JA disaster fund short

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Disaster management official Dr. Barbara Carby has rapped Government for not adequately financing the 17-year-old National Disaster Fund.

Her remarks come in the wake of several hurricanes which have impacted the island during the last 12 months, causing damage to life and property. In each instance, Government has been hard pressed to provide relief as well as compensation for affected persons. Climatologists have predicted no less than 10 tropical storms for this hurricane season, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

As at March 31, 2004 the disaster fund stood at $22 million. It was established just after Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 with an initial sum of $4 million. Government has only once deposited money into the fund through former Water and Housing Minister, Dr. Karl Blythe.

Yesterday, Dr. Carby, director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, argued for regular input from the national budget to the National Disaster Fund.

“If that is done, you build the fund in the good years when there is no event. In the bad years you have that fund to draw on,” she said while addressing the Kiwanis Club of Kingston’s weekly luncheon at the Hilton Kingston Hotel. Her call to build the disaster fund was among a 10-point recommendation to implement an effective disaster risk management programme.

Minister of Land and Environment, Dean Peart, while acknowledging the need for the disaster fund, said Government just did not have the money to do regular servicing.

“I am not knocking the fund but we just don’t have the resources right now,” he told The Gleaner.

Dr. Carby suggested building the fund through the issuing of catastrophe bonds.

The ODPEM head also argued that if public buildings and critical facilities were built properly, this would result in less damage and demand on the public purse, following a natural disaster.