There is a furore about politicians awarding themselves huge pay increases at a time when Jamaica is ravished by inflation, high interest rates and civil servants battling to secure adequate salary rises ( teachers, dental workers, the police ambulance workers).
Was this insensitivity or damn right callousness?
The Opposition reversed itself, first saying it was all hunky dory and that it would willingly accept the hike in pay then said that decision should be halted until the civil servants were treated fairly.
What is clear is that these politician pay hikes have the country all a tizzy with everyone and their dog making demands for pay rises.
Nigel Clarke will have a job on his hands sourcing that money and will find it near impossible to ask for forbearance and people being reasonable at a time when the country is coming out of COVID and dealing with the ravishes of the war in Ukraine.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
One Cabinet member who deserves that bump in pay is the irrepressible Minister of Tourism Ed Bartlett.
The COVID pandemic saw the tourism industry crippled. It is Jamaica’s leading earner of foreign exchange. It was a daunting prospect, and it would tax the abilities of any minister, leading him or her to give up hope and succumb to the tide of depression.
Not Ed Bartlett. He rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in, mobilising the players in the sector and his ministry.
He introduced a number of measures to keep Jamaica’s tourism sector afloat, most notably the Resilient Corridor in June 2020. This was a masterstroke that allowed the sector not to prosper but to survive.
The Corridor was from the north coast (Negril to Port Antonio); the south coast from Bluefields Bay, eastward to Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth along the coast to Clarendon and New Kingston and its environs.
This controlled tourists’ movements to within the Corridor and saw all protocols rigidly adhered to.
Jamaica was one of the first countries to reopen its tourism sector.
In those early months of the COVID pandemic, Bartlett took a lot of heat for opening the sector too soon and for accommodating visitors which could have seen the virus decimate the population. The cautious among us can be forgiven for voicing concerns.
His instincts and approach proved right and he was exalted as a hero and not denigrated as the villain.
The vicissitudes of fortune.
Bartlett literally brought back the sector on his own back, leading the charge.
In 2021, Jamaica saw 1.3 million visitors which generated a total spend of US$2 billion.
The following year saw a jump of 3.3 million visitors netting the country some US $3.7 billion, a 72 per cent increase when compared to 2021’s figure.
Between January 1, 2023 and May 10, Jamaica saw 1.6 million visitors which has earned the country US$1.69 billion putting the destination on par with 2019’s record figures.
Monthly stopover arrivals began to surpass 2019 figures as of June 2022 and it is expected that 2023 will show a full recovery in annual figures, ahead of previous estimates that full recovery would manifest in 2024, with projections of 3.8 million visitors and foreign exchange earnings of US$4.1 billion.
This is a remarkable achievement and one that should go down in the annals of history. The level of hard work, professionalism and ingenuity is unimaginable.
Talk of productivity by politicians and government ministers- there needs to be a picture of Ed Bartlett as far as that goes in Jamaica.
The man practically lives in the sky, flying across the word drumming up business in the United Arab Emirates, London, India and countries in Europe. He makes rare appearances on terra firma – from time to time.
That kind of commitment, you just can’t buy. He is an exemplar to other Cabinet ministers.
Speaking last night at the grand ceremonial opening of Sandals Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, Ed Bartlett announced that Jamaica is on course to have its best summer yet with 1.2 million airline seats booked and a load factor of 87.5 per cent with 1.1 million visitors flying in from the United States alone.
Now that’s got to be the best news all week!
You can’t begrudge Ed Bartlett that bump in pay now can you?