The entire Caribbean will benefit immensely from a newly forged partnership between CARICOM and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is set to go into motion soon.
However, after in-depth discussions, on an individual level, Barbados is poised to gain by way of air travel, exchanges at the academic level and through millions in funding earmarked for an urban housing solution.
During a press conference held at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) on Saturday, November 18, 2023, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who recently returned from a Saudi-CARICOM summit, outlined the potential benefits of this partnership centered around tourism, education, healthcare and housing.
“This week was an exceptional week and historic week in that we for the first time met with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a community to be able to ensure that we establish a new trajectory for our relations between the Kingdom and the Caribbean community.
“It is fair to say that the meeting was highly successful; the level of respect between both sides was clearly evident but more importantly, the tangible areas in which we have made progress just in even one short week, speaks volumes as to the kind of relationship that we can have going forward.”
Prime Minister Mottley first revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be working towards affording persons in Barbados, specifically the Muslim community the ability to travel to and from Saudi Arabia.
“I speak to you at the airport and therefore I know that many of our people for example who are practicing Muslims have for some years now, have been concerned about their inability to be able to go to Saudi Arabia to go to the Hajj and to Umrah, and to that extent I am happy to report that after our conversations we have agreed that these persons who want to go to Saudi Arabia will be facilitated.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in fact now working out the details with the Kingdom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there to ensure that this does not continue to be an obstacle to them being faithful to their faith.”
The provision of scholarships particularly on the university level was also mentioned, which the Prime Minister disclosed will not be “a one-way street”.
“We also agreed that we will work on a number of key areas at investments and trade and people-to-people partnerships. The issue of scholarships will be put firmly on the table and we recognize too that scholarships is not a one-way street, that we would wish to see persons from Saudi Arabia working, doing research here or studying here.
“They also have a large number of universities, some of which are in the top 10 universities and top three in terms of engineering globally and others across the Middle East, they have seven of the top ten universities across the Middle East.”
PM Mottley also revealed:
“We spoke as well, our Minister of Health met with their Minister of Health and we have agreed to establish a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) that will allow us to focus on the development of health information systems. They have a virtual hospital and that virtual hospital has done wonders in terms of being able to ensure that they can deliver healthcare as widely as possible to the same quality to all.”
Through the Saudi Development Fund, Prime Minister Mottley also announced that Barbados will receive USD $100 million in funding for an urban renewal project geared towards providing adequate water facilities and proper housing solutions.
“The Saudi Development Fund has been very active with individual members of the community [CARICOM], in our own case in Barbados we’ve put forward a number of projects and I’m happy to report that we have reached agreement on USD $100 million on funding for a major project that we’ve put forward in Urban and this is to allow us to deal with the provision of water bourne facilities, the provision of proper housing, [and] the provision of proper infrastructure services in urban communities that have been ignored.”