From time to time in Grenada, there are things that make you go “hmmm”; that make you say, “no, this can’t be happening”; or, “no, this is not what was said or what was heard.”
Take, for instance, videotaped public comments uttered by National Democratic Congress leader Nazim Burke.
Now, only the very insane among us would deny that Burke is well schooled and a great orator, whose involvement as a student and teacher at institutions of higher learning demonstrates a sharp and disciplined mind.
One assumes that Burke’s impressive academic pedigree was a driving force in then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, after the NDC’s election victory in 2008, appointing Burke as Minister of Finance, Planning, Economic Development, Energy and Foreign Trade.
It was in his capacity as Finance Minister, in presenting the 2012 National Budget, that Burke made this pronouncement: “Mr Speaker, a perennial problem that has plagued our tourism industry over the years is the limited quality room stock and the absence of a signature brand hotel or resort. This deficiency has been exacerbated in the wake of the global economic recession, as a result of which several hotel development projects ground to a halt.
“Mr Speaker, our Government regards the commencement and completion of some of these projects as a foremost priority of the tourism sector, since their rejuvenation will provide badly needed jobs and more clout to negotiate airlift and more joint destination marketing.
“To that end, this Government has been working very closely with the tourism developers to make these projects a reality; not just by providing concessions and other investment incentives, but by actually working with them, hand in hand, to source development financing for these projects. In that regard, our office of Private Sector Development has been playing the role of match maker, bringing together these developers with potential co-developers and financiers.
“Moreover, in 2009, out of concern for the serious challenges faced by developers to access financing, the Government took the extraordinary step of applying for a concessional loan from the China Exim Bank to finance the development of the Mt Hartman/Hog Island Hotel Resort.
“Mr Speaker, over the last 15 years, the subject of the Hog Island Resort Project has come up in almost every budget presentation, with the hope expressed, in some promising way, that that this dream will become a reality. In all these years, these hopes have been dashed.
“Mr Speaker, after substantial effort and determination, this Government has made considerable progress towards realizing this Grenadian dream. And today, I am pleased to announce, on behalf of the NDC administration, that Grenada will have its first international 5-star resort at Mt Hartman/Hog Island.’’
After backing the Mt Hartman project, and claiming to have gone the extra mile to raise funds for a 5-star resort on the site, one is forced to go “hmmm’’ and assume Burke misspoke, when now in 2016, he appears to be criticizing a $2 billion investment that is said to have been secured for Mt Hartman.
Here’s what Burke is quoted as saying on the video: “We don’t know what is the business model that this person is coming to the table with that will allow them to invest $2 billion into Grenada.
“If they have $2 billion to invest, why they’re choosing to do it in Grenada? If it’s good money, why they’re choosing to do it in Grenada over Jamaica, or America, or the United Kingdom, or Europe, or somewhere else?”
Again, a baffling statement from a man who, as Minister of Finance of Grenada, had no qualms about the Mt Hartman development and hunted for foreign financing for the project. Comparing Burke’s position then and now, leaves one to go “hmmm’’.
A “hmmm’’ expression is also needed with an examination of what is passing as advertising and promotion for 2 upcoming major regional sporting events to be hosted by Grenada — the CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s football championship final and the 45th Junior CARIFTA Track and Field Games.
We, at Caribupdate Weekly, know almost all the personnel behind the planning of both the football tournament and the CARIFTA Games. And, we have absolutely no doubt that they are working overtime and assiduously to ensure the events are successful.
However, we suspect that the planning is beset by the same oversight or deficiency that faces many organizations, large and small: advertising and promotion in mass media are an afterthought; or, the organizers have budgeted little or no money for advertising and promotion, and are banking on leaning heavily on the mass media — radio, television and newspaper — for freebies, or are planning to flood them with daily or weekly press releases that they cannot guarantee will be broadcast or published by the media.
In recent years, local event organizers have also fallen victims to the lure of social media.
We agree that social media — including Facebook and Instagram — are useful and are part of the environment we live in today and we can’t avoid it. But, in a real sense, social media have become the new “lime on the block,” especially for Grenadians in the Diaspora who want to stay connected with what’s happening “back home.”
But for the thousands — even millions — who interact on social media, or are kept informed about Grenada’s hosting of the CONCACAF tournament and CARIFTA Games in March, how many will be physically present at the National Stadium? One of the prime concerns of organizers is to sell tickets and get very many buttocks in the chairs at the stadium. And, a prime target audience for achieving this goal should be Grenadians resident here. That’s where advertising and promotion should have come in; and we’re not just talking about a last-minute, helter-skelter effort, but what ought to have been a proper planned and sustained campaign.
We commend the work of the football and athletics officials and volunteers. But, in the area of advertising and promotion, we would have liked to see more done, over a longer period.
The CONCACAF football competition begins on March 3. The Carifta Games are from March 26–28. There is still time to launch an advertising and promotion blitz; something to further mobilize the nation and to make us go “wow,” instead of “hmmm!’’