Caribbean natural disasters and country/regional responses

Authored by: Robert E. Looney

Handbook of Caribbean Economies

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367210489
eBook ISBN: 9780429265105
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429265105-10

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Abstract

Natural disasters, particularly those that are weather related, represent a looming threat to prosperity in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the ability to respond to this menace is declining. Domestic resources are often severely limited due to prolonged periods of fiscal deficits and accumulated external debt burdens. International aid, while useful, often comes after a considerable delay and is mainly focused on short-term issues such as humanitarian needs and repair rather than on longer-term investments that increase resiliency to subsequent disasters. A vicious circle is developing in the Caribbean, whereby inadequate funds for reconstruction lessen resiliency to climate change. The result is incomplete recoveries, which in turn perpetuate and, in some cases, expand large pockets of poverty and thus increased numbers of citizens who are highly vulnerable to the next round of natural disasters. If the circle continues, look for an accelerated depopulation of the region with mounting numbers of climate refugees. It follows that a reorientation of development strategies will be required if the region is to remain viable. The focus of these programmes should shift towards the construction of sturdier buildings, poverty reduction, targeted educational programmes and diversification away from an over-reliance on climate-sensitive tourism. Caribbean countries, to remain viable, must look beyond short-term disaster responses and commit themselves to a focus on building self-protective resilience throughout the region.

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