With the Bahamas still grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian that ravaged the country in September of 2019, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie says now more than ever, the region and especially the British Virgin Islands must focus on building resilient economies to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The Leader of Government business made the utterance during his opening statement, when the Seventh Sitting of the First Session of the Fourth House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands commenced today Thursday, October 17, 2019, in Road Town, Tortola.
Empathise with the Bahamas
Turning his attention to the state of affairs in the Bahamas, Hon Fahie said, "If anyone can empathise with the people of the Bahamas, we the people of the Virgin Islands can, because only two years ago we faced what they are facing at present... their situation is worst because the latest death toll from Dorian is 61 confirmed fatalities with about 600 persons still unaccounted for and they are dealing with a spill of about 1.5M gallons of oil from a damaged storage facility."
According to the Premier, every year storms are growing more unexpected due to a change in weather patterns for the worst and he says the region must, therefore, be prepared for anything.
"We are witnessing more powerful storms and hurricanes being formed, they are developing in more rapid succession... their behaviour is unusual and unpredictable often deviating from the forecast models [and] are more destructive," he said, noting that modern storms are defying known science and redefining it.
Premier Fahie pointed out that the Virgin Islands now has 'a front-row seat' to the destructive vicious cycle of climate change brought about by global warming, rising ocean temperatures and melting of ice in the polar region.
As a result of this, he said the region is now taking steps to do all that it can to protect the environment by building awareness and using international forums to keep the topic on the front burner.
Buiding resilient economies
"Regional leaders, including myself, and using every available forum to bring urgent attention to this situation that places countries like ours at the greatest immediate risk, but greedy capitalists in other so-called more developed countries are paying no heed as they continue to pump pollution and carbon into our atmosphere and oceans."
The Premier pointed to a September 23, 2019, presentation at the United Nations (UN) by Prime Minister of Barbados, Hon Mia A. Mottley where she was allotted an extremely limited time to speak on the topic of climate change and the Caribbean, yet interrupted, as an example of callousness to the subject by the developed world.
"Would you believe that the moderator tried on 6 occasions to cut off Prime Minister Motley before she could complete her statement, that is how they treat us as small counties," he said noting that three minutes was hardly enough to speak on such a vast issue even as the region accounts for less than 1% of global greenhouse gasses.
"These are some of the reasons why we in the Caribbean are now living on the edge and having to deal with the kind of trauma we faced when Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged us two weeks apart in 2017 and this is why as we continue the work to recover, we have to become more resilient."
Premier Fahie said moving forward, better economies will be designed as in the case of the VI, "Not just in terms of building infrastructure that can withstand strong hurricane winds, but resilient in terms of the diversity of our economy, the equipping of our people with skills that will reduce or remove their vulnerability to shocks."