Editorial

We feel the pain of The Bahamas

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

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The scenes of death and destruction emerging from The Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian’s assault on that sister Caribbean territory are deeply painful.
Yesterday, The Nassau Guardian newspaper reported the country’s National Security Minister Marvin Dames as saying that several children were among the dead and “unfortunately, we will see more deaths”.
Wire service reports relate that video footage showed catastrophic damage from the powerful hurricane on the islands of Grand Bahama and Great Abaco in the northern Bahamas, including shattered homes, fields of debris, and flooded streets.
“The runways at Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport, the island’s largest city, were under water, complicating rescue efforts,” Agence France Presse reported.
Yesterday, St Lucia’s prime minister, Mr Allen Chastanet, sent a message to the Bahamian people telling them that “the hearts of the people of the Caribbean are heavy”.
As Mr Chastenet pointed out, the effects of the fury unleashed by Hurricane Dorian are “reminiscent of the severe devastation experienced by a number of Caricom states just two years ago when hurricanes Irma and Maria hit us”.
Mr Chastanet reminded us that at the last Caricom summit held in St Lucia, in July, regional leaders considered options for financing member states’ actions to build resilience to the effects of climate change. That included the establishment of a Resilience Foundation.
He expressed hope that the “matter will be given new impetus in the coming months”. We couldn’t agree with him more, because there is no challenging the fact that hurricanes and tropical storms are growing in ferocity, thus posing major threats to this region. Therefore, to the extent that regional states can strengthen their mitigation systems, the risk of heavy losses in times of natural disaster would be lessened.
However, we must caution Caricom to ensure that this Resilience Foundation does not create the kind of discord that has developed in some states to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF).
Readers familiar with the CCRIF will recall that it was established in 2007 as a catastrophe fund for Caribbean governments to limit the financial impact of devastating hurricanes and earthquakes by quickly providing funds when a policy is triggered.
However, we recall that Jamaica, in particular, has had a problem with the fund, and as recent as May this year reiterated its concern at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference in Geneva.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie basically told the conference that it is difficult for Jamaica to benefit from the fund. According to Mr McKenzie, he held firmly to the view that in order for Jamaica to benefit from the fund “the entire country has to be destroyed; everybody has to die”.
Mr McKenzie also argued that the fund “has impacted severely on small island states because the method of the insurance is not one that is compatible with our region. And, based on where we are, I think we should find the kind of insurance that will respond to the needs of the region”.
It’s a matter that needs to be resolved, as states should not have difficulty drawing down from the fund after paying premiums.
That said, we hope that the relief efforts being mobilised for our brothers and sisters in The Bahamas will help to ease their discomfort.
It will take time for them to recover from the losses, but once there is life, there is hope.


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