Magdy Martinez-Soliman, the Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said they want to support Montserrat’s push towards building it’s private sector through Blue Economy initiatives.
The official spoke with Discover Montserrat during his brief familiarization visit to the island in early December, where he presented his credentials to new Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell and met with Governor Andy Pearce, members of the opposition, as well as representatives of civil society.
Martinez-Soliman said he had a good impression of both the new leadership and the opposition. He noted, that there were no sour grapes by the opposition as is often the case in other countries shortly after a change of government and he commended them for their “stately behaviour.” He added that he found a very active civil society with their greatest challenge being funding and a competitive spirit about attracting the best volunteers to their causes.
The UNDP official said he came to listen as he wanted to hear from political leadership about their priorities and challenges then identify how UNDP could be of service and any areas where collaboration was possible. He added that he thought the premier had the country in mind and felt both the Governor and the Deputy Governor expressed a solutions-oriented attitude. He added that the UNDP has been invited to play a role in helping the island to reach it’s goals, as the government felt they could add value. “We want to live up to that request,” Martinez-Soliman said.
The official visited among other places, the Lost City of Plymouth. He described it as “very sad but I understand better now.”
As the premier expressed to him that private sector development was a priority, the official said the UNDP is able to offer knowledge, technical assistance and resources towards this end. He added that if the private sector plans can be linked to the agency’s current priority of building the Blue Economy, they would be happy to be associated with a Blue Business Development Centre.
“Jobs are the best defence against poverty,” the resident representative told Discover Montserrat.
The UNDP is one of the United Nations largest agencies and it has been in the region since the Caribbean islands began gaining their independence in the 1960s. It is the lead agency for poverty alleviation and recovery after catastrophic events and currently has staff working with Dominica, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and The Bahamas.
In November, the UNDP Barbados & the OECS Blue Lab was launched. It also opened a call for young innovators who are promoting the values of the blue economy through revolutionary ideas and solutions to some of the development challenges that our society faces. The representative said there were at least two applications from Montserrat. The winners are to receive US$ 15,000 for a maximum six-month project.
Martinez-Soliman believes that Caribbean economies must diversify “so that they’re less vulnerable to shocks, more resilient to changes and more socially inclusive so that no one is left behind. The blue economy could be a solution.”
When asked where the Caribbean as a whole was on the Blue Economy, the official said that we “caught the bus on time. Small Island Development States have embraced the concept of the Blue Economy.” He added that the UNDP is currently working with five countries on their Blue Economy road map. “Barbados is in the lead and has dedicated a full ministry of the Blue Economy, clearly situating the centre of gravity around this concept.”
The official was asked his thoughts on the shift from renewable energy also known as Green Economy to Blue. “Blue economy for green islands” is his offices motto, he shared. “Green in the sense of agriculture has been less prominent but it is coming back. I see several islands looking back to agriculture to produce more.”
“It is not the matter of the colour of the economy, it is where the economy is going and who is at the centre of it. If at the centre is profit then the people will suffer. If you put the people at the centre it will work for the economy, the oceans and the wealth of the future.
“I think it is a very compatible pallet of colours blue and green.”
The UNDP has agreed to explore in 2020 how they can support the Government with technical assistance for the development of the private sector. The second agreement will deliver expertise to implement the ban on petroleum-based single-use plastic products and the third a support to the public outreach and awareness plan of the Government on the ban of these polluting materials.
Mr. Martinez-Soliman in his published blog post on his visit said “The future economy of the island will require, to become sustainable, a jumpstart in physical capital, an injection of human capital through jobs for returnees and arrivals of homeowning resident tourists, and the improvement of social services and communications, especially to access Montserrat and connect it to its natural neighbours, Guadeloupe, Antigua and St. Kitts. UNDP will support the territory in its continued efforts to build resilience, develop a young private sector, professionalize its touristic offer and improve its sustainability.”
The official committed to a not too distant follow-up visit for a second round of concrete and tangible joint programmes to be implemented in 2020.