Opposition Senator Crystal Drakes today raised concern about what she described as growing “inequality” in the tourism sector and the wider society, warning that it has the potential to widen the “haves” and the “have nots” in Barbados.
In her contribution to debate in the Upper Chamber on a resolution for the acquisition of land at Harrismith, St Philip, Drakes charged there appeared to be “this amalgamation, this concentration of resources and capital in the tourism sector” that was pushing small players like taxi operators out.
“There is this small grouping of individuals who have taken over the market. These tour operators are now moving people from their hotels and ships across the island to specific restaurants, specific beaches and now tourists seems to be engaging in a pre-arranged experience of Barbados rather than organic in nature, “ Drake claimed.
She said that Government must pay attention to the development if it is serious about building a society where all could share in the economic pie.
“You cannot have a sector where a few are monopolizing the profits and you are maginalising small entrepreneurs, taxi operators, restaurants because what you will have is a widening of the haves and have nots in this country. And I really, really want us to pay greater attention to this widening that appears to be happening.”
Drakes was not prepared to excuse the notion that tour operators had an advantage because clients book online while taxi operators had to wait until the tourists were actually on the ground to get business.
She suggested that Government had a duty to protect small players in the sector and suggested the development of an app or an online platform where small taxi operators could go online and register and have payments made to them directly.
With loud thumps of support from fellow opposition and independent senators, Drakes proceeded to tell the Chamber that even more worrying was the fact that inequality was also playing out in the wider society, evidenced by what she called pockets of poverty.
“In my own experience when I walk around, or when I interact with persons in certain areas, you are seeing some persons begging , where you have never seen begging before, you are seeing persons asking for help, you see people asking for food , you have individuals asking for a bit of your Sunday food and coming to tears.”
Drakes said this ran counter to Barbados’ high rating on the United Nations Development Programme 2019 Human Development Index that had a value of 0.813.
She however noted that inequality in the Barbadian context is mainly driven by disparity in income, and when this was taken into consideration the HDI fell from 0.813 to 0.675.
She stressed the need for greater focus on how income is distributed in Barbados.
“I think that at bear minimum we have to construct social policies that address a lot of these ills as we move forward and try to address clean energy and climate action. There is also the SDG 10 [Sustainable Development Goals] which speak to reducing inequalities as Government marches ahead and seeks growth. I would like us to make sure that everyone has the opportunity,” Drake said.
Her contribution however brought Government Senator Rudy Grant to his feet on a point of elucidation, which received a strong rebuke from outspoken opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn.
While Grant attempted to tell the Chamber that Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds had given assurance that opportunities would be made for small players in the sector, Franklyn challenged Deputy Speaker Rudolph Greenidge to reprimand Grant for interrupting Drakes. He insisted that Grant could not provide elucidation for Drakes or Minister Kerrie Symmonds and therefore should not have been allowed to speak.