Belize will seek to provide better basic health care, improve secondary education and strengthen its capacity to target, coordinate and evaluate social protection programs with financing from a $15 million loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank on October 2.
These measures will help the government achieve the goals of its National Poverty Elimination Strategy.
One-third of Belize's population lives under the poverty line and the poorest sector of society lacks adequate basic health and secondary education services. In some southern rural areas, like the Toledo district, 79 percent of the population is poor and 56 is classified as indigent.
To strengthen primary health care for the most vulnerable sectors, the funds will support government plans to increase Southern Region eligible residents' enrollment in the National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot program. It will also protect the 2009–2010 budget lines needed to at least maintain NHI coverage at 95 percent of the population in south-side Belize City and 84 percent in the Southern Region.
A second tranche of the loan will help authorities consolidate policy reforms, and secure NHI enrollment of at least 88 percent of the eligible population of the Stann Creek and Toledo districts.
On education, the goals are to improve coverage of secondary education and ensure that all schools have the resources to meet Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competency standards; to support transparency in teacher employment processes; and to promote hiring of well-qualified primary and secondary level teachers.
Part of the funds will also help improve the information and beneficiary targeting systems in the social sectors and thereby the coordination and efficiency of social services.
They will also support government efforts to enhance fiscal transparency and accountability by adopting responsible fiscal management principles, enhancing access to financial information, and introducing a time perspective into fiscal policy decision making.
The Bank's loan is for a 20-year term, with a five-year grace period, and at a variable interest rate based on Libor.
- Peter Bate