Belize today became the first country in the Caribbean to benefit from the CARICOM Development Fund.  The Fund is a key component of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and gives priority to projects in lesser develop nations and industries.  The first financing agreement between Belize and the CARICOM Development Funds was signed this morning in Belize City by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Fund’s Chief Executive Officer Lorne McDonnough.  Courtesy the Government’s Press Office, McDonnough spoke about the importance of this first funding agreement under the CDF.

Lorne McDonnough – CEO, CARICOM Development Fund
“It is significant that the first cap to be signed is with the northernmost CDF member state underscoring the commitment of the community to deepen integration with all member states.  Honourable Prime Minister, building cohesion sounds like a catch all phrase, but what does it mean for the average man on the street?  We are aware that the CARICOM member states have different capacities and or endowments, natural or otherwise.  Similarly we are aware that the private sector, the proverbial engine of growth may be constrained by capacity limitations.  Conscious therefore that a chain is only as strong as its weakest links, heads of government of the CARICOM determined that for all of us to benefit from the integration process, all must, equally have the opportunity to participate.  The CDF remit therefore represents a conscious and sustained effort to ameliorate those impediments which limit national potential as well as to address the dislocation emanating from the CSME implementation."

Under the agreement, Belize is getting three point four million U.S. dollars mostly in the form of a low-interest loan, to support private sector development and other projects. McDonnough explains how the loan is disbursed.

Lorne McDonnough – CEO, CARICOM Development Fund
“The assistance is comprised of a concessionary loan and separate grant components.  These interventions are aimed at supporting the development of the private sector, raising the capacity of government and the DFC to better manage projects and promoting business application of green technology.  The concessionary loan of $3 million to be executed by the DFC is offered at a normal rate of 3% per annum for 15 years with a grace period of 2 years and is for on lending to promote the development of enterprise with the potential to be internationally competitive, increase exports and incomes. Grants valued US $275,000.00 is being extended from Belize Statutory Grant allocation to the DFC and Ministry of Economic Planning.  A grant of $100,000.00 is being made available to DFC to upgrade its management information system for loan appraisal while $100,000.00 is provided to support the Ministry of Economic Planning efforts at implementing an electronic management information system for the public sector investment program.  $75,000.00 is destined for BELTRAIDE for the provision of technical assistance to develop and implement a policy for the medium and small enterprises sector."

As part of the agreement, Belize is also getting about two hundred thousand U.S. dollars, which the Development Finance Corporation will use to implement business application of environmentally friendly technologies in the production sector.  In his comments following the signing of the agreement, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said Belize is honored to be the first country to benefit from the CARICOM Development Fund.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I’m very happy that both for symbolic and practical reasons Lorne and the CDF have chosen to make Belize the first partner with which an official signing ceremony is taking place.  I take your point completely that because of where we are the symbolic significance is extremely important it indicates at a practical level the commitment of the CDF to serve all the member states effectively, notwithstanding the fact that this CARICOM entity is indeed a far flung one.  We are happy for the signal that it sends, we’re also happy because from time to time Belize feels rather hard done by.  It’s nice to know that in terms of the CDF we have been the first, we have been placed first with respect to the operationalization of the CARICOM Development Fund.  Altogether we can be well please with what is happening today.  On behalf of Belize I congratulate and thank the CDF and I am sure that our people will be most pleased with this particular departure.  Thank you again Lorne.”

The financing agreement between Belize and the Caribbean Community Development Fund was signed this morning during brief ceremonies held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Belize City.