UK funds will boost development projects in Caribbean

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada: The Caribbean is to receive £75 million (US$116.5 million) in development projects from the United Kingdom over four years to help create jobs, improve security, and combat the threat posed by natural disasters and climate change.

The announcement was made during the 7th UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum, the theme of which was “Sustainable Growth Towards Prosperity.”

UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, said the funds represent a considerable increase on previous aid budgets, signaling the UK’s strong commitment to the region.

“We are one of the few nations in the world that (are) maintaining (their) international development commitments at a time of financial difficulty,” Hague said. “We will stick to our pledge to raise our aid to 0.7 of GNI (gross national income), and you will find us a reliable partner.”

Hague said the core task of both regions was to create new opportunities for trade, investment and innovation in their respective economies.

Sam Condor, the Foreign Minister for St. Kitts & Nevis and co-chair of the two-day forum, said the conference revitalized the partnership between the two regions as reflected in the 31-point Plan of Action, to which both regions have agreed. The discussions, Condor said, focused on economic resilience, climate change and security as well as the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), which regional officials complain discriminates against the Caribbean. Condor said the Caribbean tourism sector was staggering under the weight of the tax that has made travel very expensive. He urged the UK to consider reforming the APD to level the playing field and provide a win-win situation for both regions.

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State, Jeremy Browne, described the two-day political dialogue as fruitful, noting that the forum provided a framework for continuing activities with the High Commissioners in London.

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