by William Skinner
The granting of concessions to the hoteliers is a capitulation on the part of the Barbados government, which now finds itself with a one step forward two steps backward economic policy; trying to please an essentially lazy and backward corporate class while inflicting serious blows on the already poor and economically downtrodden.
The hoteliers in Barbados have clearly demonstrated that they have failed to capitalize on an industry that has been in existence for over sixty years. They have whined their way into the taxpayers coffers, on the spurious grounds that the concessions granted to the well established Sandals Group should be automatically theirs for the taking. In other words, while very few of them can ever boast or hope to come close, to demonstrating that they can ever reach Sandals’ heights, they have blackmailed the government into giving them similar benefits. It’s akin to a fourth division footballer demanding the same salary and perks of a first division superstar!
Be that as it may, they have also refused to sign on to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which will be used to monitor they operating in good faith with the agricultural community and other businesses , to ensure that the process is not exploited. In other words, the government wanted some formal agreement that the benefits will trickle down to local businesses. Low and behold, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) said that it will not sign any MOU. Imagine a beggar being so bold faced, to be a chooser as well! It was very pitiful and embarrassing to witness a minister backing down from this group.
Barbados has reached a very sorry state where: poor university students must now pay some of their tuition; workers are being retrenched without out being paid money legally due to them; employers circumnavigating legislation designed to ensure employee rights and practically all the lifelines for the poor disappearing, in terms of government services. But the hoteliers can just demand government help without wanting to be held to any accountability.
This is the latest and most blatant evidence that this administration, is not fully in control of the management of the country. The Minister of Finance should not allow any one group to believe that it is above all others. Hoteliers priced themselves and Barbados out of a very competitive and fast moving industry where inept managers, both local and foreign, blamed everybody from taxi men to beach vendors for their failures.
On the other hand Butch Stewart spent considerable time and resources to build a product that reaches and surpasses international standards. While it is reasonable to suggest that the concessions given to Sandals were excessive, it is also reasonable to suggest, that the gains that Barbados will make from a heavy Sandals presence will be far superior to any that will arise from those granted to inferior properties and management. We can rest assured that they will come begging again; in the very near future because restaurants not attached to hotels are already demanding concessions similar to those granted to the hotels. They will now claim that if they don’t get concessions they will be forced to lay off workers or carry their business elsewhere.
The blackmail is only surpassed by the capitulation of successive governments to these pirates who believe that governments must underwrite their alarming shortcomings.
The concessions should be withheld until they sign the MOU. Beggars cannot be choosers.
William Skinner is a social commentator. This article also appears at the Mahogany CoConut Blog