Tourism: Seychelles blue bond economy inspires Belize

By Nneka Nwogwugwu

Africa’s Seychelles blue bond economic roadmap using an integrated approach to the sustainable development of ocean resources, has inspired Belize to attempt a similar approach to lower its debt.

Belize recently announced a tender offer for its existing $553 million Eurobond due in 2034, which will be financed by the concurrent placement of a blue bond. Will Belize be able to find the same success as Seychelles, the first sovereign entity to issue a blue bond, by leveraging its “Blue Bond Economy” playbook to reduce national debt?

The Blue bond concept aims to use debt proceeds to finance water-related and/or ocean-based projects. In 2020, Seychelles made 30% of their exclusive economic zone marine protected areas, and have been able to use the blue bonds to ride the waves towards lowering national debt.

Forbes reports that the concept started back in 2016, when international environmental The Nature Conservancy (TNC) bought some of the Seychelles’ debt from lenders at a haircut. The Seychelles government then agreed to pay TNC back over time, and to funnel the savings from its lower interest rates into ocean protection, which it has now achieved.

Belize’s tender envisions a 45% haircut on the currently outstanding principal, which would reduce the country’s debt by approximately 9% of GDP. Since its inaugural debut bond in 2000, when the country was in the BB range, Belize has restructured its Eurobond four times and has not managed to reduce its debt burden. We’re still awaiting details of the country’s blue bond that have not yet been announced.

Seychelles being the first country to sell debt earmarked specifically for ocean projects make sense, especially because fishing brings in 97% of its annual export earnings and employs 17% of the nation’s population. The concept has seen some traction worldwide, with both the Nordic Investment Bank and the World Bank launching their own blue bonds to address specific marine protection issues.

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