Financial assistance to the tune of US$13 million is coming to Antigua and Barbuda in a bid to ease the nation through the economic fallout triggered by Covid-19.
The emergency loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is one of seven being given to nations in the region to help stave off recession.
Bank chiefs say they expect the pandemic’s impacts to be “significant”, due to a surge in unemployment coupled with plummeting income and livelihoods. They also predict “substantial disruptions of social services”, with women, single mothers, disabled people, indigenous groups and migrants among the most vulnerable.
Antigua and Barbuda is to get the second largest slice of the US$66.7 million package of loans, being given under CDB’s “most concessional terms”.
The Bank’s board of directors has also approved US$15 million for Belize, US$11.3 million for St Vincent and the Grenadines, US$10.8 million for St Lucia, US$8.2 million for Suriname, US$5.9 million for Grenada and US$2.5 million for Dominica.
“The provision of support to the seven countries to respond to Covid-19 and keep critical government services and operations running is urgent to halt the economic decline and minimise social hardship, while giving focused attention to the most vulnerable people,” CDB President Dr Warren Smith said.
The money will provide vital liquidity and allow the seven countries to promptly meet their urgent financing needs without diverting resources away from critical social expenditures or health emergency needs.
Caribbean countries are especially vulnerable to the global outbreak due to their heavy dependence on tourism for income and employment.
According to CDB estimates, many Caribbean nations, including those supported with the emergency loans, will fall into recession this year.
Real gross domestic product is expected to decline in Antigua and Barbuda by 1.5 percent. But that is a substantially rosier picture than is predicted for many of its regional neighbours. Grenada and St Lucia are likely to be among the hardest hit with real GDP estimated to drop by 10 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.
CDB’s response to Covid-19 to date tops US$200 million, with US$140 million that can be used by the Bank’s borrowing member countries to tackle the fallout of the pandemic, as well as any other shocks to their economy, and US$3 million for the purchase of personal protective equipment.