Oil Exploration Licence Initialled

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Barbados has initialled an exploration licence with the international oil exploration giant BHP Billiton, to begin the search for oil and gas off-shore.

This disclosure came today from Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, as he delivered a Ministerial Statement on the Economy in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Sinckler said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in his capacity as Minister of Energy, would make a public announcement shortly on this new arrangement. He added that the principals of BHP Billiton would sign the formal documents at a public event.

???With the new strategic off-shore oil exploration policy framework in place, it is expected that within the coming months, other similar licences will be signed following the appropriate tendering process,??? he disclosed.

During the near 30-minute long presentation, the Finance Minister pointed out that the expansion in alternative energy production and consumption, the continued push in building the international business and financial services platform to protect and grow this vital sector, along with ???exciting??? tourism prospects, augured well for further growth and diversification of the economy.

He disclosed that the stabilisation and move towards some ???green shoots??? of economic growth in 2015, would be led primarily by the tourism and hospitality sector, which had seemingly begun a turn around after some very difficult years. According to him, at the end of November 2014, arrivals from the United Kingdom (UK) had increased by 9.1 per cent over the same period last year.

???This is extremely important because the UK is the market which has always recorded the highest expenditure per tourist. Airlift from the US and Canada will increase by 9 percent and 23 percent respectively, for this winter season. Importantly, the period October 1 to November 29, 2014, saw a stabilisation of arrivals from the USA (up 0.1 per cent) and Canada (up 0.7 per cent) after a series of declines.

???Total long stay arrivals for the period October 1 to November 29 were up 5.0 per cent over the same period last year, with a 14.3 per cent increase in arrivals from the UK, a 20.5 per cent increase in arrivals from Germany, an 11.9 per cent increase in arrivals from the rest of Europe and a 115.1 per cent increase in arrivals from Brazil,??? he declared.

Mr. Sinckler added that the experience of October to November and current bookings all point to a major rebound in tourist arrivals. He said that tourism value-added was estimated to have increased by 0.6 per cent so far for this year, and was predicted to grow 3.6 per cent in 2015.

He expressed the view that these early results and the anticipated ones were a direct consequence of Government???s decisions to change the investment matrix in tourism through the granting of the so-called ???Sandals concessions??? and the aggressive efforts to increase airlift into the country.

He further disclosed that multi-million dollar private sector investments were now being executed or would unfold throughout 2015 and he listed some of them as Sandals (at Casuarina and the Beaches at Almond); a new Hyatt Hotel in Bridgetown; and a new multi-faceted family resort at Sam Lord???s, to be managed by the world-renowned Wyndham properties.

???The remodeling and reintroduction of both the Sandy Beach and Amaryllis properties to the local tourism market will complement the work on a complete rebuild of the old Settlers Beach Hotel into a new up-market villa hospitality establishment; together with the early 2015 start of the much-anticipated Beachlands Villa Project; the recently-announced exclusive high-end residences project at the Crane and the multi-million dollar Kings Beach Villa Project which has already started.

???Between these projects and the others to come, Barbados??? economy is expected to receive a much needed boost of new FDI [foreign direct investment] of over 1.5 billion Barbados dollars over the next two years or so. This will no doubt create major economic activity, including job creation, spending during construction and increased tourism value added once the projects are completed,??? he surmised.

Mr. Sinckler reiterated that with the exception of the Sam Lord???s project, the other projects were all private sector developments.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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