Speech by the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Holness Responds in Parliament on Flooding in Bahamas September 10, 2019

Mr Speaker, I wish to thank the Members for their contribution to the statement that I have made, several important points have been made; the leader of the Opposition mentioned that there needs to be a master drainage study nationally and locally, Kingston and St Andrew. I wish to remind the leader of the Opposition that a master drainage study was conducted by the NWA some time ago and was completed I believe last year and I had mentioned it in my budget presentation and that gives a comprehensive overview of the gaps in our drainage system nationally.

As it relates to Kingston specifically you’ve raised another issue which is that the construction of new roadways and not just for Kingston but also for Clarendon in particular where you have in Northern and North Central Clarendon where that new road has been  constructed; those roads literally become waterways and they channel water and the drains that were built, some of these drains fifty years ago cannot carry the volume of water that is now coming down on these roads and therefore when the roads overflow and the drains are undersized the water stays on the road for longer than it should and therefore properties on the sides will get flooded.
We have now issued- well have done the request for proposals for a drainage design for Kingston and St Andrew, hopefully they will get to contracting within a month and the period of design will be about six  months so hopefully we will have that ready in terms of the major drains that would need to be reconstructed or new drains to be put in for Kingston and St Andrew.
Having said  that, the issue is how do we fund this and in my budget presentation I mentioned the Greater Infrastructure Development Programme which will be the replacement of MIDP and in that presentation I also said that yes, we will be focusing on roads but we’ll also be focusing on gullies and drains as part of the infrastructure development.
We should be seeking to have a new agreement as to how that should be funded soon and I will bring the House up to date before the year is out as to where the funding would come from because as you can imagine these are not small works, these will be major works.
Member, it is a good idea except that when we are using private funds for infrastructure, the issue is you’d always want the infrastructure to be generating some income so otherwise, you’d be using taxpayers money at an interest rate that might be high whereas if you fund it out of your budget. Some of these projects will be funded from the budget and has to be especially those that are emergency projects.
Member, we have no objection to that, in fact, I consider it necessary. The areas that would be affected by this new drainage plan would be the Tinson Pen/ Maxfield  Avenue areas, my constituency, your constituency, western St Andrew which are the areas that normally get flooded. In fact, that is where the Sandy Gully comes and deposits. Your constituency now, you get the solid waste; not so much of the flooding and I’m going to address the solid waste issue separately. You’re looking at between a hundred to a hundred and fifty million US dollars worth of work in this area to correct it and that is as I’ve said not a small undertaking.

The other areas we are looking at now to have specific plans which will fit into the national drainage plan would be May Pen, Santa Cruz and Port Maria; those are areas that are flooded regularly. Just to assure members that the government is working towards this but I would want to alert members as well. The point that you’ve raised, I’m sympathetic towards them, I’m a member of parliament as well, I face the same issues and sometimes I want to turn to the minister of state and say what is this but then I realize that I’m- because the reality is it all has to fit within the national budget but  i want members to also note that the last rains that fell a day or so ago and then there was this flooding and then you recall last year there was a major flooding on Marcus Garvey Drive; the issue there is yes, the undersized drains but if you were to go and inspect it for yourself you would see that the level of solid waste particularly plastics continue to block the inlets to the drains and it prevents water from coming off. When I’m saying the small amount of money that you get and I agree, it’s a small amount of money, if we could just use it to clear the entrances to the inlets for the water to run off that would be of great help. The one million dollars, I’m not saying you can use that for bushing or to actually clean an entire gully invert but to clear the openings because this season seems as if it’s going to be active. The Cabinet goes to retreat next week and we will raise this issue to make it a national priority and to determine whether or not more allocations can be made in this regard so you will hear more. We try to give the MPs funding at the beginning of the cycle, we have three rain cycles we predict including the hurricane season and so we give you funding at the beginning so you can do the preventative maintenance that is necessary and I’m agreeing with you, it is not enough.