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Another $300m in post-storm pledges

Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) Managing Director Katherine Forbes-Smith revealed yesterday that roughly $1.8 billion in donations has been pledged to assist with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, adding that the government has received $300 million in additional pledges since its pledge conference in January.

It was initially announced that $1.5 billion had been raised during that conference — organized by the government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

During a press conference yesterday, Forbes-Smith said, “After further assessment of the full scope of pledges, the revised amount pledged was very close to $1.8 billion.

“The breakdown includes the following: [grants], $41 million; public-private partnerships, $1.3 billion; technical assistance, $51 million; other forms of assistance, $400 million; [and] cash and deposits, $364,000.”

“Now, these pledges line up this way according to our seven priorities. The economy – $102 million; education – $6 million; the environment – $1 million; health – $670 million; housing – $51 million; [and] infrastructure – $155 million.”

She noted that $785 million had not yet been “allocated specifically”.

Forbes-Smith said the figures provided yesterday were likely to change “because we’re getting in donations every day”.

Asked by The Nassau Guardian for the names of the organizations, companies and individuals who made pledges during the event, Forbes-Smith replied, “What I am saying is we will give the names of those persons who pledged when we have a deal with them.”

However, The Guardian can confirm that some of the pledges made at the conference include €1 million from the government of Germany, which is allocated for the resaturation of the protected areas of The Bahamas that were damaged by Dorian; $100,000 from the government of the British Virgin Islands; and $25 million in services from the Red Cross.

HeadKnowles pledged $4 million of which $3 million would go toward new furniture for individuals affected by the storm, $200,000 toward medical equipment, and $25,000 toward housing displaced Dorian victims.

Nassau Agencies pledged $20,000 annually for the next three years.

Bahamas Energy and Solar Supplies made the same pledge.

As of January 13, 2020, Nexus — the parent company for the Albany Resort — had raised $8 million. Those funds were allocated for “direct investments in projects related to education, home rebuilds and the business restarts”.

The lion’s share of the pledges received at the conference in January was a $975 million loan offer from The P3 Group, Inc., a U.S. company. The money would be repaid with interest if accepted.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has said the government will decide which pledges to accept.

The realization that some of the pledged funds were in the form of loans raised concern in the public.

Yesterday, Forbes-Smith denied that the pledge by P3 was “controversial”.

She said the authority has not yet met with the company.

“The Disaster Reconstruction Authority has not formally gone into any detailed discussions with that particular group or many of them on the list,” Forbes-Smith said.

“So, it’s something that’s a work in progress and we’re continuing to work with all these groups.”

She said the government will “pay close attention to details” before it accepts any offers put forth during the conference.

“We have to sit down and we have to go through these pledges one by one and make a determination what’s in the best interest of the country,” Forbes-Smith said.

She added, “[W]e haven’t dug deep enough into any of these pledges to be able to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to use this one. We’re not taking this.’ We just haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Asked about a timeline, Forbes-Smith replied, “We’re just going to be starting to actually work. We have to staff up. As you know, part of what’s going on with the DRA is it’s a new entity, so we have to staff up to a certain point.

“We’ve had successful interviews with a number of key positions that we’re taking on, so we need to get our staff to the level that we need it to be at so we can begin some of this work in earnest.

“So, we want to make sure that we have our financial people on board before we start talking about financing and equity financing and loans and all of those kinds of things.”

She said it will take at least three months to properly staff the authority.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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