It must be a very fine line that any responsible Government walks, especially during a period of prolonged financial challenges. On one hand, they want to encourage, entice and persuade overseas investors to commit to projects that produce employment, wealth creation and meaningful long term value. While at the same time, they equally desire to protect the integrity of the destination, which in our case is often referred to as iconic.
It is almost impossible without having sight of the facts, to ascertain exactly how many hundreds of units of a variety of tourism residences have been ‘sold’ over the last few years, based on computer generated images or artists impressions. Clearly in a multitude of cases, a considerable number of these have yet to be built, let alone, occupied. Ultimately, of course the Latin words caveat emptor or buyer beware, prevails.
But should ‘we’ as one of the Caribbean pioneers of tourism, with a long and relatively successful history in this sector, not have clearly understandable and transparent legislation in place to protect, what could become regular repeat visitors to our shores?
Does for instance, the relevant Government Ministry conduct due diligence checks on foreign based companies that submit planning applications for tourism projects, before they are approved?
Is there an insistence that a subsidiary company is legally incorporated in Barbados, and all transactions, whether sales, lease or rental are subject to the laws of this land?
Do ‘we’ ensure that all deposits, pending title completion of the property are held in an escrow account here on Barbados and stipulate the collected funds can only be used to build and market that particular project?
Surely too, as a country, we have an obligation to protect our own indigenous developers and investors and make certain they are competing on a level playing field. Otherwise, how do you encourage more local people to get-on-board and become vested participants in the tourism industry.
Perhaps, I am concerned needlessly, because some of these developments appear to have been given the official seal of approval, with images showing senior officials including Government Ministers appearing in the promotional material. In the event there should be some failure with one or more of these projects, could it damage our image overseas and plant a question mark in the minds of other potential ‘investors’ looking to purchase a second home within the region?
We already know the power and reach of the tabloid media in the United Kingdom and the negative effects they can have and that’s before we even consider the blogs and other internet social sites.
Our policymakers must accept that it is virtually impossible to bury contentious issues any more and potentially damaging articles can be read by millions of people within minutes of appearing. Conversely, imagine the marketing value that absolutely open and comprehensive buyer legislation could bring us, when that prospective purchaser may be presented with a multitude of destination options. It stands to reason, that they would then first chose a jurisdiction where they feel their investment is protected.
Let ‘us’ set the standards for the entire Caribbean.