Socioeconomic Impact of the COVID 19 Pandemic in Belize
04 January 2021
A rise in the number of daily confirmed cases of the new coronavirus internationally led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it spread a global pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 and the subsequent international public health and socio-economic crisis in every country. In the Latin America and Caribbean Region, the fragile economies, limited social protection mechanisms and weak health sector capacities to protect their most vulnerable citizens have all been exacerbated during this pandemic. The responses to close the borders to travel as well as to institute containment measures have also impacted the economies across the region and the livelihoods of many Caribbean People. Belize adopted similar measures of containment following its first confirmed case on March 25th and first COVID-related death on 6th April. These measures were relatively successful through to the end of July with 48 confirmed infections and 2 deaths. However, this scenario changed in August with dramatic increases such that by 10th November there were over 4,200 confirmed infections and 71 related deaths and thereafter more than 10,000 cases by 19th December with 216 deaths.
At a global level, UNDP was identified as the UN technical lead for COVID-19 socioeconomic assessment and recovery planning, working in collaboration with other UN agencies and the respective Resident Coordinator Offices. In Belize, UNDP decided to conduct an initial socio-economic impact assessment with a focus on how the pandemic has affected the vulnerable population and identify key policy recommendations.
The report provides a contextual analysis of the economy and livelihoods in the country prior to the impact of the pandemic. An analysis on the impact of COVID-19 and the government’s response including the use of a household survey. Extensive data gathering and outreach was affected by the increased number of COVID cases in the country. The report noted the early success of the State of Emergency conditions as the national authorities sought a balance between preserving public health and relieving the strain on its already weak healthcare system, while maintaining the economic health of the country. Furthermore the report identified specific interventions aimed at mitigating the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including new programs such as the Unemployment Relief, Belize COVID-19 Cash Transfer (BCCAT), food assistance, as well as e an expansion of its long-running initiatives; a
food pantry and the Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation (BOOST) Program. The household survey was able to assess the reach of these programs although it remained a little early to confirm the full impact.
A clear recommendation emerging from the SEIA results is to advance a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) and a coordination mechanism to improve decision making and governance. The report also observes the need for a more robust information technology landscape to inform e-governance, e-learning, e-business and e-infrastructure. Action on areas such as an updated MSME Policy and strategy; informal activities within border communities; focusing on the health sector including access to universal health care; as well as approaches to financing the necessary investments are also key to building the resilience of the country in response to this pandemic and future external