Phillips says gov't should speed up grant disbursement, waive fees for small tourist operators

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Phillips says gov't should speed up grant disbursement, waive fees for small tourist operators

Monday, July 06, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — People's National Party's (PNP) president Dr Peter Phillips says the government needs to do more for small operators in the tourism sector as the industry slowly reopens following the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said while help for the big hotels is necessary and is being facilitated, the taxi drivers, craft vendors, operators associated with Jamaica Union of Travelers Association (JUTA) and Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours Ltd (JCAL) must not be left out as they too are an essential part of the sector.

“The government can do more and better to ensure speedier disbursement of the grants which were promised to these operators, as well as provide more relief from craft market fees, (and) port fees where the JUTA service providers operate,” Dr Phillips told a meeting of councillors, caretakers and leadership in the party's regions one and six in Montego Bay on Sunday.

“We support the principle that there must be a reopening of the tourism sector. The fact is that our economy is largely driven by tourism, and we must do all we can to get it back on track. But when you reopen the sector, all the critical elements must be considered,” he said.

The party president said small operators were given some relief for three months, and in some cases, the banks have also offered much-needed assistance, but since the three months have passed, bills are piling up again and there is no further help insight.

“These small operators are being called upon to pay fees, and to repay loans, but they have no business. They are not earning. If they are not rescued with assistance from the government, they could all go out of business, and when this happens, the overall survival of the tourism product would be threatened. No real revival would have taken place,” Dr Phillips said.

“We envision a tourism sector where everyone has a place. These small operators have expenses like everyone else. They have mortgages like everybody else; their children have to go back to school like everybody else; they need assistance, too,” he continued.

Dr Phillips argued that the COVID-19 lockdown has highlighted, to a large extent, that too many of our people are living on the bare margins of survival, and that the mission of the PNP is to address this social and economic inequality in the country when it forms the government.

“We have to change our attitude and take on this mission in a way that offers hope to the majority of people who have been marginalised. Too many of them are living on the bare margins of survival. Our mission is to create a better Jamaica where everybody has a place. We have to take on that mission in a way that offers hope to most of our people who are being marginalized and left to die,” Dr Phillips said.

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