“Utter devastation” was the phrase Minister of Economic Planning, Hon. Camillo Gonsalves; used to describe the aftermath of hurricane Irma on the BVI and Anguilla. Minister Gonsalves was a member of a recent delegation, led by the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Saboto Caesar, to the affected islands.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, 18th September, at Cabinet room, the Minister of Economic Planning said that he has no frame of reference for the damage he has seen. According to him, the damage could be around US$132 billion. He added that it is the second costliest hurricane season to date in the history of hurricanes.
Minister Gonsalves, who is also responsible for Sustainable Development, said the aftermath of hurricane Irma should open avenues for mature conversations on coastline preservation and proper enforcement of the building code in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
During his visit to the BVI and Anguilla, the Minister of Information highlighted instances of misinformation among Vincentians in the BVI pertaining to work permits and their statuses. Minister Gonsalves noted that there were tensions among Vincentians there as to whether they have to leave the BVI and/or if their work permits are still valid, and the like. He said it is important to maintain communication with people over there. “We have to be there for them to ensure that communication and information are clear.”
With reference to the collection of items to fill the barge, Minister Gonsalves expressed thanks to Vincentians for their outpouring of support on such short notice. He hoped that it will not be a one off support, with job market uncertainty in the affected islands. The Minister also stated that Vincentians need to be cognizant that their assistance will extend beyond one barge.
He applauded Minister Caesar for his leadership in leading the delegation to the BVI, and making important connections with Vincentians in there and the Anguilla diaspora; opening avenues for communication for family to family assistance in the months and years going forward. He added: “we are part of the BVI. We’ve helped to build it and we’ll help to rebuild it”.