PM explains pace of Tomas recovery

On Sunday most of St Lucia was in Jounen Kweyol mode, trying to make up for lost time. After all, last year Hurricane Tomas devastated the island forcing the cancellation of the island-wide festivities for Creole Day. But as one drove around the island this Sunday, going from house to house or district to district, in search of the Creole action the signs that one year later Hurricane Tomas is still having an effect on St Lucia were very visible. Small landslides, impassable bridges and huge chucks of road still missing were clear indications that the island still has a long way to go following the devastation of 31st October 2010. Official reports are that there are still five people unaccounted for following the hurricane and seven were killed.
With a general election around the corner the recovery efforts after Hurricane Tomas is already becoming an election issue. The St Lucia Labour Party has criticized the government for the lack of progress and has vowed to make the recovery efforts their top priority should the St Lucian voters elect them to office.
On Monday Prime Minister Stephenson King, in what has now become regular weekly address to the nation, dealt with the issue of the Tomas recovery efforts. The PM first recalled the damage the hurricane’s winds and the 24 inches of rain had caused. He recalled that Soufriere, Bexon and Marc were the hardest hit areas while the Choc and Bois d’Orange bridges collapsed; the John Compton Dam, the main source of water, was disabled; there were 19 landslides on the Barre de l’Isle alone; Electricity and telephone services were severely disrupted and hotels closed their doors.
“The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated the damage inflicted on St Lucia by Tomas at 907 million EC dollars,” said the PM.
It came as a surprise to hear the seemingly ever-optimistic King say that one year later “there was a lot to smile about.”
He began explaining this by recalling the teamwork that went into getting the country up and running again. He recalled that “the electricity and cell phone services were back up and in quick time; and the restoration of the water service, initially estimated to take six months was achieved in a matter of weeks. The Choc and Bois d’Orange bridges went back into use within 48 hours; numerous slides across the island were cleared in record time and the first cruise ship after Tomas docked on Sunday November 7th, exactly one week after the storm with supplies of water for a nation that was without its main source of potable water.”
He added that “it has been an exciting year, ticking off the checklist, the many things that the government and people of St Lucia have had to do together, in the cause of bringing relief and comfort to those in need and bringing the nation back to full fitness.”
PM King went on: “As I speak, work has commenced on the Million dollar housing investment in Mocha, Fond St Jacques, for the benefit of those who were affected by Hurricane Tomas in that part of the island. Work will also begin soon in restoring some of the affected areas on the Barre de l’Isle, after extensive investigative and assessment works and detailed and tedious procurement processes. These works will be undertaken with funding from the Government of Saint Lucia.  Work on the Barre de l’Isle will be ongoing, as we continue negotiations with the Caribbean Development Bank in order to secure funding to tackle the remaining seven sites which require attention.”
The PM reminded his audience of the economic crisis and the millions that had to be found for Tomas recovery efforts. He said that Tomas hurt what could have been a great year in tourism arrivals for St Lucia. But according to King there was still more to smile about.
“Saint Lucia emerged as the largest economy in the OECS and the leading economic performer in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union with GDP growth of 4.4 percent. Saint Lucia was the largest contributor to foreign exchange earnings in the grouping; and managed its affairs with a smaller debt burden than Antigua, Dominica, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis.  Just last week the World Bank rated St Lucia as the best place to do business in the Caribbean.
“. . . . The setback of Tomas has given us the opportunity to review critical aspects of our infrastructure development and to make critical design and implementation changes for more lasting success. We also embraced the opportunity to tighten our focus on timely delivery of the many community improvement projects funded by our friends from Taiwan. To those who believe we are a government of projects, we say the development and completion of these projects of the people, by the people, for the people, is an important component
of our leadership responsibility to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number. It is
easy to ridicule and criticize the so called “ti canal” projects that take care of real needs of people, when you have no clue what it is like to live with the inconvenience of those needs.”
Toward the end of his Monday address the PM thanked local, regional and international donors, among others.

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