Dukharan questions socio-economic benefits of tourism

There is not enough data to show if The Bahamas’ “overdependence on tourism” is doing the country any good, Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan said yesterday, explaining that despite the growth in tourism over the years, there have not been improvements in human development, inequality or corruption.

Dukharan, during a presentation at RF Economic Outlook, said while her opinion on tourism is wildly unpopular, this country does not have the data to show what the impact of tourism has been on socio-economic development.

“It’s just my guess. Human development is deteriorating. Inequality is worsening. Corruption is not improving, and institutional strengthening is not happening,” said Dukharan.

“The tax system is regressive and therefore pro-poverty. We need to measure poverty and have a solid poverty and inequality reduction and human development strategy in The Bahamas. That is the future of the Bahamas.

“And we need to support women in work in The Bahamas. They need to be part of the solution.

“Come on people. We don’t need the government to tell us to do this. The private sector does not need to be told to support women and families. This is a no brainer.

“You know people talk about low-hanging fruit. This is not low-hanging fruit. This is fruit that’s falling off the trees onto the ground.”

She contended that the diversification of the economy and the tourism product has to be led by local entrepreneurs who not only grow the tourism sector, but also grow other industries, including food.

According to Dukharan, the education system must also catch up with the changing world in order to give future Bahamians the best chance to contribute meaningfully to the economy.

“I think the government is the wrong entity to decide which sectors the economy should diversify into. That’s the job of entrepreneurs,” she said.

“One of the things that strikes me about all of these countries in the Caribbean that are heavily dependent on tourism, is that, you know, kids growing up in school and what we teach our kids kind of limits them in a way, because they’re used to seeing this particular economic structure.

“What about teaching our kids and preparing our kids like the prime minister of Grenada said, ‘for work that has never existed’, because we’re still teaching children the way that my parents were taught in school, and that’s not going to prepare them for the job market of the future, it’s gonna prepare them for the job market of today.

“And for us to be stuck in these industries… I think it starts with education. It starts with equipping young people with the skills that deliberately equip them for jobs that are not the ones that exist today only. And also not necessarily the jobs that exist within our borders.”

Dukharan said it is time for Caribbean nations to begin feeding themselves based on the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia’s war in Ukraine, that caused supply chain issues across the world. 

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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