The government is looking into ways to help Bahamians afford house insurance, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
His comments came after a Social Services report revealed that a significant number of homes on Grand Bahama were uninsured.
“As in most Family Islands, you will find that the insurance uptake is very, very low, and that is a critical issue that we have to address as a government going forward,” he said outside Cabinet.
“Because as you know, and I’ve said before, that exposure typically falls back to the government to provide the backstop for those persons who find themselves in an unfortunate situation where they would have lost everything.
“Even when we talk about outside of hurricane risk, even fire risk, when there is a disaster it falls on the community or the state to assist.”
He added, “So, it is a problem. We are trying to find some creative ways to incentivize the public to take up the insurance.
“We are trying to find ways that we might be able to help to lower the cost of insurance provided by the premium cost provided by the insurance companies. And we are going to need ideas from the public on how we can possibly achieve that goal, because we know that this is not an isolated incident.
“The magnitude of this particular one may be historic, but it will happen again and so we have to be prepared.”
He added, “So, we need to figure out some ways to incentivize and to offer programs so that people can have more of an opportunity to participate in that risk sharing program that we call insurance. And we’re looking at active ideas that may be able to help with that situation.”
According to the assessment by the Department of Social Services, 99 percent of homes in East End, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian in September, were uninsured. In West End, 96 percent were uninsured and in the Freeport area, 70 percent were uninsured.
Turnquest said greater public education is needed on the value of insurance.
“In Grand Bahama, in the east and the west, they are not that much different than the rest of the Family Islands,” he said.
“And so you will find that most of those persons would have built their homes themselves.
“They would have inherited their homes. And so, there would not have been an obligation from a lending institution, for instance, to carry insurance. And so, because of the cost of insurance, they may have elected not to.
“This is an area that we really have to educate the community about, because while insurance is expensive, it’s like health.
“It’s only when you do not have it and an event happens that you realize how valuable that coverage is. And most of us cannot afford to replace a home or a major asset out of our pockets because we are not disciplined enough about saving like that, and the level of bank accounts show that.”