World Bank-financed UBEC programme to boost jobs, economic growth in blue economies of St. Lucia, Grenada, SVG
CASTRIES, SAINT LUCIA — With the blue economy constituting approximately 30 percent of the labour force in some eastern Caribbean nations, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has partnered with the World Bank to develop a new programme geared towards strengthening and expanding the sector.
The “Unleashing the Blue Economy of the Caribbean” programme, the OECS noted, is expected to aid in job growth as the region moves to embrace more sustainable models of economic development.
“The World Bank-financed ‘Unleashing the Blue Economy of the Caribbean’ programme is designed to strengthen the enabling environment for the blue economy and to enhance resilience of selected coastal infrastructure in and across participating countries,” the OECS explained.
It said this new initiative is part of its Blue Economy Strategy, the primary purpose of which is to “position the OECS as a model blue economy region worthy of support, investment and emulation”.
“The marine space of the eastern Caribbean…supports an array of livelihoods, amounting to up to 30 percent of the labour force in some OECS member states,” noted the OECS.
“The marine space supplies food, important goods and services, and contains untapped resources that can be extracted for commercial trade.
“Being 85 percent larger than the OECS land mass, the marine environment renders the OECS region ideally suited to transition to and sustain a blue economy.”
Regional investments in sustainable development
The UBEC programme will first launch in three Caribbean countries, aiming to boost job and economic growth in key industries that were hard-hit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In outlining the plan, the OECS explained, “The initial financial year 2022 cohort of participating countries [of] Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will benefit from improved competitiveness of their economies in three critical and interconnected sectors — tourism, fisheries and aquaculture and waste management.
“Growth and jobs in these key sectors have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It added, “The OECS Commission will be the implementing entity for a regional package consisting of a regional MSME-matching grants programme — financing business development services and matching grants to increase productivity, job creation and upgrade capabilities within blue economy value chains — and strengthening regional policies, institutions and coordination.”
In the UBEC’s second phase, slated for financial year 2023/2024, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica could be brought onboard for similar country-level investment projects.