A damage and loss assessment carried out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment immediately following the La Soufriere ash fall event in April 2021 reveals that the disaster cost Barbados at least $87.1 million.
This was revealed by Minister in Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, on Thursday, as she hosted COP President-designate, Alok Sharma, during his one-day visit to Barbados.
“The report, once approved in its entirety, will be made available, but I was able to share with the Prime Minister this morning that our initial damage and loss at our most conservative estimate is 87.1 million dollars,” Ms. Caddle disclosed.
“This figure covers the cleanup itself, which was significant. In order to respond rapidly and simultaneously across the entire country, we needed the numbers of people, all the equipment and supplies we could reasonably procure, and we had to cover roads, drainage systems, public buildings, public spaces, and then support individuals and households who were not able to undertake the cleanup themselves,” she added.
The Minister explained that beyond direct clean-up costs and direct damage to crops, livestock, housing, vehicles, equipment and other assets, the number includes the significant losses to economic activity.
“Across almost every productive sector, we saw losses – in agriculture, up to 40 per cent of current crop for some crops, and expected reduction in yields from ash deposits on flowering plants. In fisheries, there was low visibility on the water that resulted in lost fishing days and income to fisherfolk.
“We saw losses in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, transportation, accommodation and food services, and electricity as solar panels were covered for on average seven days, leading to reduced efficiency immediately thereafter.”
Ms. Caddle said the costing also addressed the impact on the water sector, as there was an unprecedented draw on water resources for the cleanup, which put pressure on reservoir levels and compromised water availability to households and industries that depend on water for production.
“We were rigorous in the methodology used, with the support of the UN system, because when we talk about loss and damage from disaster, we are not just talking about immediate damage, but also about loss. The losses are extensive across sectors, including social sectors because access to basic services can be affected, and that comes at a cost to people and households,” she stated.
Minister Caddle used the ash fall example in announcing to the COP President-designate that Barbados would now be undertaking disaster and climate crisis accounting to identify all of the spending related to responding to the climate crisis – whether spent on resilience before the event, like retrofitting roofs and homes, or after the event, like rebuilding and recovery.
“We need to show the world the real cost of this crisis to the people on the frontlines who suffer the most,” she said.