Dominica a country broken
By Trevor Trocard
August 5, 2018 3:35 A.M
Roseau, Dominica (TDN)
- Dominica that beautiful gem in the Caribbean Sea is on the verge of falling apart in large measure due to the staggering incompetence of the Skerrit-led Dominica Labour Party (DLP).
The once proud country, which previously boasted of being the leader in agriculture exports in the Region and a shining example of pride and entrepreneurship is now no more. Scores of unemployed youth, without hope and job opportunities, roam listlessly around the country, dreaming of making their escape to anywhere.
After more than 18 years of sometimes comical leadership by Roosevelt Skerrit the wheels have completely come off the train that was once Dominica. This sad truth was on stark display recently when a defeated and confused prime minister addressed Dominica via radio, to announce that a 40 year institution the Ross University School of Medicine, would forever close its doors, and move to our Southern neighbor Barbados.
Dominica’s loss of Ross University to Barbados is the culmination of a bizarre and perplexing leadership style by Skerrit of the country’s 67 000 strong population. He surrounded himself with an economic as well as a political advisor from Barbados.
Interestingly, Hartley Henry the political advisor who is a holder of a diplomatic passport from Dominica, is reported to have been instrumental in getting Ross University to go to Barbados. He once boasted that the 2014 elections in Dominica was an ‘economic boon’ for his country.
How did we get here
After 40 years in Dominica Ross university shuts down operations and move to Barbados
Long before Ross shuttered its doors taking away an estimated slice of 20 -25 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the country was in trouble.
When the DLP assumed office in 2000 it immediately launched an assault on the country’s agriculture. Bear in mind that agriculture, led by banana cultivation was providing employment for thousands in the rural parts of Dominica.
The agriculture belt in particular in the North East and South East of Dominica had thrown their weight of support behind the just defeated United Workers Party (UWP). One could be excused for thinking that the deliberate policy to not invest in agriculture was clearly intended to punish the populations in these areas for supporting the UWP.
Whatever the reasons the government made it known early in its rule that agriculture was a “has been industry”. The new pride and joy of the country would be tourism and the sale of passports under a heavily criticized Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.
Lies and broken promises
The idea of tourism leading the way could have been taken seriously except for the fact that the country had a paltry 700 hotel rooms available and a notoriously difficult airport to access. Even so by planes carrying no more than 60 passengers at a time.
To address this situation prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit repeatedly lied to the Dominican public about his intentions to improve access into the country. It became standard fare to announce the building of an international airport at each and every election cycle only to see nothing accomplished in that regard.
Worse, hoteliers on the island rather than being given support by the government were in some cases publicly ridiculed by this same administration for not been able to maintain their hotels.
The style of leadership shown where opponents of the DLP trying to contribute to their country are openly ridiculed was again on sharp display, when opposition Senator Dr Thomson Fontaine attempted to secure a market for agriculture products into Martinique.
Rather than assist the Senator in developing and preserving the market prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his deputy Reginald Austrie took to the local radio airwaves in an attempt to heap scorn and ridicule on the Senator.
In their view agriculture and development could never exist in the country and there was no place for farmers to earn a decent living through their hard work and toil.
A lost cause
Dominica’s development has been staggered and mainly nonexistent under the DLP rule. For more than a decade before hurricane Maria in 2017 the country averaged growth rates of 1 percent of GDP, well below the 6 percent required to maintain a decent standard of living.
In 2017 it plunged by almost 7 percent and before the demise of Ross University the IMF estimated that it would fall by an astonishing 16.3 percent in 2018.
To compound the country’s woes the international community fed-up with the arrogance and corrupt ways of the DLP have largely stopped providing direct budget support by way of grants. In 1999 one year before the DLP assumed office Dominica attracted over $150 million in grant support. That plunged to less than $4 million in 2018.
Private businesses which for years had survived in Dominica suddenly went belly up closing their doors and resulting in the loss of close to 5 000 jobs under the current regime. The Dominica Coconut Products once the proud exporter of soaps made from coconut to the rest of the Region sent home over 300 workers and shut down after close to 70 years in operation.
Bello products operating since before the turn of the 19th century shut its doors. Newer businesses like the Aerial Tram, Dominica Brewery Limited, and countless retail outlets like KFC Portsmouth shuttered adding to the country’s ruin.
In all of this the government stuck to the sale of passports, supposedly easy money since it ostensibly had to do nothing much. After all, the sales are outsourced to friends of the government who churn in millions from hefty fees charged for their services.
Power at all Costs
To maintain his grip on power in the face of the country’s debilitating misfortunes Skerrit opted to manipulate the election process. Unable to secure the support of persons living in Dominica in sufficient numbers he shifted his attention to the Diaspora.
He has succeeded with the help of a patsy Electoral Office, which refuses to cleanse the bloated voters list as required by law. That list outnumbers Dominica’s total population. Skerrit as early as the 2009 elections dispensed millions of dollars to charter planeloads of sometimes ineligible voters living overseas to change the election outcome.
This massive fraud in the election process manifested itself with razor thin supposed wins for the DLP in key constituencies in the 2014 election. In the Grand Fond, La Plaine, Castle Bruce, Mahaut, Roseau Valley, and St Joseph constituencies a combined total of 613 votes secured a ‘win’ for the DLP. Without the influx of these thousands of foreign voters the DLP would have lost the elections.
In the face of this massive fraud the Dominican population by far and large have kept quiet perhaps intimidated by Skerrit’s readiness to deploy look alike soldiers drawn from the Police, touting riot gear and automatic weapons on the streets of Roseau.
One now wonders how much more can the populace take as the country continues to creak and groan under the collective weight of Skerrit and his government’s incompetence, malice, and crushing failures.