The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved two loans to assist The Bahamas with foreign trade, customs operations and fight poverty and improve student’s health and educational achievements.
According to a press release from the bank, a $16.5 million credit will boost international trade by enhancing the ability of customs to collect revenue by strengthening management, modernising operations, boosting borders monitoring and developing the institutional trade platform.
The other loan, which is $7.5 million will help poverty through the consolidation of existing programmes into a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme focused on changing behavior to improve educational achievement and a healthier lifestyle, including obesity control programmes among children from poor households.
The project’s team leader Mario Umanda said the programme is needed because The Bahamas has been “isolated from trade circles.”
“As a result of the changes and the technical support to be implemented under the programme, The Bahamas will have modern and agile customs operations and the country will be in a better position to join the World Trade Organisation,” he added.
Officials said the modernisation and strengthening of customs’ institutional and operational capacity should reduce the negative impact of revenue-related offenses such as misclassification, valuation and contraband.
In terms of poverty, the IDB is going to focus more on education as many public school students do not graduate with a graduation certificate.
Officials say with assistance from the IDB, the number of graduates is expected to rise substantially, while students performing below the required standard for graduation will be required to attend remedial lessons in order to receive the transfer.
“Better education outcomes will be one of the main goals of the programme,” the project’s team leader Luis Tejerina said.
According to IDB, under the programme, the percentage of beneficiaries in the poorest segment of society is expected to increase from the current 28 per cent to 42 per cent.
The funds will also support strategies aimed at boosting school enrolment and attendance.
In addition, the programme will tackle obesity, which is a severe problem in the country – in grade 10 nearly one in every four children is obese and the problem increases with age, with two out of three Bahamians between 21 and 60 years of age is now overweight or obese. Low-income females are the most affected.
“The programme is expected to help reduce children’s body mass index through a series of prevention programmes including school curriculum that comprises healthy eating, physical activity and body image; improvements in nutritional quality of food supplied in schools; support healthy cultural practices and support for teachers, health providers and families to implement health promotion strategies and activities, including a reduction of time spent by children before TV and computer screens. The programme will also support breast feeding of infants between 0-6 months,” officials said.
IDB says both loans are from the IDB’s ordinary capital and will be for a 25-year term with five and a half years of grace and at a variable interest rate based on LIBOR.