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The government has expressed an interest in collaborating with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the private sector and other business interests to develop creative solutions for micro financing.
According to Philbert Brown, Director of Emergency Services at the Ministry of Land and Environment there are numerous examples worldwide and also emerging examples such as for alternate risk transfer mechanisms, from which Jamaica could benefit.
He argued that by creating solutions, eventually a programme to foster micro-financing would go a long way in alleviating poverty as well as allowing micro-businesses to flourish and expand.
The Director made these remarks on behalf of the Minister of Land and Environment, Dean Peart at a panel discussion entitled ‘Disaster Risk Reduction: Invest to Prevent Disaster Reduction’ held at the Knutsford Court Hotel recently.
The event was organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in collaboration with the International Year of Microcredit 2005 Planning Committee.
Mr. Brown also noted that given the frequency and the intensity of natural disasters over the years there had consistently been the need to reallocate budgetary provisions. However, he stressed that there was need for this matter “to be dealt with from a more substantial level”.
“The poor are the people, who are less able to access financial resources in the traditional sense and there is further need to address this,” he pointed out.
Chair for the International Year of Micro-Credit 2005 Planning Committee Maureen Webber, which is responsible for planning the activities for the celebration of the United Nations designated International Year of Microcredit supported the issues raised by the Director. She noted the need for increased access to credit for entrepreneurs, particularly for micro business interests.
“I cannot say it enough when you talk about the billions of dollars we have out there and there is not enough for the people, who come through various doors, asking for money to start or expand and stabilise a business,” she said.
She further noted, “when that person has a business that is growing, they are better able to sustain themselves and family at any time including after a natural disaster.” Ms. Webber also implored money-lending institutions to ensure that the businesses, which received assistance, were environmentally conscious.
There was a need, she said, to make sure that the activities of these businesses had minimal impact on the environment.
“If we look at Haiti today, we can learn that lesson and also after Hurricane Ivan,” she said.
Another issue of note, she said, was the high rate of insurance. “At this point in time none of our lenders outside of the formal sector can insure their entire portfolio,” she lamented.
Calling for more responsiveness to the issue, Ms. Webber pointed out, “this means that if there is a natural disaster, people will lose entire portfolios and this will also impact on lenders, who will also go under”.