The Board of Directors of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) at its 6th Extraordinary Meeting held on 18th May 2020, considered and agreed to a request to reallocate to the COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) of Belize, an amount of US$2,272,990 (BZE$ 4,545,980). The disbursement of these funds, projected to commence by early October 2020, will contribute to the wider relief initiative, which will target in excess of 21,000 beneficiaries.
The Government of Belize (GOBZ) in early April 2020 requested the assistance of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) to support its URP initiative, by providing an income supplement to workers impacted by the sudden decline in economic activity resulting from the dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The request was to reprogramme funds previously allotted to an infrastructure project in Belize, which was redesigned thereby releasing funds to address the economic impact of the public health emergency.
The initiative was pursuant to the agreement taken in mid-March by the COVID-19 National Oversight Committee, co-chaired by The Honorable Deane Barrow Prime Minister of Belize, and Opposition Leader the Honorable John Brisceno, to set up the URP. The primary objective of the URP was to provide income support to displaced workers in the tourism sector and was extended to those who lost their jobs or income consequent upon the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. The relief programme is being administered by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), through the Social Security Board (SSB) and the Belize National Bank, and monitored by an Economic Oversight Team (EOT) which reports to the bipartisan National Oversight Committee.
The decision to reprogramme funds towards provision of income support under this COVID-19 response initiative, is consistent with the CDF’s mandate to provide technical and financial assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions, and sectors in support of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It was buttressed by the decision subsequently taken by the CDF Board at its 46th Regular Meeting held in August 2020, in considering disadvantages arising from impairment to resources caused by disasters, to expand the definition of ‘disaster’ under the CDF’s Emergency Disaster Assistance Facility, to include pandemics and other public health emergencies.