They know very well that no Caribbean government has the kind of money to lend or donate to any of the string of regional countries which were pulverized an unusually strong 2017 hurricane season so leaders have approached the international donor community for help in rebuilding devastated nations.
With assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and western donor nations, regional leaders and high officials will travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York for a two-day international conference aimed at raising billions in mostly grant aid to help Dominica and Barbuda rebuild especially in the coming months. The conference starts on Nov. 21.
Colin Granderson, assistant secretary general of the 15-nation grouping of countries, said this week that resources for such a task would obviously be hard to come by in the region so governments will be pinning great hopes on raising the kind of money needed to rebuild affected nations from the international community.
For the two-day meeting, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, western donor nations, including the United States, and some of the wealthier countries in the Middle East are expected to attend Granderson said. In fact he says, the conference is open to anyone interested in helping with this mega rebuilding effort.
But even as the region prepares for the watershed conference, officials are making it clear that it will not be business as usual as monies raised from this effort are not simply to be used to rebuild the battered infrastructure in the islands, but to do so in a manner that would ensure state and private properties, airports, water systems and other utilities are able to withstand strong storms going forward.
This is so because authorities are growing tired of having to find hundreds of millions almost each year to replace systems. The best thing to do, they say, is to plan properly and rebuild resilient systems as category five storms now appear to be the norm.
“We have to look at things like whether it makes more sense, for example, to run your power lines underground rather than overhead, ensure private homes are built to codes. Climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are important. But to rebuild better, It will cost more money than before so that is why we are holding this conference,” Granderson said.
In fact he said, Dominica among, has already offered itself to be ”the first climate resilient country in the world” by completely overhauling its infrastructure rather than rebuild using current methods. Early indications about how much is needed in Dominica has already topped the $2B mark and officials in Antigua and Barbuda are already talking about the need to find in excess of $200M to restore life. Granderson said a full and professional assessment is currently underway. The full impact will be known in the coming days, definitely before the conference.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria pounded the region in September killing more than 50 people and causing billions in damage. Barbuda’s population of about 1,600 was completely evacuated to Antigua. As like Dominica, more than 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed by winds of up to 230 miles per hour. Others hit but not as badly were some of the southernmost islands in the Bahamas chain, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla.
Officials say they have no plan to ignore the fact that associate members like the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands, had also suffered serious damage.
Additionally, the region also has an interest in most of the other storm-hit nations because of the large populations of CARICOM nationals from the bloc living in places like Dutch St. Maarten, French Saint Martin and the United States Virgin Islands. Hundreds were given free flights back home in the days after the storms. Hundreds of nationals, mostly university students are also living in Cuba which itself had suffered major damage from the storms.
In Dominica alone, 27 were killed and 34 are still missing.
Several leaders and high officials have already signed on to attend the conference.