Securing Blue Bonds A Major Hurdle for Small Island Nations, Says Minister

Photo: Francesco Ungaro

Maldives Minister for Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed, while speaking at the Asia-Pacific Blue Economy Forum yesterday, highlighted the difficulties environmentally vulnerable countries face in securing eco-friendly financing facilities for sustainable development projects.

“While blue bonds are the most ideal financing facility for sustainable development projects, smaller nations face multiple challenges in securing these,” Saeed said. He emphasised the importance of establishing easier means of sourcing such funding.

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“Our participation in this forum aligns with the development agenda of President Dr. Muizzu and underscores our commitment to sustainable development and protecting our island communities,” stated the minister during his opening remarks.

The Asia-Pacific Blue Economy Forum, co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of the Maldives, commenced yesterday in Malé. The two-day forum, running from May 13th to 14th, is organised by UNDP’s Climate Finance Network (CFN) and supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

British High Commissioner to the Maldives Caron Röhsler remarked, “The blue economy represents a significant opportunity for sustainable jobs in the Maldives, especially for youths. The UK is proud to support UNDP’s Climate Finance Network through our £274-million Climate Action for a Resilient Asia programme. Combined with our support for sustainable marine management and maritime security, this partnership will help deliver a prosperous and resilient Maldives.”

Enrico Gaveglia, UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives, added, “The Maldives’ bond with the ocean is historic. Embracing the principles of the blue economy is essential for the nation’s prosperity and resilience against climate change. This symposium is a chance to share insights, learn from each other, and foster partnerships with innovative solutions tailored to the Maldives’ context.”

The Forum gathers participants from 15 countries, including government officials, private sector representatives, civil society organisations, and practitioners, to discuss critical themes related to the blue economy. Key topics include ocean governance, financing for ocean industries, the role of the private sector, and the importance of regional cooperation in advancing the blue economy agenda. The aim is to facilitate knowledge exchange, promote south-south cooperation, and explore collaborative opportunities.

In a statement, UNDP notes that the blue economy is vital to the Asia-Pacific region, particularly for coastal areas and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which have significant populations relying on coastal ecosystems. 

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the ocean is essential for the region’s economic growth, employing over 60 million people and contributing over 80% of global fish production. The region also hosts the largest shipping industry, facilitating over 80% of global trade.

Despite its importance, the blue economy faces challenges due to years of resource extraction and environmental degradation. Effective management of ocean resources and the mobilisation of substantial financing are necessary to sustain and enhance the blue economy. The financing gap for the 24 Asia-Pacific countries reliant on the blue economy is estimated at USD 5.5 trillion. The statement highlights that these nations need significant investment to protect their marine ecosystems and capitalise on sustainable economic opportunities. 

The Forum emphasises the blue economy’s potential to attract new capital through blended and innovative financing approaches. Discussions will cover emerging financing opportunities and experiences from various countries on how evolving public policies attract investment and how the private sector responds to these changes.

The Forum aims to pave the way for future collaborations and innovative financing solutions to support the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Asia-Pacific region.

This year’s budget requires MVR 14 billion, of which MVR 771 million is expected to be raised through the sale of green or blue bonds.

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