Strategic Investments to advance the SDGs and Sustainable Economic Recovery in Belize
Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva
UN ASG and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean
Belize Investment Summit
10 November 2021
His Excellency, John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize
His Excellency, Steven Harper, Former Prime Minister, Canada
Honourable Christopher Coye, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
Other Cabinet Ministers
Distinguished members of Government, the Diplomatic Corps, Private Sector, UN Colleagues, Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I am delighted to participate in Belize’s Investment Summit 2021 and contribute to the discussion on the country’s sustainable economic recovery.
Belize is endowed with extensive cultural and natural diversity with the world’s second longest barrier reef and the cultural melting pot of its population, which have together underpinned and shaped its socioeconomic development.
Belize shares a common narrative with many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) based on the significant and rapid economic downturn triggered by COVID-19. The rising human toll within our nations is a continuous reminder that 20 months after the declaration of a global pandemic, we are still experiencing its impacts and uncertainties and many countries have yet to realize expectations for the predicted “vaccine-powered” recovery.
The IMF reported that economies within the LAC region contracted by 7.4% in 2020; and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated an 8.1% contraction within the tourism-driven Caribbean states with over 14% in Belize. The multiplicity and complexity of threats being faced by Belize is a stark reminder that COVID-19 found our countries with multi-dimensional “pre-existing” conditions, including low economic growth, high inequality, biodiversity loss and increasing impacts of climate change.
While the multiple crises being faced by LAC countries have worsened by COVID-19, the pandemic offers the opportunity for new and innovative thinking underpinned by strategic partnerships to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enhance the quality of people’s lives. For a country like Belize whose economy is already challenged by limited fiscal space and high debt and that is rooted in its natural assets, the pandemic provides a turning point to change the paradigm to more sustainable and diversified industries, maximizing the blue, green, and orange economies. This necessitates tailored investments in areas and sectors that will have catalytic and multiplier effects and stimulate inclusive green recovery.
In this regard, I congratulate the Government and people of Belize on the recent accomplishment in refinancing a part of the nation’s public debt by leveraging its natural capital. The Belizean “Blue Bond” is reflective of the innovation needed in “rebalancing of nature, climate and the economy”.
Like many countries in LAC, sustainable recovery must include gradual debt reduction, growth stimulation, building resilience and reducing inequalities. Major pillars of the recovery should also include the resuscitation of employment and productivity, upskilling, enhancing fiscal space and securing adequate access to international liquidity, the restarting of education systems, improving access to services through digitalization and e-governance, diversified and sustainable models of tourism, and enabling the country to deliver adequate vaccinations. Belize’s economic recovery policies should translate into practical programmes that are locally oriented and reflective of the country’s natural assets and endogenous attributes.
A key question for many governments is: How to best identify and support industries that will drive economic recovery while preventing human development regression? I am happy to inform that at the core of UNDP’s work is connecting countries to global knowledge networks to share ideas, experiences, know-how, tools, and best practices to advance their national development priorities and achieve the SDGs. One such tool that is proving quite effective in helping countries to identify and target investments toward achieving the SDGs is UNDP’s SDGs Investor Map, piloted in Brazil. These investor maps provide localized insight into sectors and market conditions that contribute to countries advancing prioritized targets of the SDGs.
The methodology identifies Investment Opportunity Areas (IOAs) and business models that are backed by actionable data to guide investor decision-making. UNDP has collaborated with the Government of Belize to apply the SDG Investor Mapping methodology which has produced results situating an initial 16 investment opportunities across seven (7) sectors including education, renewable energy, agriculture, and transportation. If acted upon, these solutions could boost building forward better and galvanizing multi-partnership support to achieve the SDGs. A key benefit of this exercise is tied to its adaptability and the potential usefulness in continuously informing targeted investments aligned to development priorities.
I acknowledge the contribution of the United Nations Resident Coordination Office and other partners for this initiative. Given the collaborative interest shown by the Government of Belize, and in particular, the leadership of the Honourable Christopher Coye, I know the results of the Investor Mapping will not be confined to paper but will be actively translated into practical solutions through diverse partnerships to enhance the quality of life for all Belizeans, ensuring that “no one is left behind”. The time is now, the opportunities abound. Will the country move forward with a new paradigm, or will it be business as usual?
Ladies and Gentlemen. Thanks for watching.
To listen to remarks shared at the 2021 Investment Summit by the UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Luis F. Lopez-Calva, click on the link below: