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Low pay not driving growth, says Byles

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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ROSE HALL, St James — Chairman of Sagicor Group Jamaica, Richard Byles says remuneration provided to hotel workers is insufficient to drive economic growth and transformation.

However, he was quick to point out that even though their wages are unsubstantial, it is much better than to be unemployed.

“Most of the people who work in this hotel are people who take home maybe $4,000 a day. But that is better than no employment. But that is not what our tourism product is built on. It is built on one and half Jamaicans being employed per room, most of them are earning this wage,” Byles argued.

“This is not a foundation that can provide and drive economic transformation and growth and wealth for Jamaicans as a whole. It helps. It is better than having no jobs, but it is not good enough. In business we know how to make that distinction; in politics and economics, sometimes we lose. We are so anxious to get something done even if it is not adequate, appropriate — it is something because the alternative is nothing. But we need to remind ourselves it is not good enough,” Byles said.

He was speaking at the opening of the Mona School of Business and Management's third Business and Management Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa Wednesday evening.

The three-day conference was held under the theme: 'Driving Transformation — Finance, Enterprise Development & Wealth Creation'.

Sagicor Group Jamaica owns and operates the Jewel-branded resorts: Jewel Grande Montego Bay as well as Jewel Runaway Bay, Jewel Dunn's River and Jewel Paradise Cove, all in St Ann. Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa is also operated by Sagicor Group Jamaica.

Byles noted that more people are removed from the unemployment chain with the construction of additional hotel rooms but maintains that their earnings are not transforming the economy.

“If we built 10,000 more rooms, double the number of rooms that we have in Jamaica, it would help and we would employ 15,000 more people, and I am not denying the impact of that, but it is not transforming Jamaica, “ he underscored.

“We have been in it (tourism) for 50 years or longer and, can I tell you, by and large it is the same business that we were in 50 years ago that we are in today,” Byles said.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett recently disclosed that direct employment in the island's tourism industry had increased from 94,000 last year to 106,000 so far this year.

Preliminary figures up to the end of September 2017 shows Jamaica welcoming over three million tourists, with stopover arrivals of 1.76 million and cruise passengers numbering 1.3 million cruise passengers, well ahead of the corresponding period last year. This resulted in just over US$2.14 billion in gross foreign exchange earnings, 8.6 per cent higher the corresponding period last year.

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