NASSAU, BAHAMAS — For many tourism dependent nations like The Bahamas, economic diversification is not as easy as it seems, a former tourism minister has stated, adding that the conversation around economic diversification must be “tourism and not tourism or”.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, founder of the Bedford Baker Group was speaking as a panelist on an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) discussion on “The Caribbean and Coronavirus”.
“If we want to get back into business we have to pivot and find a way to move very rapidly from predicting rain to building arks. We have to begin to look at ways to get tourism to come back sooner rather than later,” Vanderpool-Wallace said.
“We love to talk about diversifying our economy as if it’s a very easy thing to do. The reason that we haven’t diversified our economies up to now is because it’s a very difficult thing to do and tourism up to this point contributes to a substantial portion of our GDP and our economy that whenever you start talking about diversification you have to talk about tourism and not tourism or.
He continued: “If you don’t talk about tourism and we’re running ourselves back into the same kinds of problems. If we begin to pivot and look at ways to get our economies open to tourism there are some fundamental things that we have to do.”
“We need to figure out a way to create some kind of COVID free corridors, meaning people leaving their point of origin to come to the Caribbean and arriving at a COVID free community where they can co-mingle and coexist and the people who arrive. What is critically important to all of this is to find some way to get come rapid results testing because that’s the only way we are going to be able to do this.
“In order to get there we have begun to talk to some world renowned schools of public health and they have indicated they are quite interested and eager to help us with this.”
Vanderpool-Wallace stressed that there must be regional COVID-19 protocols.
Zulfikar Ally of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Guyana said: “I think there will be a new normal. I don’t think there we will be able to go back to what we are accustomed to. Business now have to adapt to technological changes in order to survive.
“Businesses are being forced now to adapt to technology, and have their employees do work for home. Those that have not adapted are doing terribly.”
Allison Peart of Peart Advisory Services said: “Jamaica has a very diverse economy. We don’t usually admit to it but we do. We see with the farmers some concern. With the tourism sector closing we have seen excess fruit. We have seen some farmers be able to get that fruit to various other parts of the island and some farmers have left them to rot. As a sector, taking Jamaica as an example, if we get our act together we could be doing better distribution of farm land and better distribution of products in the Caribbean.
Peart added: “We need to look at our own innovations to see what it is we can do better and not wait to see what is going to come out of Europe and North America.”