By David Tapfer
When I was in business designing products, we often looked at what the competition was doing. We always tried to do better.
The Caribbean has had moderate success attracting tourists. The USA’s big state of Florida has done well.
TCI has a tourism product called “Beautiful by Nature”. It is our natural and historical attractions that bring tourists to our shores.
David Tapfer is a retired, US-born engineer and management executive. He is the former chairman of the Middle Caicos Branch of the Peoples Democratic Movement
Mr Dan Krassner is the executive director of “Integrity Florida”, a nonpartisan research institute. In a recent commentary in one of Florida’s leading newspapers, the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Krassner told readers what is currently holding back Florida's tourism growth.
Florida is seeking to attract 100 million tourists per year. Currently 90 million plus tourists visit the Sunshine State each year. Florida is a competitor to the TCI and The Bahamas, who are struggling to retain their smaller market shares. During the winter months, American and Canadian tourists flock to the warmth of Florida and its islands, the Florida Keys. There they enjoy sand, sea and beach. They visit historical sites from northernmost St Augustine to Florida's Key West.
According to Krassner, Florida’s tourism growth is being held back from achieving its goal by a reputation for corruption. Florida led the nation in local government corruption between 2000 and 2010. Krassner goes on to give a blueprint for repairing the damage this corruption has caused. If repairs are effected, he says Florida can attract capital, jobs and talent.
TCI is in the same position, so let us look at Krassner's blueprint for Florida. He starts by saying Florida must finish the job of ethics reform. The state government is passing legislation to improve transparency in district governments. Next, the integrity director says Florida needs to eliminate cronyism. Self dealing and awarding jobs and contracts to cronies must stop. Conflicts of interest must be prosecuted. There must be fair access to public office for all citizens.
There must be an open budget process, where the priorities are set from greater public participation.
Bid tampering, bid rigging and no bid awards must end, says Krassner. There must be published data for all spending of taxes so the public can see what programs are working and what are not. Krassner winds up his comments saying, “Policymakers must enact these reforms NOW to end corruption, protect jobs and secure Florida’s future.”
Unsaid is, lacking reform, present tourism numbers can evaporate.
Florida does have one of the best health care systems and attracts many retirees who bring their assets permanently south to the Sunshine State.
All of this sounds so familiar it is frightening. The previous and current administration is ignoring all of the above. The Speaker of the House, a crony, now tries to stall prosecutions, joining our premier to bring down a legal system that, while poor, is all we have. Cronyism continues, while working across party lines to achieve reform is nonexistent. If Krassner is right, and it is obvious he is, the future of the TCI under this administration from the FCO to the current ministries is mired with the same problems and bogged down.
In the last election, 56% of the voters chose a better blueprint laid down by the PDM but instead we ended up with more of the same.