Former Minister of Housing Gline Clarke wants Government to dip into the Catastrophe Fund to repair the road at White Hill, St Andrew.
Over the last three years, the people of the rural district have had to contend with the dangers of land slippage, an impassable road which prevents comfortable access to the community and unreliable public transportation after heavy rains in November 2014 had caused extensive land slippage in the area, damaging the road, and making it impassable.
The Catastrophe Fund was established in 2007 by the then Owen Arthur-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration “in response to the rising number of house fires, sustained largely by citizens within the lower economic bracket, whose properties were not insured”.
Eight years later, in February last year, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced plans to repeal the $35 million fund, stating at the time that it had not helped a single Barbadian who suffered a disaster.
After a caller to one of the local call in programmes made a similar recommendation, Clarke told Barbados TODAY it was time to use some of the $35 million to repair the White Hill road.
“My view is that this fund is supposed to help people in White Hill, people all over the country, any person that have natural disaster,” Clarke, the member of parliament for St George North, said.
It was not the first time that the BLP legislator had made such a plea, having called on Parliament in August last year to use the fund to assist Barbadians in danger of losing their homes because of financial challenges.
“The Catastrophe Fund by nature was designed to help people, and if you have a situation where a person is laid off . . . nobody in the house is working, why can’t you use the Catastrophe Fund to ensure that that person does not lose his only investment? We can use this fund to help ordinary Barbadians to get over and get through this,” he said then as he zeroed in on the announced increase in the Bank Asset Tax in his contribution to the debate on the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.
The former minister today went further, recommending that the fund be used to also assist people complete needed repairs to their homes.
“They are a lot of people who have problems with their house floor, roof and so on. I think that this fund can be used to help those people with loans so they can borrow money and repay it at a low interest rate. There are a lot of people who because of the weather they have leaking roofs, windows are broken, but they do not have the money. This is where the fund should come into help.”
In apparent reference to last year’s announcement by Sinckler that he had taken a paper to Cabinet asking his colleagues to agree to his plan to abandon the fund, repeal the Act governing it and hold the money in the Treasury until a decision was taken on what to do with it, Clarke said it was unfortunate that the Freundel Stuart administration was considering such a move.
“The Government has set a tone that they want to amend it, they want to abolish the fund and I do not know why. I spent a lot of time myself and the then Prime Minister Owen Arthur in establishing that fund, agonized over a fund [that] would be setup to help people. When I was Minister of Housing it was set up so it could help people with chattel houses and so on. That is how it was set up and I feel very upset about it I must tell you,” he said.
Last November Sinckler had also said Government had planned to move to redirect monies from the fund into a number of essential products offered by CCRIF SPC, formerly known as the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, to ensure that it had coverage for a number of disaster related events.