Importance of the Blue Economy
By: Dr. Rulia Akhtar
The ASEAN Region acknowledges the Blue Economy as a versatile and interconnected notion that stimulates economic advancement and originality, all the while guaranteeing the well-being of the oceans and principled governance based on rules. As per the World Bank, the blue economy refers to “the responsible utilization of oceanic resources to foster economic expansion, enhance quality of life, generate employment opportunities, and concurrently safeguard the well-being of the marine ecosystem”. A blue economy places significance on three dimensions of sustainability: ecological, financial, and societal. Earth’s water bodies encompass over 70% of its surface, forming a promising economic realm with substantial potential for growth, job creation, and inventive ventures. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) states that the ocean currently contributes about $1.5 trillion yearly to the global economy, a figure projected to potentially exceed twofold by 2030. The significance of the oceans’ well-being and their sustainable growth holds immense importance.
They play a vital role for all living beings on Earth by generating oxygen, assimilating carbon dioxide, renewing vital nutrients, and maintaining worldwide climate and temperature patterns. Harnessing oceanic resources, which supply sustenance and livelihood to a substantial portion of the global populace, offers a pathway to achieve crucial sustainability objectives such as eradicating hunger and poverty (goals 1 and 2). Apart from enveloping 66% of the Earth’s expanse, the ocean furnishes nourishment and freshwater to roughly 40% of the global populace. The significance of marine resources and their substantial economic influence on the worldwide financial system is of paramount importance. The blue economy sustains a workforce of 31 million individuals across the globe and adds $1.5 trillion to the annual economy. While terrestrial resources are depleting swiftly, oceans present a remedy that nurtures both a sustainable ecosystem and economy. Encompassing 70% of the Earth’s surface, oceans serve as a unifying element connecting people worldwide.
Malaysia shares a unique bond with the ocean due to its marine expanse surpassing its land area. The nation’s overall terrestrial measurement amounts to 329,750 square kilometres (km2), while its marine domain, encompassing the exclusive economic zone, covers approximately 450,000 km2 of sea space. The Malaysian coastline, which encompasses both East and West Malaysia in addition to over 870 islands, extends across roughly 4,675 kilometres. The country also boasts a flourishing mangrove ecosystem spanning 7,097 square meters, a wide array of coral reefs expanding over 3,600 square meters, and a comprehensive range of habitats showcasing the intricacies of its marine ecosystem. As a maritime country endowed with extensive coastlines and ample marine resources, Malaysia acknowledges the pivotal role of the blue economy in driving its progress and enduring stability. Malaysians ought to leverage the favourable disparities offered by the profusion of marine resources, amplifying diverse economic endeavours linked to the ocean, encompassing marine life and assets, industries, tourism, as well as transportation and logistics.
The blue economy contributes approximately 23% to Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Recognizing the significance of the blue economy prompted Malaysian policymakers to incorporate its essence into the Twelfth Malaysia Plan, a strategy devised through consultations with pertinent ministries and organizations. Malaysia should cultivate a comprehensive comprehension of marine and coastal assets and devise innovative methodologies to address the difficulties while harnessing the advantages that the Blue Economy offers to the country’s socio-economic endeavours. The blue economy has the potential to play a critical role in assisting Malaysia in meeting its SDGs by leading to various components of equitable growth. As a result, the following are how the blue economy aligns with specific SDGs in Malaysia by 2030:
First and foremost, coastal communities can be lifted out of poverty (goal 1) by the blue economy, which includes industries like fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism. This will also encourage inclusive economic growth. Second, by ensuring a consistent supply of seafood products for local consumption, sustainable fishing and aquaculture methods under the blue economy can support goal 2, of increased food security. Third, Malaysia’s exploration of blue economy renewable energy sources such as offshore wind and tidal energy can help diversify the energy mix and contribute to the transition to clean and sustainable energy sources (goal 7). Fourth, blue economy sectors such as maritime transportation, fisheries, and tourism may generate decent work (goal 8) and foster economic growth, thereby contributing to population well-being. Fifth, the blue economy encourages environmentally friendly practises in industries like fisheries and tourism with the aim of ensuring responsible use of marine resources in both production and consumption (goal 12), thereby minimising negative environmental effects.
Sixth, the blue economy promotes sustainable fishing, marine conservation, and renewable energy, all of which reduce carbon emissions and help people become more resilient to the effects of climate change, which is related to goal 13. Seventh, Malaysia’s efforts to promote marine conservation, combat illegal fishing, and safeguard marine ecosystems help to achieve SDG 14. Finally, it’s important to highlight that the blue economy encourages cooperation among governmental bodies, private enterprises, non-governmental organizations, and global institutions to fulfil the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 17, which pertains to fostering sustainable development through partnerships.
In conclusion, given Malaysia’s abundant marine resources, coastal regions, and maritime heritage, the blue economy is critically important to Malaysia. Malaysia can significantly contribute to the SDGs being achieved by 2030 by incorporating sustainable practises into its coastal and maritime development strategies. Malaysia can achieve a balance between economic growth, social progress, and environmental protection for its citizens through the responsible use and conservation of marine resources, as well as through innovation and cooperation.
The author is a Research Fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies (UAC), Universiti Malaya.