February 13, 2020
By Llonella Gilbert
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said while the Government is debating the appropriations and borrowing resolutions for the 2019/20 Supplementary “Hurricane Dorian” Budget, this exercise is about much more than crunching numbers.
“This budget exercise represents a promise that we will not leave our people behind or turn our backs on Grand Bahama, Abaco or any of our family of islands,” DPM Turnquest said in the House of Assembly while presenting his Contribution to the 2019/2020 Supplementary Budget Debate, Wednesday, February 12, 2020.
“As I mentioned in my statement to this House during the laying of the Supplementary Budget, this Hurricane was catastrophic. Make no mistake. It evaporated $3.4 billion in damages, losses and additional costs.”
The DPM explained that the recovery and restoration costs are of a magnitude unlike any other hurricane this country has ever experienced; in fact, the damage and losses associated with Dorian are larger than those of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Matthew, and the two prior hurricanes before them combined! It has created a massive challenge that requires a massive response and, as we have assessed, the fiscal costs are unavoidable.
He stated that as a part of our immediate and long-term plans to support our citizens, we have committed to additional expenses to strengthen the social safety net for the most vulnerable individuals and families affected by the storm. This has meant additional investment in safety and security, education and health options, shelter and unemployment support.
He noted that the Government has allocated $11.4 million toward unemployment benefits to ensure eligible persons who lost their jobs receive unemployment benefits from the National Insurance Board for an extended period. This is putting money in the pockets of storm victims, helping them to sustain themselves while working to restore their lives.
“Our policies to support individuals and families come as a necessary cost.
“Unfortunately, what we have in available resources is significantly less than what we need. Although counter to our fiscal consolidation objective, borrowing is the only immediate choice we have that is in the best interest of the Bahamian people given the alternatives. So, we are borrowing to lift people from hardship to a path of more stable and sustainable living.”
DPM Turnquest explained that the additional borrowing the Government has requested is not for idle purposes.
“We are also investing to sustainably rebuild the economies of Grand Bahama and Abaco. The damage and losses to infrastructure alone as a result of Hurricane Dorian is very tangible, at over $450 million dollars.”
He said it means there are clinics that are no longer accessible and therefore parents must drive miles and miles, instead of down the road, to attend to a sick child. It means roads that are still impassable or severely damaged. It means water systems that are still not operating properly. The inaccessibility of these services impacts the lives of real people.