KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition spokesman on tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill has expressed concern about the move by Government to transfer funds collected by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to Central Government to support the budget rather than its intended purpose as a dedicated fund to ensure the sustainable development of our tourism industry.
Finance Minister Audley Shaw, at a post-budget media briefing on Monday, said the Government has commenced a forensic review of several agencies with a view to incorporating these in the administration’s central operations.
The minister highlighted the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund; Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA); and Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which he said have a combined surplus of $1.9 billion.
McNeill today argued that the TEF, which was set up over a decade ago following extensive consultations with stakeholders, was intended to revolutionise the tourism industry,
According to him, the enhancement fee collected from each visitor is meant to provide dedicated financing to sustain overseas marketing of the islands tourism offerings both in traditional and new markets as well as upgrade our tourism product.
He noted that commitments were given to our tour operator partners as well as local tourism stakeholders that the money collected would be managed by a board representative of the industry and Government.
This move, McNeill reasoned, betrays those commitments that were given, and will also damage the credibility of Government which must rely on partnerships to grow the economy.
“Having left office with the tourism sector experiencing levels of unprecedented growth and optimism, I am deeply concerned with the current activities which follow the sharp reduction already made in budgetary allocation from the TEF for overseas marketing,” said McNeill.
He further asserted that with so much more to be done on the development of public beaches and transformational projects in resort towns, the move is a retrograde one.
McNeill called on the Government to reconsider this plan, which, he said, goes against the spirit and intent of the partners who spearheaded the creation of the fund and fears we are aiming to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.