Thinking of investing in ethanol in Jamaica? Think again. That doesn’t seem to be the priority area for the new government as it was for the former administration. At least that’s the strong impression given by Tourism Minister Ed Bartlet when he addressed a group of Jamaicans in Toronto, who had turned out for a get to know you visit.
According to the minister, ethanol is a dead end street for the island because “even if you planted cane over every square inch of Jamaica we wouldn’t be able to make enough to supply one third of all the vehicles on the island. Fruits and vegetables are the way.
So, Mr Bartlet wants Jamaicans to invest in their homeland. In exactly what and how he didn’t say but he’d like to see Jamaicans transform remittances to friends and family into investment options to staunch the haemorrhage of capital into a cycle of non-production and instead start productivity flows to help suture crime and violence.
Bartlett, and apparently the government, believes that feeding money into the informal sector is dampening the drive of the recipients at home by making it difficult for businesses to compete with salaries that match remittance gifts. And this contributes to the crime that teems from slum life.
For example he cited that a Cad$100 gift which translates into $7,000 dollars can’t be matched by many local employers in say the agricultural sector.
So the tourism sector is one area he and the government are putting much hope on. He spoke in broad generalities about “marketing, marketing, marketing, product development, product development, product development and investment, investment, investment” as the triple pillars for the sector to drive stay-over arrivals to a potential capacity of something like 2.2 million from the present 1.6 million and overall arrivals to 5.9 million from the present three million.
He hopes to get to annual double digit increases he told us at the function organized by the Diaspora organization in Canada. Part of the thrust will be to revive some of the lost top end of the market for exclusive enclave resort properties.
Bartlett also addressed backward tourism lineages into agriculture through supplying the fruit and food requirements of hotels and cruise ships – a better alternative to cane and ethanol, he contends.
He also promoted his proposal to build golf courses, an idea challenged by newspaper columnist, journalist John Maxwell who argues that the priority should be providing potable water in the houses of the 41 per cent of the population Maxwell reports do not have such an amenity.
“I say to John, if I do not build golf courses that figure may grow to 51 per cent but if I build golf courses that figure will go down.”
There were other tough questions from Bartlett’s audience and these answers may take hime and his government some time to answer: How do farmers get food to the hotels when they have bad, impassible roads; how do ordinary Jamaicans in Diaspora invest in this great tourism future and the killer: How much care is being paid to Jamaica’s fragile environment and ecosystem with the all systems go hotel, resort and attractions development?
So anyone for a piece of the action?