The OECS region’s coastal and marine environment is pivotal to the advancement of the region’s sustainable development agenda as well as to the ecological sustainability and holistic development of its individual Member States. Although the Blue Economy in the region is fairly nascent and requires a major boost to realize its transformative promises, there is momentum and gradual growth in understanding of the potential of the Blue Economy to position the region to realize its aspirations.
The primary purpose of the OECS Blue Economy Strategy is to position the OECS as a model Blue Economy region worthy of support, investment and emulation. This requires a robust, well-coordinated effort that is mainstreamed into national and regional development policies, including making it more central to efforts to establish an OECS Economic Union.
The World Bank financed “Unleashing the Blue Economy of the Caribbean” (UBEC) Program 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 initial Financial Year 2022 cohort of participating countries (Grenada, Saint Lucia, and St 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.
The Phase One Project of the UBEEC program is focussed on (i) Strengthening Governance, Policies and Capacity Building for Key Productive Sectors; and (ii) Scaling Up Access to Finance and Infrastructure Investments in the Blue Economy – across the target sectors at the national and regional levels. The OECS Commission will be the implementing entity for a regional package consisting of a Regional MSME matching grants program (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.
A second phase comprising one to two additional country-level investment projects is expected to be initiated in Financial Year 2023/2024 and could include Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica. The design of the second phase of projects will consider the capacity of institutions, technical competencies, and challenges, and will benefit from lessons learned from phase one.