‘Butch’ has solution to economic woes

Gordon “Butch” Stewart.

KINGSTON — Jamaica’s most successful businessman has some common sense advice on how the Jamaican Government can stimulate the country’s economy, in a year expected to be one of the toughest in recent memory.

Gordon Butch Stewart, who has made his Sandals Resorts into the Caribbean strongest brand internationally, said Jamaica had found itself in a never-ending spiral of borrowing to pay off its debt, while not earning enough to invest in development.

“As we borrow more, the hole gets deeper and deeper and we have a debt that we can’t pay off. In fact, our grandchildren won’t be able to pay it off,” he said.

But Stewart said Jamaica could begin this year to dig itself out of the situation by tackling some projects he described as “low-hanging fruits”, and using the funds to come from the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral sources which take their cue from the IMF, to invest in such projects.

Beginning today and over the next few weeks, the hotel mogul will outline these projects that he believes are “doable even in a difficult year as 2013 is expected to be”.

Stewart confidently suggests that the Jamaican Government should move immediately to extend the runway of the Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, St. Mary, just east of the north coast resort town of Ocho Rios, St Ann.

He said the airport, named after the famous author of the James Bond spy thrillers popular with movie goers, had the potential of opening up north eastern Jamaica, particularly Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Port Maria, Annotto Bay, Highgate, and beyond for tourism which would spur unprecedented development of the region.

“The Ian Fleming Airport has all the ingredients. It has international status with customs and immigration. A good deal of work has been done recently to the runway and the terminal. But that airport can only accommodate small, propeller-driven or business-style jet aircraft.

‘The current runway is 4,780 feet long but it is too short. The bigger regional jet aircraft of between 55 and 100 seats, such as flown by American Airlines, Air Canada, USAIR, Jet Blue, and Delta, need a minimum of 5,700 to 6,000 feet.

It’s not a great deal of work. Ian Fleming needs only an additional 800 or 900 feet, which is really not much, to accommodate those regional jets.

“I have talked to all these airlines and they can’t wait. I can vouch that some of these airlines would fly in the week after it is finished,” Stewart says. (Observer)

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