Tourism, Energy, Investment, and Economic Development Minister Asot Michael, addressing the 78th Annual Delegates Conference of the Antigua and Barbuda Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) on Sunday, said he had just returned to the island following “an intense week” of discussions with cruise ship partners in the United States.
He said the talks were to secure even more cruise ship calls “to help offset the challenges that we will face with air arrivals this winter season.
“It is important that you are aware that we are doing everything possible to safeguard our tourism industry and by extension the livelihood of every citizen and resident of our beloved country. I am pleased to report that we have been able to secure an additional 57 cruise ship calls that will make 2017 the best ever year for cruise ship arrivals with over 900,000 cruise ship visitors expected by year end.”
Michael said that this growth trend will also continue into 2018 resulting in more jobs and more opportunities for citizens.
The Minister said he viewed the AT&LU conference as “one of the most important to be held in recent years, because of the economic and fiscal tests which our country is now undergoing, and because of the resulting implications for employment and jobs”.
He said the tourism sector has always been the engine that drives the local economy warning that the threat now to the sector “is real and imminent”.
He said the passage of Hurricane Irma through the Caribbean last month, destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of property, shattering many lives and livelihoods during its rampage.
“All of Barbuda’s residents had to be evacuated two days later, interrupting 300 years of continuous civilization on Barbuda. The palpable threat to our way of life, confirmed when Hurricane Maria, a week later, destroyed Dominica, has led us to conclude that our Caribbean civilization is under threat.”
He said the AT&LU “that took us out of poverty and ignorance, into the New Jerusalem, must again help to determine the way forward given the menace to its own legacy by hurricanes. It cannot be “business as usual.”
Michael said that the conference “can therefore choose to focus only on the pecuniary interests of workers, and conditions of work on their jobs.
“I believe that you must satisfy the delegates that their short-term interests are being served. However, the leadership must go beyond the customary and the banal. The AT&LU must also focus upon the harmful effects of global climate change, and pronounce upon the proposed solutions,” he said.
He reminded the delegates of the visit to the island by the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as a result of the hurricane damage done to Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica.
‘The effort to highlight the challenges of global climate change was brought to the United Nations by the representatives of the sovereign Caribbean in 1989, following the passage of Hurricane Hugo. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is a creature of our suffering.”
Michael urged the union to get an expert who can raise “our consciousness on the challenges and the solutions to global climate change.
“The AT&LU has always been ahead of the curve. A subject area that looks to the future of our Caribbean civilization is well within the mandate of the AT&LU. This institution challenged colonialism, challenged global and domestic racism, and successfully challenged empire.
“It must challenge the excesses that have brought us to this point where our nations’ very existence is under threat, and the economic engine can be destroyed,” Michael told delegates.
He said while he is predicting a bright 2017 season for the tourism sector and that “the big ships and the many aircraft will arrive here discharging hundreds of thousands of visitors, and spending millions of dollars that will help to make up for the shortfall experienced during the month just ended.
“However, we are aware that come June 2018, a new hurricane season will arrive, and the threats will commence again,” he warned.
- Countries: Antigua_Barbuda