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Crime, a thief of night life

Thursday, February 16 2017

Crime has been a problem that has occupied the center of national discussions for a long time. The extent of the problem has seen the Government elevate its importance to the point that it is now responsible for the largest allocation of the last national budget.

This newspaper has carried many a piece on the impact of crime, both on the society as well as the economy.

Recently, there was an article that reported on the ranking of countries based on the crime rate as carried by the Gazette Review (GR). In that article the GR ranked countries based on United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime statistical reports, National Crime Index Reports, Reports on National Corruption and Reports of non-government paramilitary actions.

This was to ensure a wide-ranging understanding of crime, not just at the individual, but also at the societal level.

Of the high crime rate countries ranked 1 to 10, Trinidad and Tobago was ranked number 7. Certainly, contributing to this ranking was the murder rate of 30 per 100,000 inhabitants. In addition, there were the high incidents of thefts which occur within the country. There is also the narcotics trade, with drug distribution and kidnappings certainly having an upward spiral over the past decade or two.

Certainly, the repeated headlines of horrendous murders and high criminal activity can be expected to deter tourists, foreign direct investment (FDI) and night life in the country.

Only on Sunday we had news of the horrific death of a female footballer in Tobago. It is certainly interesting to see in the daily newspaper, reports that suggest the tourist arrivals in Tobago have fallen from a high of 80,000 per year to just around 19,000 last year. While admittedly crime is just one factor that has been suggested to account for the fall off tourists, it is a factor that requires different types of attention.

The government needs to investigate this. Certainly, verifying the magnitude of the fall-off in tourist arrivals is critical. The consequence of such a fall-off includes loss of foreign exchange earnings, loss of income to hoteliers and guesthouse owners, loss of jobs and worst bankruptcy and liquidation of failed establishments.

While the industry is complaining about a fall-off in tourists, a review of some of the databases containing tourist arrivals does show a fall off since 2012 but not as dramatic as newspaper reports suggest. Admittedly the data from the World Bank and World Tourism Organization does not disaggregate the data by region within the country which makes verifying that there is a problem and the size of the problem vital to tourism in Tobago, one of national concern. Data is only available up to 2008 on the Ministry of Tourismís website, but this, whilst important, must not detract from the challenge faced by Tobago tourism.

After all, unfortunately it is the perception that can inform the reality about this country for many a tourist.

What is the perception? In addition, identifying the transmission channels that affect the economy of Tobago, and Trinidad, from a fall in tourist arrivals, estimating the multiplier effects, as well as the total economic impact are research areas that should be given some prominence. Certainly, we need to examine those countries from which tourists come, which are showing a massive reduction and investigate why this is happening.

This is critical to our economic planning and diversification thrust.

Indeed, not only are our hoteliers affected but so too it appears are our restaurant owners. Night life and just a simple night out to purchase a meal is being affected. It must be noted that some establishments have taken to hiring extra security, but this is a cost that will ultimately affect the bottom line.

We must address crime comprehensively. It is affecting businesses, economic life, peopleís livelihood and life in general. We would encourage the Prime Minister to nuance his message on crime in his national conversations. Strong leadership, a clear plan, enlisting citizensí assistance and providing comforting words: thatís leadership.

There is no place for arrogant display.

What we need is compassion and action.



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