Political Leader Tobago Council Tracy Davidson-Celestine during the candlelight vigil for the eredication of violence against women in Plymouth, recently.

Camille Mc Eachnie

She is the People’s National Movement’s first female Tobago Council leader and the party’s candidate for the Lambeau/Signal Hill seat. Tracy Davidson-Celestine is the party’s choice for Chief Secretary if the party wins the Tobago House of Assembly elections on Monday.

She was an assemblyman and secretary to several and this country’s ambassador to Costa Rica.

Davidson-Celestine examines the most crucial issues facing Tobago and how the PNM will address them.

Q. Do you feel the Progressive Democratic Patriots did what it could to tie the controversial zip line project to your name? Do you feel vindicated after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley discussed the issue on the platform and gave it his blessings?

A. Yes, that was always the PDP’s intent, even though I assumed other duties shortly after that agreement was signed and played no role thereafter. I was, of course, happy that the Prime Minister threw his support behind the project publicly, but I didn’t feel vindicated because there was never anything to vindicate. The PDP simply lied using the management letter. The report has nothing. The media also followed suit and did not bother to even look at the report and see the letter for what it is, a request for clarifications, which was provided. It was interesting to hear Watson Duke threaten the Auditor General because of the same report.

You have been in governance for a while in the Tobago House of Assembly, and the much-talked-about 2016 Auditor General’s report cited the same issues (incomplete records and missing documents) as it did in 2001. Your party began governing the Assembly then. How do you plan to address the matter should you become Chief Secretary?

The PNM’s manifesto lays out in some detail our plans to streamline and automate the Assembly’s financial systems, as well as getting more personnel in this area. Some of these measures are already in place. We agree that the current primary methods of recording keeping is a challenge. That’s why we’re making this a priority with our emphasis on digitisation.

What do you think is the most pressing problem facing Tobago, and how will your party address it?

Undoubtedly the economy, as is the case for most countries in the world. The absence of tourism has been a challenge. We are using this interim when travel is still limited to improve and ready our tourism infrastructure and services so that, when the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we’ll be even better placed to welcome visitors for a unique Tobago experience. We are also seeking to create new industries and expand other sectors. Agriculture, direct foreign investment and digitalisation are priority pathways to increasing the earning potential of the island.

Do you feel the party had sufficient resources to carry out its mandate in Tobago over the past 20 years? If not, what more would the party have wanted from the Central Government?

We have always worked within our budget and I would say we have delivered far more than might have been expected with what we got. Budgeting is always a matter of priorities and, given that we are still in an economic contraction, the past 20 years of making do with what we have will stand us in good stead in the years ahead.

Annually, we know the Tobago House of Assembly received less than it requested for its development fund so much so that the Government permitted to issue a $300 million bond on the local market, what areas would you have liked to see expanded had you been given the requested funding for development?

Housing is always a priority, digital connectivity infrastructure, and accelerated infrastructural development

If the party should win the elections, what assurances are you giving those who did not vote for the PNM that the party will govern in such a way that they too can benefit?

I don’t need to provide such assurances because that is how the PNM has always governed in Tobago. I don’t think you can find anybody who can truthfully come and say they experienced discrimination because they were a known supporter of some other political party. And we tend to listen and respond if someone complains.

What are the party’s immediate plans should it win the elections for the sixth consecutive time?

Our manifesto has a comprehensive list and we have certain projects to continue and to wrap up. We want to get the zip line project underway, of course. The Indoor Sporting Complex, online schooling, digitalisation, agriculture industry expansion, and streamlining the THA’s accounting procedures is a major priority. And, as I said, we have to prepare for the re-opening of the tourist sector.

If the PNM loses the elections what is the party’s next move?

In that very unlikely event, our first move will be to talk to Tobagonians to find out what they thought we did wrong and what we can do to improve. The PNM always listens to the people, whether we’re in office or not. We have been around for 65 years, in part, because we listen. Today is the 65th anniversary of the People’s National Movement Party and I want to say happy birthday.

If the party wins, what are the plans for the first 100 days?

Hitting the reset button for the Tobago economy immediately; realigning roles and responsibilities of all secretaries to meet the new demands of the current climate; continue talks with the Central Government about Tobago self-government, and make sure the island continues to manage the pandemic effectively. We have a long way to go, and strengthening our capacity to cope with COVID is critical and a priority area. Ramping up education and awareness of COVID safety measures.

About Tracy

Excellence. Passion. Leadership. These are the personal watchwords of Tracy Davidson-Celestine, political leader of the Tobago PNM.

It is these principles that have guided her in every role she has held, from youth leader to teacher to councillor to THA Division Secretary to ambassador to politician.

Born in 1978 in Roxborough, Davidson-Celestine’s strong Tobago roots enabled her to branch out as she pursued her Accounting degree at UWI’s Cave Hill campus in Barbados, where she graduated with upper second honours.

With her sights set on service and leadership she then acquired a postgraduate Certificate in Management Studies (Finance) from UWI; a Certificate in Project Management for Business Professionals, a Certificate in Public Speaking from the American Speaker Training Camp in 2008; and an MBA in Management from the Australian Institute of Business.

According to Davidson-Celestine, she follows “a values-based approach to governance that is geared towards credibility, trust, and transparency as the pillars of democratic governance.”

Apart from her duties as PNM Tobago Council political leader, Davidson-Celestine currently serves as a councillor, Secretary for Health, former deputy chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly and has acted as the chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly. She has also served as an ambassador for this country in Costa Rica.

She is fluent in Spanish. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, travelling and meeting people.