Editorial: Guarding Against Potential Lethargy After Hurricane Irma

By anguillian November 6, 2017 11:47




Many commendations have been heaped upon Anguilla and Anguillians, and rightly so, for their response in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Persons rushed to clear the roads and to ensure that essential services such as the hospital, the airport and the Water Corporation functioned at an acceptable level at the earliest possible opportunity. These efforts are still ongoing. Agencies on and off island rolled into action and established relief efforts designed to alleviate the devastation and disruption caused in the lives of many persons by Hurricane Irma. All of these actions were undertaken with some apparent sense of urgency. Understandably, adrenaline levels may have lowered and the natural high, which drove initial actions, is in danger of waning. We must not let this occur or we will be in danger of our current circumstances becoming the ‘new normal’ for us.

Are our efforts to clean up our landscape waning? The removal of debris will need to be an ongoing exercise. This, we must accept, as debris is fast becoming hidden in the new growth, following the rains which we have been blessed with since the passage of Hurricane Irma. What is disturbing, however, is the presence of debris in very visible places which do not appear to have attracted the attention of either public officials, in the case of debris in public spaces or along the roadsides; or the attention of private citizens in the case of debris on private lands. If we are not careful the sight of galvanize along the roadside, and crumbled buildings and broken walls, will become the new norm – and our senses will be so dulled to these sights that we will not notice the blight they have become to our landscape. That sense of urgency, which was demonstrated in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, must be maintained.

Is the truck utilised by the Environmental Health Unit for the removal of bulky waste regularly occupied in the removal of debris from the roadside? Such activity is not obvious. The Honourable Minister of Infrastructure advised property owners to clean up their properties and place the debris as close to the roadside as possible – and arrangements would be made for it to be collected. If the Minister’s promise is to be realised, arrangements for collection must be ongoing.

Private property owners might be constrained in their efforts to clear their property of debris by cost implications. Where this is genuinely the case, is this an occasion where the answer is coordinated collaboration between Government Departments and private sector entities, to ensure that when we declare Anguilla open for business that is in fact the appearance we present?

I believe a coordinated effort between the Environmental Health Department and the Ministry/Department of Infrastructure would be very instrumental in ensuring that the clean up efforts previously initiated – are sustained and meaningful. Property owners can be approached and arrangements made to assist with the removal of debris from their property. If this is not already in train, public officials should quite quickly determine who will take the lead to make this a reality.

A growing concern is that the jobless state of many persons, and the ready relief assistance being provided, can potentially create a new state of normalcy where reliance is placed on the receipt of relief items rather than seeking self sufficiency. While the relief efforts are welcome, and are no doubt helpful, if our desire is to return to a state of normalcy as quickly as possible, we must focus on steps which will quickly reduce the need for the relief efforts. The efforts to restore the tourism industry, and thereby provide work for many jobless persons, must be immediate, sustained and visible. Is urgent attention being given to ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place to facilitate the earliest possible re-opening of our tourism facilities? The fact that the ‘tourism belt’ will apparently be among the last areas on island to receive electricity is understandably causing concern among many persons.

In response to the likelihood that many persons will be unemployed or underemployed for some months, Government ministers have been heard to suggest that the Social Security Legislation will be revisited to allow the Social Security System to assist affected persons. Will the legislation be revisited in a meaningful way so that a sustainable system of assistance is created for unemployed persons – now and in the future? This situation, where unemployment is likely to prevail for some time, must be addressed urgently in order to prevent the establishment of a ‘new normal’ where persons line up or, regrettably, jockey for positions to get relief items.

Human nature is such that even with the best will and initiative on the part of public officials – total success is unlikely to be achieved in relation to the matters highlighted. Sadly, some property owners may not cooperate in the clean up efforts and some persons, even when the need for relief items no longer exists, may still pursue such avenues. It is, however, incumbent on public officials to remove, as best they can, excuses for the potential ‘new normal’ to become established.

Any potential lethargy must be quickly overcome and that sense of urgency, to implement and maintain sustainable systems designed to ensure and promote our wellbeing, must be displayed and maintained.

By anguillian November 6, 2017 11:47


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