Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley Monday called for greater cooperation within the energy sector of the Caribbean and urged countries not to regard the sector “purely as one that is driven by foreign direct investment and only to be benefit by governments through taxation and royalties”.
Addressing the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference on the theme “Shaping the Caribbean’s Energy Future,” Mottley, who is also the Chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM, said there is a future for energy in the region.
“That energy is both the hydrocarbon industry and the renewable energy industry,” she said, recalling that in December 2018, in Port of Spain, regional leaders meeting here signed the St. Ann’s Declaration “which reflected our commitment for the first time to bring the regional private sector and the regional labour movement into the conference of heads of government such that they can be major players as we build out the growth prospects for this region”.
Earlier, Mottley told the delegates that those who believe that maritime delimitation remains as a risk should take note as to how financiers and commercial players deal with risk, adding “premiums are literally taken from us in a way that ought not to be because there is no science equally ro the pricing of risk.
“It therefore means that we can choose to dig our heels in and fight for every ounce or when can remember we are a family in a community of sovereign nations and pursue approaches that other parts of the world have pursued such as Australia and East Timor with the establishment of joint cooperation zones.”
She recalled that the late Jamaica prime minister Norman Manley had once referred to the Caribbean Sea as a patrimony of the region, adding “it is up to those of us who are charged with the jurisdiction of our countries to recognise that the only people who benefit from aggressive maritime delimitation programmes are lawyers and scientists and not the people of the region”.
She said she hopes that the courage which she and the host Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, had shown in signing a joint cooperation agreement last year “will mean that others will recognise that this generation of Caribbean leaders is prepared to put first the patrimony of the region and the benefits of our people at all costs.
‘We recognise that in our family there is a player that has virtually a century of oil and gas experience. You cannot make that up. You cannot fabricate that experience and to that extent Trinidad starts as a first mover always within the Caribbean Community with respect to oil and gas.”
Mottley said the Caribbean region would only mean something “if we are prepared to leverage our expertise to the benefit of each other,” adding “as we move towards the basin in the Guianas, whether it be in Guyana, whether it be in Suriname, the reality of that (Trinidad) experience is there for all to draw upon.
“Similarly, the experience of Barbados within the financial services sector, or the realities of engineers elsewhere in the region cannot be ignored because the very revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is premised upon the basis of the movement of the factors of production, the rights of establishment, the ability to move capital.
‘We have not yet perfected elements of it, but we need to move with dispatch so to do,” Mottley said noting that rights of establishment have to be respected in all forms so that there’s a seamless capacity for entities and persons to establish businesses in other Caribbean countries than their own.
She said this is particularly so given her constant reference to the “underpopulated nature of the region over and over” and that the region’s greatest problem as it moves into this new decade “and as we seek to turn around what has been anaemic growth is the absence of population and the absence of skills”.
The Barbados Prime Minister said it is against that background that a number of initiatives would need to be developed “some of which are not appropriate for me to go into in detail today such as the establishment of a minimum floor below which none of our citizens should fall with respect to the provision of education and health care”.
Mottley said but as the region has the capacity to draw on each other’s skills and also the fact that the region has US$50 billion in domestic savings “we need to find the solutions to be able to allow it to work ourselves and not to see the energy sector purely as one that is driven by foreign direct investment and only to be benefit by governments through taxation and royalties”.
She said at the upcoming CARICOM Inter-sessional Summit to be held in Barbados later this month, “one of the four areas identified for immediate involvement of our private sector…is in the area of renewable energy”,
But she warned also that the Caribbean would be fooling itself that it could avoid “the difficult discussions of our time” saying they pertained to “what extent and what manner can we allow the hydrocarbon industry to coexist with the realities of climate change.
“More and more we are recognising that it is not a linear discussion and that there is a role for hydrocarbon companies to play to be part of the solution and not simply to be the bane of our existence with respect to how we have been able to fight these issues.
“I look forward to our region playing a critical role in what really is a difficult discussion, but an essential discussions,” she said, making reference to the situation in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and Dominica, where hurricanes in recent years have devastated these islands and severely affected their economies.