The IDB member countries of the English-speaking Caribbean – The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – along with Dutch-speaking Suriname, are brought together by commerce, geography, history and traditions. Their economic situation and development challenges, however, may vary widely.
They share some common development challenges. One is the need to become more competitive in the international economy. Other challenges include more economic growth, overcoming the threat of macroeconomic imbalances that weaken development efforts, the need to strengthen public-private dialogue to promote private sector development, and institutional capacity constraints that hold back efficiency and public policy. The global economic slowdown has made these challenges more daunting.
In this context, the IDB approved more than US$600 million in these seven countries in 2009, and expects to approve approximately US$900 million in 2010. With a current portfolio of US$1.3 billion, the IDB continues to work together with these Caribbean member countries to make a difference in several key areas. This is in addition to the US$200 million in annual grants earmarked for Haiti.
The key areas for the English-speaking Caribbean countries and Suriname include:
Social policy for equity and productivity, where the IDB is helping to make progress on issues such as health and education. For example, the IDB has renewed its partnership with the Government of Guyana to work on expanding child and maternal health and reducing malnutrition, a partnership which has helped achieve measurable results over the past decade.
The IDB is also collaborating with the governments of Trinidad & Tobago, The Bahamas and Jamaica, to help tailor the countries’ education systems to meet their needs for more skilled human resources and economic growth.
Several new projects seek to improve disaster risk management and coastal infrastructure. The Regional Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Tourism initiative aims to bring together public sector stakeholders in nine Caribbean countries with leading hoteliers and regulatory officials to enhance disaster preparedness and response, in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The IDB is also partnering with the Government of Barbados to improve the country’s coastal zone management, and through the recent Coastal Infrastructure Program, to address the challenges of coastal erosion, rising sea levels and other risks associated with climate change.
The Bank is contributing to institutional capacity building for growth and social welfare through its work on such issues as public financial management and local government strengthening.
In Guyana, the IDB has been providing long-standing support to assist the government in making significant advances in modernizing the management of public finances, helping build a strong fiscal basis for sustained growth.
In Suriname, the Bank has recently approved the second phase of a project aimed at building capacity and expanding the authority of local governments in the country, continuing a partnership with the Government of Suriname that began in 2001.
A fiscal consolidation program is supporting the Government of Jamaica's efforts to achieve stable, sustained growth in a context of sound macroeconomic policy.
In the area of competitive regional integration and private sector development, the IDB has recently approved projects in trade sector support and competitiveness. The IDB is also supporting private sector development and competitiveness in 15 countries in the region through its partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development and Canadian International Development Agency on the Compete Caribbean initiative.
The Bank also continues to provide support in the area of infrastructure. In the Bahamas, through the Supplement to the New Providence Transport Program approved in 2008, the Bank will continue its focus on financing public investments to bring about improvements in road infrastructure. These changes will be accompanied with increased transport planning capability and improved road safety, as well as supporting viable schemes to increase private participation in the provision of road maintenance and organized operation of public transport services.
Assisting the integration process and strengthening CARICOM remain IDB priorities, as do helping these countries deal with the effects of climate change and providing support for environmental sustainability.
Programs for furthering reforms in social sectors—such as health, housing and education— are also expected to receive additional financial support from the IDB, as are programs in infrastructure and strengthening governance.
The IDB is also giving strong support to Haiti. With a US$900 million project portfolio distributed across 30 operations, and with uninterrupted presence in the country for over 50 years, the IDB is Haiti´s largest and most continuous source of multilateral financing.
After the devastating earthquake of January 12, the Bank strengthened its program with Haiti by financing earthquake response activities and providing much needed emergency and recovery relief in water and sanitation and communications. The IDB’s grant allotment for Haiti was increased. In the nine months since January 12, the IDB has approved more than US$166 million in new grants and disbursed over US$100 million. The Bank hopes to reach an annual target of US$160 million in disbursements, a record figure despite the difficult post-earthquake conditions.