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Dr Anthony Birchwood

One economist is warning of economic doom if Tobago does not begin to diversity its economy immediately.

Dr Anthony Birchwood, a Tobagonian and University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, says COVID-19 and its effects on the island’s tourism industry has “once again laid bare the stark reality that Tobago cannot continue to base its economy on tourism.”

“First it was the 9/11 impact on flying and the resultant drop in international tourist arrivals, now it’s COVID-19. In between, you had a drastic decrease in domestic arrivals. The island’s economy cannot continue to absorb these economic shocks,” Birchwood told Tobago Today.

“Tobago knows it cannot continue to rely on Trinidad for disbursements from the treasury and must do what it can to be self-sufficient. What if Trinidad did not have the resources to help Tobago, at this time? What would Tobago have done?”

To address the situation, he feels diversification must take place now.

Told that the idea of diversifying the economy has been around for years but these plans have always not be carried to full fruition, he stressed that steps must be taken now to implement the idea.

“We have the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park. Economic activity at the park should be used to drive the island’s economy and take Tobago out of its dependence on Trinidad,” the UWI economist lecturer said.

He said other tourism-dependent Caribbean islands have resorted to selling citizenship to wealthy persons as a way to boost their economy.

Asked if he was suggesting Tobago go that route, he said no.

“Not at all. I am simply stating that other islands who have been depending on tourism for years are not doing well economically. That means that we must recognise that and get out of heavy dependence on sea, sun and sand tourism immediately.”

He said the existing tourism product can enhance to include health and wellness tourism.

“Notice, I am not saying to get out of the tourism industry, altogether. We use existing hotels and guest houses, build some high-end establishments but sell more than sea, sun and sand. And of course, develop the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, at the same time,” Birchwood said.