The Caribbean Development Bank today announced that it would be sharing 40 million US dollars in funding for poverty reduction across eight Caribbean countries. The money comes through the Basic Needs Trust Fund - which is administered by SIF in Belize. Countries that will benefit are: Belize; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Saint Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and Suriname.
Last month in Barbados, the CDB President told us why the CDB is always eager to partner with Belize for poverty reduction programmes:
Jules Vasquez- reporter
"why is it that Belize is one of the top three countries with the CDB in terms of accessing loans?"
Dr. William Warren Smith - President, CDB
"We are in that business, so that I think that that in part explains the extent of our involvement with Belize on the lending side. Their electricity sector also; historically that's one that CDB has given a lot of emphasis to. Back in the 1980's we worked very closely with the electricity company in Belize and helped to transform it into a more modern well run and well organized utility with the benefits that have flowed from it as a result, so I think that is part of economic infrastructure also. So we have been consistent in helping Belize over the years to develop the infrastructure that would drive their development. We are very proud of that relationship. Of course as a financial institution one of the things we have to manage carefully is exposure risk, so that, one of the reasons we are very happy to have the UK SIF facility is that it allows us to continue to be engaged in Belize in the infrastructure sector, again, through the development of the New Road, I think it's a coastal road, which is being funded largely by grant resources from the UK SIF. That does not represent the kind of exposure that I am talking about from the banking side of the CDB. So we're very happy for that. Belize, also, because of the level of its social development at this time is one of these countries that is eligible for resources from our soft window, so that you're one of the largest beneficiaries in the past; so that's a good development. And these resources you have used very effectively in building your social safety net- addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor. So we are very proud of that and we have used Belize as an example of what our basic needs trust fund can accomplish in social and economic development."
Initiatives under the program will be implemented between March 2017 to December 2020.
The CDB will also assist Belize with its Correspondent Banking problem. The Bank has approved funding of 250,000 US dollars "to strengthen financial transparency, and assist in preventing the loss of correspondent banking relationships in the Region."
Now, this is a problem that various government's are working on from various angles, but, Belize is among the most affected. The CDB release says "The project will be a pilot initiative, and will include The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
In February, the President of the Bank told us why he thinks the bedeviling problem can be solved:...
Warren Smith, President CDB
"I don't think we're at the stage yet where we could honestly say that there is an end in sight to this crisis. But I think one thing that is emerging is that where we could concentrate as a region is on trying to ensure that our environment, our banking environment, our financial environment is brought up to a standard where the risk of being blacklisted by the correspondent banks is minimized. And one of the things that we have advocated and I think that we are quite prepared to provide assistance in this regard, financial assistance is to have an entity like the Caribbean financial sector task force to work with the jurisdictions, our country jurisdictions to help them to identify weaknesses and mechanisms that they could deploy to strengthen the quality of their jurisdictions."
"Some countries are at greater risk than others. Your country, Belize is perhaps one of the most affected and the need for a solutions I urgent. But, I'm pretty confident that at the end of the matter is one that is tractable and that a solution will be found."
The project will be implemented over three years in partnership with the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group.