Blame the law for hold up

Government Senator Andre Worrell.

Inadequate legislation is to blame for tens of millions of dollars allocated for catastrophe relief not being used over the past few years.

Government Senator Andre Worrell said while the Catastrophe Fund came into existence in 2007, following discussion on the related Catastrophe Fund Act in Parliament the previous year, the law in question had been ineffective and needed change.

He was speaking in the Senate this afternoon as an amendment to the above act was debated. Passage of the amendment would, among other things, enable a reimbursement of funds to several state agencies, which provided relief to Barbadians whose homes were either damaged or destroyed by Tropical Storm Tomas in October 2010.

These included the Rural and Urban Development Commissions, Welfare Department, National Assistance Board and disaster relief bodies.

Additionally, in the event of the island being similarly affected by a natural disaster in future, these same entities would have the “legitimate right to act again”, knowing they were covered financially via the Catastrophe Fund, the senator explained.

“What this legislation is actually doing is creating a more humane situation,” he said.

“Yes the legislation was put together for a good purpose, but it is not always perfect, we are human we don’t always get things right so we have this process of Parliament where you bring back legislation and you change it … so that it fits into the time that you are dealing with.” Worrell said the aim of today’s amendment was to make the legislation governing the Catastrophe Fund “more effective”, allowing its less troublesome usage from now on.

“So where we have a situation where funds were collected but not being used, … here we are today putting the teeth to the legislation so that the funds can be utilised,” the Democratic Labour Party spokesman said.

He noted that while the previous administration had taken an initial important first step by piloting the initial passage of the Catastrophe Fund Act, it did not follow through and put provisions in place that the fund could be “utilised”.

“You have legislation that was in place in 2007 and you had a major catastrophe in 2010… If this legislation was that good it should have responded to the needs of the individual,” he asserted.

Worrell also said Tomas was a wake up call for Barbados as far as weaknesses with its housing stock were concerned.

“We also have to recognise that with the passage of Tomas in 2010, Barbados did not have a hurricane for a number of years … and as a result of that quite a few houses were damaged…,” he stated.

“What that points out to us is that there was a problem that we have to face in terms of the condition of the housing stock in Barbados. We recognise that quite a few persons … had to depend on state agencies… There were situations where you had to look for houses for them to rent until their own house was repaired or restored because a lot of the houses were damaged.” (SC)

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