“The potential of our coasts and ocean to meet sustainable development needs is immense. And, if they can be maintained in and/or restored to a healthy and productive state, the ocean will play an even more important role in humanity’s future.” – Mark J. Spalding.
The horizon is laced with opportunities for Barbados to overcome the awful indices that characterised the last decade. The tastelessness of poverty, joblessness, high debt, widespread indiscipline, stagnation, huge piles of garbage, unkempt roadsides, and littered coastlines can all be tackled and rectified. There are encouraging signs that Barbados will eventually emerge from its inglorious economic decline and value-thwarted society.
Decisive leadership has re-emerged in Barbados to help take the nation out of its dangerous plunge. Businesses and households are now being challenged by the Prime Minister and Government to exceed the crippling effects of structural constraints and a highly indebted economy. Private citizens are crying out for job and entrepreneurial opportunities. Generally, the society is demanding a development framework that ensures a fair distribution of wealth and allows for social justice to become commonplace.
Clearly, new levers are being pulled for Barbados to enhance its productivity and to become regionally and globally competitive.
Since May 25th, the popular discourse is reflecting hope amidst the difficulties. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration, under the determined leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, expresses a welcoming confidence and creativity. For instance, PM Mottley, in one of her far-reaching moves, established the very important Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy.
In the 2018 Throne Speech, the Governor General asserted that: “My Government has identified the Green and Blue Economies as areas in which new policy directions can redound to the benefit of Barbados’ long-term economic, social and environmental development.”
The colossal value of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economyought not to be underestimated. The vital role was emphasized in the Throne Speech indicating that the Ministry was: charged with responsibility for preserving Barbados coastlines, our marine environment, the health of our reefs and the habitats of our marine plants and animals. It will ensure sustainable use and development of our fisheries, our marine assets, resources, minerals and species for sustainable recreation and decent livelihoods for those who make a living from the sea.”
Essentially, the Ministry will cultivate a policy course for the sustainable use and protection of Barbados’ continental shelf and economic zone encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the expanse of the island’s marine resources. Moreover, effective coastal management and saving and replenishing local coral reefs can have positive impacts on localized resources by increasing the aesthetic value of coral reefs for tourism and creating reef habitat for fisheries purposes. Even against climate change, Barbadians ought not be pessimistic, nor should they be cynical to the daring nature of adjusting to the concept of the blue economy.
Barbados must continuously seek and find alternative ways of doing things and achieving positive results to boost the economy and enhance citizens’ livelihoods. This is precisely why the BLP is unpacking ‘new planks for economic growth’ that are ‘fit for purpose’. While it is true that ‘’de sea en got nuh back door, many villages, communities, and individuals already have histories of thriving from the proceeds of the sea and marine environment. For example, the communities of Bathsheba, Consett Bay, Paynes Bay, Oistins and others are well documented for their impacts on the men and women depending on pelagic yields for their leisure and survival. Additionally, Barbados’ fisher folk have over the years, been able to gain sufficient means to feed their families and build homes and other enterprises.
Despite today’s challenges and the phase of uncertainty that grips the country, Barbadians must be prepared to be problem-solvers. Joyce Meyer contends that “ change is always tough. Even for those who see themselves as agents of change, the process of starting a new thing can cause times of disorientation, uncertainty and insecurity.”Barbadians must determine and act in the best ways to accept alternatives and different approaches to promoting economic growth and national development.
The tendency to resist change hangs on a knotted dilemma. Barbadians ought not be clinging to fear nor be blindly stuck to tradition. Both PM Mottley and Minister Kirk Humphrey are embracing research and intrepid. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, therefore, must perform on the mandate to safeguard key decisions and strategic investments that were made over the years. Surely, there may be no guarantees of success in any sector, but the sea is a place of vast and untapped resources that could serve to nurture and spur extraordinary economic growth for Barbados.
Barbados must maintain its commitment to the green economy, despite the low attention by the previous administration on the related matters of energy, ecology, environment, sustainability, and climate change adaptability. The notion of the green economy is equally pressing but it can be more cost invasive than gravitation to the blue economy.
The previous point is instructive because as the BLP administration insists, ‘the maritime resources must be enjoyed by the nation’s people in a sustainable manner’. Nevertheless, the exciting, wealth-laden prospects for Barbados rests across the great expanse of these maritime domains that offer differentiated resources of commercial value. There are various foods for human consumption, resulting in benefits for human health and nutrition. Also, there is the oil and gas sector that the current administration considers to be vital given the importance of energy to productive capacity. The water itself favours activities that can assist in tackling scarcity.
Surely, the effective turn to the blue economy can bring lucrative economic returns emerging from multiple resources and activities. The BLP’s deliberate policy framework for the blue economy is very likely to substantially increase entrepreneurship in many areas. Indeed, the probability for wide scale employment across many linked sectors is welcome. The blue economy can be expected to encourage attention on the additional dimensions of food security, the beautification of the island, leisure and sports tourism, and the strongest support for sustainable national development.
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and a political consultant.