Assemblymen spar in THA debate over island’s economy

Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 13:30

Leader of the To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly’s (THA) Mi­nor­i­ty Coun­cil Wat­son Duke is ac­cus­ing Fi­nance and the Econ­o­my Sec­re­tary Joel Jack of fal­si­fy­ing sta­tis­tics re­lat­ing to To­ba­go’s econ­o­my.

Duke was at the time mak­ing his con­tri­bu­tion to de­bate on the THA $4.72 bil­lion rev­enue and ex­pen­di­ture es­ti­mates for fis­cal 2020 dur­ing the 28th Ple­nary Sit­ting held in the As­sem­bly Cham­ber, Jern­ing­ham Street, Scar­bor­ough, on Thurs­day, June 27.

Un­der the theme, A Mea­sure of Failed PNM lead­er­ship, Duke, po­lit­i­cal leader of the Pro­gres­sive De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Progress (PDP), told the Cham­ber that “­tween 2016-2017 the To­ba­go econ­o­my de­clined by a whop­ping 5.5 per cent...not a mar­gin­al 1.6 per cent as the (Fi­nance) Sec­re­tary will have us be­lieve, get your da­ta straight.”

Adding that “be­tween 2016-2018 To­ba­go’s econ­o­my de­clined by 6 per cent,” Duke point­ed out that a 6 per cent de­cline in To­ba­go’s econ­o­my is not a “mar­gin­al de­cline” as stat­ed by Jack on June 24 when he pre­sent­ed the fis­cal 2020 state­ment in the Sit­ting.

Duke’s state­ment brought Jack, Deputy Chief Sec­re­tary and Trea­sur­er of the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) To­ba­go Coun­cil, to his feet.

“Sor­ry, pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer, the Mi­nor­i­ty leader is mis­quot­ing me. I nev­er said that the econ­o­my of To­ba­go con­tract­ed by over 1 per cent. There was a 0.3 per cent of mar­gin­al de­cline,” Jack said.

He asked Duke to pro­duce his sources of da­ta to jus­ti­fy his state­ments stop “ped­dling mis­in­for­ma­tion.”

As Jack sat, he con­tin­ued the cross-talk while Duke made his con­tri­bu­tion.

How­ev­er, pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer Denise Tsoiafatt-An­gus warned Jack that he should re­spect Duke’s con­tri­bu­tion.

“On Mon­day you were giv­en the op­por­tu­ni­ty to speak with­out in­ter­rup­tion un­til close to the end I had to cor­rect the Mi­nor­i­ty Leader. I am ask­ing you please to give him the same re­spect that you would have got­ten dur­ing your pre­sen­ta­tion,” she told Jack.

Jack stood and apol­o­gised to the Cham­ber.

Con­tin­u­ing his con­tri­bu­tion, the Mi­nor­i­ty Leader told the Sit­ting the fig­ures he quot­ed were from the Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice (CSO) and sev­er­al “cred­i­ble” econ­o­mists.

“The CSO da­ta es­ti­mates out­put (GDP) above $2 bil­lion in 2011. This da­ta al­so means that the To­ba­go econ­o­my has been in over­all de­cline for the last 8 years,” Duke said.

“Chal­lenge CSO,” the PDP leader told the PNM trea­sur­er.

Chief Sec­re­tary claps back at Duke.

PNM’s To­ba­go Coun­cil Po­lit­i­cal Leader and Chief Sec­re­tary Kelvin Charles, who spoke af­ter Duke in the de­bate, poked fun at the PDP’s leader pre­sen­ta­tion.

He said Duke’s con­tri­bu­tion was “hodge­podge” and filled with “in­nu­en­does.”

Speak­ing of work done un­der his tenure as Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion, Charles said the Scar­bor­ough RC Pri­ma­ry School and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing ac­cess road were con­struct­ed.

He said 33 pri­maries and nine sec­ondary schools were ex­pand­ed and var­i­ous learn­ing and teach­ing ini­tia­tives in­tro­duced.

Ac­cord­ing to the THA’s Act, de­bate on the rev­enue and ex­pen­di­ture es­ti­mates must wound up and the bud­get sent to Cab­i­net to be part of the na­tion­al bud­get by June 30 an­nu­al­ly.

Reporter: Camille McEach­nie