It was quite a revelation to read through the five newspaper pages of ‘indebted’ individuals and entities listed by National Insurance Board (NIB) from a tourism perspective. Especially, when you realise that many of them have either in the past and/or currently benefited from substantial taxpayer subsidies, grants or soft loans. It seems almost incredulous that, at least in some cases, if any due diligence has been practised between the various Government agencies involved before the monies were advanced.
Take the (TIRF) Tourism Industry Relief Fund as an example. I understand that this was purely intended to assist qualifying tourism businesses to maintain employment. I never saw it as a source of ‘free’ funds to assist in the avoidance of statutory obligations. Yet, well over a Million Dollars in TIRF monies was paid over to one of the hotels listed by the NIB. Others, were allowed to access to preferential interest rates through the Enterprise Growth Fund and perhaps most alarming of all, several are currently benefitting from taxpayer subsidised BTA promotions like the Barbados Island Inclusive promotion.
For the many enterprises like ours who have frequently struggled to pay our bills on time, it makes a mockery of those trying to do the right thing. Almost anyone in business could contest that at some stage they have experienced some financial problems or challenges, and this is clearly understandable. But as the Barbados Social Security clearly states, the list applies to those ‘who have not made satisfactory arrangements to liquidate the outstanding debt (or) have not adhered to arrangements made’. Again, if this disparity is allowed to continue,’we’ are just allowing the goalposts to be moved one more time and disadvantaging others who are fighting to keep trading legitimately.
It also calls into question, why is there not more communication between the various Government agencies in terms of compliance. Why is it possible to access public funds without and NIS clearance certificate but it is a prerequisite to acquire a licence to operate a hotel or restaurant.
It’s official, according to their website, from 15January 2014, American Airlines will no longer operate a direct flight from New York to Barbados. For travellers still wishing to fly with AA, including their 66 million frequent flyer members, it will now only be possible via Miami. In a southbound direction either leaving JFK at 5.45am to arrive in Barbados at 2.40pm, or 12.45pm arriving at 10.55pm. Northbound, departing 8.10am to reach JFK at 4.25pm. So a minimum journey time of seven hours.
Low cost airline JetBlue still offers a non-stop option, but clearly having no significant competition, it is bound to drive fares up making us as a destination of choice even less competitive. Currently, the cheapest New York return fare in January with JetBlue bookable in the USA including taxes is US$443.10. The timing of this route cessation is also a puzzle, at the peak travel time (winter high season) and while awaiting the final anticipated approval for a merger with US Airways. It is also difficult to comprehend why we were not able to sustain one tiny B737 flight daily from one of the largest urban conglomerations in North America, the 23 million populace of the Tri-State area. In global terms JFK airport ranks 19 in the world with passenger traffic reaching almost 20 million each year.
How much longer can we go on accepting failure.