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GUEST COLUMN – Economic suicide

Peter Boos

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Masochism – a willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences.
Sadist – someone who obtains pleasure from inflicting pain on others.
Scenario 1.
It’s always interesting to see the big picture – the so-called “woods for the trees” or get a “helicopter view”.
Travelling helps us to do that.
I have just come back from visiting Europe where, to say the least, things are economically stressed and getting worse. Austerity, budget cuts, rising unemployment, falling property values, foreclosures, frozen pay, slow growth, and bankruptcies as far as the eye can see with very little light at the end of the tunnel.
The short-term outlook in Europe, including in our major market Britain, is grim and the risks beyond the short-term for even worse news are huge.
But we know all that, right?
So why then on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, were only 30 per cent (three out of ten) of the Immigration desks at Grantley Adams International Airport manned at the peak hours in the afternoon when Virgin Atlantic and British Airways delivered 500-plus happy vacationers and children, thrilled to have finally arrived at their dream island destination?
Having sold them on our “luxury paradise”, we willingly put our most valued source of national income, our visitors and potential investors, most of whom have probably been travelling for at least 15 hours, through this torture.
Instead of a rum punch, some nice music and a warm smile, perhaps even a welcome announcement, we inflicted on them a two-hour wait in a huddle environment to then meet one of only three Immigration officers on duty helping international non-Caricom arrivals.
After that, they must find their luggage and since the green line is closed, must now go through a Customs check after a further long queue.
Are we sadists?
Scenario 2
Almost three years into the worst recession ever experienced in Barbados, many hotels, especially those on the South Coast, are in a deep financial hole with many close to closure and struggling to keep staff occupied and bills paid.
Properties are under-maintained and product quality is deteriorating. Higher operating costs (electricity, water, food, land tax and so on) and VAT, and the need to hold or reduce room rates, have made being a hotelier an exercise in survival tactics.
Adrian Loveridge, an outspoken (thank God), successful, competent South Coast hotelier, writes in the Barbados Business Authority of July 11, 2011 that the recently issued land tax valuation assessments on South Coast hotels have increased significantly.
The Minister of Finance has responded by stating that there is an objection process available under the law.
True, but is that really how we want to deal with such a critical matter? Why punish your national heroes? Makes no sense. There is a clear lack of consistent economic policy to help create jobs and growth in our productive sectors.
I continue to ask myself: who cares? Who is responsible? Who is accountable?
Each time the answer is the same – apparently, no one. We are all feeling this sense of frustration but little seems to change.
We are daily committing economic suicide, which has nothing to do with the global recession. We must be masochists.
I agree with Sir Roy Trotman: it really is more than urgent that we all hold hands and fix the many problems that threaten our country.
We can’t fix the global crisis, but we can shorten the wait time for tourists at Grantley Adams and at the same time give them a warm welcome.
Peter Boos is a regular commentator on the Barbados economy.