The following are more suggestions for the territory’s Recovery and Development Plan.
Regarding the $80.14 million to be spent on health and social services, a detailed cost estimate should be presented to the public rather than a summarised one so that people can understand exactly how the funds are allocated. The major allocations are (1) expansion of health infrastructure and services for $23.3 million; (2) permanent housing assistance for $16 million; (3) social programmes and services for $10.83 million; and (4) improvements to waste disposal for $10.7 million. These amounts need to be further broken down for the public to understand where exactly the funds will be spent. Is it necessary to spend $23.3 million on expansion in the short-to-medium term rather than focus on what we have lost? How much of the $80.14 million allocated to health and social services is actually for recovery rather than long-term development?
Regarding health care, please consider the following steps for improving care on sister islands, improving emergency response, and maximising the use of existing health facilities.
- The health care plan should be revised. While polyclinics are essential in eastern and western Tortola, please consider the current state of the health system in sister islands such as Anegada and Jost Van Dyke as a priority. Both islands are in dire need of 24-hour health care, better health facilities and adequate personnel.
- An air ambulance (helicopter) should be considered for purchase to better serve all the islands. It’s also necessary post disasters. Alternatively, seek a partnership that can provide such service on call if purchase is too costly.
- The new Peebles Hospital should be utilised to its full potential. If there are empty spaces on this building, then a better plan for its use needs to be implemented now.
- Great attention needs to be given to assisted living. The Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly, for example, is in poor condition. I feel the territory can do much better in taking care of our seniors.
With regards to social protection, please consider the following:
- Increasing payouts to six to 12 months under the post-hurricane Public Assistance Grant Programme. A three-month payout is not enough for many residents. The health and well-being of our people is of utmost importance. It’s still a financial struggle for many people who have lost their jobs and practically everything. So this is a mere $800-$1,200 per family for six to 12 months — or an average of about $12 million in expenditure for the well-being of our people. It would be good to know that a significant amount of our recovery funds were spent directly on our people, giving them a chance to restore their lives with less struggle.
- Implementing a short-term plan for adequate shelters. Some of the emergency shelters (government and non-government owned) were damaged. However, there’s a $0.00 allocation towards repairing them on the cost estimate, which appears to be an error. It is important that adequate shelters are repaired prior to the next hurricane season.
- Implementing a short-term plan to operate the Department of Disaster Management’s office. A new building to house the DDM should be listed as a part of the short-to-medium-term recovery plan, with state-of-the-art mechanisms in place for their effective operation. However, a short-term plan is also necessary for this department to function in the interim. Please consider sharing a more detailed cost estimate with the public for transparency and the comfort of our people.
- The dissemination of information between DDM and the public needs improvement.
- The Housing Solution Plan needs to be clear. Implementing a range of housing solutions for more than 5,200 displaced residents as suggested by the plan is quite a broad and unclear undertaking. More information is required here as to how people will be assisted and in what sort of timeframe. Housing is critical to the overall economy and well-being of our people.
To be continued.