BELIZE — Ahmed Al Khateeb, minister of tourism and chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), signed a development loan agreement worth $45 million with the Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno, for the construction of a tertiary hospital in the Belmopan Area Project.

The signing ceremony was attended by Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations of Belize Anthony Mahler; Minister of Health and Wellness of Belize Kevin Bernard; Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development, and Investment of Belize Christopher Coye; Ambassador of Investment in Belize Haisam Diab; Deputy Chief of Mission at the Saudi Embassy in Mexico Sultan Al-Muzaini; CEO of the Office of the Prime Minister of Belize Narda Garcia, and officials from both sides.

The agreement is part of the efforts undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the SFD, to support sustainable development in developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) around the world.

The new 200-bed hospital will be supplied with state-of-the-art medical equipment, facilities, and integrated health services, benefitting approximately 200,000 patients annually. Moreover, the project aims to enhance the capacity of the local healthcare system by training health cadres and students from the University of Belize.

In addition to helping improve access to quality healthcare services, the hospital will play a crucial role in addressing chronic disease management, potentially reducing mortality rates in the region. The new hospital will also stimulate local economic growth by helping to create direct and indirect job opportunities within the healthcare sector, providing a platform for medical education and training and strengthening Belize's long-term healthcare capacity and resilience. This project is in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Prime Minister John Briceno stated: “On behalf of the government and people of Belize, we are most grateful to the government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for assisting in building a vital tertiary level/teaching hospital. The concessionary financing, through a loan by the Saudi Development Fund (SFD), makes the urgent investment in the health sector a reality.”

For his part, SFD Chairman Alkhateeb, said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to promoting sustainable socio-economic development in developing nations and Small Island Developing States, while supporting the journey to achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Today's agreement signifies an important step in the development cooperation for both countries. The project to build a tertiary hospital in Belize will not only empower local communities but also strengthen the health sector's capacity to cater to the requirements of the capital's residents and surrounding areas.”

This agreement emphasizes Saudi Arabia’s commitment to supporting Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to overcome sustainable development and climate change challenges. The agreement, furthermore, reaffirms the importance of international cooperation and solidarity to achieve sustainable development goals and foster economic and social growth, particularly in SIDS.