Caribbean Development Bank chief touts potential of blue economy

Dr. Gene Leon encourages region to maximize benefits from one of its most abundant resources

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr. Hyginus “Gene” Leon highlighted the potential economic benefits the region stands to gain by embracing the various direct and indirect employment that encompass the blue economy.

In a recent round table hosted by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Leon said: “Regional economies already gain direct benefits from the ocean through economic and subsistence activities, such as fishing, marine and coastal tourism services, marine transportation and related services.

“Indirect benefits redound through the economic cycle as maritime activities facilitate much of the trade and tourism activities taking place among our countries.

A maritime worker. (Photo: UNCTAD)

“The traditional maritime industries, such as trade, agriculture, fishing and transport, provide an impulse to growth and development across the region and facilitate engagement with poor and vulnerable groups searching for opportunities.

“So, our focus now is about how we can more easily access and more sustainably use these resources.”

Leon pointed to the fisheries industry, which he said provides direct employment for some 116,000 people and employs an estimated 200,000 overall, including satellite industries such as boat construction, net repair and fish processing.

He also made note of the marine and coastal tourism and trade and transportation sectors of the blue economy, asserting that all of these segments stand to be revolutionized by technology in ways that “can further increase potential gains”.

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    “Imagine a future Caribbean where persons engaged in fishing are properly trained in the use of modern technologies and have at their disposal an integrated market information system,” he urged.

    Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr Hyginus “Gene” Leon.

    Or when it comes to tourism, he said, “Imagine the vast improvement our regional markets can derive if a traveler were able to ‘backpack’ across the Caribbean…

    “A more connected region enables intra-industry diversification, where we still benefit from our traditional tourist industry but expand to new markets and a new type of tourist.”

    Leon made the case that the “blue economy agenda” is a development path that “promises immediate and sustainable economic and social gains and, importantly, induces reforms that will make for a more resilient ecosystem”.

    “What makes the blue economy so suitable for the Caribbean is not simply the focus on the oceans — our most abundant resource — but also the emphasis on applying innovative and well-designed strategies to a resource that can expand the region’s production possibility frontier,” said the bank chief.

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