Sandals Deal In Barbados.....time will tell.

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                                                                     Sandals Barbados Deal...time will tell

by Michael Headley
As Barbados is on the verge of celebrating 47 years as an independent nation the current discussion seems to be centered around the concessions, proposed to Sandals International, listed in the interim approval letter, dated November 05, 2013.  It has created more fireworks than Guy Fawkes had hope to explode under the British  Parliament , on a similar day, November 05, 1605.  Many people are still trying to fathom the depths of the 25-year tax holiday sweet heart deal, that also included the waiver of all import duties, taxes, and no Valued Added Tax (VAT) on purchases of local or imported goods. Also, after his acquisition of Couples Resort, Gordon "Butch" Stewart, Chairman of Sandals International,  remarked about the beauty of the property and further stated that he couldn't wait to bring the full Luxury Included experience to Barbados.  
These specific concessions have prompted some to ask the question, is the government the 'strict guardians of our heritage', as admonished in the lines of National Anthem?  And is Barbados selling  its birthright for a mess of pottage?   While others, still perplexed, are wondering if, because of these perilous economic times, the government had no other choice but to offer the incentives.  But some pundits are also saying that concessions are the norm for doing business in the tourist industry.  The possibility of future job creation and the potential to generate revenue, to stimulate the lagging economy, could've acted as a catalyst for this decision.  
The disastrous economic plague has reached epidemic proportions, and rich and poor countries alike, with very little immunity, are struggling to survive as their Governments and Central banks are constantly tweaking their fiscal and monetary policies, respectively, to cope with the various challenges.   
Yes, Standard & Poor's have downgraded Barbados' credit rating and the bonds are at the brink of junk bond status.  As if to worsen the situation, the country has also been downgraded to the lowest investment grade position.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be knocking at the door and at a recent hotel association luncheon, an official said the he did not expect the good winter tourist year to continue.  Despite these ominous harbingers, the Barbados tourist product is still viable enough that Mr. 'Butch' Stewart is willing to make the investment, albeit the concessions.   
Barbados' greatest resource is still the resiliency of its people as they continue to strive to be 'firm craftsmen of their fate'.  The synergies of a history of stable governments, no violent unrest, a well educated workforce, solid infrastructure and all of the social institutions  intact, auger well to attract future investors.  Therefore when decisions are made, concerning Barbados' heritage, the government must be most circumspect.   All of the decision makers should be visible and open to the public, not only the Ministers of Tourism and Finance.  The economy may be sputtering but the stakeholders must be guarded against clutching Esau's hand while not hearing Jacob's voice.    
Only time will tell the success or failure of this venture but for the sake of all Barbados I hope that it is a great success.  It would be a good Independence gift that will bear fruit for years to come.  Happy Independence Barbados, in advance. 
Michael Headley is a social commentator.
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