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Helping Green Business in the Caribbean

Herbert Samuel's picture

Increased hurricane activity and rising sea levels are well-known effects of climate change, and they prompt solemn head-shaking when we read about them in reports. But in the Caribbean they are part of a terrifying reality that is happening now: This reality was demonstrated again by recent flooding and landslides in the Eastern Caribbean that left 20 dead and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Innovation and Insurance: Protection Against the Costs of Natural Disaster

Olivier Mahul's picture

Natural disasters – such as tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and floods – are costly to society, in terms of both human destruction and financial losses. Governments ultimately bear the full cost of the havoc wreaked by natural disasters, which can create an enormous strain on limited government budgets, especially in developing countries. This is even before we begin to contemplate the development impact and how the poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected.

Just last week, the world saw the widespread damage that the St. Jude storm inflicted across Europe, and we witnessed its effect on hundreds of thousands of people. Most advanced economies, however, have sufficient capacity to be able to absorb the financial losses inlicted by natural disasters. Higher-income countries enjoy (relatively) efficient public revenue systems and developed domestic insurance markets.

By contrast, developing countries do not have the same degree of access to financial and insurance markets. They face limited revenue streams, limited fiscal flexibility, and limited access to quick liquidity in the wake of an event. This is particularly so for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as the Pacific island nations.

Evidence Wanted: Effectiveness of Sovereign Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance

Daniel Clarke's picture

Photo: When disasters strike – like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes or cyclones – they can cause, not just human suffering, but financial damage. Using well-crafted Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) instruments can help ease the impact of a potential financial catastrophe. Credit: World Bank Photo Collection.

When Tropical Storm Sendong battered the Philippines in late 2011, catastrophic flash floods claimed more than 1,200 lives and damaged over 50,000 houses. In addition to the human suffering, disasters like this often have a devastating effect on the budget of vulnerable countries, leading to the reallocation of scarce resources away from development programs to recovery and reconstruction. Governments also need immediate resources for rapid response to minimize post-disaster impacts.

But the Philippines had taken steps to prepare against such disasters. Just months before Sendong made landfall on the island of Mindanao, the government signed a US$500 million contingent credit line with the World Bank. This provided immediate access to liquidity to help finance emergency response and recovery operations.

Yet questions remain about financial protection strategies and instruments such as this contingent credit in the Philippines. For example: Does a government need to establish prior rules for post-disaster expenditure, or does it otherwise risk a slow and poorly targeted response with low impact on poverty and developmental outcomes? Was contingent credit the most appropriate instrument to finance this risk, or should other instruments, such as insurance, have been considered instead of or in addition to it? And fundamentally: Is disaster risk financing and insurance (DRFI) a cost-effective way of reducing (expected) poverty and improving (expected) developmental outcomes?