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Businesses must put in place disaster risk management plan - PSOJ boss

Published:Tuesday | May 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
From left: Jennifer McDonald, chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ); Fayval Williams, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service; and Howard Mitchell, president of the PSOJ, discuss the disaster risks that the Caribbean faces during a forum yesterday.

With another near- or above-normal hurricane season expected, the president of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), Howard Mitchell, is calling for greater strategic planning for quick recovery of business operations in the event of a natural disaster.

Noting that Jamaica has been relatively fortunate not to be directly hit by another mega disaster since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, Mitchell warned members that a failure to plan could result in wide-scale devastation.

"Because we are underplanned, the magnitude of the consequences of [potential] disasters is greater than if we had planned to mitigate those losses," said Mitchell.

"While I haven't done a study, I do not believe that we are as ready as we should be. I feel that the same lack of planning that plagues residential and social development also plagues our business development as well," Mitchell told guests during the PSOJ President's Breakfast Forum in Kingston yesterday.

Jamaica has averaged 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in losses arising from natural disasters for many years, and Mitchell pointed out that the economy hasn't grown 2.5 per cent of GDP in any one year, "certainly over recent times".

"But with one hit, even if it's a low-level event, it could wipe out the 0.9 per cent of economic growth that the country recorded in 2017," reasoned Mitchell.




This hurricane season is expected to churn out upwards of 12-15 tropical storms, out of which six to eight can become hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.

Major Clive Davis, director general in the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, told The Gleaner that he was of the view that micro and small businesses, in particular, were not quite up to scratch in having plans in place for a quick return to business in the event of natural disasters.

"Because of the fact we live in an area that is prone to so much disaster and so much adverse events, we must always be prepared. I believe that in order for us to recover from a shock, everybody must have a plan to recover, and that plan starts in the home," Davis told The Gleaner.

He noted that while there was no law to mandate disaster planning for the business sector, he believed that all businesses should have one.

In her address to the breakfast, Fayval Williams, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, indicated that "the Government has put in motion, and is far along with our analytical work that will guide our eventual establishment of a policy framework for disaster risk management at the national level".