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Stronger measures to withstand shocks needed — report

A new report from the World Bank is urging Caribbean countries to improve their response efforts to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, despite the progress being made.

The report, 360º Resilience: A Guide to Prepare the Caribbean for a New Generation of Shocks, which covers 17 Caribbean countries, concluded that genuine progress in improving the resilience of one of the world’s most hazard-prone regions has often failed, so far, to produce inclusive economic growth.

“Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. Other shocks, like the novel coronavirus pandemic, have made it clear that greater efforts are needed”

— Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, vice-president of Latin America and Caribbean Region — World Bank

To this end, it points out that a more comprehensive approach to resilience can help tackle the challenges posed by climate change, new diseases, and changing socio-economic contexts. Specifically, the report recommends “strengthening government efficiency, empowering households and businesses, and reducing future risks by improving spatial planning and natural coastal protection” as measures to boost Caribbean countries’ recovery from shocks. Such an approach would help countries in the region to understand current strengths and weaknesses across sectors and identify priorities for builiding resilience to a new generation of shocks, the World Bank asserts.

“Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. Other shocks, like the novel coronavirus pandemic, have made it clear that greater efforts are needed,” said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, vice-president of Latin America and Caribbean Region — World Bank.

Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank vice-president — Latin America (Photo: World Bank)

“For the Caribbean, a region already vulnerable to external shocks, now is the time to better prepare for the natural disasters of the future,” he continued.

So far this year, several Caribbean countries have faced the onslaught of volcanic eruption, earthquakes, tropical storms, and hurricanes — while still dealing with a pandemic — and such events have compromised both lives and livelihoods. Given that both governments and private sector stakeholders understand the region’s vulnerability to these kinds of threats, the World Bank advocates that both play roles in better preparing for similar shocks.

“The major damage natural hazards cause to infrastructure and private sector activity are short-lived thanks to mechanisms in place to help economies recover rapidly. Governments have made great strides in investing in disaster preparedness, disaster risk financing, and regional early warning systems,” the World Bank release outlined.

Ash and smoke billow as the La Soufriere volcano erupts in Kingstown on the eastern Caribbean island of St Vincent. So far this year, several Caribbean countries have faced the onslaught of volcanic eruption, earthquakes, tropical storms, and hurricanes — while still dealing with a pandemic — and such events have compromised both lives and livelihoods. (Photo: Robertson S Henry/Reuters)

Notwithstanding, it also stated that the resilience strategies and efforts previously used will not be enough to counter the impact of new and intensifying challenges, which become more volatile due to climate change, environmental degradation, and changes in tourism demand. The report further cites that between 2000 and 2020 the number of people exposed to flood in the Caribbean grew by 70 per cent, while infrastructural assets exposure to at least two natural hazards reached 72 per cent. For beachside hotels, a moderate climate scenario showed that as much as 13 per cent could experience beach loss by 2050 due to rising sea levels.

According to Lilia Burnciuc, World Bank country director for Caribbean countries, “The long-term progress achieved by most Caribbean countries, despite their high exposure to shocks, is commendable.”

Lilia Burunciuc, country director for the Caribbean, World Bank (File photo)

She added, “However, with the socio-economic pain caused by the pandemic, the region is even more exposed…[as] many countries in the region are constrained by high debt levels, poverty, and human capital development challenges. These issues leave little room for increased government spending, but adaptation efforts are imperative to avoid a more serious impact in the future.”

In this context, the report also recommends utilising innovation with technology, as well as building on strong institutions, robust analytics, and more transparent prioritisation.

“The report developed a traffic light system to help focus and prioritise actions, identify gaps, facilitate target setting, and monitor progress across the multiple aspects of resilience. It suggests a framework that governments and organisations can use to assess their resilience efforts,” Julie Rozenberg, World Bank senior economist, points out.

However, the World Bank notes that the 360° approach must be modified to each country’s specific needs.

The World Bank report was prepared with support from the European Union in the framework of the Caribbean Regional Resilience Building Facility, managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.