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A meeting of friends

The international community reaffirmed its strong support for Belize's strategy for recovery and reconstruction following Hurricane Keith during a December meeting in Washington, D.C., organized and chaired by the IDB.

Delegates from more than 20 bilateral and multilateral agencies were briefed on the Caribbean nation's efforts to recuperate from the damage wreaked by the hurricane, that hit its territory early in October. The disaster directly affected one-quarter of the country's population and caused nearly $280 million in damages and economic losses, according to an assessment by the U.N.’s Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). It was the worst natural disaster to strike Belize since Hurricane Hattie destroyed Belize City in 1961.

At the December meeting, IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias urged participants to look beyond the immediate reconstruction needs. Belize must not only repair the hurricane damage and get the economy back on its feet, he said, but also rebuild the country’s productive capacity, strengthen its institutions and establish a framework for sustained economic and social improvements.

"That is the challenge we face today," Iglesias said. "We should not aim only at reestablishing the pre-Keith status quo, but rather establish a framework for sustained economic and social development. The Belizean government cannot shoulder this burden by itself, and is seeking support from the international community."

In his statement, Belize’s Minister of Budget Management, Investment and Trade Ralph Fonseca, reiterated his government’s commitment to repair the damages left by Hurricane Keith not just for the sake of reconstruction, but rather to raise the standards of living, boost the efficiency of the economy, and strengthen Belize’s ability to deal with future natural disasters. From this perspective, noted the Minister, the hurricane can be seen as an opportunity to reinvigorate and improve Belize’s overall process of development.

"Belize and our people greatly appreciate your cooperation and invite you to continue to make a difference," said Minister Fonseca, who led his country’s delegation to the meeting. "Together we can have Belize and Belizeans bear their share and play their role in the international community."

In his closing remarks, the chairman of the meeting, Miguel E. Martínez, manager of the IDB’s Regional Operations Departmentfor Mexico, Central America, Belize, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, said that the gathering had provided a unique opportunity to improve donor coordination. The IDB, through its country office in Belize, will serve as the technical secretariat for donor cooperation in the implementation of the recovery plan. The Bank will also strive to share information about the Belizean strategy with other potential donors to encourage their support.

"The consensus around the table is that the government of Belize has put forward not only an emergency program but, more importantly, a program that will put Belize back on a path of sustainable development," Martínez said.

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