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$1.5 billion in Dorian pledges

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis officially opened the Hurricane Dorian Pledging Conference at the Baha Mar Convention, Arts and Entertainment Center yesterday. The conference is being held five months after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama. From left are youth representatives Rolner Paul and Skylar Symonette, United Nations Development Programme Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Dr. Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, Minnis and Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson. BIS/Derek Smith

Government has received $1.5 billion in pledge donations for Hurricane Dorian relief during an aid conference held at Baha Mar yesterday, and officials said they expect more pledges will continue to come in.

The conference was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and was attended by hundreds including government ministers and officials as well as local and international private sector representatives, members of the public and media.

“The outpouring of support is just tremendous. In fact, it exceeds my expectations,” said Minister of State in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis in an interview with The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

Calling the event “very successful” in its efforts to raise funds for recovery and reconstruction following the devastating Category 5 storm, Lewis added: “There were some unspoken pledges also. The government from Kuwait – based on what they said, I do believe that they will come back once they receive authorization to perhaps make a pledge.

“And I expect that other governments from around the globe will also phone in, as the German government did today.

“There will be more private pledges also, so I do expect the number to go up.”

Former Senate President Katherine Forbes-Smith, managing director of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, said yesterday that the donations are a combination of cash, technical assistance and “other” forms of assistance. 

“People just want to help,” Forbes-Smith said as she highlighted that funds were received from governments, companies and even individuals with touching stories. 

“You know, when you have this kind of disaster and there are continuous disasters around the world, it’s important you keep your name out there and make sure people know The Bahamas is still in need of help.

“So, while we may have had people who pledged today, we’re also anticipating that our reach will continue even past today.”

While expressing gratitude for the team members in various government ministries and international organizations that assisted with putting the conference together, Lewis said, “The challenge now is going to be getting those pledges in.

“I do believe with the pledge being made in such a public forum [a]nd there were actually statements made, written statements given to us, in the form of a contract. So, I am confident that we will receive most or all of the pledges that were made.”

He added, “Some of the pledges, they said the amount they want to go to education, what amount they want to go health [s]o, again, based on that, we will put the funds into the various categories and ensure that that’s where they are expended.”

Lewis previously said that The Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund, which is where pledge money would go, is expected to be up and running by February.

He has also stressed the importance of accountability and said that there will be regular reporting on funds that are received and how those funds are spent.

“There is a priority list and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, based on the six points that we are focusing on currently, we are compiling a detailed list of every project, with the associated costs to it,” Lewis said during the conference. 

“That document is in its final stages now. I spoke to the prime minister and he will sign off on it, the release, so that persons would be aware of what the priorities are. And we’ll be reporting on a regular basis as to our achievement.

“We have measurables in this document – things that will guide us, keep us on track. We’ll do our measurements: if we’re behind we will take measures to speed it up; if we’re on pace, we will be doing things to get us ahead of pace.”

Lewis said that the document will be made available to the public “very shortly”.

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