Rules governing international aid targets that prevented the U.K. from spending its foreign development aid budget on hurricane-hit territories in the Caribbean are being reviewed.
Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos were devastated by successive hurricanes in August. However, they were unable to qualify for support from the U.K.’s foreign aid budget because they were deemed “too rich” under a formula set by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which dictates how such money can be spent.
The Cayman Islands, which has a per capita income similar to the U.S., would also be unable to qualify for such development aid in the event of a similar catastrophe.
Officials in Cayman accept it is unlikely the island would qualify for aid, even if the formula is changed, but they are joining fellow islands in pressing the U.K. for greater assistance to its territories, both in preparing for hurricanes and dealing with the aftermath.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Premier said a number of proposals, including a U.K.-sponsored regional emergency management body to coordinate disaster response efforts, had been pitched to the U.K.
The British government did make £57 million available for disaster relief for islands hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria, according to news reports in the U.K.
But the financial support could have been substantially higher, according to some British politicians, if the government had been able to tap into its £13 billion development aid budget, which is ring fenced to fight poverty in developing countries.
The U.K. committed to meeting a United Nations target of spending 0.7 percent of its Gross National Income – which translates to around £13 billion – on development aid. It passed legislation making this a legal requirement in 2015.
The debate now centers around what can be classified as “development aid” for the purpose of meeting that target.
Amid protests from British politicians, the OECD, which monitors development spending for the United Nations, has agreed to look again at its rules on how aid budgets can be spent.
Following a meeting of member countries in November, the organization’s Development Assistance Committee agreed to investigate establishing a process for releasing short-term funding for countries impacted by “catastrophic humanitarian crises.”
U.K. politicians and the British press declared this a victory, with Priti Patel, international development secretary at the time, claiming, “We’ve made huge progress on ensuring official development assistance can be used when vulnerable nations are struck by crises or natural disasters.”
However, there was no firm commitment from the OECD to change the rules and it is unlikely that, even if proposed reforms are passed, that the Cayman Islands would qualify for development aid. Islands like Anguilla would be more likely to benefit from any change.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has led lobbying efforts on behalf of the U.K.’s overseas territories for greater financial aid and strategic support in the aftermath of natural disasters.
He has not directly addressed the issue of whether this should come from the U.K.’s foreign aid budget or other sources, but made a general call for more financial aid following a meeting with leaders of other overseas territories in Miami in November.
“Due to the damage inflicted on these islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said at the time, “they will need to access significantly more in reconstruction funds.”
“The devastation is such that their economies are in danger of long-term damage unless they receive financial assistance – in the short term for disaster relief – but in the medium to long term to rebuild infrastructure and to enable them to maintain their economic base,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Premier said this week that efforts to improve support for territories during hurricane season were ongoing.
She said money, though vital, was only one aspect.
Priorities outlined by the premier’s office also include better preparation ahead of time with adequate ships and supplies stationed in the region and more coordinated tactical planning before hurricane season.
It has also proposed the concept of a regional emergency management body to improve preparation and cooperation between the territories as well as greater cooperation and pooling of resources between the U.K., U.S., France and the Netherlands, which all have territories in the region.
The Cayman Islands is also seeking an improved agreement regarding help with restoring the electricity grid and water in the aftermath of natural disasters.