News Americas, KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thurs. Oct. 1, 2015: The United Kingdom has announced a £300 million infrastructure fund to the Caribbean and dismissed reparation claims.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed claims for reparations for years of slavery, instead announcing The Infrastructure Fund in Jamaica during his visit. The new fund he said will invest in roads, bridges and ports to help drive economic growth and development across the region.
The Infrastructure Fund will be available to 8 Commonwealth countries in the region – Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent & the Grenadines; as well as Montserrat as an ODA-eligible Overseas Territory.
The Prime Minister announced the new fund will reinvigorate the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean countries and make the UK one of the largest bilateral donors to the region.
Delivered in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, the infrastructure fund will use money from the UK’s existing aid budget to provide grants over the next few years for a range of projects that will help boost growth and trade across the region, creating jobs and opening up new market opportunities for British businesses.
Types of infrastructure the fund could provide include:
- 750km of upgraded single-lane roads, including 30-40 bridges
- 20 large water production, storage and transmission systems
- 75km of sea and river defences
- 15 ports upgraded by providing specialist equipment to speed up freight movements
- 30 solid waste management projects for major cities/communities.
There will also be a Smart Hospitals Programme that will build on a successful £8.4 million pilot programme with new funding of £30 million. Funding will be available to 7 ODA-eligible Commonwealth countries in the region: Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
A “skills for growth” economic program will be aimed at the 5 ODA-eligible countries in the Eastern Caribbean: Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines. These programmes will: support governments in the region to get public finances under control while improving public services; support governments to make their countries more attractive to investors and for business to grow, creating more jobs and tax revenue; work in partnership with both the public and private sector to address the shortage of critical skills which is constraining economic growth and employment.
To further encourage UK-Jamaica business links, the Cameron government said it will also extend £100 million in export finance to Jamaica. With UK exports to the Caribbean totalling £1.1 billion and bilateral trade at £2.55 billion in 2014, the UK is the number one export destination for much of the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Fourteen Caribbean nations and a British law firm are seeking reparations from the U.K., France and the Netherlands for the lasting effects of the slave trade, which over four centuries brought millions of people against their will from Africa to European colonies in the Caribbean region. It is unclear how much the entire Caribbean could be owed but the National Commission on Reparations (NCR) says Jamaica alone could be owed at least £2.3 trillion, way more than the £300 million aid Cameron plans to dole out.