MOVEMENT for Social Justice political leader David Abdulah has blamed the withdrawal of Sandals Resorts International from the proposed hotel project in Tobago on failed leadership, bad governance and an absence of vision.
Abdulah, in a release yesterday, said the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM government has not articulated a clear vision with a specific roadmap for diversifying the economy, nor stated what the country’s tourism policy is.
“What type of tourism should Tobago have? What type should Trinidad have? How is Tobago to be branded? It once was projected as ‘clean, green, safe and serene,’ but that has now been changed to ‘Tobago, go beyond the ordinary.’ What is extraordinary about Tobago is not stated. Certainly, with so many Sandals in the Caribbean, having a Sandals and Beaches in Tobago could never be ‘beyond the ordinary.’”
Abdulah said the Government, without stating what their policy is, decided to pursue the approach of mega hotels with a luxury brand – Sandals.
“That was going to be Tobago’s saviour – bringing thousands of tourists, increasing airlift, creating thousands of jobs et cetera. By putting the specifics of a project – Sandals/Beaches 1,000-room hotels – before there was a specific vision and clear policy, the Rowley government was bound to run into problems. The Government should have first engaged the citizens and, in particular Tobagonians, on the vision and policy and obtained consensus and buy in.” Abdulah stressed vision and policy come first and then comes the process of engagement with the people. He added good governance also requires the identification of actual projects and consultation on the projects that are to achieve the objectives of the policy. Abdulah also criticised Rowley’s statements at a media conference on Sandals last week.
“The berating of the media, the Opposition and individual citizens by Dr Rowley is a clear manifestation of a failure of leadership since he does not recognise what should have been done. His statement that he should not have allowed ‘the cynics to control the airwaves’ demonstrates that he does not grasp what good leadership and proper governance are.”
Abdulah said, while there is no doubt that Sandals has a strong international brand, there was no reason why the project had to be conceived in a similar scale and nature as other Sandals’ hotels in the Caribbean. “An MSJ government would have taken the policy position: we wish to preserve Tobago’s environment and its image as being ‘clean, green, safe and serene.’
That is what truly makes Tobago beyond the ordinary. Therefore the type of hotels needed have a smaller footprint, marketed as eco-friendly yet having all the benefits of a luxury resort. The Rowley-government, however, like most governments before it, prefer to go with mega-projects costing many billions of dollars in spite of the many failures of such projects.”