Responding to a call from Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw, that the government should immediately implement an emergency fund in light of a projected active hurricane season, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said the government would not be pressured into giving in to the Opposition's demands, without first carrying out preparatory estimates.
The Prime Minister, who was speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 13) about the government's response mechanisms to the passage of Hurricane Dennis last week, said the government did not yet know the full extent of the damage in monetary terms.
"That, we are seeking to ascertain, and when that has been done, the Minister of Finance, in the discharge of his responsibilities, will meet with colleague Ministers," the Prime Minister explained.
He disclosed that the Ministers would "be presented in Cabinet on Monday (July 18) with what figure is necessary to deal with the medium and long term recovery effort, but in the meantime, the Cabinet has been given the authorisation for the work that has to be undertaken immediately to proceed in respect of every Ministry, of every agency, and in every area where there has been disaster".
Mr. Patterson told the House he felt such actions were the "only sensible, humane, rational, and responsible way for a government to respond".
Turning to the government's budgetary allocations to deal with disasters, the Prime Minister said there was in fact, an item in the budget to deal with contingencies, through which funds could be disbursed.
"A sum is provided for contingencies and depending on the situation which arises, the Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet, can apply transfers from the contingency fund, to such other areas as may require it immediately, and if it becomes necessary, to seek to replenish the contingency fund at an appropriate time when the supplementary estimates come up for consideration by the House," the Prime Minister explained.
Addressing the matter of persons who made reports of varying damage they suffered during Hurricane Ivan last year, and who are yet to receive financial assistance, Mr. Patterson indicated that those individuals have been assessed and verified by the Office of National Reconstruction (ONR) and would be receiving their cheques "in the mail" by next week.