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Millennium Challenge Corporation partners with Government to reduce poverty in Belize

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Posted: Friday, March 18, 2022. 11:03 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize has found another source of potential development funds – the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. Government agency with its mission to reduce poverty through economic growth.

Its delegation, led by CEO Alice Albright, has agreed to an initial analysis of constraints to Belizean economic growth and has consulted with 30 different groups and agencies virtually and in-person.

Over time, fifteen billion dollars have been deployed in twenty-nine countries and assisted an estimated two hundred and fifteen million people over that time.

Alice Albright outlined the next steps: “In terms of timing, typically compact development takes two to three years of development and planning before a formal grant agreement is signed. We are going to make every effort to try to go through that process quickly. However, commitment to this process helps minimize limitation risks. Throughout, we ensure input from all important stakeholders and doing so will set up the program for success in the future.”

The money will be in the form of grants as opposed to loans.

On Wednesday, an initial agreement was signed with Prime Minister John Briceño for initial administrative expenses necessary to facilitate compact development. The one point five million dollars in funding will ensure that GOB and MCC have access to technical expertise to conduct a rigorous assessment of the country’s economic situation. That process commenced earlier this year when vacancies were advertised.

Jonathan Brooks, Deputy Vice President, Compact Operations stated, “That funding is to help support the establishment of the team that is working with the MCC on the development of the program. The Government of Belize has been very prompt with already starting the hiring of the team and this funding helps to support the team that is now going to be expanded with specialists.”

Added Dr. Osmond Martinez, CEO, Ministry of Economic Development: “That project would have a program coordinator, an economics, a social inclusion and gender integration specialist, private sector development specialist, an environmental and social performance specialist, a public outreach and stakeholder engagement specialist and an administrative assistant. Most of you might have seen it at the end of January and the beginning of February, we advertised all these posts.”

How and why was Belize selected? According to Albright, our name came up in the regular discussion review of countries already being worked with and we scored highly on the democratic hallmarks MCC deems necessary to ensure success. More critically, due partially to the pandemic, Belize slipped down the ranks of middle-income countries to the lower tier, placing it in reach of the MCC’s domain of assistance.

But the idea is to reduce Belize’s poverty figures and, ironically, get us out of poverty. Chargé d’affaires Leyla Moses-Ones spoke to a new phase of partnership between Belize and the United States beyond current security concerns: “…we will be doing very deliberate partnership work on prosperity building. The U.S. Embassy has been very active in citizen security, security sector and the justice sector with a number of information literacy, investigative journalism. And so traditionally, we’ve focused on those areas and this with the new frontier of concerted effort to work through the Millennium Challenge Corporation to identify areas where prosperity can be driven, where the economy can be lifted up to improve inclusive growth.”

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