Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey. (FP)

Sustainable trade will be very critical in helping countries find solutions to the unprecedented economic, health and environmental challenges being faced globally.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, made this assertion, as he delivered virtual remarks on Monday at the ITC Trade for Sustainable Development Forum 2021.

Mr. Humphrey noted that the two most critical issues of immediate concern are climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said they call for urgent and extraordinary responses to ensure the prosperity of countries and people for future generations.

He pointed out that Barbados, the rest of the Caribbean region and other small island developing states (SIDS) are constrained by the inherent characteristics of small open economies, high indebtedness, reliance on imports, and limited diversification and fiscal space.

“If left unchecked, the additional effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic will be crippling to our economies…. It is, however, not enough to catalogue the negative impact that climate change and COVID-19 has wrought on our economies. We must also adapt; seek opportunities; be innovative and discover the yet untapped potential in our native ecology, so that our economies may thrive without depleting or wasting our very limited resources,” Minister Humphrey stressed.

He indicated that one of the ways Barbados is seeking to build a sustainable future is through a sustainable ocean economy, which he believes has the potential to transform the lives of all communities, locally and regionally. 

The Minister highlighted that the World Bank had estimated that the oceans contributed over US $400 billion to the Caribbean blue economy, and it is fundamental that Barbados, along with the region, “address head on, issues of sustainability, linkages with the green economy and how to leverage our ocean resources for economic gain in a manner that respects our biodiversity and implements a regime of good governance of Barbados’ maritime space and marine resources”.

Mr. Humphrey told the forum that Barbados had been implementing measures to protect its marine environment and strategies to strengthen its fisheries sector, which include the recently launched Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan. 

He said it not only aims to protect the environment, but ensures that the environment continues to be resilient, sustainable and viable.

Other strategies include embarking on a programme of legislative reform and upgrade of Barbados’ plant and operations, to ensure that food products are processed and sold in accordance with international food and safety standards as set out by international bodies; significant investment in technology, such as fish aggregating devices, and the application of intelligent oceanographic solutions that would enable solutions for efficient and sustainable fishing.   

He also disclosed that Government plans to expand the boat building industry as well as aquaculture and mariculture. 

Minister Humphrey made a call for access to financial and technical assistance for SIDS to incorporate their sustainable solutions. 

“We need global recognition of our vulnerabilities and solutions that allow us to access concessional finance from global financial institutions. We can no longer be assessed only by our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.  There is a need to understand that vulnerability goes beyond just that one simple GDP index,” he stated.

He added that Barbados would continue to make its voice heard on issues of sustainability, climate change and resilience, and would continue to harness the benefits of its blue economy and marine resources in a sustainable manner.

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