Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Jamaica losing out as sea economy yet to be tapped for growth - World Bank official

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Dr David Smith (left), coordinator at the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI); Ambassador Aubyn Hill (second left), chief executive officer of the Economic Growth Council; Galina Sotirova, World Bank country manager for Jamaica; economist Dr Richard Bernal; and Valerie Hickey, World Bank practice manager for environment and natural resource global practice, Latin America and the Caribbean region, in conversation at the Blue Economy Public Lecture and Panel Discussion held last Tuesday at the UWI Regional Headquarters in St Andrew.

Jamaica is said to be losing out on billions of dollars because of the country's failure to fully exploit the resources of the sea and a continued stubborn reliance on land area only to generate economic growth, this despite the allocated ocean area around Jamaica being 24 times that of the entire area of land.

Addressing a public lecture on the blue economy last week, Valerie Hickey, World Bank practice manager for environment and natural resource global practice, Latin America and the Caribbean Region, said, "Your institutions, your rules, your regulations, they are 95 per cent focused on the 10 per cent of land."

The lecture was held at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies in St Andrew.

Said Hickey: "[It] doesn't make a lot of sense, and that's why the blue economy is so important."

Pointing out that the Caribbean Sea alone holds an annual value of US$400 billion, Hickey said that by 2030, it is predicted that the entire sea economy could be generating US$3 trillion annually.

"So while we have our backs to the sea, while we are looking to find those jobs and increase our GDP inland, in fact, it is the waters and our oceans that hold real value," the World Bank official argued.

.. Sea-focused policies needed to gain value from Jamaican waters

Addressing a public lecture last week, a World Bank official declared that if government rules, regulations, and policy are not sea-focused, there is hardly any chance that Jamaica will be able to unlock the real value of the waters around the country.

"When you look seawards, there is regulation that doesn't match. There are overlapping laws that are often contradictory," said Valerie Hickey, World Bank practice manager for environment and natural resource global practice, Latin America and the Caribbean region.

"There are all types and no types of coastal building regulations, which means that there is investment in coastal infrastructure that won't last or that is creating all sorts of pollution plumes that are undermining the economic forces that are happening in the same space," Hickey contended.

 

SERIOUS INVESTMENT NECESSARY

 

She has called for a different approach to how the sea economy is viewed, stressing that there needs to be a serious investment with the expectation of a return.

"Traditionally, we have often looked at ocean assets as those things that you cannot get a financial return from, so we use aid, we have pilots, we support marine-protected areas ... . It doesn't work very well. It is based on a misunderstanding that the ocean isn't an asset - [that it is] without financial returns that we can create jobs and GDP from it."

In responding to the issues raised by the World Bank official, Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Growth Council Aubyn Hill said that he would be seeking to have legislation and regulations for land assets separated from those that are aimed at relegating sea assets.

He disclosed that as chairman of the tax reform group for the Ministry of Finance, he ran into regulations from colonial times prohibiting the importation of live animals without certain requirements.

Hill said that in 2018, those regulations are killing the lobster trade, though he vowed to have it corrected.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com