EDITORIAL: A good step - but short-term problems persist

With the prospect of shelters closing by the end of the year, an obvious question arises: Where will people go?

In the short-term, this isn’t going to be an easy solution – the dome cities being set up are one option, but will they be ready in time? Rental accommodation is another option – if people in refuges can find jobs to be able to pay. For those who fall in between the gaps, there isn’t an obvious solution once those doors close however.

In the long-term, though, we welcome the move by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to offer crown land to construct low-cost homes for Hurricane Dorian victims.

With no land to pay for, the cost of construction will be all that will be needed, drastically dropping the cost for homes.

Those seeking to repair their homes, meanwhile, are eligible for up to $10,000 from the government towards costs, based on assessment by inspectors.

Dr Minnis notes there will be checks put in place to ensure that money is spent on reconstruction rather than a trip to Disney – and we hope checks will also be in place on the other side to make sure this money and land really does go to the people who need it and not any intermediate land developer or people who haven’t suffered as much damage as the cash they are given.

The Bahamas has had its fill of claims that money went astray from various government payouts, so we hope this will be closely audited to ensure no hint of impropriety. Transparency, as ever, must be the key word. There are still concerns about that, of course – not least over the still unclear tally of dead and missing from the storm. On Friday, we learned the current confirmed death toll is 70, but the missing total hasn’t been updated in too long.

We also hope the move to give away crown land might give hope to Bahamians who have been living in the shanty towns the government so earnestly wants to sweep away – trading a life in properly constructed properties for the closely-packed fire traps they will leave behind.

There is a long way to go for victims of Hurricane Dorian, but this is a step in the right direction.

The right choice

Senate president Kay Forbes-Smith is to step aside from her role as Senate president, it seems, less than a month after the PLP grumbled about her combining the role with co-ordinating recovery efforts.

Senator Fred Mitchell protested that it was improper in case the Senate debated a disaster management bill.

We think that was a case of Mr Mitchell complaining for the sake of complaining, by and large, but we do welcome the move for her to step aside.

Not because of conflict reasons – but because the recovery effort deserves the full focus rather than it being divided. Lifting the load of the Senate presidency from her shoulders allows Mrs Forbes-Smith to concentrate on helping people as they start to move back into their damaged homes, try to get building materials for repairs and restart their lives after the storm.

We do hope this doesn’t lead the PLP to proclaim some kind of victory - there’s no victory until every storm victim is back in their own homes.

Her Senate contribution can wait, Mrs Forbes-Smith can return there when her task is done. God speed to her in her work.