Editorial

Mr Hickey and his TPDCo team have a lot to answer

Friday, March 14, 2014    

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ON its website, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) proudly proclaims that its vision is "to facilitate the diversification, development and improvement of the tourism product utilising an experienced and qualified staff to enhance visitor experience by building consensus and strategic alliances with industry stakeholders in order to engender socio-economic growth".

The agency also lists as part of its mission, fostering "the expansion and diversification of Jamaica's tourism product through a plethora of heritage, cultural and community-based projects".

Those are commendable goals that all well-thinking Jamaicans should support as the country works at increasing tourism revenue.

It seems, however, that the current TPDCo leadership is not seized of the importance of the agency's role in helping the country to earn more from tourism. At least, that is how it appears from what was revealed during Wednesday's sitting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

The PAAC, most correctly, demanded to know why TPDCo has spent only 15 per cent of its budget for special projects for the 2013/14 financial year.

The TPDCo submission showed that in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, where $393 million should be spent on projects in partnership with the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), only $4.6 million or 11.8 per cent of the budget was expended.

In Montego Bay, regarded as Jamaica's tourism capital and which has approximately $101 million allocated for projects, only $3.6 million was spent, while the south coast, which should have $115.7 million in projects, had only $10.4 million, or nine per cent of its budget spent over the period.

Place all that against the background that the TPDCo admitted that the majority of its funds spent over the first nine months of the financial year went to compensation for its employees and you get a picture of an agency with a skewed sense of priorities.

The excuse for this weak performance offered to the PAAC by TPDCo Executive Director Mr Dennis Hickey is, at best, feeble.

According to Mr Hickey, many of the projects "are with other agencies, including the parish councils and the Urban Development Corporation, and once they are given to these agencies it requires the strong collaboration I am bringing to the process to be able to move the process".

Really now, Mr Hickey.

How long does it take to get projects moving, using "strong collaboration"? Why hasn't Mr Hickey been using his skills to have more projects implemented in order to further diversify our tourism product?

The TPDCo says on its website that it is "designed to support government and quasi-government agencies in the development of the tourism industry, particularly by co-ordinating and facilitating prompt action between public and private sector interests".

The available evidence, however, does not suggest that there exists in TPDCo an appreciation for "facilitating prompt action".

Mr Hickey and his team of executives have some serious questions to answer. Like the members of the PAAC, we await their response.

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