OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley has dismissed as "ole talk" claims by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that Trinidad and Tobago loses more than $200 million a year in tourism revenue as a result of crime.
Persad-Bissessar made the statement in Haiti on Monday as she opened discussions at Caricom's Inter-Sessional Meeting on strengthening the regional crime and security agenda.
"In my own country, I am advised, it has been estimated that US$35 million is lost annually in tourism revenue," Persad-Bissessar said.
Persad-Bissessar is responsible for Crime and Security in the Caricom's quasi-cabinet.
During a press conference yesterday at the Charles Street, Port of Spain office of the Opposition Leader, Rowley questioned the validity of the figure supplied by Persad-Bissessar.
"I question the figure because I would like to know the basis of the figure and whose research generated that and until I can identify the source of that research I will dismiss it as just ole talk."
Rowley said the figure could be "much, much higher" or conversely even lower than the figure supplied by the Prime Minister.
"It (the loss) could be much, much higher or it could be lower...it is just a figure thrown up there to make a speech, but on the other hand what concerns me is the Prime Minister would say that in the Haitian environment in front of regional functionaries to make a speech sound good but in Trinidad and Tobago they were saying all the time 'there is no problem, there is no problem, the economy is not being affected, the economy is growing, green shoots are sprouting'."
Rowley referred to the fact that in 2011 when the country had a State of Emergency, T&T was given two awards—"World's Best Tourism Destination 2012" and "Favourite Cultural Destination 2012"—from the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT).
"The two things do not square, in one breath spending money to accept this award which you believed we deserved for being the best destination awarded to us by some European charlatans and now we hearing crime is costing us.
"What is the truth?" Rowley said.
He said it would have been better if Persad-Bissessar made the statement on local shores for the issue to have been debated in Parliament.
"We would have preferred to have heard that in Trinidad and Tobago so we could debate it here because when we spoke about that last year and the year before, the Government was telling us all was well and there is no loss and the economy was booming, but yet we are now being told from Haiti that there are some significant losses taking place with respect to the crime situation and our response to the criminal environment in Trinidad and Tobago," said Rowley. —See Page 10