“Failure to adequately mitigate disasters could have severe repercussions on Nevis,” warned
P.S. in Finance by Abiola Abisola (Leewards Times - 25 July 2010)
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Laurie Lawrence warned that failure to adequately
manage and mitigate disasters could have severe repercussions for families and the country as a whole.
His warning came on Monday, July 19th while giving remarks at UNECLAC Damage and Loss
Assessment Workshop for Economic Evaluation of Natural Disasters. The four-day workshop was held at
the Llewellyn Newton Disaster Management Facility, Long Point, Nevis.
“Failure to plan is also very costly. We have seen poorly designed roads having to be rebuilt after a
storm and poorly constructed homes suffering significant damage etc,” he said.
The workshop deemed as timely comes at a time when some islands across the region have experienced
some very different and complex disasters. The experience has alerted many islands such as Nevis of
the urgency to treat issues of natural and manmade disaster, hence, the purpose of the workshop in
Mr. Lawrence before declaring the workshop opened stated that the workshop and the overall project
are very late in implementation, “but nonetheless a welcome initiative to help us manage future risks.
Since we do not have any control over when and where natural disasters will strike, our only recourse is
preparedness.” He indicated that the relationship between disasters and economic development is well
known to Nevisians. Hurricane Hugo in 1983 as well as subsequent hurricanes, he noted have all
severely impacted Nevis’ fragile economy.
“They have had devastating impacts on our coastal areas, agriculture, infrastructure, and our livelihood. The Four Seasons Resort has been closed
for the second time as a result of hurricanes resulting in a significant loss of jobs, dramatic drop in government revenues and mushrooming of debt,
and increase in poverty.” He said there is still a lot of work to be done. He advised that it is imperative that the work to establish a proper road map to
minimize the negative impact of disasters in the future should begin.
He concluded that despite the challenges, the workshop is a step in the right direction. “With the global warming problems and the increasing
incidence of disasters, the time clock is ticking loudly. We have to get serious about disaster management and mitigation if we want to create an
enabling environment for wealth creation and economic development,” he said.”
Prior to Mr. Lawrence’s presentation, Ms. Asha Kambon Regional Advisor ECLAC Sub regional headquarters for the Caribbean and Workshop
facilitator, thanked the OAS for putting together what she termed an excellent approach and a critical component of disaster management in the
region. “The notion of being able to evaluate the socio-economic impact of a disaster. We consider that at ECLAC to be a critical component of the
disaster management processes,” she said.
She said the four-day workshop will not only focus on arriving at a magnitude event itself but also it will explore issues of mitigation and to be able to
propose recommendations for reconstruction with mitigation. She also spoke of the volcanic eruptions that took place in Montserrat noting that
inferences will be drawn to the incident over the course of the workshop. She also informed that countries across the Caribbean sub region have
experienced approximately 76 natural disasters between 1990 and 2008. She further stated that based on ECLAC’s assessment of those events, the
total impact of natural disasters on the sub region was estimated at US$136billion.
The impact on the social sectors which includes damage and loss of housing, health and education she informed is estimated at US$57billion.
Disasters she noted are a key constraint to development, “and it has been argued that it’s not only geography alone that generates disasters but
rather the development processes that have shaped human vulnerability and hazards, paving the way for disasters.” She therefore said that disaster
risk reductions needs to become a permanent process targeted to reduce existing and future risks and should be included in the national
development frame work.
The workshop is the first activity of the OAS/FEMCIDI/NIA Disaster Management and Mitigation Project in Nevis. The project will enable the Federal
Government and the Nevis Island Administration to more accurately assess the impact of natural disasters on the economy and therefore the
livelihood of its citizens, in addition to providing base line data and useful information for future events.