Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recovering from Ophelia: Where does the money come from?

Yesterday, 10 September 2011, I ran into the one of our engineers overseeing the recovery at the barbershop and we struck a conversation about how surprised the was at how hard the St. Joseph community was hit by Ophelia, he was also surprised that one had reported the damage or the extent. While official estimates put damages at over $40 million, his estimation that could be close to $60 million. The question is where is this money going to come from?

The 2008 Medium Term Growth and Social Protection Strategy (GSPS) recognizes the economic and financial impacts of the natural disasters on Dominica and the need to reduce vulnerability to disasters. It makes organizational provision for the management of these disasters by relocating the Office of Disaster Managements to the office of the Prime Minister. It also includes upgrading the staff and the development of disaster policies and plans. It also reassigns the National Emergency Management Organization (NEPO as a Prime Ministerial Function.

The GSPS clearly focuses on a combination of risk reduction and impact measures. However, similar clarity does not exists with respect to funding these measures and that raises questions about the financial resources for resolving the impacts of Ophelia. The GSPA makes provision for for a Disaster Mitigation Contingency Fund. It proposed to allocate 5% of the annual value of the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP) and to supplement this fund with resources from external source.

At present there is no indication that this fund exist and the external sources to supplement it have not been specified. In the meantime, with the introduction of St. Joseph on the list of areas impacted, the cost of recovery continues to mount. In addition, Dominica has not recovered from the early disaster that involved the collapse of the Mathieu Dam. This collapse destroyed a bridge severely hampered access to farmlands for all farmers in the Layou Valley. The sediments deposited in the Layou river raised the river bed significantly and regularly disrupt West Coast traffic as a result of flash floods.

On Monday 24 October, the Prime Minister announced the People's Republic of China was funding fully the reconstruction of the bridge and the relocation of the families whose homes were located in the direct path of the rivers in Mahaut and Massacre. The elevated river bed remains a problem.Clearly government does not now have the financial resources or equipment to dredge the river and remove the sediments, and may have to depend on private sector in Dominica and externally to do so.

The money remains the issue and therefore undermines sustainability of proposed approaches to response or mitigation. Given the high frequency of these disasters and their inevitability, given the location of Dominica, approaches that integrates disasters into development policies and plans are crucial. Disaster must be intertwined into every aspects of the Dominican life and livelihood. Every effort must be made therefore to provide the kind of financial resources if only as the impetus attracting external support, as an indicator of our seriousness in tackling the recurrent, chronic issues of natural disasters in Dominica