It was a bitter sweet moment for the Belize City Council on Wednesday, February 15, when Mayor Bradley officially inaugurated the Monument Dedicated to Entrepreneurs of Belize City at the entrance of the Fort George Tourism Zone. Ribbon cutting for the tall and impressive structure marks the completion of a long awaited project and green lights a sigh of relief for the Council; however, it also marks midnight for the city’s dance with a most amazing partner, the Caribbean Local Economic Development Program (CARILED).
The Caribbean Local Economic Development Program is a six-year $23.2 million project in which local governments have utilized assets and human capital to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and develop the business sector. CARILED has been funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and implemented by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), in partnership with the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers (CFLGM), the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLFG). It was launched in May of 2012 when Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, visited Belize for the monumental occasion. The initiative was Canada’s response to the steep declines in economic growth being experienced in the Caribbean region due to the global economic crisis, natural disasters and high food and fuel prices. Belize has benefited greatly from the program which is impacting three levels of governance: regional, national and municipal. At the regional level there have been unprecedented levels of collaboration between the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers, the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and related organizations. At the national level, central government has received technical assistance to help with strategic planning. At the municipal level, the focus has been on developing a healthy partnership between the local governments, non-governmental organizations and private sector associations. The challenge to local governments was to utilize assets and human capital to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and develop the business sector.
In Belize City, CARILED has financed numerous projects and Mayor Bradley focused his address at the inauguration of the Entrepreneur Monument to highlight the program’s impact on the municipality and express gratitude on behalf of its residents. Among other things, CARILED provided financing and training during the BTL Park rehabilitation project. They provided funding for construction of the booths and held workshops for entrepreneurs interested in operating there. CARILED helped to finance other such projects throughout the city but its long term impact on business development will be felt through the successes of the Local Economic Development Office that was recently opened in the “Sagicor building”. This office was opened with financing by CARILED and is fully staffed with a team responsible for continuing the work started by CARILED in Belize.
The opening of the Economic Development office was made possible through a final CARILED grant of $80,000 to the Belize City Council. Some of that money was used to repair the BTL Park which suffered damages from Hurricane Earl. $30,000 was used for the construction of the Entrepreneur Monument. Mayor Bradley says, “The monument is dedicated to the entrepreneural spirit of our city – to the thousands of business owners, employers and tax payers who make our city great.”
Marion Villanueva, Director of CARILED Program, says she is hopeful that the Prime Minister of Canada will extend the program. She says of the seven countries included in the program, “Belize is in the forefront in promoting the goals of CARILED”.
Also present at the inauguration was Mayor Kevin Bernard, Mayor of Orange Walk Town. The CARILED program has inspired a strong working relationship between the two mayors from different municipalities and rival political parties.