Finance Minister Urges UWI to do Research on Disaster Preparedness


Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, has called on the University of the West Indies (UWI) to venture into fulltime research on disaster preparedness.
Speaking today (January 27), at the university’s annual Research Day on the Mona campus, Minister Davies also encouraged the institution to go into research on recovery and reconstruction efforts.
“You have in terms of human resources on this campus, great potential, to offer to assist in having them trained for disaster preparedness,” the Minister suggested. The theme for Research Day 2005 is ‘Natural Hazards, Disasters and Sustainable Development’, and the Minister stressed the need for more comprehensive studies to deal with disaster recovery and reconstruction.
“Recent events have highlighted the need for comprehensive strategies to deal with natural hazards,” Dr. Davies explained. The Minister said that the recent hurricanes in the region and the tsunami tragedy in Asia have shown that small developing countries, like developed countries, should concern themselves with the consequences of major disasters.
“These concerns, which were once seen as mainly the concern of rich countries, are now of great importance to poor and middle income nations,” the Finance Minister said.
He pointed out that Jamaica and Cuba were the leading countries in the region in disaster preparedness.
“Cuba and Jamaica have gone the furthest to prepare their nations, such that loss of life can be minimized and society can return to normality as quickly as possible,” Minister Davies said.
He emphasised that recovery and reconstruction was the biggest challenge after a disaster.
“The real critical challenge is the recovery and reconstruction effort. There is the saying ‘you need cash to care’ and you never know how true this is until you have to clean-up after a hurricane. It is unavoidable that such disasters will impact on the rate of socio-economic development, but at best we can minimize the negative effects,” Dr. Davies said.
Vice Chancellor of the UWI, Professor E. Nigel Harris in his address, highlighted the efforts of the university in assisting Grenadian students to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ivan, which devastated the island last year.
He announced that the university had assembled a Task Force to deal with disaster management, which has resulted in the decision to assist Grenadian students in meeting their university expenses. “We have forgiven all Grenadian students tuition and fees,” the Vice Chancellor said.
Governor General, His Excellency Sir Howard Cooke officially opened the event and urged the university to include people from all over the island in their research, and not just people in Kingston.
Sir Howard thanked the university for its role in helping to improve the standard of living of Jamaicans.
Research Day continues tomorrow (January 28), with exhibitions from the faculties of Humanities and Education, Medical Sciences, and Pure and Applied Sciences.

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