair share” of relief for those affected by the covid19 pandemic.
He said, “There is one particular point of view coming from certain Tobago spokespersons that Tobago’s business can only get a positive remark if the Government pays off their personal debt and if the Government tells banks how to treat with their business and their clients. But there is a limit to what the Government can do.”
Rowley said the Government has done its best but “nothing will please them.”
Speaking to Newsday on Monday, BYisrael said Rowley’s comments display a level of disregard for Tobago and its issues.
“The fact that the so-called Tobago Prime Minister can outright dismiss the cries of the business community in Tobago is neither shocking nor is it surprising.
“The fact remains that the Tobago private sector has been in decline for several years even before covid19, due to issues with the ferry system, lack of direct access to Tobago, the higher cost of doing business due to the absence of a Caricom/international cargo port, and a host of other reasons,” she said.
The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader said the Prime Minister continues to show that “he and his Cabinet does not care about the wants and needs of the island – the same way he was given the Tobago autonomy bill in 2016 and allowed same to lapse in Parliament in 2020 without a clear resolution for the needs of this island.”
BYisrael scoffed at Rowley listing the $50 million hotel upgrade grant, $1,500 salary relief grant and other initiatives as Tobago getting it’s fair share of relief to sustain the island.
“My hope and the Progressive Democratic Patriots hope is that Tobagonians finally see what the Prime Minister and the PNM is doing, and will continue to do what it has done since TT became an independent State, and that is to ignore the cries, wants and needs of this island.”
A week ago, chairman of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce Diane Hadad said she was disturbed that there was “no sensible direction, nothing sounding concrete, nothing looking concrete” from the allocation to Tobago in the 2020/2021 budget. She then called for the reopening of the Tobago economy.
Hadad said businessmen and average Tobagonians are struggling to survive in a closed economy.
“It is at its lowest ebb and nobody can sit and continue as they have been living through their bankers calling them every morning asking them about their accounts. This cannot continue. There needs to be a reopening of the Tobago economy.”
Vice-president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Carol-Ann Birchwood-James recently said hotels in Tobago are heading into a crisis and called for a clear plan from the Government.
“At this point, something has to give,” she told Newsday. “We cannot go on like this. You have all your hotels locked. Workers are not working. No income is coming in. We can’t pay the banks. You can’t pay the utilities. At some point something has to give and they have to tell us what are their plans.”
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