Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stormy weather and capitalism

Antigua and Barbuda joined St. Kitts and Nevis to attain middle-income country status. According to the World Bank, a middle-income economy is one with a gross national income per capita of between 1,026 and 12,475 dollars in 2016, calculated according to the Atlas method — a formula used by the World Bank to estimate the size of economies in terms of gross national income in U.S. dollars.

“What I do want to say is that the other countries, the independent ones in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) like Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, all of them are exposed to climate events annually and the climate events are devastating for us and you could have situations where 90 per cent of our GDP is wiped out in 22 hours, 23 hours, 15 hours, depending on how long a tropical storm sits on you,” says Sharlene Shillingford-McKlmon, charg√© d’affaires at the Eastern Caribbean States Embassy to Belgium and Mission to the European Union.

She argued that with the severe impact of climate events on OECS economies, “GDP per capita is not a full and complete reflection of a country’s development. “We have inherent vulnerabilities as small island developing states that make it very difficult for us to be graduated and not receive aid when we could be struck down by environmental and other exogenous shocks and be severely affected,” she said. Oone climate event can wipe out all those gains even as the countries would no longer qualify for official development assistance. “You are going to lose financing and at the same time you don’t want to be hit by a hurricane, you don’t want to be in a situation where … if a hurricane comes and something happens, I may not graduate because I lose my GDP. Who wants to be in that position? What an awful place to be.”

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves has also spoken to the impact on climate change on national development – particularly the economic situation of individual families. “Let us understand this. When we have a natural disaster, you go to bed at night middle class and after three hours of rainfall and landslides, torrential downpour, like we never used to have before the acceleration of man-made climate change, that person, in three hours, would move from middle class to poor,” he said in late June at Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.
Between Dec. 23 and 24, 2013, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia by the time an hours-long downpour subsided in St. Vincent and the Grenadines around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, nine people were confirmed dead, three were missing and presumed dead, and 37 were injured. Over 500 people were affected, of which 222 had to be provided with emergency shelter, while 278 took refuge with family, friends and neighbours. The Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) said that sectoral damage assessment estimated that 495 houses were damaged/destroyed; over 98 acres of crops damaged; 28 bridges damaged/destroyed; and the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital suffered major losses. In St. Lucia, there were six confirmed deaths related to the weather system and an estimated 1,050 persons were severely affected. In Dominica, an estimated 106 households in approximately 12 communities were affected by the Christmas Eve weather system.
The total damage/losses and cost of clean-up operations were estimated at 58.44 million dollars — some 17 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product wiped out in a matter of hours.
18 months later, Dominica would be struck by yet another weather system, this time by Tropical Storm Erika on Aug. 24, 2015, which left at least 20 persons dead, and a number of other missing. The storm also rendered 574 persons homeless and resulted in the evacuation of 1,034 others due to the unsafe conditions in their communities. Damage and losses were estimated at EC$1.3 billion or 90 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

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