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Breaking bread

New UAE deal on the table

His recent proposal for Government to secure US$5 billion in debt financing from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) simply did not fly.

However, after paying an official visit to the Gulf state last week, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick appears to have finally ditched that controversial plan for an equally ambitious Arab cure.

Dr David Estwick

Dr David Estwick

Speaking upon his return home, Dr Estwick did not say what his new proposal would amount to in financial terms but he appeared very upbeat about discussions held with the Arabs about having the Caribbean become the new “bread basket” for the entire Gulf region, with Barbados serving as a transshipment hub, a trade hub and a tourism hub and capitalizing on its easterly location.

“I am confident that this is the strategy that will move Barbados forward by leaps and bounds. It is a platform for the 21st century and we look forward to free zones and we look towards engaging not only the producers of the product, but the consumer of the product,” said Dr Estwick whose visit was at the invitation of the UAE government.

“Let those people come to the region and make their products from our raw material products. That is development by investment and partnership,” he added.

The Minister of Agriculture explained that while the UAE already had a number of free zones established in areas such as education and manufacturing, “it cannot grow mangoes, they cannot grow yams, they cannot grow fruits of any kind and they cannot engage in animal husbandry”.

He therefore sees a major opportunity that could “radically transform” the Caribbean, which he said has not been able to take full advantage of recent trade pacts, such as the European Partnership Agreement, the Canadian Trade Agreement or the Caribbean Basin Initiative, because it operates at the level of raw materials, while the majority of trade was done at the level of value added product.

However, he said the proposed UAE partnership would give the region the stability it needed by way of investments in the value added up-stream products, using the region’s primary products.

The St Philip West MP further argued that with the UAE relationship, the region’s agricultural sector would be able to move from raw material to value added on a long term sustained basis.

“That is the relationship that I am going to push aggressively over the next few months and as soon as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart returns to the country we will engage in more specific dialogue. I am looking to encourage my party to concentrate on these new strategies of development. That is not saying that we will not build new hotels, but we need new platforms for development,” said
Dr Estwick.

However, this is not the first UAE proposal that he has put on the table.

Back in January 13, 2014, the Minister of Agriculture and former Minister of Economic Affairs had written to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart appealing to him to take up an offer from the oil-rich Arabs to restore this country to economic growth.

Dr Estwick had also told the Prime Minister back then that the UAE was interested in helping Barbados re-establish its investment grade rating and ensuring that it returns to a path of debt sustainability. And as chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure responsible for project oversight and management, he had deemed it necessary to look to sovereign wealth funds and private equity funds for access to low interest capital since he was concerned about too much reliance on the Bretton Woods institutions model of assistance.

“What the Abu Dhabi and UAE governments propose to do, is to establish a sinking fund to retire the national loans when they become due. They have proposed a US$4 billion fund at a fixed interest rate of two to four per cent, over a 30-year period. These terms are negotiable,” the Minister of Agriculture’s letter stated.

Dr Estwick informed the Prime Minister that this was a one-time opportunity and as a result, he thought Government should negotiate such a fund to wipe out the entire national debt of US$5 billion.

However, that plan never got off the ground, as one senior Government official poured cold water on the reported offer, saying “no one is going to lift up their robes and pull out [US] $5 billion for Barbados without conditions”.

At that time, Government official had also downplayed reports that Dr Estwick was being ignored by the Prime Minister and certain members of Cabinet, saying, “if Estwick wants to be heard he can be heard”.

Source: (NC/KJ)

4 Responses to Breaking bread

  1. Tony Webster April 28, 2016 at 3:35 am

    I confuse. I read of “leaps and bounds” which I understand…sorta. But It is far from clear if the new platform(s) of ” production” are to be located in Barbados, or all other Caribbean countries, or only some other Caribbean countries who will “buy” this “new” plan, part2.

    How are products going to be transported to the UAE? By LIAT? Federal Maple? Or Internet? Is this a Barbados show, or a CARICOM Bashment?

    I am all for innovative thinking, but hold the leaps-and-bounds sauce. BTW, there are an awful lot of ” fiscally-concerned” “oil-rich Arabs” around these days, since crude-oil prices took a hit.

  2. Helicopter(8P) April 28, 2016 at 9:55 am

    On speaking here on the freighting of goods to the U.A.E that’s no problem since they carry a fleet of 747 cargo vessels which are also refrigerated, as for the economic plan; it needs to be looked at by cabinet and the PM and fine tuned hor the good of the land and region.

  3. chris hill April 28, 2016 at 11:01 am

    again this is the same crap that estwick was preaching when he had teeth. wasnt there an saudi prince here that fruendel refused to meet with. further more what are we going to export to the east. again didnt the prime minister say there will be no orgy of borrowing. so if you cant service the current loans what says you can service a 5 bill loan from the arab nation. by the way they are our competitors for english and european tourism. again the pit bull barks.

  4. jrsmith April 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Barbados don’t have the kind of people to negotiate this kind of financing, America is in debt to the tune of 23 trillion dollars its about time Barbados get into some serious debt, but we would have to ask the UK government to loan us couple real financial adviser, this is not corned beef and biscuits….


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