By Shamkoe Pilé
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Casino gambling has the ability to reap benefits for Barbados. However, the government has been advised to protect Barbadians' interest if it decides to go ahead and allow this attraction on cruise ships, which may dock in the island's port.
This suggestion has come from High Commissioner of Malaysia, Mahinder Singh, during a recent courtesy call with the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steve Blackett.
The envoy, who is based in Venezuela, disclosed that he had been following the recent debate on whether casino gambling should be allowed on cruise ships visiting the island.
Explaining that in his country, casino gambling was limited to a confined area, the High Commissioner said that the Malaysian people's interests and concerns were protected when that country's government made the decision to allow casino gambling.
Noting that although his nation enjoyed freedom of religion, he pointed out that Islam was the official religion of the state. He emphasised that Muslims are, consequently, banned from gambling, but non-Muslims were free to do so.
"People come to your country to do business or for holiday [consequently], you have to have a good package and attractions to sell [to them] and casinos attract rich people," Singh said, adding that it was a viable and lucrative tourism product which could benefit a country's revenue and the economy.
Blackett noted it was interesting to understand how other countries handled and implemented controversial issues such as this one, and further stressed that if casino gambling was permissible it would be confined to the cruise ships only.
Diversifying the economy and pursuing stronger bilateral relations between the two countries were also on the agenda, with Blackett outlining that Barbados was seeking to enhance its manufacturing sector.
He observed that Malaysia and Barbados shared many similarities such as free education, commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, specifically that of poverty reduction, and the exploration of renewable energy sources. Both countries are popular tourist destinations.
Moreover, the acting foreign affairs minister commended the high commissioner on Malaysia's unemployment rate of three percent.
Barbados and Malaysia established diplomatic relations on April 10, 1992. Both countries have cooperated on multilateral levels within the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
Tourism is Malaysia's third largest source of foreign exchange income, with the country attracting close to 24 million people to its shores annually.