EDITORIAL: Explore every avenue of foreign income
There can be no doubt that all patriotic Barbadians will welcome the principle of investment by Sandals. Much controversy surrounds some of the concessions, and legitimate arguments as have been raised by critics of the scheme are in keeping with our democracy.
In fact it can truthfully be said that both our major political parties have said on a number of occasions that as they see it, criticism is indeed a critical part of our governance structures, and the recent speeches by the Minister of Tourism responding to the criticisms show the democratic process at work.
Some say that the scale of the concessions reflects the nature of the problem which Government faces in trying to generate growth and foreign exchange in a sluggish economy, and that in effect Government had no choice or at best little choice.
We leave that for others to further debate even if all are agreed on the policy of improving export earnings while maintaining employment and providing an increased range of services principally, but not exclusively, to foreign companies and individuals.
If we say principally, it is because some consideration must also be given to those home-grown entities which are also doing their very best to earn foreign exchange and maintain employment against the added interest that they are loyal Barbadians whose company navel strings are buried in our soil, both from an economic as well as a nascent perspective.
In fact this may be one of the most potent criticisms of the Sandals measures since some other hotel companies have wondered about their own long suffering positions.
The Sandals debate apart, we have to explore every chance to maximize our capacity for foreign earnings. Sir Hilary Beckles, Cave Hill Principal recently spoke about student accommodation, and pointed out that the campus was the most Caribbean of the campuses and that it generates considerable quantity of foreign exchange.
Not many of us would normally regard a campus as an earner of foreign exchange but a moment’s notice would suggest that if the service of education can be sold to foreign students then education may be a service source to which we must pay greater attention as a foreign currency owner.
The idea of legal tourism was recently raised at a local conference by a speaker who suggested that we should look at becoming an international arbitration centre, and “inviting” companies and their lawyers to hold their arbitrations here.
It is a good idea which has been wisely resurrected; but while we talk, at least one other small nation has gone ahead with setting up such a centre to complement their offshore business. We need to explore this possibility at once.
The debate on Sandals, and the continuing effort to get Four Seasons up and running; shows that some effort is being made to revive our tourism. However, our current battle has to be fought on various fronts; and the economic spin offs in Grenada of the St George’s University should remind us of what a significant foreign exchange earner education can be.
Sir Hilary Beckles’ eye-opening remarks should galvanize us all to explore such other “concealed openings” which may exist; in our constant quest to add new sources to our foreign exchange earnings drive.