Aragonite value 'still unknown'

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Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

THE worth, marketability and sustainability of aragonite is still unknown, Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest said yesterday.

While speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Mr Turnquest was asked what the government is doing to generate revenue through natural resources such as aragonite.

"The fact of the matter is we don't know what it's worth," he replied.

"The previous administration had promised to do a study to determine what it's worth in the quantities and all the rest of it."

Mr Turnquest said he had "sight" of a scientific study that was done, which told him what aragonite is and where it generally is found.

"But it doesn't tell me the marketability of it," he added. "It doesn't tell me anything about the value of it, nor does it say about the sustainability of it.

"And so, one of the things that we are going to be doing in this budget, when we talk about the blue economy, is looking at things like aragonite, salt, and all the rest of it, to see what the commodity value is of this product.

"If it is not traded on things like this, Chicago Commodity Exchange, seeing if we can maybe create a market for it.

"If we can't, then we have to make a judgment call analysis to see what in fact the real value is of this resource to ensure that we are pricing it correctly in terms of the royalties that the government gets."

Mr Turnquest said the government has to make sure it understands where the resource is, how it is formed, the sustainability of harvesting it, and the best way to harvest it to avoid damaging the ecosystem.

"We have to make sure that (we've) derived as much value from the resource, either through first stage raw material, or whether we ought to do some processing over here, in second and third stage raw material, where we create more value for ourselves.

"So, this is a research project that needs to happen, not from necessarily a scientific point, because we have some data with respect to the scientific, but we need some more of a commercial analysis of this, to determine what exactly this is in terms of worldwide value, to make sure that we're getting what we get."

Mr Turnquest said a lot of public reaction to this topic has to do with "emotion" rather than fact.

He added that in regard to aragonite, his stance is not that the resource has a low value, but that "we don't have the economic data behind that to determine if it is in fact undervalued".

"And a lot of things, value is determined really by a buyer and seller and market demand and supply," he added.

"And so sometimes you have to create the market for it, so that you drive the price up. Because if it's only one buyer, then it's only worth what the buy is willing to pay for it. So, we have to create a market."

Mr Turnquest added that there are "other things" in the blue economy that can be taken advantage of, such as a yacht registry.

"Maybe we can set up this yacht registry, have these big charter yachts stationed, based in The Bahamas, have people fly to The Bahamas and start their cruising experience from The Bahamas. And derive fees from that."

Mr Turnquest used this is an example of the versatility of the blue economy, which is more than just the "mining aspect," but a potential source of many "commercial opportunities" that the country is not taking advantage of as yet.

"And we intend on doing that this year," he said. "There is money in the budget for us to do that."

During his budget address last month, Mr Turnquest said the government has secured a $500,000 non-reimbursable grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance a "three-year technical cooperation project with a particular focus on the digital economy and the blue economy."

The deputy prime minister broadly defined the blue economy as an "economic activity that directly or indirectly uses the sea as an input."

Mr Turnquest said this project would allow the country to move beyond the traditional industries such as fisheries to sectors like marine biotechnology, ocean renewable energy, and deep-sea oil and gas production.