More Threats to Tourism Industry

beach-ste-lucieLucky for Saint Lucia’s prime minister that his words had always been sweet enough to convince the electorate of his unique talents, whether for prophesying doom and gloom or coming sunshiny times.                 For had his job depended on words kept, promises fulfilled and predictions come to pass, surely he would long ago have been booted to the burgeoning ranks of the nation’s desperately unemployed.
Which is not to say, when it came to choosing his words of prophecy, the prime minister had ever been less clever than the cleverest of lawyers. True, he may have forecasted “better days are coming,” and “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but you’d be hard-pressed to nail him on the basis that since his reelection last November the days had grown speedily worse, not better. Or that he had not delivered on his jobs promise.
The irreducible truth is he had taken great care not to announce the expected time of arrival for his promised better days. As for those jobs, well, the evidence speaks in his favor: an expanded STEP army in various uniforms, a battalion of new consultants, new advisors, new mayors, to say nothing of additional personnel (some often invisible!) for already over-staffed government ministries, all of them to be debt-financed. Then there are the plum jobs for the truly wonderful in New York, London, Washington and the world’s most exciting (and expensive) cities.
So what if the newly hired coincidentally belong to one family, all paid from your pocket and mine? The prime minister had promised jobs and jobs he had delivered. Jobs had to be paid for. Case closed?
Not quite. The prime minister had also predicted—despite contrary bulletins from the SLHTA and others trapped in the belly of the beast—that in “a year-and-a-half or so” local tourism would be bouncing again. That was last April. He had also announced that in two years the world economy would be back to normal, or pretty damn close to normal. He alone knows if he referred to a new normal but it cannot be denied that all around the world economies either are barely alive or comatose or dead in the marketplace.
In November the Caribbean celebrated carnival-style the reelection of Barrack Obama, with the expressed hope that the region’s troubles were about to be, at the very least, ameliorated. After all, Obama was “a brother, black like we.” He was now free to do what earlier he had been unable to do for fear of paying the price at reelection time.
Perhaps late in the day, we have finally acknowledged yet another inconvenient but important truth. And it is that Kenny Anthony is in many ways more powerful that the most powerful man in the world: the black brother in the White House. For while in Saint Lucia the rooster rules the roost, in Washington D.C. it is the House that rules.
Although the prime minister and his female echo on the Morne have repeatedly reminded us “we are on our own,” abandoned by those who in past times of need had always come to our rescue, still we continued to believe in voodoo economics and in the kindness of strangers. Well, here now is still more proof that policy decisions in Washington, the UK, Canada and other parts of the real world are not based on their possible impact on Saint Lucians whose leader only recently reminded the whole world that “we are a people used to hardship.” Therefore, regardless of the threat, we shall overcome. Here’s hoping the prime minister is for once right.
A new law imposed by the IRS has, according to the Nassau Guardian and other news sources, set off “alarm bells among members of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association.”
Observes the paper’s business editor Jeffrey Todd, “Beginning this year, all transactions using U.S.-based credit cards are subject to an automatic 28 percent withholding fee unless the client is compliant with the regulations. The law appears to have caught members of the BHTA by surprise. According to a warning circulated to BHTA members, significant funds are being held by the IRS following a number of transactions so far this year.”
Observes Todd: “In its memo to members, BHTA reported that most were not aware of the change . . . Several hotels reported that they have filed as required and are still experiencing 28 percent withholding.”
The BHTA has brought the matter to the attention of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association . . . to be given urgent attention at this weekend’s board meeting.”
The Nassau Guardian warns that the new requirements “could present a huge cash flow problem and a nightmare for tourism stakeholders across the region, particularly for small-to-medium sized businesses.”
Meanwhile, locally the tourism ministry and its various songbirds for money are singing their usual happy song about increasing numbers of visitors to Saint Lucia that they alone know about!

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