STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JUNE 4, 2002
In the aftermath of the heavy and persistent rainfall and flooding which affected the entire island from 22-31 May 2002 the country will now have to focus on repairing the substantial damage which has been done to roads, bridges, water and health infrastructure, houses, livestock and crops.
Widespread disruption of basic services and significant reduction in economic activity has resulted from the damage. Nine lives have been lost and thousands of persons have suffered loss or damage to their homes and personal belongings.
Throughout the period up to 500 families were in shelters and at present approximately 350 persons remain.
Based on preliminary assessments $1.3 Billion will be required for recovery and rehabilitation.
Roads and Infrastructure
Of the amount allocated for recovery and rehabilitation $1.1 Billion is earmarked for repairing and replacing bridges, patching and rehabilitation of main roads, Parish Council roads and river training.
In Agriculture $97 Million will be required to assist small farmers to recover from the dislocation, through the provision of fertilizers, chemicals, seeds and other planting material.
Water and Housing
Fifty-Four Million Dollars ($54-M) will be required to resuscitate the water supply systems including repairs to the Yallahs pipeline and clearing of dams and blocked pipelines.
Twenty-Nine Million Dollars ($29-M) will be given to the Health Sector for vector control, water quality monitoring, replacement of sanitary conveniences and repairs to health facilities.
The extent to which families have been affected by the disaster cannot be overstated. Fifteen Hundred (1500) families have already been investigated and but indications are that as many as 5000 families or 20,000 individuals may have been affected.
Special teams have been deployed to expedite the investigation. This particular exercise has to be undertaken as a matter of urgency because we are now in the hurricane season and are more likely to be impacted by severe weather system.
Forty Million Dollars ($40-M) will be provided for relief and rehabilitation.
Cognizance must also be taken of the fact that we have not fully recovered from the devastation to Portland and St. Mary caused the flooding associated with hurricane Michelle six months ago.
Much work has been done in repairing the road network and other infrastructure as well as the rehabilitation of families. Over $700 Million has been committed for road repairs in these parishes, and several Millions in grants to victims.
However, some families are still remaining in shelters. These families lost their homes in the flood and will have to be relocated, as their former place of residence is either non-existent or unsuitable for dwelling purposes.
We recognize that this is an untenable situation for persons to be in shelter for this extended period, but the relocation process involves many aspects, inclusive of identification and acquisition of safe land and the construction of houses.
Honourable Dean Peart, Minister of Labour and Social Security is working on the speedy relocation of these families.
Based on the magnitude of the infrastructure work to be done in Portland and St. Mary as a consequence of the November flooding, the Government approached both the International Development Bank (IDB) and the Canadian Development Bank (CDB) for a cumulative loan totaling US$45M assist in the reconstruction.
In relation to the restoration of areas damaged as a result of the November flood rains, US$25M was approved on May 13, 2002 by the Canadian Development Bank for work to be carried out in the parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. Andrew. This loan will be used for the rehabilitation of roads, bridges, retaining walls and drainage structures as well as river training works, engineering consultancy and project management. A first traunch of US$4.7M is to be drawn down by June 30 for retroactive financing.
Another loan of US$20M is also expected from the IDB to effect repairs and rehabilitation in areas, including Portland, damaged as a result of the November 2001 flood rains. The application for this loan was made in February of this year and approval is now pending.
The main purpose of this loan is to execute a programme of preventative works on the main road network to ensure their preservation and safe operation during expected rains.
Specifically, it will be used to carry out slope stabilization, drainage improvements, minor pavement interventions and riverbank stabilization. Point five million of this amount will also be used for strengthening the emergency preparedness of the National Works Agency.
The current situation has compounded the problem and placed tremendous strain on the countryís resources. There is a need therefore for external support to deal with the medium to long-term recovery efforts in the various sectors that have been affected.
The damage caused by the most recent rainfall and flooding has very serious implications for the economy and social well being of the people in the affected areas. The damage to the road network has severely restricted accessibility and has impacted on the level of economic activity.
Agriculture, the economic mainstay of these areas, has also been greatly affected. The health hazard posed by the widespread death of livestock, the malfunctioning of water supplies, destruction of sanitary conveniences, and the large bodies of stagnant water make it imperative for the immediate implementation of a vector control programme and monitoring of water quality to avoid the outbreak of diseases.
Cabinet yesterday gave approval for the:
1. Immediate clearance of all roads including main roads, parish council roads and farm roads,
2. Provision of funding to address health-related issues including vector control, water quality monitoring, repair to sewage system at the St. Annís Bay hospital and replacement of damaged sanitary conveniences in all parishes.
3. Due to the current emergency and the need to expedite the works to be undertaken, approval has also been given for temporary variations in the normal procedures relating to the award of contracts:
I. For small contracts under JA$4 million, the award will be based on negotiations with contractors on the Government approved list.
II. Contracts between JA$4 and $15 million, will be awarded as a variation to existing road rehabilitation contracts where the workload will not be affected. This will be ratified by the infrastructure Sub-Committee of Cabinet.
III. Contracts above $15 million will be tendered and ratified by Cabinet.
During the rains, efforts were made to undertake whatever work was possible. Now with the cessation of the rains, I have given instructions that the recovery process be expedited.
The Director General of ODPEM has written to the Minister of Labour and Social Security pointing out the enormity of the problem caused by the recent flooding:
1. Extensive nature of the damage
2. The number of persons affected
3. The destruction of the economic mainstay of the areas
4. The secondary health hazards
5. The urgency of recovery and rehabilitation bearing in mind we are now in the hurricane season.
The Director General has therefore recommended that the parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine and St. Thomas be declared disaster areas in accordance with Section 12 (1B) of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Act (1993).
The Minister with responsibility for Disaster Management, Honourable Dean Peart has written to me indicating his support of the Director Generalís recommendation.
After careful consideration and in consultation with the Cabinet, I have decided to declare these parishes disaster areas and direct that the appropriate measures be taken to expedite the recovery process.
To this end the Minister of Finance has been instructed to apply to the IDB for loan funding of US$20 Million under the Banks Emergency Reconstruction Facility to support the immediate disaster recovery effort.
I want to ensure that there is no confusion between the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Act under which this declaration is made and the State of Emergency Act.
Under the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Act, human rights and other constitutional safeguards are preserved. There will be no breach whatsoever of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
This course of action has been taken purely on the basis of bringing swift relief to victims and restoring normal social and economic activities in the shortest possible time.