In time for the 2018 hurricane season, the territory will join a regional insurance programme designed to dispense fast cash in the wake of natural disasters, according to Premier Dr. Orlando Smith.
Until this point, the Virgin Islands government had chosen not to participate in the multi-country risk pool known the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company.
This decision proved to be consequential in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, when other disaster-battered jurisdictions like Dominica received CCRIF quick payments of up to around $20 million, but the VI received nothing.
“We are at the moment having that discussion with the organisation and I’m sure it will soon be accomplished,” Dr.
Smith (R-at large) said at a press conference earlier this month, noting that the territory would be ready to receive cash benefits should the 2018 storm season strike the territory.
The 17-member CCRIF SPC — established at the urging of the Caribbean Community in the wake of mass regional destruction from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 — aims to rapidly provide liquidity to regional jurisdictions impacted by extreme weather events, including hurricanes, earthquakes and excessive rainfall.
After hurricanes Irma and Maria, for example, the facility distributed more than $20 million to Dominica; more than $15 million to the Turks and Caicos Islands; nearly $6.8 million to Antigua and Barbuda; and more than $6.6 million to Anguilla, all within the month of September.
Despite paying out $55 million to nine countries in total after the two storms, the facility remains financially solvent and sustainable, according to CCRIF Chairman Milo Pearson.
“Payouts up to December 2017 have amounted to approximately $130.5 million, all settled within 14 days of the hazard event, and have been critical for immediate response and recovery activities following these devastating events,” a CCRIF press release read.
Central government also did not insure any of its facilities except for the Central Administration Building, which had protection worth $32 million.
“Elements of” certain statutory bodies, including the BVI Electricity Corporation, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, and the BVI Ports Authority, also had insurance, according to Brodrick Penn, the chairman of the Disaster Recovery Coordination Committee.
Still, government’s level of protection doesn’t come close to covering the level of projected losses.
According to the VI’s draft recovery plan, government expects a total of $56.7 million from insurance payouts. In November, however, Dr. Smith (R-at large) noted that preliminary damage estimates to central-government-owned buildings alone exceeded $100 million.