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Belize on Target with most Millennium Development Goals Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:00

This United Democratic Party Administration has introduced numerous social programs in an effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the latest report card shows that its initiatives are working. The Millennium Development Goals Report and Post 2015 Agenda was released on Monday, December 9th.      

The report measures the country’s efforts and effectiveness in meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals. Those goals are (MDG#1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by halving the number of people living below the indigence line; (MDG#2) achieve universal primary education; (MDG#3) promote gender equality and women empowerment by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education; (MDG#4) reduce child mortality rate by two-thirds; (MDG#5) improve maternal healthcare by reducing maternal mortality by three-fourths and ensuring universal access to reproductive health; (MDG#6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (MDG#7) ensure environmental sustainability and (MDG#8) develop a global partnership for development.

The Research Department of the University of Belize collected and processed the data for the report. Dr. Phillip Castillo is the Lead Researcher of the team. He was responsible specifically for MDG#1, eradication of poverty and extreme hunger. This was the most difficult to report on because the report is based on progress from 2010 to 2012 and the last comprehensive poverty analysis was completed in 2009. Castillo says while there is no data to accurately grade Belize’s performance on MDG#1 from 2010 to 2012 “it must be mentioned that the social safety net and the pro poor programmes of Government have drawn substantial commendation from the World Bank.”

Dr. Priscilla Lopez was responsible for MDG#2, achievement of universal primary education. There are three indicators for this report: net enrollment rate in Primary Education, proportion of pupils entering grade 1 and reaching grade 8, and literacy rate of 15 to 24 year olds. According to Dr. Castillo, “Belize is on track to achieving all.” Castillo points to the free text book program, emphasis on teacher training, subsidized school feeding programs, direct transportation assistance to rural schools and overall increase in spending on all levels of the education system as reasons for Government’s excellent performance in this area.

Melanie Smith Santiago was responsible for MDG#3, promotion of gender equality and women empowerment. Castillo says, “There is evidence of gender disparity at the primary school level, likely due to a higher repetition rate among males. However, significant progress has been made at the secondary school level in ensuring male enrollment and retention.” Castillo continues, “Parity does not exist at the tertiary education level where women outnumber men by approximately two to one. However, the achievement of women in the educational sphere has not translated to greater employment statistics for females and improved remuneration and political representation, including in parliament.”

Lorita Haylock was responsible for research on MDG#4, reduce child mortality. Castillo says, “The infant mortality rate has increased and so we are off track.” Another indicator for report on this goal is immunization against measles and at 99% Belize is on track for achieving the target of 100%.

Registered Nurse Isidora Espadas was responsible for MDG#5, improving maternal health. Belize had a year to celebrate in 2011 with no maternal deaths recorded; however, that was followed up with three maternal deaths in 2012. Castillo says the country is on target for its skilled birth attendance rate but “there is regional and ethnic disparities that need to be addressed”. There has also been tremendous progress in public and private sector institutions in providing access to contraceptive methods. That has increased the contraceptive use prevalence rate but “cultural barriers remain that stymie individual access,” according to Castillo.

Valerie Jenkins was responsible for MDG#6, combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. Castillo says, “Belize is on track in halting the spread of HIV.” There has been a significant decline in new HIV cases in the last five years. According to the research, that is largely due to the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme. Accesses to condoms and availability of antiretroviral drugs have improved as well. There have been no deaths from malaria since 2007 but the fight against tuberculosis has not been as successful.

Dr, Pio Saqui was responsible for MDG#7, ensuring environmental sustainability. Belize does not record data on some of the indicators for a report on this goal. However, Belize is on target for the proportion of the population with access to water source and access to basic sanitation at 97.7% and 96.9% respectively. Belize needs to slow down its rate of deforestation, especially in the Chiquibul.

Romaldo Lewis was responsible for MDG#8, developing a global partnership for development. Reporting on goal #8 is based on the country’s international debt status and availability of new communication technologies. Castillo says, “The successful debt restructuring placed Belize’s debt trajectory at a basic manageable level which can be maintained as long as the country continues to access low cost financing sources while avoiding high cost commercial debt.” The research also shows that Belize’s teledensity has increased significantly in recent years as mobile phones use continues to expand. There has also been significant increase in access to internet connection; however, access and usage is lowest in the Toledo District and rural areas.         

The United Nations Development Programme has been assigned the role of “scorekeeper” of the Millennium Development Goals by the General Assembly. Roberto Valent, Resident Representative of UNDP, presented the first copy of the report to Hon. Santiago Castillo, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.  Valent says, “A report like this provides a framework on not only where we stand but also where we have to get by the end of 2015.” He says, “We see that Belize has been moving forward very cleanly and surely on the MDGs, especially in education which is an investment in human capital.” He continues, “The important thing is that Belize is already painting its vision on what should be the global developmental agenda post 2015.”  
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Santiago Castillo says, “This report is where we are now and now we have to focus on where we want to be.” He says in the next twenty years our focus should be on implementing the recommendations in the Horizon 2030 document which is a local developmental agenda constructed after collaboration with representatives from all sectors of society as well as at the grass roots level. He says the Government will implement the recommendations of Horizon 2030 in consecutive four to five year programmes. However, Minister Castillo says for efficiency the Government should execute its development agenda not only in a national context but also in line with that of the international community. Therefore, he calls on all Belizeans saying, “The nations are setting the agenda for 2015 to 2030. Tell us what the world you want is. Tell us what you are willing to do to achieve it. True development is not dictated by a select few; it takes discipline, some sacrifices and a collective drive to proceed ever forward towards a shared vision.”  

The Millennium Development Goals Report and Post 2015 Agenda is the third report that documents Belize’s progress towards achieving the eight MDGs. The first report was made in the mid 1990s, a second in 2010 and this one which measures progress from 2010 to 2012. Belize still faces some challenges particularly in relation to poverty reduction, employment generation, ensuring access to improved sanitation and women empowerment.