Belize City, Belize– Top executives from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) visited Belize this week to discuss with key government officials and representatives of the private sector ways of deepening their partnership and cooperation to ensure the country’s sustainable development.
IDB Executive Vice President Julie T. Katzman, accompanied by IDB Country Representative Cassandra T. Rogers and Annette Killmer, a key advisor in the Bank’s Climate Change and Sustainable Development sector, met with Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow during a three-day visit July 24-26. Also present at the meetings were Anneke Jessen, Operations Senior Advisor for the IDB’s Country Department for Central America, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic; Francisco Mayorga, Alternate Executive Director for the Central American Chair of the IDB Board; and Elvira Mendez, Junior Counsellor for Belize.
The IDB executives and specialists also participated in a high-level panel discussion, “Partners in Sustainable Development Forum” co-organized by the Bank and the Belizean government as part of a year-long celebration of the country’s 25th anniversary of IDB membership.
In her closing remarks at the Forum, which was attended by more than 70 representatives of Belize’s public and private sectors as well as civil society, Ms. Katzman emphasized the need for careful, long-term planning to ensure that the country takes full advantage of its unique reserve of natural resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage while protecting them from over-exploitation and natural disasters.
“Sustainable development is without a doubt at the core of the future of Belize, of the economy and of people’s quality of life and it is essential that everybody get this right going forward,” said Ms. Katzman. “We are focused on building lasting solutions to difficult problems that have been bottlenecks for the country. Being able to solve [those challenges] in an inclusive way that creates new entrepreneurial opportunities for people who are economically disadvantaged is the kind of solution that we are looking at to really get to the heart of what we mean as sustainability.”
It is essential, she emphasized, to work together on a comprehensive plan to reduce Belize’s vulnerability to climate change, storms and flooding, noting that for each dollar spent on risk reduction investments, it is possible to reduce up to four dollars in future losses caused by disasters.
Ms. Killmer, of the Bank’s Climate Change and Sustainable Development Sector, said that 29% of the IDB’s $9.3 billion in approvals for sovereign-guaranteed lending in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016 was dedicated to projects focusing on climate change and environmental sustainability. “In Belize, where natural capital is at the core of economic and social development, mainstreaming biodiversity and integrating it in key economic sectors with measures to strengthen resilience to climate change is paramount for sustainable development,” she said during the Forum. Preservation of natural capital is vital in a country like Belize, where the tourism sector supports one in every six jobs, she noted.
The IDB strongly supports the Government’s Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy, its Coastal Zone Management Plan, and its Sustainable Tourism program, the second phase of which the Bank is currently financing. The IDB also is closely collaborating on the new master transport plan, which will increase regional competitiveness and expand the number of communities able to capitalize on the country’s tourism potential.
During their mission in Belize, the IDB delegation, accompanied by officials of relevant ministries, visited sites associated with the Sustainable Tourism Program II, financed by the IDB, including the international water taxi terminal in San Pedro, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, as well as the Caracol archeological site. In addition to their meeting with the Prime Minister, Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Natural Resources, and Yvonne Hyde, CEO of the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce, they also met with Arlene Young, director of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI).
At the “Partners in Sustainable Development Forum”, Minister Hyde gave opening remarks and the panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Elma Kay, Administrative and Science Director of the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute, included Dr. Lennox Gladden , policy coordinator for the Fisheries, Forestry, Sustainable Development, the Environment, Climate Change and Solid Waste Management Authority; Mr. Yashin Dujon, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation; Mrs. Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, President and Executive Director, Belize Association of Planners/Caribbean Planners Association; Ms. Kay Menzies, Co-Chair, Economic Development Council-Department of Public-Private Dialogue; and Mrs. Natalie Goff, General Manager, Development Finance Corporation.
About the IDB
The Inter-American Development Bank is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Besides loans, grants and guarantees, the IDB conducts cutting-edge research to offer innovative and sustainable solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges. Founded in 1959 to help accelerate progress in its developing member countries, the IDB continues to work every day to improve lives. Belize joined the IDB in 1992; this year marks the country’s 25th year as a Bank shareholder.
- Geri Smith