ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — Building resilient cities across the Caribbean will require a holistic approach. According to Timothy Antoine, governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), any approach to strengthening the region’s ability to withstand natural disasters will require countries to focus on restructuring fiscal policies and strengthening infrastructure, and to implement psychosocial interventions.
Antoine was speaking at a seminar, “Building Resilient Cities”, which was held as part of the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) 48th Annual meeting of its board of governors, hosted in Grenada from May 30 to 31. The ECCB governor noted that resilience requires countries to be able to “withstand, adapt and rapidly recover” from events and shocks. He said one of the key tenets of this approach includes building fiscal and debt resilience.
“It is the worst possible time after a hurricane to be trying to restructure or renegotiate debt. The precious resources in the ministry of finance have to be focused on rebuilding,” he said.
Antoine called for the introduction of “state-contingent debt instruments” to build debt resilience. These instruments link debt-service payments to a country’s capacity to pay, which is further linked to qualifying events such as natural disasters. In the event of a natural hazard, debt payments are automatically reduced or paused.
“For a qualifying event [or] disaster of a certain magnitude, there will be a stand-still, such that it will not constitute a default. And that will of course allow the country to have much needed liquidity and begin the recovery process without the need for a default event,” he said.
He noted, however, that fiscal and debt resilience is just one tenet of the holistic approach required.
“We have to invest in terms of building resilient cities, building resilient communities, in psychosocial infrastructure. And we have to make sure that infrastructure is in place and can be deployed very rapidly in the event of a disaster,” Antoine said.
Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, said that building disaster-resilient cities will require a participatory approach.
“In order for any policy initiative to work, there has to be buy-in from the individual. The greatest challenge of course, is for the minds of Caribbean persons to appreciate disasters are here with us,” Cartwright-Robinson said, noting the need to educate stakeholders on how to better prepare, given the increasing frequency of hurricanes.
The seminar provided attendees with a preview of CDB’s upcoming urban sector policy and operational guidelines and brought together experts to discuss solutions to, and progress made in addressing the region’s urban sector challenges.
The annual meeting of CDB’s board of governors focused on resilience, also a central theme of the seminars. In addition, in his opening statement, CDB president Dr Warren Smith encouraged regional leaders to work proactively to address the Region’s vulnerabilities, and support resilience-building.