In the face of the worst global recession since the Great Depression if we are to believe the economists, the government of Barbados felt duty bound to protect the productive sector which is the life-blood of the Barbados economy. The tourism industry is reported to contribute 15-20% of Gross Domestic Product and it is a significant foreign exchange earner.
Tourism is an industry which thrives in a buoyant global economic climate and the global recession has impacted discretionary spending of world travellers in a significant way. In an effort to create a safety net for establishments affiliated to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), Barbados Tourism Hotel Association (BTHA), and Small Hotels of Barbados Inc (SHBI), the government established the Tourism Investment Relief Fund (TIRF). The fund is administered by the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL) and based on a formula of of historical revenues and stated cash losses in a determined period funds were distributed to those tourism players who applied.
The recent announcement that one such player Silver Sands Hotel listed as having received TIRF monies $460,240.70 on the 27.05.2009 and $292,807.15 on 18.11.2009 was closing its doors has caused eyebrows to be raised. As if that news was not enough BU sources confirmed that the owners of the hotel shared in the purchase of a 56ft cabin cruiser which is based at Port St. Charles. BU is therefore forced to ask the $64,000.00 question. Should the Wards who own Silver Sands Hotel be forced to repay $753, 047. 85? Why would a 130 room hotel which received an injection of funds of such a significant amount have failed so quickly? Bear in mind the objective of the TIRF is the protection of employment levels within the sector.
BU reviewed the list of tourism players which received TIRF monies and frankly was floored at some of the names – we have listed a few below:
|10.1.2009||Skeete, Best & Co||$60,000.00|
|10.1.2009||Skeete, Best & Co||$40,000.00|
|27.5.2009||Silver Sands Hotel||$460,240.70|
|27.5.2009||Indar Weir Travel||$10,937.68|
|27.5.2009||WMB Financial Tech – Indar Weir||$12,000.00|
|27.5.2009||All Seasons Resort||$53,966.60|
|28.5.2009||MDG Corp Service – Tech Ass WSB||$1,462.00|
|26.06.2009||Skeetes, Best & Co||$60,500.00|
|18.11.2009||Radical Watersports Inc||$11,093.62|
|18.11.2009||Silver Sands Hotel||$292,807.15|
In future if the government sees a need to provide TIRF monies to any sector, BU recommended that directors of companies who apply sign off on personal guarantees among others. Taxpayers money is not monopoly money!