Opposition Leader Mia Mottley today painted a picture of a Freundel Stuart Administration that was presiding over an economy where all the major revenue-earning sectors were failing.
Mottley said the manufacturing sector was down by 26 per cent compared to 2007 levels. She said that sector had picked up in the early 2000s but was now struggling. She added construction was down 28 per cent from what it was in 2007 and noted that development plans which Government said it had in the pipeline in its 2013-2014 Budget offered no immediate hope for unemployed artisans since those projects would not see the light of day before 2014.
Dealing at length with tourism, the St. Michael North East MP said that sector had also declined in 2012. She added that Barbados was doing better than Montserrat only which had been adversely affected by volcanic activity and was ranked second last of 23 tourism destinations according to Caribbean Tourism Organisation figures.
Mottley said last year’s figures were again a decline on 2011 stats. She said 15 731 fewer Americans came to Barbados up to July; 13 000 fewer British visitors over the same period; and 3 300 fewer Canadians also up to July. She noted there was also a 17.6 decline in CARICOM visitors to Barbados.
Mottley also revealed that despite the staging of the just concluded Crop Over festival, tourism figures showed a 8.6 per cent decline for the first nine days of August compared to the same period last year.
The Opposition Leader said that Government, through the Barbados Tourism Authority, had spent $87.7 million on marketing the island in 2011, but she added this had dropped to $59.3 million by 2012. She stated that the BTA’s budget for 2013 stood at that same diminished figure. This, she noted, while the sector as one of the island’s principal foreign exchange earners continued to slump.
Mottley derided Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s indication during his Budget presentation yesterday that US$50 million would be injected into the tourism sector. She warned hoteliers that $30 million of this would go toward honouring debt obligations. She explained that hoteliers would soon discover that what actually came their way would be below the $87 million the sector received in 2011.
She questioned why in a recession where the BTA’s marketing budget for Canada and the United States was being cut, was the authority embarking on a $4 million relocation and restructuring exercise. She also quizzed Government on its decision to invest $2.54 million in the Rihanna concert in a period of recession, noting the BTA was still indebted to entities such as British Airways, American Airlines, Virgin Holidays and West Jet Vacations. (WG)