Parliament agrees to govt $150m loan for Hurricane relief

by: Jaimie Smith, News Reporter - Published Monday, October 24, 2016

Members of Parliament concluded Thursday’s afternoon House of Assembly (HOA) proceedings by agreeing to, by way of the Minister of Finance, (Prime Minister Perry Christie) to a loan or loans of a sum not exceeding $150 million to assist in Hurricane Relief Efforts with respect to Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew. 


Christie stated prior to the resolution being agreed upon, “To be clear, it is not intended that any of the $150 million being raised would be used for any employee assistance loan programs. However, as the Minister of State for Finance explained we, the government, will fund a variety of assistance programs to facilitate those affected by the Hurricane, as we have done in the past. In this respect, subject to a Social Services assessment, we will provide materials, repairs, feed and house our citizens of New Providence, Grand Bahama, North Andros and the Berry Islands.


“We will also work with the Chamber of Commerce to provide direct assistance to small and medium businesses. In a certain manner, we will work with partners in the private sector to design programs to assist citizens. 


“The government is now reviewing the use of the provisions under the Emergency Relief Guarantee Act. Experience has shown the idea to provide the incentive to allow for the participation of banks, by providing loans by those impacted by the storm. We however, remain committed, to finding innovative ways to provide the necessary assistance to those impacted by the storm,” stated Christie. 


“I want to thank my colleagues, who have made serious, well intentioned recommendations as to how we can better prepare ourselves and better manage the crisis, and what we should be doing in the aftermath of a crisis. I expect that there will be constant reports to us; I expect the dynamic participation of all Members of Parliament. 


“This is a matter where I think we should be keen on being part of helping people to understand that the dynamics of this; whether our building code has to be improved upon, even though it appears to have worked magnificently,” added the prime minister.


“We can only do the things that I think are necessary with the support of the public. I do not know the formula that will facilitate that, but when it comes to protection against disaster, we have to work hard at being one, in this regard.   


“In all of these things, we are making it with the future in mind knowing that we have an obligation to answer a question now, because 20 years from today, the generation who’s facing challenges in our country will ask themselves, ‘Why when they had the opportunity, and, they knew from experience that these things happened, and they did nothing,” concluded Christie.  


Following the Prime Minster’s contribution, Speaker of the House, Dr. Kendal Major noted, “The question is, should the following resolution be agreed, whereas Article 129 (1) under the Constitution requires the Minister of Finance before each and every election with revenue and expenditures for public services during the preceeding financial year which shall be laid before the House of Assembly, and which estimates are made before the House of Assembly.  Whereas Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 created significant damage to the infrastructure of personal property as residents of Acklins, Crooked Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Long Island and San Salvador, and, whereas Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 also created significant damage to the infrastructure and personal property of persons in North and Central Andros, the Berry Island, New Providence and Grand Bahama. 


“Be it, therefore, resolved that this House authorizes the Minister of Finance by way of loan or loans, a sum not exceeding $150 million in the currency of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and approve the proceeds of the same being used for the purpose of defraying expenditure for recovery and reconstruction of assets as a result of hurricane Matthew and hurricane Joaquin.”


As no MP objected to the resolution, Major stated, “The resolution is agreed.” House of Assembly proceedings have been suspended until November 2, 2016.”


Published Monday, October 24, 2016 


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