ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 11, 2016
The estimated damage caused by Hurricane Matthew could be as much as four times more than the $100 million in damage the government estimated in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, which devastated the central and southern islands last October, according to Prime Minister Perry Christie.
At a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) headquarters on Gladstone Road on Sunday, Christie said he understands thousands of Bahamians have been impacted and the price tag to rebuild homes, buildings and roads damaged or destroyed by Matthew presents an “incredibly serious” challenge.
“We estimated after Joaquin that the cost was over $100 million,” Christie said.
“You can identify a multiplier, two times, three times, four times; this cost is going to be very much more than Joaquin.
“Enormous damage has been inflicted on thousands of Bahamians, who were not so affected in such numbers by Hurricane Joaquin.”
The government will seek to raise money through a hurricane recovery and construction bond offering, a concept the prime minister said domestic financial institutions have found “very favorable”.
“The domestic financial institutions realize that they have a stake in the well being and the recovery of the economy,” Christie said.
“The purpose of this funding would be to have an accelerated reconstruction program, provide assistance to individuals impacted by the hurricane and to provide assistance to small and medium sized businesses.”
Christie also said the government and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce have come to an agreement on ways to recognize and encourage donations by offering tax credits.
“Any donation of $1,000 or more shall receive a tax rebate on business license fees equivalent of 10 percent on the amount donated, up to a maximum rebate of $100,000 and that is why I use the $1,000,000 because those who have that capacity will receive a rebate of $100,000,” the prime minister said.
An exigency order to allow for specific tax exemptions on goods imported is expected to take effect today, covering building materials, furniture and vehicles.
Christie noted that the government has encountered many people who have lost their homes, businesses and others whose vehicles were lost due to flooding.
He said other personal belongings lost during the storm will have to be considered as the government moves forward.
“People are out there wondering where they are going to live, and where they are going to sleep,” Christie said.
“Ms. [Melanie] Griffin, minister of social services, there are people who are sleeping in your shelters and going out in the day to see what they can do with their homes.
“I’m told there are 80-plus people in shelters here in New Providence.
“And all I meant to say by that was in case someone misunderstood me, is that we must have full-time, [people] in here working full-time, assiduously; people [providing] relief people out there who have to get some food, who have to get some water.”
Residents on New Providence traveled in droves to purchase supplies as of Friday morning following the all clear for the island.
As of Friday afternoon, suppliers on New Providence such as Kelly's and AID were sold out of generators.
Gas containers were in scarce supply as residents flocked to gas stations, enduring long lines and waiting times of over two hours.
Up to yesterday morning, gas stations across the island remained crowded.
Christie said the government will consider residents who have already began spending on repairs.
“Let me say that we recognize that some people may claim that they have spent monies that could be covered by an exigency order before the order is promulgated on Tuesday,” he said.
“So, the Ministry of Finance, we have agreed to cover the period between the commencement of hurricane conditions and Tuesday when the exigency order will take effect, upon proof and certification that the expenditure conforms with the requirements.”