Barbados government angry at UK press

Barbados Tourism Minister Richard Sealy
By George Alleyne

A report in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper on the distresses afflicting Barbados ranging from economic to environmental health matters, has government politicians up in arms, while the political opposition is expressing shame.

In an article headlined, ‘The stench of economic decay is overwhelming Barbados,’ the Telegraph’s business editor, Julia Bradshaw, warned a week ago that “Barbados stinks. It really does,” as she reported on the vexing issue of sewage spilling onto the roads on the island’s south coast, resulting in the closure of several establishments and hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to hoteliers.

The writer claimed that because of the stench tourists were leaving and many who have not yet arrived were cancelling flights.

Among other issues the article addressed are what it described as a ‘toxic mix of incompetence and economic mismanagement,’ and violence in schools.

Leader of the main political opposition, Mia Mottley, said the report is “a commentary on Barbados that is so sad that we feel shame.”

“When they can talk about the foul stench, it wasn’t only the stench on the south coast they were talking about. They were talking about the foul economic stench, corruption in government, indiscipline in our society, the decline of a society and a nation,” Mottley said.

“The Democratic Labour Party [government] in 2018 has devalued and diminished us, downgraded us as a country to the point where everyone who read that article shook their head in shame and said, ‘Lord have Mercy on our people, our country,’” she added.

But despite a crisis of a broken sewerage system causing sewage spills on the road, into yards and business compounds along with persistent national economic problems, Tourism Minister Richard Sealy was outraged at the report and fired off a note to the British newspaper’s editor expressing ‘shock and disappointment’ at the article, which he said was “viciously crafted with invective, rhetoric and hyperbole.”

Sealy said in the letter that the article was “an attempt to denigrate Barbados’ reputation, a country which currently ranks number 25 of 180 countries, by Transparency International.”

In a comment that suggests money should influence the newspaper’s editorial integrity, Sealy said, “we are confounded that the Telegraph, a long-standing media partner of Barbados, would print such a scathing article about a partner who spends significant sums in advertising with them annually without doing us the courtesy of making an enquiry. This is a terrible affront and an incredulous situation.”

Sealy’s bald attempt at editorial interference might be founded in his government’s anxiety over any negative image in the UK, the island’s largest source market for tourists.

As he noted, of the 663, 441 tourists who made Barbados their holiday destination last year, 222, 322 of them were from the UK.

Barbados Opposition Leader, Mia Mottley.
By George Alleyne

More from Around NYC