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Dec 8, 2000

Minister optimistic about hurricane aid

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The meeting of potential providers of post hurricane assistance took place on Thursday in Washington, and News 5′s Ann-Marie Williams is just off the plane with her take on the proceedings.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

Belizean officials are optimistic that their efforts to mobilise long-term economic support in the wake of Hurricane Keith will be successful. Speaking at the conclusion of a one-day donor conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Minister of Budget Planning Ralph Fonseca, said that the gathering more than lived up to his expectations.

Ralph Fonseca, Minister of Budget Planning

?It was confirmed by all the representatives of the international community that in fact we had brought to the international agenda the impact of Keith on the Belizean economy and on the Belizean people. And what we needed to do in order to move forward, to get over Keith, to get back to the kind of growth that we had before Keith and then to move forward to be internationally competitive and provide jobs for Belizeans and have Belizeans live better. And that is all under the heading of our RMS as we call it, or Recovery Management Strategy, which was discussed in great detail as you listened to this morning, not only by ourselves, but also by the ECLA people who had been to Belize and done the damage assessment. Basically the international community was saying we understand that Belize took a serious hit, that it has lost some five hundred and eight million dollars, that over four hundred million of that is direct capital cost, but that the Belizean government and the people of Belize have a rational strategy that makes sense to get out of this problem.?

Fonseca went to the Washington meeting primarily to sell Belize?s Recovery Management Strategy to the international community. Major players were the World Bank and Interamerican Development Bank along with over a dozen bilateral and multilateral agencies present at the meeting. A major part of that appeal according to Fonseca has to do with poverty alleviation.

Ralph Fonseca

?As you know, the people that suffered the most from this hurricane were the small farmers and the fishermen. The small farmers and the fishermen, many of them that were bankable, are not bankable anymore. So we only have the small farmers and business bank as a mechanism in Belize right now to deal with this kind of situation, this is why we highlighted the small farmers and business banks so often, trying to channel not only funding toward them, but also the necessary institutional strengthening in order that the small farmers and business banks can be a premier financial intermediary, do the right due prudence and diligence, but continue to lend with unconventional collateral to the people that need it the most especially after the hurricane.?

And after the two hundred and eighty million U.S. dollars in damages caused by Hurricane Keith, a number of projects have to come on stream as part of the recovery strategy.

Ralph Fonseca

?The third part of it of course had to do with inviting them to get directly involved with the various projects that we have profiled, and that the ECLA people have profiled in our documentation that we gave to them today. So that was the third objective and everyone around that table committed to get involved either with financial resources or with technical assistance. So to a very large extent we accomplished what we wanted.?

And now what is needed is for the international donor agencies to make good on their promise. Fonseca says commitment should be in sometime in January. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

Three local journalists, chosen by lottery, were given the opportunity to cover the meeting in Washington. We’d like to thank the local office of the IDB for making that coverage possible.

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