Caribbean Seizes Opportunities

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February 5, 2010No: 2/10 - G NEWS RELEASE "Caribbean seizes opportunities under UK-CDB Fund for CSME and EPA" In days where donor funding is sometimes scarce, and there is some frustration with the pace of implementation of trade agreements and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the establishment and early implementation of the UK's Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund) at CDB stands out as a great development success story. The CARTFund was established at CDB in March 2009 with £5 million funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), to support Caribbean implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe and the CSME. The Fund was born out of the UK's commitment to provide additional Aid for Trade resources to the region, and the tireless efforts of CDB, DFID and CARICOM/CARIFORUM officials to quickly find a viable mechanism to deliver the funding. CDB manages the Fund from the application phase to project completion, and the Fund Steering Committee, composed of DFID, CARICOM and CARIFORUM representatives, is responsible for project approval and overall strategic oversight of the Fund. Regional and national institutions and organisations within CARIFORUM are all eligible to apply for funding. The Fund has worked really well in practice. Just short of one year from its establishment, the response so far from institutions in the region has been overwhelming, with a total of 35 applications being received. The Fund's Steering Committee has already approved 10 projects, to the value of US$6.06 million. The approved projects represent a good mix of regional and national initiatives, and are all designed to help advance the implementation of aspects of the CSME and the EPA. They include EPA implementation unit projects in the CARICOM Secretariat and Antigua; an EPA awareness-building project from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, and 2 regional projects from the Caribbean Export Development Agency for the specialty food industry and the health and wellness Tourism sector; 2 projects from Guyana on trade transaction processing and competition and consumer protection; 2 projects from the Barbados Private Sector Association, and one training project in Grenada for hotel workers. Another 14 projects are in the active pipeline under appraisal by CDB. The project pipeline has actually exceeded initial expectations, and can exhaust all the available funding. DFID is therefore considering additional resources for the Fund. Speaking at a high-level meeting with CDB on February 5, 2010, Sue Wardell, Director for Middle East, Caribbean, Asia (North, Central and East) and the British Overseas Territories confirmed the UK Department for International Development's commitment to the programme, and stated: "The UK Government is committed to promoting growth in the Caribbean through Aid for Trade. We are happy to support the region's own priorities in EPA and CSME implementation, through a demand-led and regionally-driven mechanism like CARTFund. We welcome the great progress made on the Fund to date, and are currently considering providing additional resources." Ms. Wardell also lauded CDB for its excellent work in managing the Fund, and noted her appreciation to CARICOM and CARIFORUM officials for their productive collaboration with DFID through the Fund's Steering Committee. CDB also confirmed their commitment to, and satisfaction with the CARTFund. According to the Bank's President, Dr. Compton Bourne, "The Bank, through the unstinting and imaginative efforts of Mr. Desmond Brunton, its Vice President (Operations), was able to fashion an arrangement which is not only workable but satisfactory to all stakeholders. He was ably supported by Ms. Valarie Pilgrim, Operations Officer (Technical Assistance), and the team in the Legal Department. It is a good model of how the Caribbean Development Bank can effectively help improve the flow of funds to CARICOM/CARIFORUM - a model worthy of replication in respect of the EU-committed funds." The experience to date with CARTFund clearly shows that some regional stakeholders are ready to take the bull by the horns and take quick action to advance CSME and EPA implementation. Given the importance of these issues to the region's development and growth in the future, the UK Government (through DFID) and CDB will continue to work together to support these proactive efforts through CARTFund and other initiatives.

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