BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 18, 2020 (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) announced, today, it is making available US$66.7, million in emergency loans, to seven Caribbean countries, in the first instance, to finance the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Bank’s Board of Directors approved the emergency loans for: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
“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,” said CDB President, Dr. Wm Warren Smith.
The emergency loans, made under CDB’s most concessional terms, will provide vital liquidity and increase governments’ fiscal space, to allow these countries to promptly meet their urgent financing needs, without diverting resources away from critical social expenditures or health emergency needs.
According to the CDB, Antigua and Barbuda will receive US$13 million; Belize US$15 million; Dominica US$2.5 million; Grenada US$5.9 million; St. Lucia US$10.8 million; St. Vincent and the Grenadines US$11.3 million; and Suriname US$8.2 million.
The region’s premier financial institution said that Caribbean countries are especially vulnerable to the global virus outbreak, due to their heavy dependence on tourism, for income and employment.
According to CDB estimates, many of these countries, including those, which will be supported with emergency loans, will fall into recession this year.
It said real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will decline in Antigua and Barbuda by 1.5 percent; Belize 5.4 percent; Dominica 2.9 percent; Grenada 10 percent; St. Lucia 9.1 percent; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines 4.8 percent.
“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 percent in 2020,” the Bank’s estimates projected.
The CDB said, it is expected that the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be significant, stemming from an increase in unemployment, and loss of income and livelihoods, as well as substantial disruptions of social services, with women, female heads of households and children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and migrants as the most vulnerable groups.
The CDB disclosed that its response to COVID-19, to date, tops US$200 million, including US$140 million that can be used by the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMC), to tackle the fallout of the pandemic, as well as any other shocks to their economy; and three million US dollars for the purchase of personal protective equipment.