A 15-minute address last week by the island’s leading hotelier, Sir Royston Hopkin was quite revealing about the current state of things in the industry and overall in the country.
Sir Royston who has never hidden his support for current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell was speaking at a ceremony at his hotel in honour of another international award bestowed on Spice Island Beach Resort.
In a frank and open manner, the hotelier bemoaned the fact that the ruling New National Party (NNP)government of PM Mitchell had allowed itself to sign-off on the type of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that it did with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Both the government and fund have been selling the idea that the programme was self-imposed and was not handed down on the people of this tri-island State by the Washington-based financial institution.
Sir Royston was clearly not happy with the incentives package now offered by government to hoteliers in the face of the dictates of the IMF whose job seems to be focused primarily on ensuring that the nation’s Treasury is always in a healthy financial state.
He told the Prime Minister to his face that, “the legislation which they (IMF) have forced you to pass, I am challenging you that you have to go back to parliament” to make the necessary amendments.
This newspaper has always held the view that despite denials from government to the contrary, the fact is that Grenada is being dictated to by the powers-that-be in Washington.
Some of the legislation passed in our local Parliament in the past two to three years are similar to what the IMF has forced down the throat of Jamaica which has been under several funds programmes in the past 35 plus years.
Our governments can never be in the driving seat with the IMF on any SAP since the Washington financial institution did not approach any of them to come for a bailout from the predicament which they brought onto their respective countries.
Our political leaders have simple mis-managed their country’s economies over the years and were left with no choice but to turn to the IMF as a last resort to help them restore fiscal viability.
Another statement from Sir Royston that caught the attention of this newspaper was that “all local entrepreneurs (hoteliers) still have enormous debts and cannot come out” of their current financial predicament unless government did something to help them.
This is a statement that was made quite often during the 2008-13 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas by certain elements within the hotel sector.
These hoteliers were calling for regime change in the Spice Isle in 2012 out of a belief that the policies being pursued back then were harmful to the survival of their businesses.
There were those who were making public statements that they might be forced to close their hotels within a matter of months if things did not change.
A new government was voted into office in February 2013 and today, Sir Royston is telling the nation that many of our hotels are in huge debts and will not be able to come out of it unless government goes back to Parliament and make changes to the legislation governing the industry.
What a startling revelation!!!. Were the hoteliers playing politics?
THE NEW TODAY agrees with Sir Royston that government needs to revisit the incentives package to put all hotels on a more level
However, government would have to be engaged in a balancing act since not all the hoteliers are on par with our premier hotelier.
The State and some state-owned financial institutions have lost millions in bad loans extended to some local hoteliers within the past 40 years.
Sir Royston cannot be accused of not working long and hard hours on a daily basis to look after his hotel unlike others who spent most of their time in the day on the golf course and extensive travel around the globe.
The current financial situation calls for more prudent action on the part of any government in giving incentives to all and sundry who want to build a hotel.
It’s good to say that a few hundreds jobs will be given to locals in the initial phase of construction. However, how many of these hotels are properly run like Spice and a few of the others on the island that are not facing a severe financial dilemma?
The farmers can equally put forward a similar case for better
incentives in light of the important role agriculture should be playing in nation building.
Presently, government has found its back against the wall in dealing with the IMF and cannot afford to run the risk of going off-track and in a few short years go back cap in hand to beg for another Structural Adjustment Programme.