By Aaron Humes: The World Bank Group this afternoon issued a diagnostic report on Belize that is primarily intended to help the Bank forge its own strategy for assisting Belize in major initiatives.
However, “Belize: Right Choices, Bright Future,” as it is called, also offers a unique look at all aspects of Belizean development and society in the past 35 years and identified not only the major challenges which Belize must overcome, but also what the country has been doing right.
Media personnel received a sneak preview of the findings on Wednesday, but we got a chance to formally discuss it today with author Francisco Carneiro, the Bank’s Lead Economist and Program Leader for the Caribbean.
He summarizes the three major areas that the Bank would like to see Belize pay more attention to as improving education and skills training; reducing crime and violence; and paying more attention to climate change and recovery from natural disasters.
The Bank would also like to see more and more frequently collected data to help international and local analysis. While Belize has generally improved in GDP growth and per capita income since Independence in 1981, both have stagnated in recent years.
Also, a review of the GDP growth revealed major peaks between 1982 and 1993 and 1998 and 2003, times when there was massive investment economically, and valleys between 1993 and 1998 and 2003 and present, when the Government has tightened its belt and not spent as much. Carneiro spoke to how best to level out the growth and sustain Belize’s main economic engines, agribusiness and tourism: proper investment in both good times and bad.
An important aspect of sustaining the economy is opening up capital to investors, especially small businesses locally. However, even with excess liquidity, the banks are feeling the squeeze from the de-risking phenomenon internationally. Carneiro tells us that Belize can lead the way in solving that dilemma.
And finally, there are questions about Belize’s commitment to improving education and skill training, reducing crime and violence and improving governance. However, the Jewel has been lauded for its handling of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program known as BOOST, which sets targets for families to meet to receive their stipend. Carneiro says Belize must keep it up.
Interestingly, Belize is ranked by World Bank standards as middle-of-the-road in perception of corruption as compared to other Latin American countries and ahead of the likes of Guatemala and Venezuela.
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