Prime Minister Freundel Stuart thinks Barbados is on the threshold of a great transformation.
Stuart made this observation in the House of Assembly this afternoon while wrapping up debate on Offshore Petroleum (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
While making it clear that he was not a soothsayer, Stuart said he had been advised by the Department of Energy that so far Government had been able to make just about US$7.5 million from its implementation of an offshore petroleum programme. He also pointed out that when the country concludes negotiations with BHB Billington on an environmental impact assessment, the company would be obligated to pay a signature bonus of US$5.5 million.
Stuart also noted that only two of the 26 blocs in the offshore acreage had been explored, adding that over time as more and more actors came on stream the returns from this sector would begin to manifest.
Earlier, as he led off debate on the amendments, the Prime Minister said he was not about to chance Barbados’ energy future, but said changes were necessary to protect both the island and its citizens.
He explained that small island developing states were not guaranteed the same level of treatment as more developed nations when certain disasters occurred.
Using the United Kingdom as an example, Stuart said he had not heard of anyone issuing a travel advisory to residents in the UK following recent bombing incidents in that country, but suggested that it would not have been the same had such occurred here in
“I think in dealing with issues such as the one with which this Honourable House is dealing with today, we have to bear that in mind that we are a small island developing state and that our fragility exposes us to perils that do not necessarily apply to countries much larger and better resourced,” said Stuart.
“So in the management of our offshore petroleum acreage and in the management of the granting of licence to those who would explore, and hopefully exploit the resources in that acreage for the eventual benefits of Barbados, we have had to be very careful to ensure that all of the protective mechanisms possible are put in place so that we do not, while catching at the shadow, sacrifice
“Both the shadow and the bone in this case are very important to the country and therefore we have to manage both in that context,” he said, stressing that it was important for Barbados to put certain safeguards in place before offshore drilling could take place.
Stuart also said his Government remained committed to a judicious mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources to fuel the island’s energy needs.
However, he said it would not be rushing to do offshore drilling, which was first announced in 2007, without the necessary due diligence and transparency.
So far Government has signed an agreement with BHP Billiton for exploration of two offshore blocks – one in Carlisle Bay and one in Bimshire. However, it is yet to sign off on the agreement to Spanish firm Repsol which has been awarded a licence for exploration in the Black Belly block, located off the island’s west coast.
Stuart, who this morning steered clear of the public controversy between his administration and local trade unions over recently-announced austerity measures, however gave his assurance that the decision on the amendments to the Act was taken following discussion between the relevant Government agencies and BHP Billiton.
“We have amended the legislation before and we have had a debate on these issues,” said Stuart, warning that there would also have to be “a small amendment to the regulations” to ensure that “issues of transparency and fairness are properly taken care of.
“So don’t think the amendments being called for today are by any elasticity of meaning controversial amendments.
“They are amendments designed to protect the offshore acreage of Barbados, to protect the people of Barbados in relation to their offshore acreage, to ensure our blue economy is managed circumspectly in the context of that fact that we are a service economy and any serious miscarriages in the blue economy could impact on what it is we are doing onshore,” he explained.
With the amendments which were approved by Parliament this afternoon, provision has been made for an environmental impact assessment to be done within a nine-month period instead of the initial 90-days.
Another key change which must now go before the Senate before it could become law, is for licencees to relinquish not less than 25 per cent of the licenced area after each phase, except the final phase. This represents
a significant change from the initial 50 per cent requirement.
Government is also seeking to ensure that if a change of control takes place it cannot occur without “permission from the designated authority”.