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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking with iWitness News in Mayreau on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking with iWitness News in Mayreau on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.
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The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is working to bring to Parliament on July 18 the first supplementary appropriation bill in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Beryl.

“We have to repurpose some monies from the budget, we have to use money from the Consolidated Fund,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told iWitness News in Mayreau on Tuesday.

He said that the country would only receive “fairly small sums” from governments for relief and these are governed by the granting countries’ own internal regulations.

“And that’s why the contingency fund is so important,” he said, referring to the “Rainy Day Fund” that is capitalised by a one-percentage-point contribution from the value added tax.

In comments on state media immediately after the hurricane, Gonsalves said his government might have to exhaust the EC$70 million in the Contingency Fund and borrow to finance the recovery effort.

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On Tuesday, he told iWitness News:

“I’m going to go to Parliament hopefully on the 18th if the people in the Ministry of Finance put all the numbers together…”

The national assembly was scheduled to meet on July 18 even before the storm on July 1, which damaged 95% of buildings in the Grenadines islands of Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island, according to government estimates.

Additionally, there is significant damage to the electricity and telecommunications network on the islands, with Gonsalves saying VINLEC has said that electricity is “unlikely” to be restored in Union Island before year-end.

Canouan and Mayreau may have to wait between six and eight weeks.

Beryl, a category 4 hurricane, packing winds ranging from 130 to 156 mph left at least two people dead in the country, with some well-placed sources telling iWitness News that the number could be as many as six.

Gonsalves said the supplementary estimates that his government is hoping to bring this month would be the first of up to three that could come before the 2025 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for next year are presented to lawmakers for approval. 

“… because there’ll be certain legal requisites, which I have to comply with. And then there’ll be a second one, a third one before we actually reach November or December when we have the Estimates for 2025,” the prime minister said.

“As everyone knows, this government has had to deal with many natural disasters, Soufriere was a humongous one,” he said, referring to the April 2021 eruption of the nation’s sole volcano.

“So, too, is this one, and this one has some features, which are more problematic, because of the distance from the capital,” Gonsalves said, noting that Union Island is 40 miles from Kingstown.

He said the loss of communications within and among the island is also a challenge.

“And there are some things which have to be learned. We have to address whether we use the same kind of aluminium galvanise, these kinds of things, or we use something different, … more expensive but longer lasting, how you build the house roofs…” he said.

In many instances, the superstructure of roofs remained intact but the hurricane ripped off the galvanise sheets.

In other instances, the feet of the rafter remained anchored to the building while the rest of the roof was destroyed.

“There are houses where their roofs are at a particular angle and some gable roofs they have survived,” the prime minister said.

“So, the architects have to address that question. The builders have to address that question. So, there are many, many, many lessons which have to be learned from this. But I want to see this terrible setback we will turn it into an advance — into a sustainable advance,” he told iWitness News.

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3 Comments

  1. Urlan Alexander says:

    I know monies budgeted will have to be repurposed for the hurricane relief effort. However when I hear ralph talking money with an election on the horizon it does make me feel frightened. That 8s hi comfort zone. To spend on bribes disguised as doing a “national good”. Monies will be spent for electioneering and not for the purpose it was repuposed! Lawd help SVG!

    Reply

  2. Ralph is right with his observation of the damage done and the lesson learnt from the disaster.
    The builders must not use aluminum galvanize. It’s too weak to withstand the winds and it’s dangerous and can kill people.
    A plan must be adapted to rebuilding gable roofs or roofs with other materials that can withstand heavy winds.
    I hope the lessons learnt from this disaster will help to build homes, businesses, schools and churches that can withstand category 5 hurricanes.
    Then there are the Solar panels that must be introduced and used on buildings. There should be no excuses not to allow all the buildings to use solar panels. It took this disaster to prove my point that solar panels are badly needed. Taiwan can and should help with solar panels introduction on the island.

    Reply

  3. One thing I see is when a government goes on forever it is a communist government and is rigging the elections. Doubt? Look around. That we live in Hurricane alley is also a fact.

    Reply

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