Christie Speaks to Regional Leaders in Guyana on Regional Tourism and Crime

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Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie MP is shown accepting a token of thanks from Guyana Rotary President Doodnauth Persaud in Georgetown, Guyana, after addressing Rotary ‘World Understanding Month’ at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in the Guyanese capital.

Georgetown, Guyana – Progressive Liberal Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie MP was in Georgetown, Guyana at the weekend. Mr. Christie delivered an address on the occasion of Rotary ‘World Understanding Month’ at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in the Guyanese capital. In the wide ranging talk, Mr. Christie made the case for regional tourism, encouraging Guyana to take advantage of its opportunities, while helping both itself and the region. He noted that, taken as a whole, “the Caribbean has one of the highest rates of repeat visitors in the world.”

The Opposition Leader championed the idea of regional tourism to build repeat business, saying “What would make the entire Caribbean shudder is if Guyana began to present it self for what it is: the Caribbean’s vacation supermarket. From birding, to safaris to rodeos to festivals to waterfalls to inland beaches… Guyana has it all.”

Speaking to the issue of crime in the region, Mr. Christie said “The current major impact of crime points to the need for urgent action and requires us, as a region, to confront our common challenges.

“In The Bahamas, the parliament appointed a bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on Crime, but none of this can or will work unless there is an understanding and a commitment from the people of our countries to work together.

“There is in my view no other way to address the long term problems associated with crime, a social and economic phenomenon, that we must understand and solve if our societies are to further develop and not be overwhelmed by drugs, guns and social dysfunction.

“I am sure that we can learn a lot from each other.
The former Prime Minister issued a call to the region for “common responses to common problems.

“We must focus on the duty of politicians to maintain high standards of public discourse and behaviour which promote tolerance and understanding as the essential pre-condition for building consensus, peace and development;

“We must focus on the obligation of Governments to enact laws, establish institutions, to provide an economic environment that enables citizens to be productive, to deliver social services and to undertake actions that promote harmony between cultures, races and religions;

“We must focus on the role of citizens, civil society groups, public, private sector and other organisations in reconciling differences and reducing misunderstandings;

“We must focus on the responsibilities of media to encourage discussion by presenting differences and dissent in ways that reduce prejudices, encourage consensus-building, advocate tolerance and promote understanding.

“I say that we must recognise the one undeniable fact that those of us who have the honour and the privilege to govern, in its broadest sense, those of us in Government and in Opposition must shoulder our extraordinary obligation to bring our constituents to accept that we must all – all of us – work together to secure our future.”

 THE FULL TEXT OF MR. CHRISTIE’s REMARKS

Address by
The Right Honourable Perry G. Christie
Leader of the Opposition
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
On the Occasion of
Rotary World Understanding Month

Annual Dinner
Le Meridien Pegasus,
Georgetown, Guyana

Friday, 15th February, 2008

Salutations

I am pleased to be here in Georgetown, Guyana.

This is the capital that the Caribbean writer V.S. Naipaul described as the most charming capital in the Caribbean.

It is my great pleasure to bring greetings from the ‘Isles of Perpetual June’ to this great ‘Land of the Six Peoples‘.

With your incredible diversity of landscapes and peoples, I would swear that I am in paradise, that is, if I didn’t just leave it behind.

I want to thank my good friend and a good friend of The Bahamas, for facilitating this visit. He too hails from Guyana.

I speak of none other than Hugh Cholmondley.

I have known him from his days as a broadcaster.  I was therefore only too happy to accept this invitation to be here.

It was more than forty years ago that I developed an enriching relationship with a number of Guyanese studying at University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, including Elvin McDavid and Compton Bourne, now Governor of the Caribbean Development Bank.

My Guyanese friends even tried to make me into a member of their steel-pan band.

They tried me out on the bass pans and painstakingly pointing out to me where and exactly how I was supposed to hit the notes.  I had to point out that although the Lord gives many gifts, that was not one with which he blessed me.

This was at a time when Lance Gibbs, Rohann Khani were playing cricket in the area of our university and when the West Indies Cricket Team was a source of great inspiration and pride to all of us in the United Kingdom.

I say all of these things to say that in coming here and speaking to you this evening, my feet are on solid ground.

I’m pleased also to thank Rotary for inviting me to share in the anniversary celebrations of your organization and to congratulate you for the extraordinary work that you do worldwide.

There is no finer cause to highlight and support than world understanding, because it is humankind’s best hope of continuing on this planet while improving the quality of life for all.

In promoting world understanding, one can offer no greater argument than Rotary’s own record of accomplishment in this regard.

Rotary has brought together in enduring fellowship, a membership consisting of people of every race, ethnicity, colour, creed and a great variety of political persuasions and nationalities.  In so doing, you have, in fact, outpaced many.

Your focus on the development of people rather than abstractions is admirable; as is your focus on education and sharing knowledge.

Doubtless, this is the glue that has held Rotary together for a remarkable 103 years.  May God grant you many more rewarding years.

Given your endurance and success, perhaps your method of creating a forum for the exchange of ideas and information offers an avenue for uniting our region and, eventually, lessening the destructive tensions of our world.

Norman Girvan, one of our leading Caribbean economists, in a recent paper observed that there is a huge “information deficit” in the Caribbean.

This holds true in many ways.  The relationship between The Bahamas and our Caribbean brothers and sisters has been greatly challenged by considerable geographical distances and a paucity of means of timely information exchange between our peoples on any meaningful level.

In turn, these lacunae have tended to hamper the development of the mutual respect and recognition of commonalities that can lead to more beneficial cooperation.

Tonight I want to share some thoughts about the region and its development.

You know that we in The Bahamas have a slightly different perspective on the developments in the region.

Our public policy is best described as that of functional cooperation.

My government made the decision to allow the revised Treaty of Chaguaramus to go into effect without The Bahamas being part of the single market and economy.  This was a result of extensive consultations at home.

We opted however to continue to participate in all the organs of the Community.

We opted to ensure that The Bahamas was at the table in all the decision making to the extent that we could. This includes amongst other things education, health policy, law, and culture.

The new administration in The Bahamas has followed that same brief.  Our policy was right and sensible.  It just makes sense.

It just makes sense when you can see the trends throughout the region from Bermuda to Guyana and Suriname that all territories must co-operate and share our experiences in governance, in matters relating to our economies and in our social agendas.

Since 2006 beginning in St. Vincent there have been general elections.

St. Vincent was followed by Guyana, St. Lucia, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago…

Then there were elections in the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Bermuda, Belize.

Shortly, we expect that Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis will have their elections.  It was interesting to watch all the same themes being addressed, the same pressures and similar responses.

It is clear then that we can learn from each other.

We are all small developing societies with the peculiar constructs of our economies that increasingly will be dominated by services as we march further into the 21st century.

We have, with some success, confronted the challenge of encouraging the participation of our citizens in securing our democracy in a world faced with emerging challenges that threaten our way of life and our very existence.

These are challenges that we cannot avoid.  We must continue to build partnerships and improve the quality of our consultations and our discussions in order to draw on the wisdom and good sense of our citizens who make up what we call ‘civil society.’

We have no choice but to work together in facing these challenges for which failure is not an option.

We must together, for example, address the formidable consequences of climate change and global warming.

We must continue to confront problems of human suffering and persistent poverty in our societies.

We must devise new, creative economic and social strategies that assist our citizens to become better educated, more self-reliant, better skilled and more productive.

We must strive to better understand the changing world and the evolving contentious issues of domination between countries and the pitfalls of competition between businesses.

We must help to resolve the coming conflicts between religions and ideologies.  In short, we must continue the fight against intolerance and misunderstanding.

In dealing with our own region, first, let me say that the Caribbean of which I speak is not an area bound by specific lines of latitude and longitude that exclude many of us.

I speak, instead, of a Caribbean borne out of the pains of slavery and indenture, shaped by intersections of history and migration, fed by crisscrossed bloodlines and mutual contributions and sustained by our continual struggle for self-determination.

We are a family, from Bermuda to Guyana, from The Bahamas to tiny Virgin Gorda, from Belize to Barbados.  However, we are a family that is only now beginning to stay in touch with each other.

To me is it no accident that the region now has a tourism based economy.  The Bahamas led the way in this.

At one time, the region was largely agriculture and mining…

Today services including tourism and financial services lead the way.  The Bahamas made an essential contribution to this development.

Perhaps of greatest importance is the risk Bahamians took in demonstrating that national development could be funded by tourism.  It is a lead that many others in our region have been encouraged to follow.

This is especially so since the challenges made to small Caribbean economies by the change in European Community trade protocols. These migrations, inputs and exchanges provided the building blocks for the modern Bahamas and, no doubt, many of our sister nations.

Once considered as a luxury item, “the vacation” has become now such a necessity that tourism is indisputably the greatest vehicle of global exchange today.

The vacation surpasses even agriculture in the global economy.

In the global exchange, we provide millions of Americans, Canadians and Europeans each year with an escape from the cold, from everyday pressures and the routine of work.

Tourism is therefore critically important to the life of the region and to the livelihood of our people.

Long ago, we laid to rest the myth that tourism was too fickle, too unreliable, too fragile an industry to serve as a viable primary engine for national development.

How ironic now to find that it is to tourism that we must turn to escalate the process of development even in the least developed areas of our region.

The World Tourism Organisation’s Secretary–General, recently said:
“Tourism has proved to be an effective way to address several of the Millennium Goals, especially goal Nº 1 related to poverty alleviation, but also those concerning the promotion of environmental sustainability and gender equality.
“Tourism, which is growing faster than the global economy, is spreading geographically with destinations in developing and least developed countries achieving higher growth rates than those in Europe or North America.
“Furthermore, tourism reaches even the most remote rural areas, providing often the sole sustainable development opportunity to isolated, poor communities.”
Guyana is known for the education and training of its citizens.  We in The Bahamas have benefited from that education and training, the skills have not been lost to the region.

However, we recognize that there will always be differences because of where we are located.  The Bahamas is closer to the United States and so is much more likely to be influenced by the economic and political events there.

Guyana, on the other hand, is geographically in South America and so will have demands and policies that are peculiar to Guyana’s geographical and economic circumstances but we can all learn from each other.

We must get the world to know that this is a distinctive and special region and Guyana can and should play a significant part and reap its share of the benefits.

Despite its physical location, Guyana because of its history and traditional affiliations is considered a part of the Caribbean, which is a very fortunate fact, for the Caribbean has the distinction of being viewed around the world as the most desirable place for vacation travel.

This view of the Caribbean has been maintained for decades in the face of some of the most distressful statistics such as those reported in the Economist less than two weeks ago.

For those who did not read the report, it was about the high level of crime in our region, a subject to which I will return.

In fact, I understand that people around the world are more aware of the Caribbean than they are aware of any of the constituent member states of the Caribbean.

But there is more about the perception and understanding of the Caribbean that is just as astonishing.

Through decades of experience, the travelling public has come to see the Caribbean as a place of great variety and great diversity.

If one were to look at the repeat visit rate to the Caribbean as compared to the repeat visit rate to particular countries, the Caribbean has one of the highest rates of repeat visitors in the world.

This pattern is found in the Caribbean because of the perceived variety and diversity that is the Caribbean.

Make no mistake about it however, it is most important that each visitor experience is so good that when they return home they recommend Guyana to their friends and elatives. That is the sustaining factor.  We want people to say how wonderful their Guyana vacation was so that other visitors are drawn back to the Caribbean.

What would make the entire Caribbean shudder is if Guyana began to present it self for what it is: the Caribbean’s vacation supermarket. From birding, to safaris to rodeos to festivals to waterfalls to inland beaches    . . .Guyana has it all.

But there is more still. One of the unassailable facts about tourism is that proximity matters.

Proximity really does matter a great deal.  That is why I have always been amazed by that lack of promotion of Caribbean destination in South and Central America.

This is especially true for Guyana, which is closer to many South and Central American countries than it is to any of the traditional major markets of the Caribbean as a whole.

I go further still. I am also amazed by the degree to which Caribbean countries take their Diaspora for granted.

There is really only one market that you own and that is the market that is comprised of persons of Guyanese origin and Guyanese descent around the world.

None of this is meant to be critical of any of the current efforts of Guyana or any other Caribbean destination.

Most of these opportunities that I can now speak about expansively are relatively new because of one simple reason.  Few of us had the resources in recent years and few of us have the resources today to address some of these markets in any special way.

But a quiet and powerful revolution is occurring in the tourism business in recent years that is as important to tourism development as the jet airplane. That development is the internet.

Instead of needing to have an office in a source market, we only need a web site and sufficient funding to let people know about its existence.

In this regard, I applaud the efforts of your tourism authority, which is clearly beginning to take advantage of these opportunities presented by the internet.

Tourism is not a career, tourism is not an industry, tourism is an economic sector because the architects that design hotels are in the tourism business, the engineer who certifies the plans is in the tourism business, the construction workers that build the hotel are in the tourism business, the businesses that supply the hotel are in the tourism business, the doctors that treats the visitor who falls ill is in the tourism business, the software writer who modifies the hotel check in system is in the tourism business, the mechanic who repairs the taxi is in the tourism business.

One day we will come to understand that tourism is nothing more than GDP that comes to our economy as a result of the economic activities of visitors and its ripple effect is greater than the ripple effects of any other business.

In my first statement here in Georgetown in 2002, I told Caricom Prime Ministers that what we had to address region wide was a lack of information by ordinary citizens of what their leaders had committed them to.

I now describe it as an information deficit.  By this I mean that too often the ordinary man or woman in Guyana does not know what is going on in  The Bahamas.

Indeed, the ordinary Bahamian did not know what is going on in Guyana, and how similar the problems are and  for that matter how similar the solutions could be.

So in participating in Caricom, The Bahamas took the position that it is important to share common resources and apply it to the solutions with each country maintaining and protecting its own identity.

Recently, all Caricom countries signed onto the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

This agreement changed the way we do business with our traditional trading partners in the European Union.  It means that even greater change is on the way in the region and its economy.

We in The Bahamas have to understand that Guyana has an agricultural base.

Similarly then with The Bahamas, you will understand the notion of functional cooperation where the peculiar circumstances of our immigration issues and relationships to North America dictate nuances in our public policy.
The editorial in today’s paper here in Guyana quoted extensively from a report on crime from The Economist Magazine and how societies in the Caribbean are so vulnerable because of the problem of crime.

In a recent debate in our own Parliament in The Bahamas, I referred to same magazine article, which described the worsening crime situation in the Caribbean, including mentions of both The Bahamas and Guyana.

We know the issues.  We know the recent stories.  What matters is that the stories and the fact of crime itself is damaging to our countries and to the region.

My government recognized this and put in place a youth programme and a programme of Urban Renewal and to use the police force and the social services together to intervene in the lives of young people and in families and communities before the decisions are made to turn to crime.

The current major impact of crime points to the need for urgent action and requires us, as a region, to confront our common challenges.

In The Bahamas, the parliament appointed a bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on Crime, but none of this can or will work unless there is an understanding and a commitment from the people of our countries to work together.

There is in my view no other way to address the long term problems associated with crime, a social and economic  phenomenon, that we must understand and solve if our societies are to further develop and not be overwhelmed by drugs, guns and  social dysfunction.

I am sure that we can learn a lot from each other.

We must focus, then on common responses to common problems.

We must focus:
On the duty of politicians to maintain high standards of public discourse and behaviour which promote tolerance and understanding as the essential pre-condition for building consensus, peace and development;

We must focus:
On the obligation of Governments to enact laws, establish institutions, to provide an economic environment that enables citizens to be productive, to deliver social services and to undertake actions that promote harmony between cultures, races and religions;

We must focus:
On the role of citizens, civil society groups, public, private sector and other organisations in reconciling differences and reducing misunderstandings;

We must focus:
On the responsibilities of media to encourage discussion by presenting differences and dissent in ways that reduce prejudices, encourage consensus-building, advocate tolerance and promote understanding.

In conclusion, I say that we must recognise the one undeniable fact that those of us who have the honour and the privilege to govern, in its broadest sense, those of us in Government and in Opposition must shoulder our extraordinary obligation to bring our constituents to accept that we must all – all of us – work together to secure our future.
—  end  —

1 COMMENT

  1. What a credit this genius of a man is to The Bahamas. Bahamians, and I don’t mean PLPs and FNMs, I mean BAHAMIANS, need to rally around stellar Bahamians who make us proud abroad and at home.
    We won’t wait till he passes on (perish the thought) to laud him and his contributions to The Bahamas.
    I think it is unfortunate the route the Hon. Hubert Ingraham has undertaken to undermine and discredit everything Mr. Christe and his administration have done. The prime minister needs to be more statesmanlike and a positive role model for Bahamian youth.

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