Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2021. 7:07 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) group supports the Belize Investment Summit because of the opportunities it represents for Belize, says Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Vice President, Richard Martínez Alvarado, at the opening on Wednesday morning in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
Martínez said that being face to face at the Belize Investment Summit means that the worst of the pandemic is over and that the work Belize has made to recover and reignite growth is paying off.
The IDB Vice President said the private and public sectors must work in tandem to lead Belize to recovery. The private sector, which has enormous potential in Belize, is the cornerstone to reactivate the economy and boost job creation, he said. But for that to happen, Martínez Alvarado warned that the public sector must provide the institutional framework and the policies to enhance the business climate and attract investments, including macroeconomic stability.
He added that the IDB Group is proud to be a key development partner of Belize and will continue supporting the country on its way to recovery. “I think we all agree that the private sector is key to generating robust and sustainable growth,” said the IDB vice president.
He said the IDB group’s private sector investment portfolio for Belize stands at $53 million in trade, agribusiness, and energy and has a pipeline of projects valued at $60 million.
“As you’ll know, tourism-dependent economies like Belize were hit hard by the pandemic. With tourist arrivals dropping 72% last year, the scars left by the COVID shock are deep and long-lasting,” he said. “And yet there are already signs of hope.”
According to Martínez Alvarado, the IMF’s most recent 2022 growth forecast for Belize has gone from 1.9% to 8.5% due to improved tourist activity and exports. He added that the IDB expects this positive trend to continue.
Martinez said that if the private sector representatives play their roles right, the IDB group’s vision for Belize, and by extension, Latin America and the Caribbean, will be reaping the benefits of expanded markets, more and better jobs, and climate resilience.
But he reiterated that to achieve success, the public sector has got to provide “the institutional frameworks and environment for markets to function effectively, including policies to open space to investment, boost digitalization, foster integration, tackle inequalities, and fight climate change”.
Martínez said that recovery requires what he termed as “the most pro-growth policy at hand: accelerating vaccination”. He congratulated Prime Minister Briceño for leading the effort with the Investment Summit and for Belize’s important milestone of 50% of the population with at least one COVID-19 dose and over 40% fully vaccinated.
“A huge milestone that saves lives, provides relief to the health system and allows resuming economic and learning activity,” Martínez Alvarado said. “It is an honor for the IDB to be your ally in this fight from the very beginning, initially providing financial support to the vulnerable families and then funding the acquisition and the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines. In total, the IDB devoted 40.7 million dollars to fight the pandemic in Belize. And this has been done while keeping a commitment to fiscal sustainability and protection of its natural capital, notably through innovative initiatives.”
He then said that the restructuring of the Superbond by issuing the Blue Bond and committing to invest significant resources in marine conservation are two crucial aspects to achieve a sustainable and robust recovery.
The IDB Vice President echoed Prime Minister Briceño’s words at the climate change summit, the COP26, that “the impact climate change has on small islands and countries is considerable and so are the needs of these countries to increase the resilience”.
Martínez Alvarado noted the IDB shares this vision, and the results are already visible in Belize mentioning the rehabilitation of George Price Highway as an example of climate-resilient infrastructure.
He went on to say that the IDB and other multilateral development banks believe in boosting nature-based investment because natural capital is critical in post-COVID recovery. “It creates jobs, generates income, leverages private technical investment, and resiliently protects critical ecosystem services,” he said.
“This is the time for Belize to work even harder on a new model of tourists who are more attuned to the future and the country’s needs, but it is also time to promote diversification, both within the tourism and agricultural sectors and across the economy by advancing promising sectors and attracting private investment,” he said.
According to Martínez Alvarado, the Belize Investment Summit officially opened the economic recovery phase in Belize. “And I am here to tell you that the IDB group is right by your side because your priorities, Prime Minister and for all the Belizean people, your priorities are our priorities,” said Martínez Alvarado expressing support to the Briceño government.
He closed off by saying that the IDB is focused on consolidating economic sustainability and building resilience during 2021 and 2022. “In 2021, that includes an operation to strengthen public financial management, as well as a $15 million credit line for MSMEs, that executed by the Development Finance Corporation, will dedicate 25% of the resources to women,” he said.
“The next three years are going to be challenging, but we have all the ingredients we need to succeed right here in this Summit. That’s why the IDB group is here today to prove beyond words, that we stand ready to support this mission full of difficulties but also full of opportunities.”
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