Dependency on tourism is an issue that must be addressed with “haste and imagination” if Barbados is to ever survive future economic shocks, caused by significant global events, the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) leader has said.
During her party’s virtual town hall discussion on the economy, held on Sunday, DLP president Verla DePeiza referred to the latest Central Bank report which noted a 90 per cent fall in long-stay visitor arrivals over the last three quarters of 2020, DePeiza said the time has come to move away from its overly dependent relationship on tourism, and invest in other more stable sectors.
“When you look at the report, you will see though we have a page full of income generation [and] revenue streams, our dependency on tourism is so great,” she declared. “It is not just reading the pure tourism numbers, but recognizing that tourism has interrelationships with the other groupings. So it will have manufacturing, will have a relationship with construction, will have a relationship with agriculture, and [because] they are all interrelated in that way, having tourism at the nucleus, and having tourism so fickle suggests that whilst we have had development, we have not had development in a sustainable way.”
The need to find and developed Barbadian products and ideas cannot be underscored, according to DePeiza, who also said that the need for a robust industry which is mostly immune from world events is paramount in the 21st century.
DePeiza said: “We have not found that thing that is quintessentially Barbadian or that we can modify to be ours, that will carry us through the bad times. We are not looking to do away with tourism, because in the good times, tourism will get us far, but we have to have something, a cushion, a landing mat, something that will get us another step forward… We just need to think outside of the box, come up with different ways that we can create these revenue streams.”
Though the economy has been placed in dire straits by the COVID-19 pandemic, agriculture has shown itself to be resilient. DLP spokesman for agriculture and the environment Andre Worrell suggested the Mottley administration invest heavily in farming.
Worrell said: “From the report, the economy declined by 18 per cent, but agriculture was one of the only sectors which recorded growth of 1.9 per cent, mainly from non-sugar agriculture. Now I have always been of the view that it does not take much for agriculture to grow in Barbados.
“We would have recognized that all of the persons who lost their jobs through the BERT (Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation) programme, and those persons who would have recently lost their jobs in March as a result of the job losses in the tourism sector, many of them turned to agriculture.”
With the $500 million food import bill being so high for such a small island, Worrell said that investments into agriculture could reap several benefits for the economy while remaining sustainable during a time of crisis. (SB)