During a visit to the Caribbean, Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, accompanied by International Development Secretary Justine Greening, announced a quadrupling of UK support to the region.

Speaking to the joint Houses of Parliament in Jamaica this week, Cameron announced a package of over £360m (over US$600m) of bilateral aid, featuring vital new infrastructure in the Caribbean, including Belize, such as roads, bridges and ports to help drive economic growth and development across the region.

Amandala attempted to get a comment from Prime Minister Dean Barrow on what aid Belize could expect, and when, but we were told by his CEO, Audrey Wallace, that he is on a very tight schedule and could not comment before we went to press.

Financial Secretary Joe Waight, however, told the paper that he “welcomes the initiative” and that “Belize stands ready to receive this welcome infusion of much needed development capital.” He added that “Belize is not yet sure what amount of the fund will come to Belize, but the UK has always been a good partner in development.”

The announcement was made on Tuesday, September 29, in Jamaica, while Cameron was on the first leg of a 2-day visit which focused on reinvigorating the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean countries. The disbursement will make the UK one of the largest bilateral donors to the region.

The Infrastructure Fund (IF) will be available to 8 Commonwealth countries in the region eligible for ODA (Official Development Assistance), namely Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. ODA is defined as resource flows to developing countries and multilateral organizations, which are provided by official agencies (e.g. the UK Government) or their executive agencies.

Delivered in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, the IF will use money from the UK’s existing aid budget to provide grants over the next few years for a range of projects that will help boost growth and trade across the region, creating jobs and opening up new market opportunities for British businesses.

Prime Minister Cameron said: “We want to help the Caribbean on their path of development – supporting economic growth and creating new opportunities for people living here.

“That’s what this £360 million infrastructure fund is all about,” Mr. Cameron said, “It will help to fund upgrades to ports, new roads and new bridges – making it easier here for businesses to trade with one another and with the rest of the world.”

He further noted that “… it will help benefit British businesses too, who have the knowledge and expertise to deliver the infrastructure improvements needed. It makes the United Kingdom one of the largest bilateral donors to the region – concrete proof of our determination to reinvigorate this relationship.”

The Caribbean region has some of the highest energy costs in the world, which has made it difficult for businesses to compete in global markets, leading to decades of slow or declining growth.

This infusion of much needed capital according to PM Cameron will focus on three critical areas of development in the eight countries, namely: £300 million for a new UK-Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund to build new ports, roads and bridges to boost trade and growth; £30 million to make health facilities more resistant to natural disaster; and £30 million for new programmes to support economic growth.

International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Britain’s close relationship with the Caribbean and our new support will help boost growth and kick-start economic recovery across the region as well as creating important trade and investment opportunities for the UK.”

Also announced was a doubling of UK Chevening Scholarships for the Caribbean and enhanced support in the fight against serious and organized crime in the region.