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Will COVID-19 cure dependence on one sector?


Dear Editor,

The health ministry is currently reviewing protocols to reopen the tourism industry. For some Jamaicans this news is thrilling, but for others, it might be terrifying.

Recent reports on COVID-19 confirm just under 600 cases locally and over six million globally. To date, COVID-19 has taken over 370,000 lives, but it has taken even more livelihoods.

Caricom Chairman Mia Mottley estimates the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) losses to 40 per cent to 60 per cent in April 2020. Fortunately, April marks the end of the peak tourist season.

Tourism has contributed upwards of 30 per cent to Jamaica’s GDP over the past 10 years, but for obvious reasons this rate of earning is unlikely for 2020.

The minister estimates that a summer start can see Jamaica receiving up to two million visitors before the year ends. Can we handle it?

I don’t have to be an economist to appreciate this dilemma. This is very much a catch-22, but should reopening be driven by timelines? How much weight should be placed on preparedness?

The Caribbean is the world’s most travel-dependent region. The thing about dependency is that it leaves many things beyond your control. With the best intentions and protocols in place Jamaica reserves the right to reopen to tourists. But will they come?

Given the worldwide reports of mass job cuts, layoffs, and furloughs, I can think of a few reasons tourist travel may be low. These include focusing on reinvesting in their domestic economy; health and safety concerns given the millions of active cases; prioritising time at home with family and friends; and no longer being able to afford it, even if they wanted to.

Given our dependency on tourism, Jamaica will be getting a pay cut, whether we like it or not. Must our fate always be in the hands of another country? I suggest it’s time to go beyond tourism.

Agriculture must not be thought of as the poor man’s profession. Farming is not a vocation and agriculture has grown beyond farms. The time has come for us to stop overlooking our potential. With the proper framework and infrastructure in place Jamaica can strengthen its agriculture industry and simultaneously create new ones as agriculture can stimulate growth in science, manufacturing, industrialisation, and export.

Jamaica is more than just a pretty girl. Her track record demonstrates beauty and brains. We have many smart revenue-generation solutions within our control. With some 57 years into our Independence, isn’t it time for the economy to reflect that?

 

Jessica Wilson

initiativeprojects.ja@gmail.com

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