As far as investments go these days, every investor wants to know that they can make a decent return on investment. For about a decade now, following the global financial meltdown, many investors are wary of spending a cent without the guarantee of earning a dollar in return.
In Saint Lucia, heavy focus is placed on especially foreign direct investment (FDI). Over the years, successive governments have promoted FDIs as the salvation of our economy, so much so that even Saint Lucian businesspeople have been feeling slighted for years for not having equal access to the hefty incentives foreign investors enjoy.
That is troubling because it means that foreign investors would be benefitting from the Saint Lucian taxpayers’ dollars at the risk of their own local businesses being left in the shade of those ostensible messiahs of progress coming in. It seems unfair, but it is indeed legal.
With the tourism sector accounting for nearly two-thirds of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP), one would expect that those whose labours fuel the sector would at least have a few incentives thrown their way. How about rewarding those hardworking hotel employees who would have shown dedicated passion and determination on the job with at least a guarantee that they can at least get a part of their pay when they are laid off when the sector’s dry spell arrives?
Just this week, one hotel in the north is reported to have sent nearly 50 employees home due to low occupancy levels. When extrapolated, that figures tells a worse story about those now left scratching their heads due to loss of income. Somewhere, somehow, these employees must find ways to make ends meet until – fingers crossed — they are called back to work.
While those closely connected to the sector continue to dismiss the reality, layoffs are indeed occurring. While they continue to argue that workers are simply sent on rotation during slow periods, how do they explain some of those employees being paid severance pay upon receiving their letters of dispatch?
Training employees for what is touted as the most productive sector comes at a high premium. As such, every endeavour should be made, especially on the private sector’s part – to ensure that employees have some form of buttress to tide them over when the waves of tourism’s success subside. While at it, even a pension plan for the sector – as is in the case of Jamaica – might seem essential.
If tourism truly is the backbone of our economy, the sector’s workers should not find themselves temporarily shortchanged after putting in long days of blood, sweat and neglect of family to ensure it prospers.