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TOURISM MATTERS: Statement a slur on private sector

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Statement a slur on private sector

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Debate, whether in the Upper House, Elected Chamber or through the various forms of media, demonstrates a healthy democracy – but unless it’s informed, does it really have any meaningful relevance?
Sometimes you have to stop and think exactly why certain people utter particular things and the timing of those comments. Ultimately they either believe what they say is credible and truthful or have fallen victim to a sudden and virulent attack of verbal diarrhoea.
Perhaps also surprising is why at this time, with a general election constitutionally due in less than a year, a person would voice such controversial words.
Does he feel that his party has no realistic possibility of being re-elected so it doesn’t really matter if you alienate those generating your single largest contributing sector of foreign exchange?
Even from someone who has a long track record of expressing often outrageous and incredible statements, frequently from a place of rare privilege, this particular verbatim quote must take the cake.
The claim was that “the private [tourism] sector was 98 per cent profit and two per cent social obligation”.
If it wasn’t so grossly insulting and inaccurate, perhaps many of us could excuse it as another puff of political hot air, but the phrase is so typical of the lack of understanding of this industry, it is frightening.
Whatever your partisan leanings, I sincerely believe the private sector has done an extraordinary job of trying to support Government in their attempt to protect employment and these ill-advised words simply slap those in the face who have defied near insurmountable odds to stay in business.
This despite the current adminstration’s policy of imposing unbudgeted increases in taxation that without doubt have contributed substantially to the erosion of any possible profits.
Perhaps, before giving the impression that he actually knew something about the subject, a wise undertaking might have been to check which, if any, of our remaining hotels had declared any corporation tax liability.
At least this might have indicated a realistic level of profitability.
Or did this person not hear the remarks made by the president of the Barbados Bankers Association a few weeks ago, where he said that a staggering 43 per cent of all non-performing loans were tourism-related.
Sadly, this is another classic example of the increasing use of square pegs in round holes and will do nothing to endear the thousands of Barbadians dependent on tourism to feed their families, and who may be less forgiving at the ballot box.  
Not everyone of course can be an “expert”, but if you are clearly deficient on the subject in question, at least do your homework before putting the mouth in gear.
This is not the time for bluster and bravado but surely to galvanize all the very best players who can make a positive difference.
We all welcome constructive criticism, but let is be based on fact rather than conjecture.
Then finally, ask yourself a simple question: if owning and operating hotels was all about “98 per cent profit”, why would over 30 of them have closed during the last 16 years?