Thursday, April 25, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: Dogged by failure to implement


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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was kind enough to invite me and a large number of representatives from both the private and public sector to a half-day discussion forum last week.

To quote their own documentation, the objective was to “maximise Bridgetown’s economic and cultural activity” by leveraging “existing institutions (tangible and intangible) and infrastructure (historic buildings and public spaces)” by garnering “support from the local business sector to diversify night time (after six p.m.) economic and cultural activities”.

Creative suggestions from the attending group flowed like flood water, but towards the end of the main session there was one sobering observation by a member of the assembly. He mentioned that they had not heard more than one new idea over the last 20 years.

And that is where the reality kicks in. As a country we do not lack the vision for identifying practical projects. Where we seem to fail dismally is the implementation. The same persons suggested that we needed a fulfillment czar and that comment is probably the one which will stay with me for the longest time out of the entire four-hour session.

Whether any administration has the intestinal fortitude to make this happen without giving the job to yet another political crony I seriously doubt, but we can perhaps live in hope. Frankly I came away from the meeting thinking “was this just another talk shop?”. I certainly hope not, because I cannot imagine there was a single attendee who does not want a more attractive and viable capital.

My own thoughts are that in the current economic malaise that it would be almost impossible to tackle all the areas highlighted at the gathering, and that we should shortlist maybe ten projects and attempt to ensure they are fully completed before tacking the next ten.

One revelation that I found almost impossible to comprehend was that a representative of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated that the trade body had persuaded one of its members, a leading local paint supplier, to donate product and services to enhance a “block” of buildings in Bridgetown. Sadly it never happened because they could not secure the owner’s consent, and when one considers the national interest this seems incredibly selfish.

Perhaps even more remarkable was that when questioned about the availability of local funds, the local representative of the IDB openly stated that up to US$400 million was available, at interest rates as low as 2.5 per cent annually – of course subjecct to certain criteria. Compound this with corporate tax relief available to contributing companies and possibly a land tax reduction for properties ugrading their buildings and surely we can make this work.

Government must surely understand that increased trade in Bridgetown will generate more taxes and employment and that any short term loss will be more than made up over the following years.



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