Cit­ing Cli­mate Change Prime Min­is­ter Out­lines Im­mense Sig­nif­i­cance of Ja­panese Grant for Bridges

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

As the Prime Min­is­ter of Saint Lu­cia pre­pared to sign an agree­ment with the Ja­panese Gov­ern­ment for a Grant for the re­con­struc­tion of bridges in the Cul De Sac basin he stressed that the pol­icy and strat­egy of gov­ern­ment, as it per­tains to cli­mate change and the im­pact it is hav­ing on the island’s in­fras­truc­ture, has been and will con­tinue to be a top pri­or­ity.

At the brief cer­e­mony for the Ex­change of Notes for the Ja­panese Grant Aid for the Ravine Pois­son and Cul de Sac Bridges held at the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter on Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 9 2017, Prime Min­is­ter Hon­ourable Allen Chas­tanet took the au­di­ence through some of the chal­lenges faced by Small Island De­vel­op­ing States (SIDS) such as Saint Lu­cia.

Also in attendance at the sign­ing was Min­is­ter for In­fras­truc­ture, Ports, En­ergy and Labour Hon­ourable Stephen­son King and Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries, Phys­i­cal Plan­ning, Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Co-op­er­a­tives Hon­ourable Ezechiel Joseph along with Min­istry of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the Ja­panese del­e­ga­tion.

Speak­ing first at the sign­ing was Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Depart­ment of In­fras­truc­ture, Ports and En­ergy Mr. Ivor Daniel who gave an over­view, ex­plain­ing that the pro­ject is in keep­ing with the Na­tional Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion Pol­icy which aims to re­duce the coun­try’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to nat­u­ral haz­ards and the im­pact of cli­mate change.

Also speak­ing at the event was His Ex­cel­lency Mit­suhiko Okada, Am­bas­sador of Ja­pan to Saint Lu­cia, who out­lined Ja­pan’s ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion with Saint Lu­cia which in­clude dis­as­ter risk re­duc­tion, sus­tain­able man­age­ment of marine life, and hu­man se­cu­rity. The as­sis­tance is be­ing chan­nelled through the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA). That or­gan­i­sa­tion’s di­rec­tor gen­eral for Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, Mr. Ha­jime Takeuchi, also de­liv­ered re­marks at the event about the sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions made to as­sist not just Saint Lu­cia but the re­gion.

For the re­con­struc­tion of the much-needed bridges Ja­pan is con­tribut­ing EC$37 mil­lion.

In his re­marks Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet re­peat­edly thanked the Ja­panese for the Grant for the bridges which are ex­pected to be built com­menc­ing early 2018. He ex­plained that on the world stage more de­vel­oped coun­tries needed to as­sist the SIDS in the quest to com­bat the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

“I had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend World Bank meet­ings and IMF meet­ings and I am very grate­ful that both those or­gan­i­sa­tions have cho­sen to have a set­ting for the Small Island De­vel­op­ing States of the world,” noted the prime min­is­ter. “That was fol­lowed by the COP meet­ing that took place in Mar­rakech. I want to also rec­og­nize the work that was done by our pre­de­ces­sors in sup­port­ing the Cli­mate Change agree­ment at COP in Paris in which we for­mal­ized the recog­ni­tion that Cli­mate Change is real and a roadmap for how the world in­tends to be able to deal with the prob­lem. In the roadmap the world gave it­self a chal­lenge to raise 100 bil­lion dol­lars to go to­wards mit­i­ga­tion and fund­ing adap­ta­tion.”

The prime min­is­ter ex­plained that the mo­men­tum had been stymied by re­cent de­ci­sions by the United States in re­la­tion to the Paris Agree­ment. How­ever, some of the SIDS, in­clu­sive of Saint Lu­cia, are propos­ing al­ter­na­tives to get as­sis­tance for crit­i­cal in­fras­truc­tural projects that help with adap­tion.

“One is ex­actly what is tak­ing place here today where the gov­ern­ment of Ja­pan, through JICA, are mak­ing a bi­lat­eral con­tri­bu­tion to Saint Lu­cia in a pro­ject that is a crit­i­cal in­fras­truc­tural pro­ject. What we would like to see is Ja­pan be­ing given a credit for that con­tri­bu­tion,” ex­plained the prime min­is­ter.

The sec­ond al­ter­na­tive was that SIDS be al­lowed to ac­cess con­ces­sional fund­ing.

“I am go­ing to keep pound­ing on the ta­ble and let­ting my voice be heard ex­plain­ing that the SIDS can­not wait,” said Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet. “There is no greater ex­am­ple of that than what took place in Haiti. Af­ter the earth­quake in Haiti where over 250,000 peo­ple were dis­placed, there needed to be greater ex­pe­di­ency in solv­ing that prob­lem. Did we not know that Haiti was in a hur­ri­cane belt? Did we not know that there was clearly a trend of in­creas­ing storms? That all we needed was a trough? What took place last year, the world and all of us must bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for. The Haitian peo­ple were left to con­front one of the strong­est and most dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­canes we have seen in a long time with card­board boxes.”

The prime min­is­ter ex­plained the fo­cus of his re­marks to the au­di­ence: “Time is against us. I say all of this to un­der­score that point and for us not to take for granted the sig­nif­i­cance of today. It is very easy for us to con­tinue to come to these sign­ings of agree­ments and al­most take it for granted what we are re­ceiv­ing. This pro­ject has the op­por­tu­nity and po­ten­tial to pro­tect the lives and the as­sets of many peo­ple.”

Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet ended by thank­ing all the tech­ni­cal staff at the var­i­ous min­istries for their per­sis­tence on the pro­ject. He also thanked his Cabi­net of Min­is­ters and ex­plained that there were sev­eral very long ses­sions to en­sure that this pro­ject was the right one.

“I re­ally want to thank Am­bas­sador Okada and your team for your in­cred­i­bly kind gen­eros­ity and for your pa­tience. We look for­ward to this pro­ject start­ing and bring­ing re­lief to the peo­ple in the Cul De Sac area.”

An of­fi­cial vote of thanks was de­liv­ered by Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Mr. Ben­jamin Em­manuel who un­der­scored how es­sen­tial the pro­ject was for the Cul De Sac area and fur­ther pledged the gov­ern­ment’s sup­port.

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