PM: $45 mil. in loan money to go toward utilities restoration
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday the government has allocated $45 million to restore utilities on Grand Bahama and Abaco in the wake of Hurricane Dorian – the strongest storm to ever hit The Bahamas.
On Friday, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister revealed that $110 million would be needed to restore utilities on Abaco and its cays.
The government secured a $100 million contingency loan facility from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) earlier this year.
The loan is designed to assist The Bahamas in the aftermath of storms like Dorian – a deadly Category 5 storm that killed at least 60 people.
During a presentation in the House of Assembly yesterday, Minnis gave a breakdown on how the funds would be used.
“I wish to advise the House of the preliminary estimates of how these funds will be spent,” he said.
“I note that these estimates are subject to adjustment and further refinement. The proposed use of the funds are as follows: electricity restoration, $30 million; water restoration, $15 million; enhanced social welfare spending, $30 million; debris removal and clean-up, $15 million; reimbursement of evacuation and shelter cost, $1 million; unallocated funds, $9 million.”
He noted that the funds will not be used as “some sort of slush fund” for the government.
Dorian decimated chunks of Abaco and Grand Bahama early last month.
Early estimates have projected that reconstruction efforts will cost billions of dollars.
Minnis said yesterday that the government will also use funds in dormant accounts at the Central Bank of The Bahamas to assist with recovery and restoration in the wake of the Dorian.
There is $40 million in the dormant accounts, according to the prime minister.
He said the bank has recommended that the government “use no more than half these funds”.
“The Ministry of Finance will determine and coordinate the disbursement schedule with the Central Bank,” Minnis said.
He added, “We will utilize $20 million for recovery and reconstruction.
“Funds will be used as follows: $10 million [in] support for small businesses in the special economic recovery zones; $5 million [in] support for temporary housing accommodations in the affected areas; and $5 million [in] support for other Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts to be determined.
“The Ministry of Finance will also liaise with the minister responsible for disaster preparedness, recovery and reconstruction, and obtain his consent in respect to the utilization of the $5 million [that has] yet to be determined recovery efforts.”
The Ministry of Finance is also overseeing a comprehensive economic and social impact assessment in the aftermath of the storm, according to Minnis.
He said the assessment team includes both “local and international technical experts”.
“The assessment will paint a picture of the economic activity that was adversely affected by Hurricane Dorian,” the prime minister said.
“Through this process, we are factoring in all of the businesses that were damaged and can no longer generate economic activity, whether in the medium or long-term. We are factoring all of the critical infrastructure that has to be rebuilt: roads, bridges, seawalls, utility systems, etc.”
Minnis said the government has partnered with the IDB and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) for the assessment.
He said the assessment will be completed “in a number of weeks”.
Minnis said it will establish the dollar value of Dorian’s impact on The Bahamas’ gross domestic product (GDP).
The prime minister said the assessment team visited Grand Bahama on Tuesday and is currently on the ground in Abaco.
“After visiting each of the affected islands and speaking with local and national authorities, and private sector entities, the team will analyze qualitative and quantitative data,” he said.
Minnis said the data will be categorized into three sections: social, infrastructure and productive.