That elusive silver bullet

Like many, I too was ecstatic by the prospect of having two YdK (Curaçaoans) in the 2017 MLB World Series: Yankees’ Didi Gregorius and Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen. We know by now that only YdK Jansen made it. What caught my attention leading up to the Fall Classic however, was the presumption by a multitude of people -including politicians- that an avalanche of tourists, money and growth would come to our island by having our stars Didi and Kenley promote tourism. That simple. Yes, there we go again. In search of the ever elusive silver bullet instead of tackling the real problems. Of course these ball players would do an excellent job promoting our island, but that’s not the point. No country is prosperous because of some magic. It’s the result of hard work and sacrifice. If we don’t believe this let’s ask Didi and Kenley how they got to be at the top of their games.

My point is not baseball however, but tourism.

Measuring Labor Productivity in Curaçao, a working paper written by Shekinah Dare (Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, July 2017) estimates that the average productivity growth rate of the main actors in tourism was negative in the periods 2009-2012 and 2012-2015, registering -1.1% and -0.8%, respectively. The author also calculated that tourism as a sector scored below the average negative productivity growth for all sectors. This is very disconcerting because we have been advancing tourism as the most important economic pillar and asking for more money to promote this sector. Given the conclusion of this paper, are we on the right path? Should we keep thinking that by pumping more money into promotion without even touching the topic of labor productivity, we can grow our tourism and economy? Shouldn’t we be jumping into action?

This is not the first time I talk about the importance of labor productivity and a dynamic labor market. When I do, some politicians and union representatives cry foul for in their minds flexibility somehow is equal to labor abuse. A popular idea in the 1950s all around the world. Labor productivity is not about ‘hire and fire’ as some fear. It is certainly not about ludicrous proposals such as 80-20. It is a multifaceted approach: improving the employability of our human capital, investing in innovation and bettering of our migration policies. It’s time that we read and discuss the above mentioned paper. Hopefully at least one Member of Parliament -as was the case with my article about OECD noncompliance- picks this up. It is worth a Parliament discussion. People, the writing is on the wall and we must take action. Fact is that we are not going to unlock our economic potential if we don’t tackle these problems. If not, good luck finding that silver bullet.

Kathmandu, 5 november 2017


Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

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