Bartlett now longest-serving Cabinet minister

Bartlett now longest-serving Cabinet minister

Tourism policy head only survivor of 1980s Executive team


Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Ed Bartlett has penned his name in the record books of Jamaican politics, now emerging as the longest-serving Cabinet minister in the Executive, and the first individual to be appointed Tourism Minister three times.

He is also the longest-serving tourism minister in the Caribbean.

Bartlett, who first became a minister in 1983, the youngest at the time, aged 32, following the snap general election of that year, has now taken the Oath of Office seven times, what with his return to the Ministry of Tourism after the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) victory in the September 3 national poll. He had served as tourism minister from 2007 to 2011, and again from 2016 to 2020.

His first appointment, a non-Cabinet one, was as Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for information and culture. By 1983, after the People's National Party (PNP) did not contest the election, Bartlett was promoted to Minister of Youth and Community Development, with responsibility too for sport and women's affairs, his first Cabinet sit down which was broken by the General Election of 1989 that the PNP won under its president, Michael Manley.

Bartlett had to wait another 18 years before he could get back into the Cabinet, this time of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose JLP had narrowly defeated the PNP in the 2007 General Election. He was placed at the Ministry of Tourism, a stint that was broken again by the PNP's victory over the JLP in December 2011.

But the first of consecutive tourism ministry appointments became reality when the JLP won the February 2016 General Election, and now. He is the only man who sat in the House of Representatives during the 1980s to hold a Cabinet position now.

Bartlett won the St Andrew Eastern seat in 1980, 1983, and 1989, lost it in 1993; lost again in St James East Central in 1997, and won the same St James seat in 2002, 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2020.

Added now to his familiar Cabinet role is that of Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, a post that is not normally given to ministers of tourism or foreign affairs because of their potential to be overseas on Government business often, but Bartlett is up to the task.

“I am happy with the appointment. Being House Leader is a nice tribute. Babsy (Grange) is Deputy House Leader and I am happy with her appointment as we go way back and we work well together,” Bartlett said.

But it is the tourism examination papers which the public will use to mark him again that will remain a priority task for the veteran parliamentarian.

“Tourism will rebound,” he insisted. “We changed the game of tourism in Jamaica between 2008 and 2009 in the worst recession the world had seen. We grew tourism by an average of three and a half per cent and by 2010 we earned US$2 billion for the first time. Then we took it to US$3 billion in this round, and we were closing in on US$4 billion when COVID-19 came around. We moved it from two million arrivals to 4.3 million, and establishing the Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre was mega.

“Part of what gives me joy and pleasure is when I was on ( The University of the West Indies) campus during the 1960s and 70s that tourism was a bad word — a symbol of colonialism, keeping black people subservient, and a social blight, as viewed by some. Lecturers were heavy on the agrarian economy. Those theories have come back to haunt us because the world has not managed to sustain agriculture as the primary driver of economies. What is driving the world now is tourism,” he said.

For the winter tourism season which officially begins December 15 of each year, Bartlett remained optimistic, despite the pandemic.

“Jamaica is poised, the global tourism industry will rebound by 2023; Jamaica's tourism will see some breakthroughs starting January 2021 and will, based on trends, if COVID-19 is managed now, come back soon after and by 2023 we should be at 2017-2018 levels, because of what has been done. All our investors are holding,” he stated.

One of his immediate projects is the soon publishing of a book, called Pearls For Sustainability —an anthology of speeches and presentations with photo representations —which is now with LMH Publishers and could be available later this year.

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