EDITORIAL: Sound words on land use
We have already highlighted entrepreneurs and their great contribution in the economic scheme of things to our society. These brave souls put their money where their mouths are and produce profits, jobs and more for the overall benefit of the country.
Occasionally, one or more of them may speak from the breadth of their experience and enable us to look at ourselves and our economic situation more with a sense of realism and less emotion.
Mr Ralph “Bizzy” Williams, one of our more engaging and frank businessmen, gave of the benefit of his experience at the first of the Barbados National Bank’s commercial breakfast meetings at Island Inn Hotel last Thursday.
His speech was an important contribution to the current debate on business and the development of Barbados. He would have made it clear to a lot of Barbadians that we need to earn foreign exchange, and also that we need to be realistic about how we look at the acquisition of land by foreigners who may wish to purchase for their business investments.
It is just as well we remember always that we are only 166 square miles of low, flat land and that the demands of our people for housing, pursuant to social and economic aspirations, will always put pressure on land available.
In a sense we are too small, and the problem becomes acute – and a political and patriotic issue – when we factor in the demands of our standard of living and the need for foreign direct investment and foreign exchange.
It is here that a sense of realism must kick in; and we totally agree with Mr Williams’ blunt warning to all of us that “the bottom line is the hard cold facts that without foreign exchange, the Barbados economy is dead”, and that we cannot sustain our standard of living without foreign exchange.
We depend on tourism and the offshore international business sector to provide us with much of our foreign exchange and also with some valuable high-paying jobs, and most Barbadians seem to have no problem with those initiatives and policies.
Yet there seems to be some sentimentality attached to the issue of selling land to foreigners, and this is surprising when we consider the desirable and intended end result is the same – that is, to bring recurrent sources of foreign exchange into this island for the benefit of all Barbadians.
We can only hope that Mr Williams’ wise words will fall on fertile ground, since the issue of the purchase of land by foreign companies and individuals always generates much emotional heat,
when it would be better if we could examine whether the particular investment has long-term benefits to the economy.
It is for this reason that we applauded the efforts of the Minister of Finance early in his tenure to come to grips with and support the Four Seasons project at Paradise. For whatever may be said on the campaign trail, the reality is that any Government must pay attention to accelerating our foreign exchange-earning potential, and we urge the Government to remain committed to that project and similar investment proposals.
Mr Williams believes strongly that a clear land use policy is necessary. He thinks that the most fertile land should be reserved for food production and the other lands might be developed, providing incentives for investors who come up with ideas to develop those other lands to earn foreign exchange.
The debate must continue, since it concerns our future economic development; but Mr Williams has made an invaluable speech with which most sensible Barbadians will agree.