The Caribbean is to receive £75 million (US$116.5 million) in development projects from the United Kingdom over four years to help with job-creation, improve security, and combat the threat posed by natural disasters and climate change.

UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, said the funds represent a considerable increase on previous aid budgets, signaling the strong commitment to the region.

The disclosure was made during the just-ended two-day 7th Seventh UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum held under the theme, "Sustainable Growth Towards Prosperity".

"We are one of the few nations in the world that is maintaining its international development commitments at a time of financial difficulty. We will stick to our pledge to raise our aid to 0.7 of GNI (gross national income), and you will find us a reliable partner," he told participants.

Foreign Secretary Hague said the core task of both regions was to create new opportunities for trade, investment and innovation in their respective economies.

Sam Condor, the Foreign Minister for St Kitts and Nevis and the forum co-chair explained that the conference revitalized the partnership between the two regions as reflected in the 31-point Plan of Action agreed to.

The discussions, he stated, centred on economic resilience, climate change and security as well as the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), which regional officials complain discriminates against the Caribbean.

Minister Condor stated that the region's tourism sector was staggering under the weight of the tax that has made travel very expensive.

He urged the UK to consider reforming the APD to level the playing field and provide a win-win situation for both regions.

Jeremy Browne, Minister of State, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office described the two-day political dialogue as fruitful, noting that the Forum provided a framework for continuing activities with the High Commissioners in London.

The Reporter