In this “hard guava crop” period, where the economy has made money become a scarce commodity, nothing hurts as much as to see it being wasted.
On Tuesday, Nathan Dundas, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association, charged that money was wasted in the latest sweep of the St John’s Harbour. According to Dundas, government will have to return to the drawing board and make additional changes to accommodate much larger vessels. This is allegedly as a result of poor management of the operation.
We are aware that millions of dollars were spent on rectifying problems that persisted and which had severely threatened our fragile tourist industry. There have been occasions where some of the larger vessels had reported difficulties berthing at the pier and a few had actually refused to dock, citing the reason as unsafe conditions that would damage them. It was concluded that the harbour had to be swept to alleviate that problem. We have been told that vessels had instead, opted to go to some of our neighbours, where they were not originally scheduled to visit, taking a chunk of the much needed business away from Antigua and Barbuda.
Through a loan from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, government spent US $3.9 million to perform the sweeping of the harbour. Plans and financing for a more comprehensive port upgrade have already been finalized. We are told that the pier is to be extended and the port dredged as a part of an overall US $200 million. This port redevelopment is expected to begin next year.
Dundas has declared that, “millions were spent and we have to go back again and spend more to ensure that the basin is widened”. He further insisted that, “some more should have been done in terms of better planning to ensure that we don’t have to go back again and do another set of dredging, which we have to do again.” Dundas pointed his finger in the direction of the Antigua Port Authority, an entity he believes was not qualified to manage the project. He concluded that the Port Authority lacks the experience to handle the task and that The Antigua Pier group would have been a better choice.
These accusations, if correct, are a grave indictment on the manner in which that project was handled.
Against the backdrop of the fiscal challenges that the government faces, one would think that prudence and farsightedness would be the guiding factors when spending the nation’s money. It is disheartening to hear that the US $3.9 million could and should have been spent in a better manner. When there is another option, the more practical and pragmatic approach should be employed and the best choice be made for the spending of our money. We can ill afford to entertain the act of wastage.
The repeated rhetoric that “tourism is our nation’s main economy” and the claim that we are all beneficiaries of that service, should serve as the catalyst in making us respect and do all that we can to ensure the survival and longevity of that industry. There can be no room for incompetence and perceived acts of unwarranted nepotism which would cause the demise of the mainstay of our economy.
Every aspect of our tourist industry must be administered with nothing but proper consideration for the longevity and success for the future of that which keeps our nation afloat. We cannot afford to have ships full with ever precious tourists, refusing to dock at our piers and choosing instead to divert and land their passengers at other unscheduled destinations, simply because we are not equipped to accommodate them. We are faced with serious competitions and we must comprehend that we are not the only source of sun, sea and sand. The features that we offer are to be found in many other places that are carving out their niche in the world of preferred tourist destinations.
Nothing whatsoever should go unattended and our tourists should never be dissatisfied as we strive to ensure that they receive the ingredients that make them return to our shores and subsequently give excellent referrals about our country, their experiences and their visits to our shores.
We are however perturbed to discover that our efforts to keep our visitors satisfied have been marred by the accusations that poor management of the dredging of the port has intervened and interfered with our quest to remain as the premier tourist destination of the region.