By the Caribbean Journal staff
Caribbean youth unemployment is the “greatest scourge of our time,” according to Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie.
But there’s a way to help solve the problem, Christie says, by focusing on the region’s biggest economic driver: tourism.
“I know that for some, tourism may be redolent of a part of our history that we would want to keep barricaded. For most of
our countries, tourism is the largest earner of foreign exchange. For most of our countries, tourism is the largest employer.
For all of our countries tourism absorbs the broadest range of skills of any economic sector,” Christie told Caribbean heads of government at the recent CARICOM Summit in Barbados. “For all of our countries, tourism is the one sector for which there is no such thing as a jobless recovery. The very nature of tourism requires more people to be hired with increasing number of visitors. If unemployment especially youth unemployment is the scourge ofour times, there appears to be no better economic sector for us to embrace in leading us closer to the promises that we have made to our lands.”
Christie, who held the Tourism portfolio in the most recent CARICOM Cabinet, said he came to this view not just because of the “intrinsic benefits” tourism delivers, but “when we look at the world today and at the various global trading blocs that have been formed and when we examine the various initiatives being pursued by CARICOM, it seems to me that the one natural bloc from which our CARICOM nations have much to gain is the God=given bloc accorded us by having within the Caribbean the
most salubrious conditions for existence on our planet.”
He also urged leaders to give tourism “much more attention” at regional meetings.
“I am persuaded that tourism development and all that it entails is the fastest path to reducing unemployment in our region and the fastest path to reducing the debt burdens that terrifies upcoming generations,” he said. “We are supposed to make each generation better. I fear that we are on the brink of leaving the next generation with a much greater burden to carry if we don’t begin to focus on ways to make our natural strengths stronger.”