Solving National Problems – a solution to the fisheries problem
“Trini, I’m a born Barbadian, I don’t like to fight But when it comes to the occasion, man, I stick fuh muh right
You put in a twelve-cents meat bone, you worse than a liceI gine give you a word of advice, “Take your meat out muh rice!”
Today, Barbados spends almost a billion dollars importing food from outsiders. Should an unforeseen, random event occur to create a stranglehold on our external supply of food for an extended period of time, Barbadians would be exposed to the real, dangerous threat of starvation.
As a nation, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the risks that food insecurity breeds and encourages. However, before we can embark upon a trek leading to the achievement of food security, we will need to embrace the tools provided by technology, and we will have to cultivate the right attitudes, and create the right incentives and rewards in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, and shipbuilding.
Since the economy of Barbados is in serious disequilibrium, government policy, by definition, must seek to encourage and pursue national projects which can achieve the following objectives:
Earn (or reduce the outflow of) foreign exchange
Create sustainable jobs for Barbadians
Increase government revenue
With respect to solving our fisheries problem, this article attempts to outline a solution which stresses the achievement of the following objectives, in addition to the national objectives mentioned above:
To reduce potentially high health care costs by encouraging Barbadians to pursue and enjoy a fish-dominant diet.
To provide fish from the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), Guyana, and Barbados to Barbadian retailers and households at reasonable prices.
To enable Barbados, as a country, to reap some of the economic and financial benefits provided by the maritime resources of the southern Caribbean Sea.
Gaining access to the fish in T&T’s and Guyana’s waters will demand from us bold and imaginative thinking. Such thinking calls for us to recognize that all of our citizens in the Barbadian Diaspora must be encouraged and invited to play a major role in the resuscitation of our crisis-laden economy.
From the moment that slavery was fully abolished in Barbados (1838), forward-thinking former slaves, now cane-cutters, bolted from the island and headed for T&T, and Guyana. Significant human migration among these two countries and Barbados has taken place from then up to the present day.
It is worthy to note that the politicians, true to form, have verbalized the need for these three territories to work together in order to produce more economic benefits for their citizens.
In 1991, Patrick Manning as PM of T&T, floated the idea of Barbados, Guyana, and T&T coming together to form a political association of the three states. This proposal came to be known as The Manning Initiative.
By 1993, the Sandiford administration had succeeded in spectacularly wrecking the economy of Barbados. Like a drowning man clutching at a straw, the administration produced a working paper which had, as its central theme, the establishment of a tri-state confederation made up of Barbados, Guyana, and T&T.
The Arthur administration, as a matter of unofficial government policy, encouraged Guyanese citizens to settle and live in Barbados. In its dying days, the administration, with its eyes on the oil and natural gas that exist in the waters between Barbados and Tobago, proposed to Tobago, a political union between Barbados and Tobago. Implicitly, as far as the Owen Arthur administration was concerned, the island of Trinidad could go to hell.
Of course, the citizens of Barbados, T&T, and Guyana were neither informed nor invited to make any comments or suggestions related to these political proposals. Of course, also, since they were merely empty pronouncements made by Caribbean politicians to hoodwink some Caribbean nationals, nothing ever came of these proposals. Nevertheless, they serve as a potent reminder of the high level of contempt that Caribbean leaders have for their constituents in matters that involve the movement of Caribbean people and the sharing of Caribbean resources.
Given our current economic situation, it is imperative that we team up with those Barbadians who are citizens of T&T, and Guyana. We do this by establishing a parent Barbadian Corporation (Parent Barbados), with subsidiary companies in T&T (Sub T&T), and Guyana (Sub Guyana).
Parent Barbados would be 50% Private sector, and 50% Government owned. Its business activities would involve shipbuilding, fishing, fish marketing, and the management and preservation of the maritime resources within the EEZ of Barbados.
To achieve its objectives, Parent Barbados would have to create sustainable jobs in the areas of maritime communications and technology, shipbuilding, boat maintenance, seamanship, fishing, law of the sea, and marine research.
All employees of Parent Barbados and its subsidiaries would be members of a Profit Sharing pension plan established by the company.
Sub T&T will be incorporated in T&T and will follow the laws of T&T.
49.9% of the voting stock in Sub T&T will be owned by Barbadians who are citizens of T&T.
The other 50.1% will be owned by Parent Barbados.
The financial statements of Sub T&T will be consolidated into the financial statements of Parent Barbados.
As a Trinidadian company, Sub T&T will be able and allowed to fish within the waters of T&T.
All taxes and fees due to the T&T government will be paid by Sub T&T.
All fish caught by Sub T&T boats will land in Barbados tax free.
Because Sub T&T is a subsidiary of a Barbadian company, Sub T&T’s vessels will be allowed to fish in the EEZ of Barbados.
The business activities of Sub T&T would involve shipbuilding, fishing, exporting all fish caught by the company in T&T to Barbados, and assisting in the management and preservation of the maritime resources within the EEZ of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Sub Guyana subsidiary will be structured along the same lines as Sub T&T, using Barbadian citizens in Guyana as partners of the company, obeying the laws of Guyana, fishing in the EEZ of Guyana, and exporting the fish caught in the EEZ of Guyana to Barbados.
Let us assume that Parent Barbados decides that it would need to build a fleet of 600 boats to achieve its stated objectives. 300 of those boats will be purchased by Sub T&T, and the other 300 by Sub Guyana. In such a situation, we would have 300 boats fishing in the EEZ of T&T, 300 in the EEZ of Guyana, and all 600 boats allowed to fish in the EEZ of Barbados.
To discourage the wastage of time and effort related to smuggling and tax evasion, all fish caught by the 600 boats would land in Barbados tax free and the weight recorded.
Government tax will be paid in a more creative manner. Suppose taxes on all fish caught in Barbados would have amounted to $600,000. Each boat would now be charged $1,000 annually with $500 due in January and the other $500 due in July.
If we reach the stage where we are harvesting more than enough fish to satisfy Barbadian demand, then we would have to explore the feasibility of exporting fish in cans, or in its natural state to the USA.
By now, you would have realized that our fisheries problem has absolutely nothing to do with a fishing agreement between us and T&T. In fact, we could craft a fishing agreement between our two countries in five minutes. It would like something like this:
Dear Madam Prime Minister,
Since 2006, the governments of T&T and Barbados were instructed by the arbitral tribunal of UNCLOS to work out a mutually beneficial relationship with respect to the management of flying fish in the waters between Barbados and T&T.
In conformity with the wishes of UNCLOS, the government of Barbados would like to state that it intends:
1) To co-operate and collaborate with the government of T&T in all areas necessary to preserve and grow the stocks of flying fish, and all other species of fish, found within the waters between our two countries.
2) To utilize the skills, talents, and expertise of the nationals of T&T and Barbados, in conjunction with the resources of UWI, with the aim of developing a scientific approach to managing and preserving our fish resources.
3) To co-operate and collaborate with the government of T&T in the area of cost guard duties so as to ensure the safety of the citizens of T&T and Barbados, and to safeguard the maritime assets of both countries.