After Hurricane Matthew

(Sunday) I’m listening to a long and somewhat rambling address to the nation regarding Hurricane Matthew and its impact. Apart from having confirmation that this was the worst hurricane in almost a century to hit New Providence, there is not a whole lot of information that I have not heard before or that I cannot figure out for myself. If I were marking the presentation, I would deduct points for its being long on narrative and description and short on analysis and evaluation. We are being told what we pretty much already know: there was a lot of rain, there was a lot of wind, there was some severe damage, many people were impacted, some are homeless, there are a lot of infrastructural challenges, the governmental agencies are working. What we are not being told (for the most part) is what to expect in the days and weeks to come, or how to pull together to make things better. We are not being inspired; we are being talked at.

(Monday) What I would have preferred: a short, concise address by the Prime Minister (as the leader of the nation), providing some basic statistics about what happened, the extent of the damage, and where we are in addressing the damage, letting us know what the government has done and what it has yet to do, giving concrete suggestions about how to deal with the aftermath, perhaps telling us that NEMA has set up specific centres where people can report to get updates. All the rambling and thanking of God and repetition of what everybody else said  was, ultimately, a waste of my good time and data. And after all that, I don’t remember any phone numbers or email addresses or physical addresses being given so that people can find out specific information about their specific issues.

I do not normally complain about governance. I have been involved in governing and have been in a position to have to make decisions that affect a large number of people and I know very well how difficult it is. That said, I also know that it does not help anyone’s issue to simply ramble on telling people what they can see plainly for themselves. In the aftermath of such situations, citizens want answers. Citizens want reassurance that the people whose job it is to serve them are on the ball. I think that the best parts of last night’s press conference were the presentations by the RBDF, the person responsible for clean-up, and the Minister of Education, who gave a fairly comprehensive report on which schools would be open tomorrow and which would be closed, and what the Ministry’s concerns were. At least I know a little more about what I can or should do tomorrow. Though why the presentation on education (which affects all of us) should follow an update on tourism (we are not tourists in our own land) I cannot comprehend.

Here’s what I would have liked to have seen:

  • BPL telling us how and when to get updates, specifying the problems area by area, and giving estimates about how long each area might anticipate being restored. Also, it seems a little odd to me that areas that are rich in self-generating power (like Charlotteville and other relatively affluent areas) have had their power restored while others who are entirely dependent on the grid for their power are still without it. I would have preferred to see some kind of triage regarding the restoration of power that restores supplies according to need rather than according to wealth. What could be done for those people who are self-generating is the formation of teams of technicians who could supply maintenance and access to fuel for private generators so that the concentration could go on areas of the population who are most in need.
  • BTC telling us the hours of operation of BTC offices around New Providence so that people could charge up their devices. Oh, and, instead of a $5 rebate, an offering of provision of data free or seriously reduced cost for those citizens who remain offline.
  • The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance roundly condemning price gouging practices anywhere and at any time, decreeing that customs duties and VAT will be waived on everything for everyone for a set period of time (say one week or two to start with, and then for a longer period of time according to need), and then the crafting of legislation rather than policy that sets the standard for disaster response going forward.

I could say more, but then I, too, would be guilty of rambling. Let me just end right now by thanking all the staff of every single agency for all their hard work, and thanking God for being God.

On a more personal note: Matthew updates 2 and 3 below.


2 thoughts on “After Hurricane Matthew

  1. Nicolette, when we are under stress, we all communicate in the language we are most comfortable with. For the politician, it is an obfuscatory, rambling recitation of the the obvious, deemed necessary to capture and inspire the minds of those representative of their core constituencies. As you are well aware, you are better off waiting for the written or the online version which allows you to skip the fluff and go straight to the good stuff. That said, much better overall job this time than the last remedial class.


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