Caribbean politicians attending last week’s Commonwealth
Parliamentary Association Conference expressed surprise that the Cayman
Islands had been able to recover so quickly from Hurricane Ivan without
foreign financial assistance.
Their comments followed a presentation on disaster preparedness and recovery by Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden.
Bodden explained that Hurricane Ivan cost the Cayman Islands 138 per
cent of its annual GDP – the equivalent of US$90,000 per resident.
Bodden said an EU Recovery Fund Grant of $4.17 million – expected to be
paid within weeks – will be the first financial assistance the country
has received from abroad.
A surprised MP from the Bahamas, Mrs. Verna Grant, asked Mr. Wright to repeat his statement.
“Can you explain that please … Are you saying no one has contributed?”
Mr. Bodden confirmed that no external financial aid had been received.
Grant said the Bahamas received assistance from around the world after
recent hurricane experiences. She said she was disheartened to hear the
Cayman Islands had not.
“Its awful when you think that we are all
here together but then we are not really helping one another in a
disaster such as this,” she said.
Hurricane Ivan loomed large
throughout the debate, with politicians in attendance from Grenada and
Jamaica, as well as the host country.
Barbara Carby, director of
Hazard Management Cayman Islands said the problem the Cayman Islands
has is that it is perceived as a rich country.
“I think that is one of the reasons there wasn’t a lot of interest in providing financial assistance post Hurricane Ivan.”
and Caicos MP R. Donahue Gardiner said he was impressed with Cayman
Islands’ recovery, based on what he had seen the past several days.
Gardiner asked whether the Cayman Islands had done enough to
communicate to the world the level of destruction wrought by Ivan.
the lack of response from the region and other places due to the fact
that many people did not know the magnitude of the disaster?”
Bay MLA Cline Glidden said, “I don’t think we can honestly say … that
if something happens in the region, we don’t know its extent. When we
hear that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane has made a direct hit, I think we
all know what to expect.
“Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job of telling the world but at that stage, we were more concerned with trying to recover.”
Mr. Bodden said more could have been done to communicate Cayman’s plight.
after the hurricane, there has to be something in place where the word
really gets out and shows the true picture of what is going on and I
think that was lacking and it certainly affected us to a certain
extent,” he said.
Grenada Honorary Secretary Adrian Hayes said it
is important to remember that Grenada was first hit, and that much of
the region’s aid resources had been devoted to Grenada by the time Ivan
hit the Cayman Islands.
Bermuda MP Walter Lister said news of the
destruction suffered by the Cayman Islands was easily accessible. “I
received, via the internet, many pictures of Cayman shortly afterwards.”
Bahamas MP Shane Gibson said he knew exactly what was happening in Cayman initially.
news stopped coming after a while and what they said was that residents
in Cayman didn’t want news to get out because they didn’t want it to
have a negative impact on their industries; financial services and
“I find it very difficult to believe that anybody could not know what was happening in Cayman,” he said.
after the session, Mr. Glidden said it had been suggested plenty of
times before that Government officials had sought to mask the size of
the hit the Cayman Islands suffered.
“Today you have heard from
members from around the region and they pretty much acknowledge that
they knew (what was happening) almost minute by minute. I think they
put an end to that suggestion today by saying they knew what was going
on in Cayman.
“Maybe that’s a convenient reason for people that want to give a reason for not giving assistance, by saying that,” he said.
Mr. Glidden said the relative wealth of these islands made other countries reluctant to help.
much easier to justify helping Bosnia, or helping any of the African
territories where poverty is seen as being significant, even before a
disaster, when you compare that to Cayman.”
Mr. Glidden said
everyone at the conference was impressed with Cayman’s recovery. “I
think that is a testament to the Government of the time and the
But he worries the Cayman Islands will be a victim of its own success if another major disaster strikes.
back, they are going to say, ‘you had a disaster that created $3
billion of damage, that cost $90,000 per resident, and you were able to
recover so successfully without any international aid’. What happens
next time that we do have a disaster?
“Will people remember that and say, ‘look, they are able to recover quite quickly on their own’?”
Mr. Glidden praised the way the former UDP Government had managed its finances before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
last Government; even when Hurricane Ivan hit, even without
international assistance, there was enough money in the bank to keep
the country going, to keep the Government working.
their salaries, there was enough money to do the clean ups, and to get
the recovery process completed as quickly as it was. Yes, we didn’t fix
every single home, but in general, the country recovered.
“Whether that situation is going to exist the next time we face a disaster or not, I don’t know.
we didn’t have that money and if we had been depending on international
aid wholly and solely, obviously, we would have been in a much worse