Caribbean is open for business

Region cannot survive climate change in isolation, says PM Holness

BY DESMOND ALLEN
Executive editor – special assignment
allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 17, 2017

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PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Friday invited the world back to the Caribbean, saying that the region is open for business after three devastating hurricanes claimed lives, wrecked infrastructure, and ravaged economies in some territories in September 2017.

In a related issue, Holness also signalled that he planned to unite Caribbean leaders to face the critical problem of climate change as one of his key priorities when he assumes leadership of the regional bloc, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), next year.

“We are a very diverse region. Not all countries were affected by the hurricanes… but even those affected have demonstrated great resilience in their recovery effort. And so the Caribbean is open for business and ready to welcome the world,” Holness said.

The Jamaican leader was the head of a small delegation comprising Finance Minister Audley Shaw, his junior minister Ruddy Spencer, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Commerce Minister Karl Samuda to hurricane-ravaged Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) as guests of Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the chairman and founder of Sandals Resorts International (SRI).

Stewart hosted a luncheon for the movers and shakers in the TCI society to mark the official reopening of Beaches TCI, which served as an example of the recovery of the island which was hit hard by category five hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Along with a third category five hurricane, Jose, the massive storms left destruction in their wake, causing cancellations and reduced bookings at hotels even in places spared by the disaster. In that context, Holness said it was important that the world knew that the Caribbean was back in business.

But he noted that the region's all-important tourism industry was at the mercy of climate change, which had shown its impact through an unprecedented three category five storms hitting parts of the Caribbean in one month.

When Jamaica takes the helm of Caricom next year, Holness said, he will seek to work with the other leaders to enhance preparations to deal with climate change, given the fact that the Caribbean is the “most tourism-dependent region in the world”.

He had the statistics to show that tourism was valued at an estimated US$18 billion or 4.7 per cent of the gross domestic product of the Caribbean, employing 725,000 people directly and 2.3 million indirectly.

“We will need to work as a team to confront climate change. We cannot survive in isolation,” Holness cautioned.

The Caribbean's readiness to resume pre-storm levels of business, especially in tourism, was a common thread in all the speeches, including from TCI Governor Dr John Freeman; Jamaica's honorary counsel to the TCI Allan Hutchinson, and Stewart.

Britain's Freeman thanked Holness on behalf of the Turks and Caicos for demonstrating that he was serious about tourism and the recovery effort in TCI by bringing his Jamaican delegation to the island. Jamaica also assisted the affected islands, particularly Dominica, the worst hit.

Beaches and Stewart also came in for strong commendation for reopening the hotel in record time, knowing how dependent the island's economy was on tourism. Freeman estimated the value at 85 per cent of the direct and indirect economy.

Stewart attributed the recovery to the hard work and commitment of a large number of people who did their part to hasten the reopening of the resort.

Finance Minister Shaw and Agriculture Minister Samuda, whose son Jordan Samuda was singled out for his pivotal work to reopen the resort, also brought greetings.

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