Millions earmarked in budget for post-volcanic development initiatives
Camillo Gonsalves
January 18, 2022
Millions earmarked in budget for post-volcanic development initiatives

A Volcanic Eruption Emergency Project (VEEP), is one of several “fresh initiatives” that the government plans to implement this year as it continues its thrust to accelerate economic recovery in 2022.

Finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves said last week that this year’s fiscal package kick-starts Phase two of the government’s response to the social, physical and economic impacts of last year’s volcanic eruptions.

And in addition to $118 million that was allocated some months ago, $50 million is included in Budget 2022 for volcano specific capital expenditure.

Gonsalves said much of this expenditure will come in the form of projects under the umbrella of VEEP.

“The VEEP is a multifaceted, multiyear $113 million package that was painstakingly negotiated among the Government, the World Bank and the European Union. The VEEP contains over $20 million in early recovery initiatives and further income support; and close to $85 million to fund restoration of critical services and infrastructure, while improving our capacity to respond to future emergencies. Starting in 2022, the VEEP will fund multiple interventions within the Ministries of Works, Agriculture, Social Development, plus NEMO and the CWSA,” the finance minister said in his Budget presentation last week.

Among the components of this project are: $11.5 million to provide temporary cash transfers and income support to volcano-impacted residents in the volcanic Red and Orange Zones; $11 million to assist in the recovery of the agriculture sector; $15 million to strengthen the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO); $14 million to restore, upgrade and strengthen water infrastructure in the north of St Vincent; $40 million to repair and restore bridges and roads, including the purchase of additional heavy equipment and $8 million to support the Labour Intensive Temporary Employment programme (LITE).

Local labour will be hired under the LITE programme on a short-term basis to perform critical community works in response to lingering threats of flooding, lahars, damaged roads and compromised infrastructure.

Gonsalves also mentioned funding of over $5 million that will be available in this year’s fiscal package for the relocation of 68 families whose homes are in areas assessed as vulnerable to post-eruption lahars and flooding.

These funds will likely facilitate the construction of just over 40 homes, which will complement houses that are already under construction.

The finance minister said funding has also been allocated to purchase building materials to repair over 770 homes in the Red and Orange Zones.

“Beyond VEEP, and beyond our fresh housing initiatives for volcano-affected families, Budget 2022 also provides $17.1 million for the continued removal of volcanic ash and debris,$2.3 million to provide further meals, food and hygiene packages to volcano-affected families, and $1 million for the purchase of household appliances for residents who lost everything to the volcano,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that this does not come close to depicting the many ways in which this year’s Budget responds to the challenges of the volcanic eruption.

And said that “millions will be spent in production support to the farmers and fishers who have been battered by the impacts of La Soufrière, Hurricane Elsa and COVID”.

“Millions more will assist the volcano-affected families, farmers, fishers and small business persons as part of the largest expansion in social safeguards in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Further, specific resources will be dedicated to helping to restore forests, coral reefs and ecosystems damaged by the volcano,” the finance minister said.