Who really benefits from tourism?
The Editor, Sir:
Last Wednesday in Parliament, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett announced triumphantly that the tourism sector was projected to pull in gross earnings of over US$2 billion this year.
As usual, what Minister Bartlett omitted to clarify was earnings for whom? Foreign ownership is usual in the larger hotels and in cruise-ship companies, which will no doubt receive the lion's share of any increase in earnings. Are these earnings, therefore, repatriated to the foreign-based head offices of these hotels, or do they remain in the Jamaican economy? Does the Jamaican populace, from the craftsperson to the farmer to the hotel worker, substantially benefit from this increase?
wealthy hotel owners benefit
We need to evaluate what tourism brings to the Jamaican economy. Bartlett is constantly embarking on some costly venture to stimulate tourism, but if only wealthy hotel owners benefit, is that truly the most effective use for national resources? Dr Kadamawe Knife on TVJ's 'All Angles' programme last week stated that studies have shown that the 'multiplier effect' of tourism, i.e., the aggregate number of dollars generated in the rest of the economy by each dollar spent in tourism, is very small compared to other sectors such as education and agriculture.
Yet, compared to these sectors, the tourist industry is the recipient of a disproportionate number of incentives in the form of tax breaks and soft loans - at the expense of the national coffers. Dr Knife's statement confirmed a long-held fear of mine.
We need to be more strategic and analytical in channelling our limited resources to those sectors that truly will have a marked impact on Jamaica's economy and employment levels.
I am, etc.,