Seven countries in the region will benefit from Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) emergency loans that will finance their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier today, the CDB’s board of directors approved the disbursement of US$66.7 million for Antigua and Barbuda (US$13 million), Belize (US$15 million), Dominica (US$2.5 million), Grenada (US$5.9 million), Saint Lucia (US$10.8 million), St Vincent and the Grenadines (US$11.3 million), and Suriname (US$8.2 million).
“The provision of support to the seven countries to respond to COVID-19 and keep critical government services and operations running is urgent to halt the economic decline and minimise social hardship while giving focused attention to the most vulnerable people,” CDB President Dr William Warren Smith pointed out in a release.
According to the CDB, Caribbean countries are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus due to their heavy dependence on tourism for income and employment. The regional bank estimates, too, that a majority of the countries benefiting from will fall into recession this year and, therefore, will need the support extended through the emergency loans. will fall into recession this year.
“Real gross domestic product will decline in Antigua and Barbuda (1.5 per cent), Belize (5.4 per cent), Dominica (2.9 per cent), Grenada (10 per cent), Saint Lucia (9.1 per cent), and St Vincent and the Grenadines (4.8 per cent),” the CDB outlined.
“Suriname, heavily dependent on gold production and export, was also severely hit and the economy almost brought to a complete standstill. Its economy is forecast to contract by three per cent in 2020,” the release continued.
For this reason, the CDB will disburse the emergency loans to the countries under concessional terms. The bank expects that the loans will increase the governments’ fiscal space and allow the countries to meet their urgent financial needs without diverting resources away from critical social expenditures or health emergency needs.
The CDB noted further that it expects the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be significant. The pandemic could create an increase in unemployment, loss of income and livelihoods, as well as substantial disruptions of social services.
Among the demographic most like to feel the impact of the pandemic are women, especially those who head their households; children; and persons with disabilities.
To date, the CDB has provided COVID-19 relief to the tune of US$200 million. Borrowing member countries can access up to US$140 million to combat the fallout of the pandemic as well as any other shocks to their economies. The bank also donated US$3 million for the purchase of personal protective equipment.