Fri 11th Dec 2015
After the SVG general elections of 9th December 2015, it seems like there is no winner. If indeed, the fate of our country is to be decided in a by-election in the Central Leeward constituency, regardless of that result, the people will be the losers.
Both the NDP and ULP are focused on tourism, but this will not bring prosperity to the poor of our country.
Using tourism as the foundation of the SVG economy and following the example of other Caribbean countries is not the way forward. Nearly all Caribbean countries are highly indebted, have high crime rates, high unemployment rates, high levels of poverty, have a low percentage of their population university educated (some as low as 2%) and rely on foreign aid and begging.
Jamaica, for example, has had tourism for over 60 years, but in 2013, Jamaica had to beg the IMF for a EC$2.7 billion bailout loan and the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank had to lend Jamaica EC$1.35 billion each. Jamaica is one of the most indebted countries in the world and spends EC$3.24 billion a year – 33 per cent of government revenue – paying foreign debts.
The core problem with tourism in the Caribbean is that the financial yield to the economy is extremely low. Tourism does generate enough revenue and according to the United Nations 80% of the revenue from tourism leaks out of the destination country, as most infrastructure – hotels and airlines – are foreign owned.
At the meeting with CARICOM leaders in April 2015, the President of the USA repeated SVG Green Party’s university message to the CARICOM leaders. Using Singapore as an example, Obama told the CARICOM leaders that if they had a highly-educated workforce they will attract a lot of foreign investment.
Obama said ‘if you look at some of the most successful countries in the world, they are actually pretty small countries like Singapore – for example. On paper, it looks like they have no assets and yet, if you go to Singapore, it has one of the highest standards of living in the world. What it is that Singapore did that might be replicable? One of the most important things they did is that they made a massive investment in their people and, if you have got a highly skilled [and] highly educated workforce – if you set up rules of law and governance that are transparent and non-corrupt, then you can attract actually a lot of service industries…’.
Tourism will destroy our beautiful country and unless we focus on education, build universities, educate our people and produce a highly educated workforce, there will be no real winner in the SVG 2015 general election. We will find it hard to attract sustainable sources of foreign investment and find it hard to create a strong economy. There will still be high unemployment and high levels of poverty.
We hope the matter of the Central Leeward constituency is sorted out soon and fairly. As a nation, we must move on and strive to build a better country.