It is up to the Government to carefully review the pledges received at the recent Hurricane Dorian Pledging Conference and decide what is best for The Bahamas and for the people and communities in affected areas, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis said today in his Keynote Address to the 29th Annual Business Outlook.
At the Pledging Conference, co-sponsored by the Government of The Bahamas and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The Bahamas received $1.5 billion in pledges of financing, grants, technical assistance, intellectual assistance, humanitarian aid and other forms of aid.
The categories of pledge funding included: concessionary loans, equity grants and guarantee financing.
“Let me emphasize that there were different types of funding pledged and that potential loans are only one type of possible funding,” said the Prime Minister.
“Like most other donor conferences, and as was clearly understood at the Conference, most of the aid pledged was not in the form of cash donations.”
Prime Minister Minnis said he has noticed some confusion in the public sphere as to what a pledging conference is and what these commitments mean.
He explained that at the pledging conference, domestic and international corporate entities, NGOs, universities and various governments pledged various levels and types of support for the massive rebuilding programme.
The Prime Minister also noted that the conference was an open event and attended by hundreds of individuals including domestic and international partners and potential partners. Pledge statements were also made in a public forum.
“The Bahamas has never experienced a storm like Dorian,” said the Prime Minister. “As a result, we have not had a high-level pledging conference of this nature.”
Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama in September 2019. With maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, and gusts of 220 miles per hour, Dorian was the strongest storm to hit The Bahamas. It was also the second strongest storm by wind speed recorded in the Atlantic.
There have been 70 confirmed deaths as a result of Hurricane Dorian.
Prime Minister Minnis said that after The Bahamas received many pledges of support for the reconstruction and recovery of affected areas, a collaborative decision was made to create a mechanism to register these pledges to connect them efficiently to national recovery priorities.
“To help channel some of these pledges, it became apparent that a central trust fund for the involvement of donors was necessary,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
“Such a fund was deemed necessary to aid in the management of pledges and funds, and to ensure efficacy and transparency in the collection and use of funds.
“My Government determined at the outset that we would seek to ensure that funds were not stolen, misused or abused by officials, whether private or public.”
The Prime Minister said that as in other disaster response scenarios internationally, the development of a trust fund was considered a requirement to both mobilise and to efficiently manage donor funds in a transparent manner.
Because of its experience in development issues and reconstruction programs after natural disasters, the UNDP will oversee the design, establishment and administration of The Bahamas Recovery and Reconstruction Fund. As the Fund Administrator, UNDP will work with government and donors to ensure that funds are deployed to the critical needs and priorities in Abaco and Grand Bahama in conformity to UNDP’s global standards for procurement and disbursement.
The Fund’s key functions will include receiving and administering contributions, and financial and performance reporting.
The Prime Minister said the Government is in the early stages of discussions with a leading university in the United States to help with in-depth assistance, advice and expertise on how The Bahamas may better prepare with resilience for the effects of climate change.
The Government is also expected to partner with a number of leading international institutions on strategic planning for rebuilding Abaco and for making other islands, including New Providence, more resilient.
“Such intellectual and technical cooperation is as vital as various funding and financing mechanisms,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
The UNDP is in ongoing discussions with other potential pledgers, said the Prime Minister.