Ivan EU consultant advises new funds

A consultant hired by the European
Union to examine how Hurricane Ivan grants were spent is recommending Cayman
set up new funds to avoid a repeat of the years of delay in receiving EU money
following 2004’s devastating storm.

Christophe Herniou has suggested
Cayman set up an ongoing social housing fund and an emergency fund into which
money can be paid to deal with poverty in Cayman and with future disasters,

The consultant is in the middle of
a three-week visit to Cayman to determine how 7 million euro sent by the EU
following Ivan was spent and what new procedures and policies can be put in
place to prevent future delays in securing funding. Hurricane Ivan struck
Cayman in September 2004, but the first batch of recovery funding from the EU
did not arrive until almost four years later, in March 2008.

Mr. Herniou said he was carrying
out an audit to see how Cayman spent the EU money and what can be done to
ensure that disaster-relief cash is more quickly available in the event of
another devastating hurricane or disaster in the future.

“It is better to make a provision
programme, an ongoing programme to upgrade housing… It’s better to have an
ongoing programme because it will increase quality and decrease pricing. You
are able to maintain a team in the field.

“We also need an emergency fund. We
know because of climate change we will have more and stronger hurricanes. The
only thing we don’t know is the date of the next one. We know we are facing
this problem and it is better to have emergency funding, just in case,” he

Mr. Herniou said he had noticed
since he arrived in Grand Cayman on 28 September that the Island did not appear
to have an accurate profile of local poverty, a shortfall in information that
he said the Cayman Islands Census, which began on Sunday, 10 October, should be
able to address.

He said has visited poor areas of
Cayman – Dog City, Swamp and Rockhole – places he said could benefit enormously
from a social housing fund. “If you don’t do anything now, in 10 years, you
will have a much bigger problem. It will be much more complicated to address.
That’s why it is better to take this opportunity of upgrading housing and create
a social integration programme at the same time,” he said. “You need a policy
to target poor people using housing as a main instrument in reducing poverty.”

Although the number of people
living in these areas are far smaller than populations living in poor areas in
Rio de Janeiro or San Paolo in Mr. Herniou’s home country of Brazil, he said
the conditions in Dog City, Swamp and Rockhole reminded him of slums in those
cities 15 or 20 years ago. “Now, those are very hard slums,” he said.

One issue he said needed to be
addressed was that not only Caymanians should receive social assistance. “Now,
half of the poor people living in the Cayman Islands are migrants. If we target
our social policies only to Caymanians, we are solving only half the problem,”
he said.

He said that he had received very
positive responses to his suggestions and recommendations from government

“There is a problem with poverty
here. We cannot ignore it, it’s obvious… but it’s on a human scale, it is
small. If we wait too long, it will be a much more complicated problem. It
won’t be so easy to solve later.”

He said the government could set up
a unit to coordinate efforts from different departments and funding. There
should also be input from neighbourhood associations in poorer areas that can
inform government bodies on what should be addressed, as well as churches.

“The government and the people I’ve
spoken to are very interested in this concept. What we can see is that this is
a new problem. They don’t know how to start, how to take the first step…
Maybe they have to speak to other countries who know how to deal with poor
people,” Mr. Herniou said.

Following Hurricane Ivan, in which
an estimated 83 per cent of buildings were damaged, the National Recovery Fund
was set up to accept and distribute donations. The EU funds, for which Cayman
applied in June 2005, were eventually paid into the National Recovery Fund, but
only after long bureaucratic delays. That fund is currently dormant, but can be
restarted if another disaster occurs. The consultant advises that the National
Recovery Fund should continue to run, as well as the two new funds he is
recommending be set up.

He warned that unless fund
arrangements and policies are changed, then if another Hurricane Ivan struck,
Cayman would likely face the same delays it faced after Ivan in receiving EU

Mr. Herniou said a feasibility
study should be carried out to determine if a local fund could be specially
designed and created to be compatible with EU policies, thereby making monies
available much faster by being paid into the fund in advance and held there
until needed in the event of an emergency.

During his visit, he is meeting
with government officials, as well as people involved in the National Recovery
Fund, Housing Development Trust, Cayman Islands Development Bank and Social

Although Hurricane Ivan wrecked
Cayman, Mr. Herniou said the storm had one silver lining – it highlighted the
social housing problems on the Island. “There are lessons to learn from Hurricane
Ivan,” he said.

Mr. Herniou said he would make
official recommendations to both the EU and the Cayman Islands government upon
completion of his research.