Prime Minister Mia Mottley intends to seek a global audience through an international colloquium to address the issue of insurance, in the aftermath of disasters.
With images of the devastation in the Bahamas caused by category five Hurricane Dorian still fresh in her mind, the Prime Minister called for urgent action from regional and international governments to address the issue, to enable countries to rebuild through affordable insurance.
Mottley made these comments during a press conference at Government Headquarters last Friday, accompanied by Attorney General, Dale Marshall.
“The time for urgent action is now. We would therefore be reaching out to a number of partners to be able to fuel this international colloquium to discuss how best to address issues of insurance of savings and financing to build resilience and to fight the actual consequences of these catastrophic events.
“If we don’t plan for it at a policy level, from a financing perspective, we are not going to be able to get through,” she cautioned. Mottley explained that the international colloquium would comprise not just members and other representatives from the region in government, but also those in other frontline states in what she termed as “this new reality”.
“The governors of the states moving from Texas right across to Florida in the Gulf, and those moving from Florida on the eastern sea board right across to new England and even those in the provinces of Canada on the eastern sea board are at risk, even though we accept those at the outer edges are less likely, like Barbados, to experience it,” the Prime Minister stated.
She added that the countries in Central America, such as Mexico, Belize and Honduras, are equally affected by disasters.
The Prime Minister said the reality was that countries within this part of the region were on the “frontline of the battle” even though they did not cause it.
“It is not us. We don’t have enough industrial production to have made holes in the ozone layer or cause global warming, but we know that if the earth’s temperature rises beyond 1.5 degrees, that we are going to see even worst consequences…,” she noted.
However, she stressed that Government would not be constrained by the geographical boundaries of Barbados in seeking to raise support for the changes that have to come about.
“Like all great battles, you don’t win it straight off…. Barbados expects and anticipates that not everyone will convert because if they had, the world would not now be facing these diabolical consequences…. We can sit back here and wait for somebody to bring a solution as Caribbean people, or we can take responsibility for our destiny,” she stated.
Making reference to existing funds at the regional level, Mottley said the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, from which Barbados received money following the passage of Tropical Storm Kirk last year, was nowhere near what would be needed following a major disaster.
“As a result the major take away at a regional and international level is that we are no longer simply prepared to accept our fate without fight back. We are going to have to do better and to prepare for this new reality of the 21st century for our people.
“For us not to do so would be leave our people and our country exposed… in ways that would become far worse if we do nothing, and much better if we intervene to change how we live, how we govern, how we behave and how we finance,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
At the local level, she said it was Government’s intention to revisit the Catastrophe Fund Legislation, with a view to have it reactivated.
However, the Prime Minister said money coming from the Fund was unlikely to be enough after insurance claims from the Bahamas start to come in, as premiums were likely to go up. “It is largely because the pool is too small,” she stated.
Meanwhile, Mottley said Government, in the restructuring of its bonds and domestic debt last year, took the opportunity to include a natural disaster clause.
“What that means is that if a storm or hurricane of a certain size hits us [Barbados] that we will be able to postpone for two years the payment of principal and that we would postpone the payment of interest, but capitalize the interest for those two years and put it onto the backend of the loan.
“So, you get a little elbow room for two years to spend the money that you would have spent on debt in the rebuilding of the country. That is what you need when you have a tragedy,” the Prime Minister stressed.