Several economists have posited that Antigua & Barbuda should change its tourism dependent development model, and diversify according to the human and capital resources available locally.
The views are those of two economists and a university researcher who spoke of this week’s Big Issues programme on the topic of the tourism development model which was criticised this month by Dr Michael Friedman, a biologist currently lecturing at the American International College of Arts and Sciences Antigua (AICASA).
Development Economist Atherton Martin questioned, “Why do we think we need somebody else’s money to do what we need to do in the Caribbean?” He charged that individuals have the capacity to raise enough capital for their own enterprises.
“Do you remember how many hundreds of millions of US dollars that Caribbean people had saved up and invested in CLICO and BAICO? We keep enslaving ourselves to the notion that it is other people’s money we need when we have billions of dollars in our banks that people have saved,” he said.
Martin’s opinion was seconded by local economist, Franklyn “King Frank I” Francis who joined him on the programme.
“What Mr Martin is referring to is the need for us to mobilise indigenous resources, which, as he pointed out quite clearly, exist, and to get away from this whole concept of foreign direct investment,” Francis said.
He said tourism has become the nation’s “monocrop” adding, “We are being given an idea of a new world order which is really just the old order that has kept us as primary producers and the importers of finished products from overseas. We have to get into diversification.”
The third guest, Research Assistant at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine, Amilcar Sanatan suggested development of intra-regional tourism.
“There is a question about where Caribbean people move. How can we facilitate that movement? How can we create a tourism out of that where people can earn money ethically, protect the environment and advocate for the culture of ordinary people?” he questioned.
He charged, “In the Caribbean we can draw parallels between single crop agricultural productions and today we have the single crop of tourism for our development. We have the potential of sports tourism… and health tourism… We also have creative arts… Is the state ready to invest (in those) and take the long term risk?”