Minister in the Ministry Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, believes the tourism sector has already begun to undergo diversification, and there is scope for more, as well as for better linkages with sectors like agriculture for stronger job-led growth.
This was among the highlights of her conversation on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic when she addressed participants at last week’s virtual 51st Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank.
Referring to the sector as the ‘visitor economy’, she reminded participants that a student from Ross University or other overseas educational campus, who wanted to come to Barbados, was “really a long stay tourist”.
Elaborating, she said: “So, through medical and educational visitor projects, where we offer educational services and medical services, we found that there are ways to diversify the visitor economy such that it is more resilient and such that we are not simply depending on short stay tourists over a high season, because that also contributes to the instability of employment in those sectors.”
The Minister also addressed social protection reform. Acknowledging that she made no distinction between the social and the economic, she explained: “This pandemic has shown us something very important, and that’s why I don’t separate the economic and the social. They are clearly bound up together; we have a care economy that had to step in quickly to make up for what was lost in the public and private sector and we have realised that the ways that we have structured social protection, what we call our welfare systems, are not serving us in an urgent situation like COVID.”
She added that no social protection system in any part of the world could be ready for COVID, which was why Government had to very quickly increase investments in its social programmes, and change the way these were being delivered.
The Minister concluded her discussion on responses to the pandemic by noting that investments in climate resilient infrastructures were important.
Pointing out, however, that those investments themselves had to be resiliently financed, she said: “We have made the case recently for Barbados-styled natural disaster clauses in new issuances of debt and we called for this not just in public debt, but also in privately-issued instruments.”
Ms. Caddle explained that this was important since Barbados was today the largest issuer of natural disaster clauses in the world.
“And, what that means for us is, if there is a natural disaster event that is declared by some major international agency, that for two years, we do not have to meet our debt service obligations. This is extremely important. Seventy-five per cent of the world’s poor are in middle and high-income countries, so it means that GDP as a way of figuring out which countries qualify for concessional finance does not serve us,” the Minister stressed.