EXECUTIVE Director of Saint Lucia’s Employers Federation, Joseph Alexander is looking closely at this year’s winter tourist season, hoping that the financial injection the country needs to spur economic growth will come from that sector.
Alexander is optimistic, but his optimism is tempered by the reality that cruise visitors spend less money while on island.
Alexander, in an interview with the VOICE this week, spoke of the present winter season as a “watershed” one for St. Lucia which would define the country’s economic situation in the short term.
Tourism Director, Louis Lewis, last month confidently spoke of eclipsing the five percent performance increase the sector recorded earlier in the year.
He told the VOICE that barring any major natural disaster, St Lucia’s overall tourism performance is poised to record another successful year, especially in its visitor arrival numbers.
Lewis is hoping that by the end of this year stay-over arrivals would increase by six to seven percent, and that the cruise sector which at the end of September of this year recorded an increase of five percent, was expected to go up by another percentage point at the end of this year.
But as noted by Alexander the increase in the number of visitors to St Lucia does not show a corresponding increase in economic activity in the country, bearing in mind that tourism is St Lucia’s number one exporter earner.
While the Employers Federation continues to maintain its membership base at 130 members for the past two years, meaning that despite the decline in the country’s economic performance, not one member has felt the pinch hard enough to close shop, members have been downsizing their staff complement, a worrying situation, noted Alexander.
“There has been a decline in employee numbers due to lay-offs and redundancies as members react to the ongoing economic conditions, which has resulted in significant declines in membership dues to the Federation,” Alexander said.
He notes that the amount of dues paid by his members depend on the number of employees each member has, meaning that if employees are laid off dues automatically decline.
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Mr. Alexander is confusing a lot of the issues.
First off, the situation can hardly be characterized as “watershed” , if its total impact is going to be at most — minimal. Had the anticipated change envisaged by the numbers would have been sustainable, for example, then there would be some economic justification to fantasize regarding those numbers.
The next issue is the tourism sector’s contribution.
Mr. Alexander incompletely described the economics of the situation in making reference to tourism as the country’s number one export earner.
Yes. Tourism is the country’s number one foreign exchange earner. But “failure to balance that with any call to QUANTIFY the net contribution of each dollar of expenditure (promotional and institutional expenses) plus sectoral tax reductions ( incentive concessions and VAT waivers) to the sector’s net sectoral contribution to the GDP, is to continue to operate in “Fantasy Island” economics.
Just too often do we see local officialdom rhyming out like our unfortunate national symbol —- a dumb parrot.
The balkanization of the country into two camps of mindless groups of political hangers-on, all ready to swallow hook, line and sinker all the the political twattle the political directorate of the day in Saint Lucia trots out, is rather unfortunate.
The country’s major institutions and the entire country for that matter therefore remain condemned to becoming mere echo-chambers for political twattle, and NOT informed democratic participants in the imperatives of our economics of transformation.
This will remain so, unless or until the more capable and insightful among us make a sterling effort to discern the difference between the symbolic manipulative difference between “the economics of development” and “developments IN economics”, or economic developments like “rosy forecasts” and the repairing damaged infrastructure. In the political-economic literature, the latter in particular is rightly and fundamentally called — NOT economic development — but “maintaining capital intact”.