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Dec 5, 2022

Celebrating 10 Years of Compete Caribbean

A ceremony was held today at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Compete Caribbean. But what is Compete Caribbean? It is a private sector development program that delivers innovative and practical solutions that stimulate economic growth, increase productivity and fosters innovation and competitiveness, while promoting economic inclusion. The Inter-American Development Bank serves as the vehicle for implementing benefits in Belize and after ten years, the program is being amped up to where Belize will be able to access up to ten million U.S. dollars for capacity building and project implementation. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Over the past ten years, Belize’s private sector has benefited from four million U.S. dollars in funding from the Inter-American Development Bank through the Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility, which is working in thirteen countries across the Caribbean region.


Ramiro Lopez Ghio

Ramiro Lopez Ghio, Belize Country Representative, IDB

“We invested these resources in eleven projects here in Belize plus three regional projects that include Belize as well in different sectors: shrimp, sugar industry, BPOs – different sectors that contribute to the economy. In the case of the BPOs, the IDB supported the promotion of investment in the country and also drafted the legislation and more than three thousand jobs were created through this initiative.”


Osmond Martinez

Dr. Osmond Martinez, C.E.O., Ministry of Finance, Economic Development & Investment

“A program that is in several countries in the Caribbean that is helping and assisting MSMEs, but also in the macro aspect, looking at the private sector in general. So they have helped with capacity building and accessing finance. And so some of the MSMEs have enjoyed some technological benefits from the program.”


To celebrate its tenth year, the program is scaling up and will see more funding made available for projects that will look at digitalization in some sectors and improving capacity.


Dr. Osmond Martinez

“An upscale of a boot camp that was recently conducted has qualified Belize to access a concessionary loan of ten million U.S. dollars that will be used to assist the MSMEs in Belize and it will be implemented through a new central executing unit that will be within the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment and that program will also be implemented through the Ministry of Investment and BELTRAIDE.”


Ramiro Lopez Ghio

“The IDB now is scaling up these projects and one particular project that we’re scaling up is about digitalization and the IDB is contributing with the government with ten million U.S. [dollar] program in order to digitalize firms – micro, small and medium enterprises – plus digitalising the civil and the land registry as well.”


And while the program helps to build the capacity of private sector stakeholders and businesses, accessing international markets continues to be a challenge. Beyond the traditional export commodities such as sugar, citrus and bananas, there are issues of meeting market standards for exporting and looking to other opportunities outside of the CARICOM trade bloc. Keynote speaker at today’s event was Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Abelardo Mai who spoke of these same limitations.


Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security & Enterprise

“It is important that we find a way to expand the export base, to look at non-traditional products, to look at niche markets to see how small farmers can get in and export. So that is the challenge that we are faced as a country and the agriculture sector looking at who we are exporting to. Again, it is a small group of countries. We export mainly to the U.S., the U.K., CARICOM – these are the small pool. So expanding the base, diversifying the base and expanding to other markets. Mexico has trade agreements with all of Central America, all of Central America. We although in Central America, politically we are a member of CARICOM so we cannot be a part of these agreements if we want to join as Belize, bilaterally. It cannot be; we have to join as a bloc and that puts certain limitations and that’s why every day we are negotiating with the Guatemalans to expand the partial scope agreement, negotiating with Mexico to expand or to develop a partial scope agreement with them. Even as we are improving economically, even as we are exporting, even as the economy is growing contrary to what the IMF had said, we still have challenges.”


Compete Caribbean also involves academia, as well as the tourism sector. Tourism C.E.O. Nicole Solano says that in early 2023, assessments will be done in Garifuna cuisine, drum-making and dancing so that it can be marketed as a product to tourists from different regions.


Nicole Solano

Nicole Solano, C.E.O., Ministry of Tourism & Diaspora Relations
“Compete Caribbean actually has a program for the Garifuna trail, so our small businesses in Dangriga and Hopkins will be benefiting under this program. So it is creating a cultural trail for the tourist to be able to experience all the different cultures from business to business. So we have a marketing component and they can learn about the Garifuna culture and experience activities.”


Dr. Osmond Martinez

“I am so excited to see that academia is present because in order for us to be able to move forward, we need scientific research and development and who best to conduct scientific research and development than academia. They do have the experts.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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