I believe there are two crucial issues in this election: economic development that will bring prosperity to all Barbadians, and the reliable operation of essential services (water supply, sewage disposal, garbage collection, beach and street cleaning, etc). I have no vote, but offer my opinions based on my long international experience in the tourism industry, and on my concern for my many dear friends in your blessed nation.
My spouse and I loved our lifestyle in Barbados during our first dozen years as frequent visitors, followed by ten-plus years that I worked as a condo-hotel development consultant. I had hoped to contribute meaningfully to tourism with a sustainable new approach that would provide steady growth, stability, more and better jobs, and rising revenues to fill the Government’s coffers for everyone’s benefit.
When we made the commitment to live in Barbados – and try to build our future among some of the most friendly and well-educated people in the world – we placed a high value on your world-class health services available at reasonable cost and, of course, your near-perfect climate. We envisaged well-scaled, affordable developments that would include access to varying levels of health services and personal caregiving to meet the needs of the huge market of the “baby boomers” who are now retiring in record numbers.
You have the best country to host middle-class folks from cold countries who want to spend long winters or completely retire in a warm, safe, attractive nation with excellent health care and geriatric services.
Hosting such people is an essential element of the prosperity of the US state of Florida. In stark contrast, Barbados welcomes only a tiny number of these truly long-stay visitors, who come for many months every year and pay directly into the local economy.
Thus, I set out in 2005 to encourage business and government leaders in Barbados to pursue the “snowbird” market in a determined and comprehensive manner.
When he was still Prime Minister, Owen Arthur was coming to realise that the Florida example was worth pursuing as an alternative to the increasingly weak economic results from conventional hotels – many of which were disappearing from Barbados and being replaced with large, elite condos that provide limited employment and diminished tax revenues. The burst of condo development during his administration created temporary prosperity that was not sustainable after the initial inflow of foreign currency to purchase these luxurious residences.
After the DLP won in 2008, I had some success explaining the new tourism reality to David Thompson as well as to the Governor of the Central Bank, DeLisle Worrell. Tourism Minister Richard Sealy initially expressed interest in new ideas, but subsequently refused to follow up, preferring to wait for boom times to return in conventional hotels – which never happened. Thompson personally gave me a strong mandate, but he died before we could start actively pursuing “snowbird” tourism.
Sealy’s Ministry of Tourism has been lackadaisically coasting for ten lost years. Yes, there are now two high-profile Sandals resorts, but they are operated by a crafty entrepreneur who pockets most of the revenue before it ever reaches Barbados. In Canada, our television programming is loaded with ads for Sandals resorts – especially in Barbados – but your nation is not deriving many benefits.
I respect the meaningful heritage of the Democratic Labour Party. Freundel Stuart is a decent, honest man with a powerful sense of history and a deep commitment to social justice. Sadly, it seems he has no serious interest in the hard, financial work of governing. By refusing to also serve as Finance Minister, Stuart abdicated the most important duty of the Prime Minister of a small developing state.
When the nation’s leader is not pursuing economic opportunity for all citizens as his top priority, there is no way for the nation to prosper. When the financial consequences of every Government decision are not top-of-mind, there is no urgency to ensure reliable operation of public utilities and other essential services.
Despite being personally responsible for national defence, the Prime Minister failed to see the need to use the Defence Force against a serious attack on the economic and environmental health of Barbados when the island’s beaches were assaulted by seaweed. The soldiers need to keep fit, anyway. Instead of conventional drill activity why were they not called upon to wield rakes and shovels to promptly and vigorously defend an essential element of a tourism-dependent economy?
Similarly, why has there been such slow action to make the South Coast sewers function properly? This situation causes permanent damage because visitors who are impacted will never return – and they will tell many other people to avoid Barbados. The shortage of garbage trucks and the unreliable water supply are equally poisonous to prosperity – and harmful to the health of citizens and visitors.
Two years ago, it had become clear to my spouse and me that the DLP Government had no intention of fostering the type of health-care-included long-term tourism that would make Barbados prosper. That also meant that my spouse and I saw no chance of settling in an affordable residential community in Barbados that would meet our own needs as we age.
The continuing decline of water and sewer services, garbage collection, beach and road maintenance, etc. were also warning signs that we could not rely on Barbados to provide us with a safe and comfortable retirement. We made the tough decision to give up the many attractive aspects of Barbados and to settle permanently in our native Canada where we can feel safe and comfortable. Instead of investing in Barbados, we upgraded our accommodation in Canada to meet our needs in old age.
We are sorry that we are no longer residents of your nation that once had so much to offer!
The friendly, well-educated people of Barbados deserve a level of prosperity that has been denied to them since the global recession hit ten years ago. Mr Stuart and his administration have done little more than offer eloquent excuses about exterior forces beyond their control. Other countries overcame those same challenges, pursued new opportunities, and are prospering.
Barbados needs a new hard-working Government with a strict focus on savvy financial management leading to sustainable development, and the proper operation and maintenance of essential public services.