–as PM Phillips says Guyana expects lengthy ‘El Niño’ rainy season
PARLIAMENTARIANS on Monday approved the sum of $5.3 billion for flood and other natural disaster relief efforts in 2023, as Guyana prepares for the possible devastating effects of a lengthy El Niño period towards the end of the year.
This sum was defended by Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips during the consideration of the budgetary estimates, which got underway on Monday when the National Assembly dissolved itself into the Committee of Supply.
The $5.3 billion was listed under current expenditure for Programme: 022 – Disaster Preparedness, Response and Management.
“That is a lumpsum of money placed there to deal with disasters. For example, last year we had the farmers who were affected [by floods], and therefore we have to get flood relief. That money is placed there, and based on if there is a disaster that we have to give relief, that is where we would get the money from,” the Prime Minister explained.
“Every year, we are affected by floods, and this is the year that we expect the El Niño phenomenon to affect Guyana over an extended period, so we have to have interventions, and we have to be prepared. The reality here is that we have to prepare,” PM Phillips emphasised.
El Niño is a climate pattern that is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, including the area off the Pacific coast of South America. It is the warm phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
El Niño is usually accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific, and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. During the development of El Niño, heavy rainfall develops between the months of September to November.
Meanwhile, another $205 million was allocated to and approved for the customary dietary and cleaning hampers often given out to individual households by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), while another $10 million has been apportioned to a fund used by the Prime Minister to donate money to persons suffering losses as a result of a disaster.
In Guyana, the CDC, which falls under the authority of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), coordinates and facilitates a sustainable Disaster Risk Management System for Guyana that reduces risk, and enhances resilience to all hazards and impacts. The agency was established in 1982.
The CDC would often coordinate with the various Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) to assist residents in the respective regions whenever there is a disaster. It regularly distributes food and cleaning hampers, as needed, to citizens.
Notably, the Prime Minister’s Office was also able to reduce its budgeted amount to respective electricity companies across the country, ahead of an expected drop in oil prices this year.
According to Brigadier Phillips, while oil prices would have reached a peak of some $210 per liter last year, the projection is that it could drop to $193 per liter, or lower, during 2023.