In a press release, Hamilton suggested that the picture being painted by Skerritt, concerning the cruise passenger arrivals in St. Kitts, is an inaccurate and untrue indication of the actual state of the federation’s tourism industry.
In that release, Hamilton argued that, “While the Minister is citing hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passenger arrivals, the IMF is stating that receipts from tourism have been on a continuous decline since 2006…We hear drivers and tourism vendors complaining that things are not as rosy as the Minister has been indicating through his pronouncements and this report confirms that the cries and concerns were legitimate and not just a figment of the imagination, as the Minister may want us to believe.”
In a sharp response, Skerritt expressed that Hamilton is in “convenient denial of the Federation’s economic turnaround”.
Skerritt said, “It is well known that Eugene Hamilton and his political allies are conveniently in denial about anything that is good about our country’s economic transformation, including tourism growth…If tourism has been declining in St Kitts since 2006, why have the number of taxi and tour operators trebled, the number of vendors doubled, and the number of restaurants more than doubled since then? When we include all aspects of stopover, cruise, and education-tourism, visitor expenditure and its contribution to GDP has practically exploded here in the past 5 years.”
Skerritt suggested that Hamilton, who “probably does not understand the linkages to tourism of millions of dollars of real estate investments which have taken place since 2006”, “is conveniently blinded to the significant growth of the tourism-related revenues…since 2006.”
Now Hamilton, in an exclusive interview with MiyVue.com, has rebuked the Tourism Minister’s defensive comments, indicating that to date, “Skerritt has not addressed the issue at hand, but has resorted to launching a personal attack”.
“I am told that the Minister, instead of responding to the concerns raised by me in my statement, has gone on what is a personal attack, an attack on me and my party. He has not addressed the issues raised by me in my report and if the Minister wants to attack me personally, then he must not use this opportunity to do it. If he wants somebody to attack, it is the IMF…”
Hamilton said Skerritt’s suggestion that the increase in the number of taxi operators is indicative of increased tourism activity, is unfounded, noting that the increase is as a direct result of the 2005 closure of the sugar industry.
“He is making reference, for example, to the fact that the number of taxi drivers has increased. Does not the Minister recall that the number of licenses given out to taxis operators, was primarily to satisfy that they, (government), closed the sugar industry in 2005, and sent a lot of people home, with nothing to do, and it was a way to pacify them? It’s not because of a legitimate, outrageous demand. As a matter of fact, it is the very reason why the taxi drivers and owners and operators are today, in such an uproar over the way things are handled at Port Zante.”
The Opposition MP said the IMF has outlined certain measures, which the country must take, if it is to dig itself out of the fiscal quagmire, in which it has found itself. Hamilton explained that if these measures are not taken, he fears for the future of the country.
“The bottom line is this; this government has mismanaged…has wasted and thrown away our money. Richard Skerritt was part of that. If the doctor says you must take some medicine and you wake up every morning and don’t take the medicine, then chances are you will get worse and probably die. St. Kitts has medicine to take and if the likes of Richard Skerritt and whoever else, would not stand up and recognize that they have to take medicine then I am sorry for St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Several attempts were made to contact Skerritt at his office and on his mobile phone to get his view on Hamilton’s response but these attempts have proven futile. MiyVue was informed by the Ministry of Tourism, that the Minister is currently “off island”.