The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Monday said it is making available almost US$67 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 US$66.7 million 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 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 per cent, Belize 5.4 per cent, Dominica 2.9 per cent, Grenada 10 per cent, St Lucia 9.1 per cent, and St Vincent and the Grenadines 4.8 per cent.

“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 CDB said that 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 said its response to COVID-19 to date tops US$200 million, with 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 the purchase of personal protective equipment.

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