Spain wants a closer relationship with English Speaking Caribbean countries

NASSAU, Bahamas – His Excellency Jesùs Silva, the Spanish Ambassador to The Bahamas said during a meeting with senior journalists held last week that his country would continue to invest and recognize cooperation agreements with English speaking countries of the region.

The Ambassador met with the journalists despite a tight schedule with him having to present his credentials to Governor-General His Excellency the Hon. Arthur Hanna and meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Fred Mitchell.

When explaining the recent history of his country, the new Spanish Ambassador for The Bahamas said how quickly Spain turned from being a nation in 1981 that required foreign aid to now being the number eight-donor country in the world in terms of giving out foreign aid. He said Spain has also become the ninth biggest industrial power of the world.

According to His Excellency Silva, for the last six years Spain has been one of the fastest growing economies in Europe having created more jobs in those years than any other European nation. Furthermore, in the last two or three years, the new jobs created in Spain have represented almost 30 percent of new jobs in the European Union.

Ambassador Silva explained that although Spain is a country with 44 million inhabitants, it welcomes over 55 million tourists a year – becoming the second most visited country in the world. His Excellency was considerably proud of this fact as Spain did not have a tourism industry before the 1960s.

He noted that with such an economic boom taking place, Spanish companies are also witnessing a radical change. Nowadays the former small and little competitive Spanish companies have become major corporations.

He said these private companies are now investing in the Caribbean region, especially in the tourism sector of countries like the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. According to the Ambassador, the Spanish government also wants to encourage these private companies to increase their investments in the CARICOM and English speaking Caribbean countries including The Bahamas.

He said it is also the intention of the Spanish government to continue fostering and encouraging bi-regional dialogue between both the English speaking and Spanish speaking Caribbean and Latin America region.

As for other initiatives, His Excellency Silva said, “We are also going to set up new policies with the Caribbean. Therefore The Bahamas is a major actor for us, and a major counterpart. We are going to probably have very soon a summit of prime ministers of the CARICOM countries in Spain.

“This year we are going to have a new joint commission and corporation agreement between the CARICOM countries and Spain that we believe will be able to tighten the amounts allotted to the corporation agreements to the region, we want to help and invest in those sectors that are priority for the region. We think that development in the tourism industry is a priority for all the countries of the region and we want to encourage some regional programmes to train workers in the tourism industry.”

He also encourages the diversification of the tourism industry in the Caribbean, as he believes it is very risky and less profitable to depend solely on attracting United States citizens as potential tourists.

He said that countries in this region must become like Jamaica where European companies are investing in hotels, which in turn attract European tourists.

“From what I see for example in the case of Jamaica, the Spanish hotels there are concentrating during the high season of the Caribbean between September and March on North American tourists, but then from April to September they have European tourists.

“This is also very good for them because it makes the investment much more profitable and they have very efficient and vast networks of tour operators. So they have very easy access to all the markets not only in the U.S., but also in Spain, Germany,

England and in France. So if you take as an example, the new hotels which are opening in Jamaica, 40 percent of their clients are from the North American market and they have something like 60 percent European tourists.

“The presence of European hotels is in any case increasing tourism and increasing the number of tourists from Europe.”

The Ambassador said that Spain is also planning other projects, like the restoration of historical patrimony, which is also linked to cultural tourism.

As a result of these planned priorities for joint corporation between Spain and the CARICOM countries, His Excellency said, “It is a very exciting moment to become Ambassador in The Bahamas and I certainly think that for the coming years we will have a lot of things to do in common.”

After his talk with the journalists the Ambassador headed to The College of The Bahamas where he was expected to talk about the potential help that Spain can render in the training of Spanish at that tertiary institution as well as other schools throughout the country. He also hopes to be able to encourage some cultural cooperation and exchange with The Bahamas.

He left the Bahamas and returned to Jamaica where he resides, but is planning a return trip to The Bahamas for Independence Celebrations in July.

The Ambassador is a trained lawyer who joined the Spanish diplomatic service 17 years ago. He has been posted to Argentina and to Germany. His specialisation has been for many years Latin America and Caribbean affairs. In the last eight years he has concentrated on issues related to international cooperation and very specifically on cultural and educational cooperation.

For the past fours years he has been serving as Ambassador to Jamaica and other countries of the region.

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