World Bank announces new country partnership strategy with Belize

WASHINGTON, USA -- The World Bank board of directors has endorsed the Belize country partnership strategy for the next four years. The strategy supports the country’s efforts to adopt a sustainable natural resource-based economic model, while enhancing Belize’s resilience to climate change and natural hazards.

This new strategy follows the successful implementation of an interim strategy note, which represented the Bank’s re-engagement with the country after a long hiatus, and included the Bank’s first loan to Belize in almost 10 years.

“Belize’s natural resources are critical to the health of its economy and well-being of the most vulnerable population,” said Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow. “We are gladly partnering with the World Bank to support an effective and improved management of the environment and natural resources in Belize.”

Belize is a small lower middle-income country, which was adversely impacted by the global economic crisis. The crisis, which came on the heels of the 2008 food and fuel price increases as well as natural disasters, led to a slowdown in growth and an increase in poverty. While growth resumed in 2010, high debt levels and increasing fiscal pressures remain a persistent challenge for policymakers.

Belize is endowed with unique natural resources, including the largest barrier reef in the Americas and pristine tropical forests. The country’s global comparative advantage is derived from this natural resource base, which supports the tourism and agriculture sectors, and its advantageous geographical proximity to major markets. Belize’s main development challenge is its high vulnerability to external shocks, including terms of trade, natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.

The strategy supports two main areas:

1) Enhancing the institutional capacity of the government in natural resources management and climate change-related activities. This includes incorporating environmental sustainability into development policy and strategy formulation, planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring.

2) Investing in the country’s resilience to climate change and natural hazard impacts. The program will finance natural resource-based adaptation measures and physical infrastructure designed to protect the most vulnerable.

“A program to protect the natural capital of Belize will help improve growth prospects and benefit the poor who tend to depend on natural resource-driven sectors,” said Françoise Clottes, World Bank director for the Caribbean. “This strategy indirectly supports Belize’s fiscal sustainability because increased resilience to climate change and natural hazards reduces the costs borne by the government as a result of disasters.”

The Bank’s program will be complemented by support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, through its financing and advisory services, focused on the following areas: financial market development, access to finance, infrastructure, agribusiness and tourism, and green construction and other climate resilient activities.

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