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?
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” Lao Tzu
In the film Quantum of Solace, James Bond battles a corrupt environmentalist to prevent a company from taking over Bolivia’s water supply. The company planned to enrich itself by creating a monopoly and charging excessive rates for water. Fortunately, Bond foils the plot, and the people of Bolivia do not lose affordable access to their water resources.