AWRIGHT DEN: Repeal the repeal
ONE OF THE GREATEST PRIVILEGES and honours a person can have is to serve as a minister in a government or as a member of Parliament. It is one job that has as its primary, secondary and tertiary focus on the advancement, protection and representation of people and their needs. It is probably one of the most stressful jobs as well, since the needs of the people are vast, their expectations are enormous and in reality, it is impossible to satisfy everyone.
Last Sunday, the Back Page of the Sunday Sun carried an article titled, Sinckler Wants Repeal Of Disaster Fund. The opening paragraph read: “Eight years after it was set up, and with more than $35 million in its account, Government’s Catastrophe Fund has not been able to assist a single Barbadian who suffered a disaster.”
The closing paragraph read: “Noting that the Catastrophe Fund has not served the purpose for which it was established, [Minister of Finance Chris] Sinckler asked his colleagues to repeal the act, discontinue the fund and hold the money in escrow at the Treasury until the Cabinet decides what to do with the millions.”
The article stated that the fund was conceptualized in 2007 to assist those citizens within the lower economic bracket who were victims of house fires. From April of 2008, it would provide financial assistance to those who owned or occupied chattel houses, or where a wood/concrete block unit does not exceed $150 000 and where the owner or occupier earned less than $25 000 annually.
Disaster management is a focus of mine and as a result, I need to make a few comments.
1. The fund was to start helping people from April of 2008. The Democratic Labour Party administration became the Government in January 2008, which means it is responsible for not using the funds for its purpose.
2. The fund is there for disaster response and recovery. If it couldn’t help victims of fires directly, I am sure the local Department of Emergency Management, the regional CDEMA, and stakeholders like the fire, military, ambulance and police services, the Coastal Zone Management Unit and so on could use some of the $35 million for training and the upgrading of equipment and facilities used by their personnel.
3. Some of the $35 million can be used for disaster planning and mitigation such as risk assessments, flood mapping, hurricane shelter upgrading, cleaning and digging of wells and drains, and the development of resilient communities via projects, training and education.
4. How does this action support the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 or the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 which were developed and adopted at the second and third United Nations World Conferences On Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2005 and 2015, respectively, at which Barbados had representatives?
5. To repeal the fund would be unwise and risky especially given within four months, the hurricane season will start and we do not know how active it will be.
6. There are many citizens whose properties were damaged from Tomas, Ivan and Emily who are still in need of assistance.
7. There are many communities whose roads and other infrastructure were damaged by floodwaters that are still in need of repair.
8. There are Barbadians whose homes were destroyed or damaged by fire and need assistance to repair or rebuild.
9. The woman featured on the Back Page of Monday’s DAILY nation who was served with an eviction notice, could benefit from this $35 million. She is a victim of a house fire and one can safely assume that the house wasn’t insured. So unless she isn’t a citizen, burnt down her own house, her burnt house is worth more than $150 000 and she earns more than $25 000 a year, she should qualify for help from the $35 million Catastrophe Fund.
The millions of dollars in this fund can directly help hundreds and indirectly tens of thousands of Barbadians. I can only ask that the members of Parliament repeal the repeal and vote for the money to be dispersed to those who need it.
Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth youth ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email [email protected]