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Budget cuts hurt, but necessary says TCI Deputy Premier in parliamentary debate on hurricane funds

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Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands – February 7, 2018 – Budget cuts to accommodate new spending demands were painful as government projects and departments had to fiscally re-calibrate in order to accommodate important costs associated with repatriation of illegal migrants and the September 2017 hurricanes.

Deputy Premier, Hon Sean Astwood aimed to roll back the curtain on what was happening behind the scenes as the PDM Administration led the re-organization of the already passed 2017-2018 National Budget.

The Government has been heavily criticized as having had a slow response to reconstruction in the aftermath of the ferocious storms.  However, the Deputy Premier, also the Border Control Minister disagrees with that characterization.

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“We have heard how this country has bounced back to our new normalcy in record time, and we have also heard how many – not just the political opposite – but many have tried to discredit the works of this Government and our direct involvement in making sure that persons who can now sit at home in the comforts of air condition, who can now pick up their mobile cell phones and WhatsApp any derogatory criticism or comment that they may decide to make – I would like for all of them to stop for just one second Mr.  Speaker and take a full assessment of what it took to restore such comforts back to them.”

Almost four months to the day of the dismal encounter all of the Turks and Caicos Islands with Hurricane Irma, the Border Control Minister during House of Assembly debate on the changes to the budget, shared his experience while visiting another territory smashed by Irma:  Antigua and Barbuda.  Barbuda was so badly damaged in the historic hurricane, which measured well above 200 mph wind speeds, that it remains evacuated, completely inhabitable.

“Two weeks ago I went to Antigua and Barbuda for a Summit on 21st Century Governance.  Mr. Speaker the island of Barbuda is still a disaster zone. One cannot enter the island without direct government permission because of the current state of that island.  Yet we here in the Turks and Caicos, we moan and we groan when the wind don’t blow, when the sun is too hot, when it rains the extra day, when the phone calls drop for a second, Mr. Speaker, we ought to be careful.  This supplementary is a response to all that I have just mentioned, it is a response of this Government to set new priorities to deal with the new realities.”

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Hon Astwood said the Supplementary, which includes a $600,000 increase to his Ministry for illegal migrant repatriation expenditure is a response to the needs of the country, evidence that the PDM Administration is paying attention and rightly responding to hurricane reconstruction and border protection.

“My same ministry would have gotten cuts in other areas and it hurts… to lose even a dollar we don’t want to lose it but we understand the needs and overall objective of the Ministry of Finance.  We know they did not just sit down and arbitrarily decide to get rid of a project, to cut spending by ‘x’ percentage that is not an easy decision to make.  I don’t think that the Premier, her PS or anybody, the Budget Director – anyone sits down having a good time in that exercise.  So for persons to characterize this as some simple exercise, some ‘willy-nilly’ approach to governance where decisions are being made that affects the lives of our people, Mr. Speaker I don’t understand how anyone could think that’s a trivial matter that somehow the politics of things is more important than the lives of our people….  Mr. Speaker this supplementary is no politics.”

The Deputy further exposed that there were professional rows between ministers, permanent secretaries and departments as the country re-prioritised spending to pay for three exceptional areas of expense, namely:  hurricane Irma and Maria clean up, overage in health care abroad costs and the budget busting repatriation of illegal migrants.

“I am sure the Permanent Secretary of Finance was hearing from other PSes that, ‘you can’t so that, you can’t take this from me!’ because that is what Ministers were saying to the Premier, you can’t take this from me, I need that.  But collectively Mr. Speaker, with prudent leadership and a focus on where this country is now and where it needs to go we are here today in full support of the premier and her ministry of this Supplementary.”

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Deputy Premier Astwood wrapped up his contribution on with a declaration of support of the proposed budgetary changes, making the statement that the PDM Administration is not only working hard, but producing.

“This supplementary is a short term measure to get us through the rest of this financial year and I commend the Premier and her staff for doing a good job.”

The Budget Supplementary passed through the Turks and Caicos House of Assembly on Tuesday February 6, 2018 on the eve of the four month anniversary of Hurricane Irma.

 

#tcibudgetdebate2018  #hurricaneirma  #hurricanemaria  #seanastwood

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Bahamas News

Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice

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By Deandre Williamson

Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow

 

#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.

As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch.  For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.

Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.

“The wind was manageable.  It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down.  The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.

Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.

When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.

However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.

While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.

“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.

China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.

Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.

“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said.  “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”

Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.

“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.

“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows.  We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.

“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes.  I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand.  There is so much things we can do.”

 

Loss and Damage

But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.

According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.

Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.

Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas.  At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.

“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world.  But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.

Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.

Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.

Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.

He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.

“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.

Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.

According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.

“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500.  In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.

After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.

 

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.

 

Deandre Williamson

Journalist

Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014

 

Caption:  Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)

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Caribbean News

Police Academy Commissioner Shot Dead in Haiti

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#Haiti, November 29, 2022 – The police in Haiti have launched an investigation following the assassination of the director of the National Police Academy, Commissioner Rigaud Harington.

Reports from the police are that Harington was shot dead on the grounds of the police training facility in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday, November 25.

The spokesperson for the National Police of Haiti (PNH), Inspector Garry Desrosiers, in confirming Friday’s killing, said the commissioner was “shot in the head not far from the Academy” and the attackers “stole his [Harington’s] vehicle and kidnapped his driver.”

Harington’s killing is the latest in several attacks against law enforcement in Haiti. The killing also happened at a time when international leaders are trying to help Haiti’s political leaders control the surge in gang violence in the country.

The police have not released any information on who might be responsible for the commissioner’s death.

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Caribbean News

St Kitts and Nevis Welcomed the World’s Largest Cruise Ship

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#StKittsandNevis, November 29, 2022 – The twin island of St Kitts and Nevis is about to chart its busiest cruise seasons yet as the world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas, made its inaugural call to Port Zante in the country on Thursday, November 24.

About 6,495 guests arrived on the ship, with 2,259 crew members on board.

The oasis class ship was welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew, who led a delegation on board last Thursday to host a brief plaque exchange ceremony.

“You have confidence in the destination by adding St Kitts and Nevis to your now largest vessel, the Wonder of the Seas, with a passenger capacity of 6,988,” the Prime Minister said.

The Chief Executive Officer at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Mr. Ellison Thompson, said the ship’s visit was a result of the country’s comprehensive negotiations with stakeholders.

“The destination’s ability to secure a vessel with a 6,495-passenger capacity today, November 24, is the result of comprehensive negotiations between the Ministry, the Authority, and cruise lines. As a result, we are gradually seeing the fruits of our marketing and strategic efforts, and we take pride in celebrating such a momentous occasion,” Thompson said.

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