Helping the Caribbean in a Pandemic | Therese Turner-Jones –

By Therese Turner-Jones

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday March 30, 2020 Cruise ships are docked. Flights are grounded and tourists are staying home. As the coronavirus grinds the world economy to a halt, the small, open economies of the Caribbean are taking a hard hit.

TheBahamas, Barbados and Jamaica are dependent on tourism. Oil and natural gasprices are plunging, hurting Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Arecent exploration of economic scenarios gives some indication of the extent towhich the reduction in tourist arrivals could impact the GDP of Caribbeancountries. The worst scenario: a 75 per cent reduction in tourism arrivals overthe last 3 quarters of the year could reduce GDP by between 11 per cent and 26per cent in the case of The Bahamas, with similar numbers for Barbados andJamaica. Governments need urgent financial support.

Atthe Inter-American Development Bank, we are taking steps to help our six Caribbeanmember countries. We are increasing the availability of funds, adjusting ourlending instruments, re-channeling technical assistance grants, andestablishing exchange andlearning platforms, to provideimmediate responses to the countries specific demands. We are devoting ourentire network of collaboration, knowledge, and dialogueto serve theregional effort combating thepandemic.

Forour 26-member countries, we have added US$3.3 billion in additional funds tothe 2020 lending program. These resources, together with the availableprogrammed resources, make up to US$12 billion available to the countries toaddress the health crisis and the economic impacts stemming from the pandemic.

Wehave immediately offered countries the ability to reallocate resources from thehealth portfolio and will consider reformulating the entire loan portfolio toredirect available resources for an amount equivalent to 10 per cent of theundisbursed loan balances in the investment portfolio or up to US$50 million,whichever occurs first. The IDB is also making US$50 million of our ownresources available to Latin America and the Caribbean for national andregional grant assistance, as well as technical cooperation funds fromnonregional partners under the IDBs administration.

IDBInvest will join this effort with US$5 billion in 2020 for Latin America andthe Caribbean. Of this amount, USUS$4.5 billion from its investment programwill be devoted to enable lines to support the financing of the entire tradeand supply chain and finance companies in critical sectors impacted by thecrisis. In addition, IDB Invest will create a new Crisis Mitigation Facilitywith US$500 million to finance the delivery of services and inputs for thehealth sector and provide access to short-term financing for small andmedium-sized enterprises. These financial efforts are being supplemented by thestreamlining of our fiduciary processes and approval times so we can providethe firm and timely support demanded by the situation.

Wewill also be coordinating closely with other multilateral financialinstitutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. This is an all-hands-on-deckmoment.

The health and safety of the people of the Caribbean is our top priority. The steps governments are taking to protect the lives of their citizens are encouraging. We urge all governments to enforce urgent regulations to restrict the spread of the virus. And we urge citizens to abide by these rules. Our teams in your countries are fully engaged with policy makers to fulfill the most urgent needs and also plan for the future. You can count on the IDB Group, with all the human and financial resources at our disposal, to help you through these challenging times.

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Therese Turner-Jones has been the IDBs country representative for Jamaica since 2013. In 2017 her portfolio was expanded when she was promoted to general manager of IDBs Country Department Caribbean Group (CCB). Her purview spans IDB operations in Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and her home country, the Bahamas. A trained economist, Mrs. Turner-Jones has over 25 years experience in macroeconomics and economic development, with special emphasis on the Caribbean.

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Helping the Caribbean in a Pandemic | Therese Turner-Jones -

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