|PM defends tourism spending
Thursday, May 23, 2002
PRIME Minister P J Patterson yesterday deflected criticisms that his administration had failed to consistently fund the tourism sector, pointing to expenditure to develop the infrastructure of resort towns islandwide.
"What has been done in terms of (improvement to) roads, water, sewage, airports and the cruise ship ports cannot be excluded from what we are doing in respect of tourism," Patterson told directors of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce during their monthly board meeting in Kingston yesterday.
"(And) we cannot exclude either what has been done for the national airline," he said in response to a question from the group of business people meeting at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Patterson's comments yesterday are his first public reaction to the furore about the administrative efficiency of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) which arose following the disclosure that promotional advertisements about Jamaica were missing from television in North America and Europe. This was because the JTB was US$5 milion in arrears to its advertising agency.
Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, chairman of the Sandals hotel chain, led the charge in criticising the tourism promotion agency of spending too much of its resources on administration rather than on marketing. Meantime Josef Fortsmayr, head of the hoteliers' association, and Ed Bartlett, Opposition spokesman on tourism, cited inadequate funding of the JTB.
But yesterday Patterson argued that although the advertising budget was a "very important and indispensable element" in the expenditure on tourism, government's contribution on the infrastructural side and in helping to promote the "best social environment" should also be factored into the total picture.
In addition, Patterson said that before the 2002/2003 budget was finalised in Parliament, he had given up $200 million originally allocated to the Office of the Prime Minister to the tourism ministry and agency.
Said he: "I gave it up to make sure that tourism had what was required within the limits of our resources to enable it to maintain its presence in the marketplace."
Patterson, who until a year ago held the tourism portfolio as part of his office for a decade, yesterday chided tourism interests for latching on to expenditure on tourism in emergency situations as the new threshold for the tourism budget.
Over the last three years government has been required to find extra funds to counter negative images of Jamaica arising from the gas demonstrations and the West Kingston violence. Extra promotional money was also required due to setbacks from last September's terrorist attack in the United States, after which a number of Americans were afraid to fly.
Noted Patterson: "Every time you have to respond to these extra events, instead of that being accepted as something unusual, that becomes what is seen as the threshold for the succeeding year. Again you go back to the question of competing resources."