Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur today lent his support to a Government-sponsored resolution which sought to compulsorily acquire Sam Lord’s Castle, in St Philip, saying Barbados is now and will forever be largely a tourism dominated economy.
“Tourism represents 60 per cent of the economy. Those who fantasize about going back to agro-processing or agriculture as the core of this economy are daydreaming,” he said in his contribution to the debate.
“There might have been a time when, under international trade law, Barbados could have had a manufacturing sector. Those days have passed. Barbados would never be an economy now that can have a high standard of living based upon agriculture. It can add qualitatively to food security, but it cannot drive our economy,” he said.
However, Arthur, who took his seat today in the House of Assembly as an Independent Member of Parliament, cautioned that as the leading sector in an economy, tourism should naturally attract private investment.
“It was mentioned in this debate that in Barbados the reason why there has not been a lot of private investment in tourism is because the rates of returns are too low. That is true,” said Arthur, adding that “perhaps we sought to address the matter by enabling people interested in hotel development to make their money from real estate”.
“It was the model used in Sandy Lane; the people in Sandy Lane would make their money not from the hotel itself but from the development of the golf course property. It was the concept behind Paradise where the people at Four Seasons would make their money not so much from the hotel but from the villas,” Arthur added.
He noted that Barbados’ tourism sector has been operating under certain constraints and contended that the time has come to remove them.
He further suggested that wherever there were avenues in the local economy to give the tourism sector preferential treatment relative to other sectors, Government must do so.
“It is totally irrational for us in Barbados to continue to impose bound rates of duties on tourism that then force the tourism sector to purchase commodities at a price three times higher than the same commodites are purchased in the rest of the world, on the pretext that we are protecting manufacturing and agriculture when in most instances they are not protecting anything,” he said.