BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - The Barbados Government will have to shell out a staggering $37 million to repair more than 1, 000 homes that were damaged in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Tomas, which roared through the island ripping off roofs and uprooting trees last month.
Barbados' Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, made this revelation during a press conference at Government Headquarters, to give an update on Government's response after Tomas.
Admitting that Government was unprepared to deal with the trail of destruction left in Tomas' wake, Mr. Stuart announced plans to "mobilise resources to put people's lives back in order as soon as possible".
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart
In light of this, the Prime Minister mentioned the proposed tabling of a supplementary resolution in Parliament tomorrow, Tuesday, November 16, to secure funds for national reconstruction.
"It is going to take about $37 million to deal with all of this. We have about $23 million in a Catastrophe Fund, but we are going to need a legislative amendment in order to access those monies. We have, however, been able to source $17 million from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility and that money can be readily sourced so that we are able to go to Parliament to try to get that money mobilised," Mr. Stuart underlined.
Noting that the lower echelons of society appeared to have taken the brunt of Tomas' fury, based on the widespread damage to chattle houses islandwide, he revealed that assessments were still ongoing to determine which houses needed to be repaired or replaced.
"What this system has revealed is that a lot of the low-income housing stock was in a very poor state of repair. So, where chattels have lost roofs for example, it is not going to be a simple fact of replacing a roof, because the remaining structure in some cases is so poor, that after assessment, it can easily be discoveredthat you need to put a new structure in place because the old structure cannot sustain a new roof," Mr. Stuart explained.
Regarding those homeowners who had been displaced, he reported that they were now being housed in private facilities or in hotels, with Government footing the $5 million accommodation and furnishings bill from the $37 million sourced.
Mr. Stuart pointed out that those homeowners whose homes are ensured would not be receiving assistance. "Obviously everybody, whose homes had sustained damage, would not be entitled to government assistance. There are some private residences that would have been insured and let me hasten to say that these would not be in the minority, but where insurance policies have existed, we would expect the insurance companies to be responsible for the process of reconstruction."
To ensure a rapid response to the reconstruction effort, the Prime Minister disclosed that a Ministerial Oversight Committee had been set up and will be chaired by Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite. Other members of that committee would comprise the Ministers of Social Care, Housing Lands, Rural and Urban Development, Transport and Works and Finance, and would provide comprehensive reports to Cabinet on its progress every two weeks.
Meanwhile, Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite said of the more than 1, 000 houses damaged, 600 had already been assessed.
He further stated that 20 per cent of the housing stock or 71 homes, would have to be rebuilt. Mr. Brathwaite revealed that the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) was now the base for a team of artisans from the BDF, the National Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Transport and Works. This team would be in the field as early as tomorrow, Tuesday, November 16, he added.
"So far 615 houses have been assessed and we will look at that as a committee to decide how we will go forward based on the immediate resources that we have...," Mr. Brathwaite said.