When I sat down to write the first part of this article during the last week of October, I had no idea I would return to the topic.
Weeks later, I was happy to hear that there are larger âapostlesâ around who believe in the doctrine of resilience. Furthermore, they recognize that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 provides valuable lessons and that if learned and applied, they can contribute to the growth and development of Jamaica, despite the many dangers that threaten it.
Learning and applying these lessons on resilience is important given the challenges the country faces from another major risk: climate change.
The Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Dr Wayne Henry and the Minister of Health and Welfare Dr Christopher Tufton, according to a report by the Jamaica Information Service of November 9, make part of the disciples who spread the gospel. Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Finance and Civil Service Dr Nigel Clarke are also missionaries, as the first part of this article explains.
Drs Henry and Clarke recently participated in a forum forming part of the Seventh Regional Semi-Virtual Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean. The theme was âBuilding Resilient Economies in the Americas and the Caribbeanâ. While their contributions to the discussions were insightful and forward-looking, something important was missing.
Assuming the JIS report is correct, none of them appear to have thought about or said anything specific about whether the lessons learned from COVID-19 can be applied to the new risks posed to the island. by climate change. Other people, including me, have written on this topic more and more frequently. The contributions of these two government officials came as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, was held in Glasgow, Scotland.
A 392-page peer-reviewed report, 360 Â° Resilience: A Guide to prepare the Caribbean for a New Generation of Shocks, produced by staff from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, with external contributions , mysteriously appeared on my computer screen last Tuesday. This and the JIS reports featuring the two disciples set the stage for today’s article.
To quote a passage from the World Bank report (page 393): âCaribbean countries are used to dealing with great economic and natural hazards, from fluctuations in world commodity prices to hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The region has built relatively high levels of resilience over time, and despite recurring damage (sic) from shocks, has been able to achieve long-term development progress. But much of the resilience in the region relies on informal mechanisms that do not systematically protect the poor and most vulnerable. As a result, some people are left behind. To meet the challenges posed by climate change, new diseases and changing socio-economic contexts, countries need a new strategy that takes into account the social, micro and macroeconomic aspects of resilience in an integrated framework. and adapted to the Caribbean context.
âThis report takes a 360-degree approach to resilience, assessing progress and identifying gaps across sectors in 17 Caribbean countries (except Cuba and Puerto Rico). It presents a comprehensive framework to help countries in this region bring together their mostly scattered sector efforts into a comprehensive strategy to build resilience to a new generation of shocks. “
The report assesses the historical and future impacts of shocks in the Caribbean, the policy responses to these shocks and the gaps in resilience building. It presents two main conclusions and a series of recommendations for policymakers.
The second of the report’s two findings was not surprising. In addition, he reaffirms the arguments put forward in my column of September 12, 2021, “Clear and current danger of climate change for Jamaica, the insurers”. âCaribbean countries,â he said, âare unprepared for the new challenges posed by climate change, compounded by uncertainty in future tourism markets and lack of fiscal space. Strategies that worked in the past will not be enough in the future. Climate change threatens to intensify natural hazards and brings new sources of volatility through impacts on health, agricultural yields and coastal landscapes. The post-COVID-19 world brings more uncertainty to the outlook for tourism. Many countries have also exhausted their fiscal space and adaptive capacity while coping with past crises.
âThese new challenges require more coherent approaches to resilience, building on stronger institutions, sound analysis and more transparent prioritization. To build resilience and better prepare for future shocks and stresses, this report recommends that Caribbean governments focus on three main areas:
â¢ Increase government efficiency by improving investment management and infrastructure maintenance, clarifying procurement rules for emergencies, allocating budgets transparently, ensuring sound rules budget and overlaying risk financing strategies. (Finance Minister Clarke wrote about the island’s “tiered disaster risk financing strategy” in his September 26, 2021 report. Sunday Gleaner article).
â¢ Empower households and the private sector by increasing both the coverage and adequacy of social protection, building worker skills for resilience, improving access to finance and facilitating access to information on the risks. (Minister Clarke spoke at length about access to finance, including insurance, when he addressed the Jamaican segment of the Munich Re Foundation conference last month).
â¢ Reduce future physical risks by investing in critical infrastructure, better enforcing building codes and standards, systematically considering emerging and changing risks, and planning to rebuild better after shocks.
According to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, in its September 2020 report, the island âhas suffered the aggravated effects of multiple disasters over the past three years: the devastating impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, recurrent seismic activity in the southwest region, including a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on January 7, 2020, the current COVID-19 pandemic; all underscored by a crushing debt crisis and a federally mandated austerity regime since 2016. Multiple natural disasters have exacerbated vulnerability and poverty, and public energy, telecommunications, water, health and transport have deteriorated considerably and become even more vulnerable, causing (sic) failures of social safety nets â.
Despite these events, Puerto Rico is omitted from the islands discussed in the World Bank’s 360 Â° Resilience Report. Its Caribbean neighbors will surely learn from these experiences.
This omission aside, and for which the authors of the World Bank study provided no explanation, the report provides explicit endorsement of the mission of this column.