JOHN BRICEÑO, Prime Minister of Belize, said the pandemic brought his country’s economy “to its knees” with 30 per cent unemployment, a GDP decline of 14 per cent, debt ballooning to 130 per cent of GDP, and a poverty rate increased to 60 per cent. The deadly human toll includes a fatality rate of 2.05 per cent, thousands hospitalized and health facilities overwhelmed. Loans originally committed for development and climate change were diverted to cover emergency health needs. The Common Framework and Debt Service Suspension Initiative failed to offer forbearance to most middle-income small island developing States, including Belize, while most similar countries had no recourse to concessionary financing for immediate health response.
The immediate global response was slow and inadequate to the scale and depth of the health crisis, he said, noting 80 per cent of vaccines administered worldwide have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, with only 0.4 per cent of doses administered in low-income States, and in Latin America and the Caribbean — the region worst hit by the pandemic — only a fifth of the population has received vaccines.
Noting “Belize exists today because of the multilateral system,” he thanked Member States for support of its territorial integrity and right to self-determination, critical to achieving independence. Despite a global inclination to retreat towards nationalist tendencies, the magnitude of crises and urgency of action required cannot be met by any one country. Belize is pursuing, along with Guatemala, the final and peaceful resolution of Guatemala’s claim to Belizean territory at the International Court of Justice. He called for an end to the continued ineligibility of small island developing States from accessing concessional finance.
Like other such States, Belize is “on the frontline of a climate crisis for which we are not responsible”, incurring annual losses of close to 4 per cent of GDP due to natural disasters, he said. The country aims for forest restoration and achieving 75 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. “We are doing our part. We expect the developed countries and major emitters to do their part,” he stressed. Condemning vaccine hoarding and predatory purchasing, he noted 73 per cent of the more than 5.7 billion vaccine doses administered globally have been given in just 10 countries. Belize has no delivery date for its next COVAX shipment.
Turning to Cuba, he condemned the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo bringing suffering to millions of innocent people, which does not reflect the good will of the people of the United States. Expressing support for an independent Palestinian State within its 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return, he noted the Sahawari people are similarly prevented from exercising their right to self-determination. He also expressed concern about the situation of Haiti and the inhumane treatment of Haitian refugees risking their lives traversing two continents for a better future.