Speaking at the seventh Annual UWI Open Campus Ceremony for the Presentation of Graduates 2015, Professor Sir George Alleyne said the region’s debt burden, which is over$40 billion — based on a 2013 report — is due in large part to the battering it has endured due to weather systems.
“One of the features that continue to be emphasised is that this (regional debt) has not been due in any way to the fiscal profligacy on the part of the region’s governments. Much of this has been due to the impact of natural hazards and consequent disasters,” he charged.
He said the recent impact of Tropical Storm Erika, on Dominica, is a grim reminder of how the region could be devastated by natural disasters.
The chancellor said the university has since offered to defer the fees of Dominican students attending the institution until 2016.
He said the regional university must remain relevant to the development of the region and has developed two agencies to assist to this end.
Sir George said natural disasters are “a way of life” in the region and the establishment of the Seismic Research Centre in Trinidad & Tobago, which monitors and advises the region on seismic activities and volcanoes, assists with disaster preparedness and response.
He added the recently established Disaster Risk Reduction Centre, which researches ways the region could reduce susceptibility to natural disasters and helps to train personnel to respond to them also helps the region to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.
During the ceremony, held at the St John’s Pentecostal Church, residents from across the region were not only congratulated by the chancellor, but were charged to continue on their road to success.