The authorities have developed a long-term strategy and a set of policies to manage disasters that may affect the island. Local Government and Rural Development Minister Desmond McKenzie tabled the 113-page Green Paper on the Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Policy and Strategy 2020-2040 in the House of Representatives last Tuesday. Congratulations are in order. However, why was the policy implementation start date backdated to 2020 when it is filed in 2022? Alternatively, why wasn’t its end date moved to 2042?
The document states that “the rationale for the development and promulgation of a comprehensive Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Policy is rooted in the Constitution, which calls for the right of all Jamaicans to ‘enjoy a healthy and productive, free from the threat of injury…’” It is also said to be based on the recognition that “Jamaica has a high vulnerability to hazards, resulting in significant negative impacts on the economy as well as on social sectors, physical and social infrastructure, property, including housing stock, ecosystems and other aspects of the natural environment and, most importantly, people and their well-being.
This is a new argument that I believe most local risk management professionals ignore. People and their well-being should have been listed as the first negative impact of disasters, not physical assets.
The CDRM policy identified seven goals that should be achieved over the two decades:
1. DRM is integrated into all national policies and sector planning processes, including the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) with climate change adaptation.
2. Mortality, economic, social and environmental losses from disasters are reduced, creating resilient individuals, communities and businesses across Jamaica.
3. Jamaica has a modern and adaptive governance, institutional, legal and regulatory framework for comprehensive disaster risk management that facilitates stakeholder participation and engagement.
4. Jamaica has well-defined systems in place for the identification and assessment of risks and can anticipate future events, including new and emerging hazards.
5. Jamaica has a strong, innovative and modern disaster preparedness system for effective recovery and response capacity.
6. Key industrial structures in Jamaica are embracing DRR and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) as a means to advance international competitiveness.
7. Jamaica has put in place a well-defined disaster risk financing framework to safeguard prospects for future development.
The objectives are vague and non-specific. They are different from the policy objectives agreed upon by the bureaucrats of the International Monetary Fund and the technocrats of the Bank of Jamaica and the Ministry of Finance and Service under the Extended Financing Facility. Performance monitoring was carried out by the Economic Policy Monitoring Committee. First-year management students know that goals or objectives must meet the SMART test. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Goals that meet these criteria focus effort and increase the likelihood of achieving desired results. The CDRM’s seven policy objectives do not meet these criteria.
The Jamaica Information Service reported that Minister McKenzie told Parliament that “the policy is one of the performance requirements of the conditional loan for emergencies related to natural disasters which has been negotiated between Jamaica and the Bank Inter-American Development Program in 2018. This facility allows Jamaica to access up to $285 million to develop a project known as the Comprehensive Natural Disaster Risk Management Program, to mitigate the impact of severe natural disasters on the country’s finances. In other words, CDRM’s strategy and policy were developed to conform to the terms of a loan agreement and not by objective analyzes of history and geography. of the country conducted by ministry staff.
It is a shameful admission. The island’s centuries-old experiences with natural disasters and the declaration of former Finance Minister Peter Phillips 10 years ago that “reducing the effects of natural disasters is essential to the economic well-being of the country, given the significant effects that these events have on its gross domestic product”, should have been among the elements that contributed to the development of the policy. The policy should also have been based on Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ June 2018 statement at the G7 Summit Outreach session that “Building resilience is not optional; it is imperative for our survival. These are the ideas that should have guided the development of policy and strategy, not a loan condition imposed by a foreign lending institution.
Minister McKenzie also said, “Achieving optimal disaster risk resilience requires substantial financial investment. His ministry received 2.96% of the 2022/23 budget, or $17.9 billion of the $604.5 billion the government plans to spend. It is unclear how much of the ministry’s budget allocation has been allocated to CDRM in the current fiscal year. The fact that no information on this subject has been presented to Parliament is very worrying. Is CDRM a paper tiger?
I have long believed that responsibility for the RCMP and the Office of Disaster and Emergency Risk Management should be transferred from the Ministry of Local Government to the Ministry of Finance. The technocrats in the latter ministry, with their understanding of economics and their experience of dealing with institutions like the IMF, would have developed stronger policy and strategy and accessed resources to implement the two-decade plan. .
Although insurance companies are in the business of financing risk, members of this industry or their umbrella organization, the Insurance Association of Jamaica, are not mentioned in the plan. Why not? Don’t they have a role to play?
The authors of CDRM recognize the important contribution of the agricultural sector to the economy and the particular risks faced by investors in the sector. However, there is also no reference to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. It remains to be determined whether the DRM framework advocated in the green paper is relevant for this industry or whether a framework dedicated to members of this sector would be more appropriate.
Frankly, I think what was presented to Parliament last week should be seen as a work in progress.
Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice on risk and insurance management. If you need free information or advice to help you solve a problem, write to The Business Editor at [email protected] or contact Mr. Stephens directly at [email protected] Letters and emails will be edited for clarity and length.