Charles to Rowley: Don’t be obstinate. Talk to Mia Mottley. There is still time to avoid future regrets about Sandals
Naparima MP Rodney Charles is calling on Prime Minister Dr Rowley to have an earnest chat with Barbados’ Mia Mottley on Sandals and, if he is minded to listen, he will learn what every school
child knows, that the all inclusive tourism model has failed our region miserably.
No economy in the Caribbean, including Haiti’s Labadie, has prospered using the Sandals all inclusive model. Next to cruise ships, all inclusives have spelt disaster for regional economies. Visitors have little incentive, especially given rampant crime, to venture outside these hotels. Why buy a drink outside when it is already paid for in the hotel package?
So while tourists arrivals to Jamaica, St Lucia and Barbados have increased in record numbers those economies are some of the worst performers economically on the global stage. Sandals did not stop Barbados from going to the IMF.
It took days for Barbados’ new PM to discover, what we all know, that Sandals has not delivered prosperity to that country’s economy. She told a gathering of stakeholders last Wednesday that hotels like Sandals “got everything without consultation” to the detriment of their economy.
Sounds like Rowley and his increasing unease in answering probing questions about his beloved Sandals project. Has he offered a 20 plus year tax break which Sandals received from the Barbados government?
However Mia Mottley recently warned, to loud applause by Barbadian hoteliers, that “one of the early things the Ministry of Tourism will be looking at is how to bring about greater equity as well as fairness and transparency in the management of those concessions under the Tourism Development Act”.
“Responding to a question posed by Sandy Lane’s Director of Finance, Risks and Compliance Joanne Roett during the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Mottley also suggested that the Gordon Butch Stewart – led Sandals Resorts International (SRI), which benefited from a suite of concessions granted by the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government would be made to pull its weight just like every other Barbadian hotelier” reports Barbados Today.
Why is Rowley so obstinate and characteristically so “harden” about Sandals? Why is this project shrouded in PNM trade mark secrecy? What is the total cost to the TT taxpayer inclusive of the new airport and prime real estate provided? What lessons have we learnt from Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and others who have been short changed by Sandals? Why is he ignoring research such as that done by City University of New York’s Misaki Kondo that the all inclusive model has failed the Jamaican economy? When will the project break even? How much taxes will SRI pay annually to offset our equity contribution? What is the return on investment (ROI) on this SRI project? How will SRI affect small hoteliers who pay more taxes comparatively? Is SRI designed to make TT citizens, and Tobagonians in particular a nation of waiters and bartenders compared to Singapore’s vision of preparing its citizens for the future jobs of the digital world?
Dr Rowley simply cannot answer these questions because presumably he has not even thought about them. No business plan is known to exist on SRI.
Dr. Rowley asks us to trust him on this SRI project but there is nothing so far in his performance record since September 2015 that would give us comfort that this project is anything other than another colossal waste of taxpayer money.
MP for Naparima