St Vincent’s PM provides real post Christmas disaster hope

| January 20, 2014
CaribDirect writer Robertson Henry

Robertson S. Henry. Sports and Cultural Contributor

Late December, 2013; Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, met recently with local and regional contractors at a meeting to discuss the way forward, following the devastation wrought by the weather trough which dumped about six inches of rain in a 24- hour period.

Also in attendance was the current Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Honourable Baldwin Spencer – Prime Minister of Antigua, and officials from CEDEMA, the Regional Security System, UNDP, and a number of local, regional, and international organizations.

The representatives of the Governments of Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively are expected following meeting, to report to their immediate principals as to the needs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Local and regional financial institutions were also represented and they were expected to convene in Kingstown late December, 2013, following which they reported to their immediate decision makers.

The recent meeting convened by Derry Williams of the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to examine the various mechanisms to lay the groundwork to provide the requisite financing for the rebuilding of the island’s infrastructure in the coming weeks, months, and possibly, even years.

One of the issues for discussion was to provide immediate loan financing to the contractors with favourable terms and conditions under the circumstances, with the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines acting in some cases, as the Guarantor.

Prime Minister Gonsalves giving a summary of the emergency planning meeting. Photo courtesy Robertson Henry

Prime Minister Gonsalves giving a summary of the emergency planning meeting. Photo courtesy Robertson Henry

Also, the contractors convened to discuss how they would be best placed to respond, with the Chief Engineer Brent Bailey, and the Director-General of Finance and Planning to help guide the contractors on any matter demanding such.

That meeting of contractors was to examine how they and the Government could proceed with terms and conditions favourable to both sides. According to Prime Minister Gonsalves, “Those are two vital decisions regarding reconstruction immediately.”

The immediate need of water was another issue discussed, with almost all of the systems expected to be back on stream by the end of the January 4 2014 week.

“The issue of the water is the most critical immediate human need,” the Prime Minister noted. At the time, about 50-percent of the island was without pipe-borne water despite there being forty-two trucks transporting water to the various affected communities.

Meanwhile in reporting to the media on the meeting, Prime Minister Gonsalves noted, “In relation to the state, it is clear that the capacity of the state as structured to respond to a disaster of the magnitude, is not at a level where it ought to be. There are profound limitations.”

He cited as an example the Ministry of Social Development, in which there is insufficient staffing of persons to deal with the extent of the social problems, which have arisen.

As a result, the Ministry of Education has been asked to mobilize the teachers. They would work alongside the Ministry of Social Development in needs assessment, since the teachers are trained to handle such tasks.

Public health issues were also discussed, for not only is the threat of water-borne diseases a reality, but also as Dr. Slater of CARICOM reminded the meeting’s attendees, blood pressure and the issues of strain in coping with the current situation could have a negative effect on the wellbeing of persons especially the elderly.

SVG PM disaster briefing. Photo courtesy Robertson Henry

SVG PM disaster briefing. Photo courtesy Robertson Henry

Dr. Gonsalves stated that the aim was “to provide real hope for people, but to provide hope for people we have to do real things. For people to have faith – faith must be made complete by works; faith has to be made complete by deeds.”

Dr. Gonsalves who is also the Minister of Finance, stated that “in the Ministry of Finance I assure you that we will be more proactive than we have been in the past, and all of our Ministries will have to work heroically; and all of our people to make ourselves better than we are at the moment and to make our country better than it is, and to use this really challenging period to lift ourselves and to carry ourselves to higher heights.”

Already, donations have been coming in with about US$200,000.00 from the Taiwanese Government in immediate disaster relief aid, and EC$1-million dollars from the Government and people of St. Kitts/Nevis.  Assistance has also been forthcoming from the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Grenada.

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