by Marlon Madden
Barbados has recently been denied financing for its fisheries sector, prompting Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey to issue a call for the island’s vulnerability to be taken into account when it comes to accessing funding.
Back in 2019, Government started discussions with the charitable environmental organisation, The Nature Conservancy, about the possibility of entering a debt-fornature swap, which would create millions of dollars in financing for the blue and green economy.
This would mean that the organisation would take a portion of the island’s debt and the reduction in the cost of the debt would go to a trust company that would be formed to take care of the maritime environment.
However, in late May of this year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley disclosed that Barbados was no longer in a position to do the debt-for-nature swap because of its high debt, announcing instead that Humphrey had secured some US$4.5 million to help plan out Barbados’ maritime spatial area for conservation.
Addressing a recent UNDP High-Level Political Forum under the theme Unleashing the Potential of the Blue Economy, Humphrey made no mention of the US$4.5 million, but indicated that the country had recently been denied funding for its fisheries sector.
He argued that efforts to develop the maritime space required a lot of financing but access to funding remained an uphill task.
“For Barbados, financing is an issue. We are caught up in an unending cycle of being too rich to be poor and too poor to be rich.
That is why Barbados recently had, you know, we thought we had settled on some financing for our fisheries sector, only to be told that our GDP is too high.
These are the real conversations I hope we can have,” said Humphrey.
“We need the international financial institutions and the developed countries to understand that vulnerability is a part of our DNA and that vulnerability must be [a part of] the conversation,” he said.
Pointing out that work with the Nature Conservancy continued to develop Barbados’ marine spatial plan, Humphrey promised that it would be rolled out “very soon” and that it should be completed in about three to five years’ time.
Barbados is a co-champion under the Commonwealth Blue Charter to champion action on marine protected areas and mobilising action groups in like-minded member states to tackle some of the world’s most pressing ocean challenges.
Indicating that Barbados was taking this development of its ocean space very seriously, Humphrey pointed out that in order to “unleash” the true potential of the blue economy within the region, there needed to be strategic partnerships.
“Economies of scale dictate that we will not compete on mass, but we can compete on innovation, flexibility and efficiency.
We need the correct policy environment and the correct infrastructure to be able to do so.
We need to strengthen our institutions especially the ones in the traditional blue economy sector like fisheries.
Those are the ones that are often left behind and development seems to have forgotten,” he said.
“We must make it easier in Barbados to do business.
In fact, we need to make it easier to do business in the Caribbean, period.
We must bring the private sector into this innovative financing conversation. We also need an integrated cohesive policy accepted in the entire region,” he added.