“We in dis ting together.”
That rallying cry to the nation by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley since she took office on May 24 was aimed specifically at the workers at the Grantley Adams International Airport today as the Prime Minister appealed for their help in making Barbados the best visitor experience in the Americas, if not the world.
The Prime Minister is meeting with workers from all departments at the airport over two days to hear their challenges and suggestions for enhancing the service offered users of the airport.
She lamented the fact that the tourism industry which earned $2.3 billion in 2007 only earned $2.1 billion last year. Her target, she shared, was $4 billion in five years.
Ms. Mottley told the workers: “If you don’t remember anything else from today, remember four in five, because if we don’t do it, your job, your pensions , my job, my pension, our way of life, the Barbados that we know…that’s what’s at stake.”
“I’m asking you now today and I’m not too proud to ask, I need your help. I need each and every one of you to help. And I haven’t sent a message as I could have done through the Minister or the Chairman. I’ve come myself because we need your help and out of this has to be an us…
I need us to leave in here with a sense that we is we.”
She outlined some of the steps that were needed to move the process forward. “We need to listen, we need to redesign some of the processes that we have because things that worked for us 40 or 50 years ago may not work for us today.” In this regard, she suggested that perhaps the time had come for a dedicated team of hosts and hostesses to greet passengers.
“All of us must know what is required of each and every one of us and if we do simply what is required of each and every one of us, while doing it with a smile and a pep in our step, then our job becomes easier.”
Prime Minister Mottley told her audience that she wished she had inherited a Government that “was flush”, but it was not. She further noted: “Far from not having money, the reason why we are restructuring debt is because the country is not capable of paying that debt. Straight and simple.”
She revealed that the money that Government was required to pay in interest payments alone was more than the wages for the entire Civil Service. Government spends, she said, $780 million in wages and is spending $800 million in interest alone while the principal is close to $1 billion.
Ms. Mottley assured the workers that the situation could be fixed through measures which included debt restructuring and creating additional revenue by spreading the tax burden across Barbadians and visitors.
Expenditure adjustment also has to take place, she said. “You know how we feel about how we’re going to spend the taxpayers’ money. First thing we have to do is to make people safe. The second thing we have to do is to protect the public health of the country and then, your own health care, nobody should have to endure pain because they don’t have money.”
She also stressed the importance of protecting the vulnerable by creating a platform to empower people through education while at the same time giving them access to money to start businesses through trust loans.
Other priorities, the Prime Minister said, were protecting the beaches, fixing the roads and cleaning the gullies; financing the productive sectors such as tourism and international business; and protecting Barbados as a nation in terms of foreign policy.