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EDITORIAL: What will it be for our hotel plant?

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: What will it be for our hotel plant?

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We anticipated that the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP)?members would have weighed in on Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s Tuesday Budgetary Proposals.
They did not disappoint. For the greater part, Opposition speakers expressed great dissatisfaction.
Lead Opposition spokesperson Mia Mottley was more measured, though passionate, in her reply to the Budget, and at the heart of her lamentation was the perceived inaction and lack of implementation by the Government.
Admitting the Government had made some attempt to shore up the international business sector by making it more competitive in line with other regional destinations, she felt, however, that it wasn’t enough. Ms Mottley argued that the Government’s not taking decisions as a matter of course was at the heart of its burgeoning challenges, and that this had seen 12 IBCs having already left, and another two dozen planning to leave, or contemplating it.
In the manner of alternative proposals, or perhaps as a sneak preview of the BLP’s own coming general election manifesto, Ms Mottley suggested the implementation of new initiatives that would create “a five-point axis to encourage international business from the Far East, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and one for North Atlantic countries”.
Said the St Michael North-East MP: “We need to enter countries like Burma. We need to be nimble.”
As to Minister of Finance Sinckler’s proposed $50 million tourism thrust, Ms Mottley contended that if the Government was sufficiently serious it might have considered a $500 million fund instead for this most crucial sector.
The Opposition main spokesperson reasonably stated that the two sectors, international business and tourism, were important planks upon which our economy rested and which brought in at least 65 per cent of Barbados’ foreign exchange.
That tourism and international business remain “in a mess” is a charge that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Tourism will address during the continuing debate, offering us argument for consideration. Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy’s resignation, as conditionally suggested by Ms Mottley, may be of no worth.
Clearly, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association does not feel the issues contained in its aide-memoire to Government a fortnight before the Budget, and highlighting several critical issues facing the industry, were appropriately addressed, and are virtually demanding “further consultation”with the Minister of Finance.
As far as BHTA president Patricia Affonso-Dass is concerned, Tuesday’s Budget has brought no immediate relief to the hotel sector, and that their submission on the need for discussion on and revision of the Tourism Development Act has gone virtually unnoticed.
This does not augur well for the improvement of the hotel plant singularly and tourism generally.
To assist the tourism and hospitality sector, Mr Sinckler has promised that land taxes on hotel accommodation will be frozen at current levels for the next two evaluation cycles, and that an additional $5 million (which Ms Mottley thinks insufficient) provided to the Barbados Tourism Authority to assist with special marketing activities through the end of 2012.
Can this be indeed enough? Will we be saddled with a disgruntled group of hotel leaders in the short term? And how soon can or will Mr Sinckler and Mr Sealy speak to these burning matters?