I wish to applaud Montserrat’s Director of Tourism, Mrs Rosetta West-Gerald for her initiative to advance community/local tourism for the Tourism Week programme, as was advanced via a press release shared with MNI Alive last week.
According to Mrs West-Gerald, the initiative to experience Montserrat like a tourist “provides activities for residents to spend the day enjoying the island in a way many of us don’t take the time to do.”
Brilliant! Love it! Hoping that there is a respectable uptake by residents. MNI Alive supports your drive and your commitment to local/community tourism advancement, Madame Director. However, my piece today is not entirely about you Rosetta. Not that we don’t appreciate you here at MNI, but my thoughts extend to a wider issue I wish to expand upon and how what you are doing for Tourism Week correlates.
I pay keen attention to movements within the global geo-political and socio-economic conversations and how they interphase with the advancement of our overall human condition. To this end, the outlook for the global economy heading towards the end of 2022 and into 2023 does not appear at all exciting according to forecasters.
The issue facing many developed states, is one where they must now wrangle with what sectors growth will spring from with current conditions and the outlook for the future not being too optimistic. Either way, there are pockets of optimism, as policymakers are working to institute measures to lessen the economic pain to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged economies immensely. The war in Ukraine has also offered up a pounding on the global economic outlook. Thus, we have seen inflation skyrocket in much of the developed and developing world, with cost-of-living nearing or at crisis levels in many regions, as goods and services continue to rise.
Coupled with that, the United Kingdom is going through tense economic times; simultaneously delicate political waters equally. The Pound, the UK's currency has taken a beating over the past days with its value plummeting to record lows.
It is on this backdrop that I think of Montserrat's economic outlook and question – where to next for Montserrat?
My question stems from the fact that the UK remains Montserrat’s primary benefactor, with monies allocated towards both recurring and capital expenditure.
With the drop in the Pound, this by extension, translates into a drop in the amounts being received into the Montserrat treasury from the UK's budgetary assistance to the island. How will this impact development related projects? What additional pressures will this put upon an already struggling economy?
But the biggest question of all - how does the government of the day plan to mitigate against these looming dark clouds and ensure that further suffering and hardship does not befall the residents and citizens of Montserrat?
What is the plan Mr Premier and Co?
The temptation is there to see this as a global problem, so therefore the Mintserrat’s Leaders cannot do anything. Frankly, such a response would amount to nothing less than a politically lazy and unimaginative approach. It offers an ease for anyone in Leadership to say that their hands are tied and the lack of economic activity is not their fault. No accountability.
My response is rooted in the notion that if you are a forward thinking and progressive government, paying attention to the shifting winds in the global conversation around the economy, financial market movements and other such indicators, you would have realised that plans needed to be put in place to ensure that the blow-back on your people is not one that renders them beyond economic hope.
I am of the view that whilst our island has imported inflation impacting the cost of goods and some services, there is still an opportunity to advance a conversation that can sustain the local economy whilst the economic bad winds blow over.
Yes, spending will be decreased. It already has been anyway, pre-covid-19. But initiatives such as what Rosetta is advancing with local/community tourism can help to offer some semblance of hope for local businesses - bringing some turnover into their coffers.
In addition, Intra-regional tourism between Montserrat, St Kitts, St Martin, Guadeloupe, Nevis and Antigua could be a huge driver of earnings for local hospitality/service based businesses. This is why the loss of the ferry was such a bad decision that has absolutely fudged the island!
One thing that we all know could be a lucrative economic driver for Montserrat from a tourism perspective is volcano tours/abandoned city tours/ et al. Call it whatever creative name you may but once packaged and marketed correctly, this can be an attraction that can lift the economic fortunes of Montserrat in the interim. The idea is not new. It has been spoken about ad-nauseum.
With the UK under intense economic pressure and much more chaos to come, Montserrat cannot be going with begging hands like some politicians seem to think is the way out of the economic mess. We have got to innovate and create economic opportunities from within and around us until the wider global economic fortunes begin to shift for favourably.
The initiative by the Director of Tourism, Mrs West-Gerald is a move towards such internal enterprise to drive even minimal economic activity.