Straughn leads debate on debt deferment legislation

Barbados’ ability to recover from a natural disaster depends heavily on the capacity to restructure debt in order to make the island climate change resilient.

That was the sentiment from Ryan Straughn, the Member of Parliament for Christ Church East Central who was introducing the Debt (Natural Disaster and Pandemic Deferment of Payment) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2023 in the House of Assembly yesterday morning.

The Bill, if passed, will be amended to allow for the deferment of payment of the amortisations and payments due on debt in the case of a natural disaster. It will also factor in pandemic events and the definition of natural disasters has been amended to mean an earthquake, tropical cyclone and excessive rainfall, one of the wider implications from climate change.

“This morning we had a presentation to discuss where we are going with the climate action plan and the financing plan,” Straughn said. “There is the big agenda of up to USD $5b of investment by 2035 required to build a resilient Barbados. Due to our limited debt space, we have to find creative ways in order to get that done and we believe that the Government will be able to generate about a third of that given the capital investment that we’ve said that we’d do in the BERT programme over the next five to ten years.”

He added: “On average, we estimate that we will generate about USD $500 million per year in public investment and we want to double the private sector investment from $500 million a year to $1bn a year in order to ensure that we can get there.”

Straughn believes it is important that while Government works on this, they can also unlock private sector resources to equally build that climate change resilience.

“When the natural disaster strikes, the country must be in a position where it can dust off itself quickly and get back to normal,” he stressed.

“Part of the solution is to trigger these natural disaster clauses and climate resilience clauses proactively to build resilience, and not necessarily post disaster, because the disaster will come. The premise of the clause is built on the fact that when you have to rebuild after the fact it is more expensive than if you build the resilience initially.

“We are really in a race against time because this summer has been hotter than ever before. This climate crisis is more than just weather systems. Barbados is currently self-sufficient when it comes to raising chickens but if that self-sufficiency is impacted by the fact that outside is a little too hot to raise them then we must find the appropriate solutions.”

This debate in the House of Assembly comes after Barbados was under Tropical storm watch last week during the passing of Hurricane Tammy which saw several parts of the island flooded.

The Debt (Natural Disaster and Pandemic Deferment of Payment) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2023 was postponed for further consideration. (JC)

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