Monday, August 24, 2009

Dominica mourns the passing of Gordon Moreau

By The Dominican.net Newsdesk

Dominicans continue to mourn the passing of chartered accountant Gordon Moreau who succumbed to prostrate cancer last week.
Noted Dominican physician Dr. Gerald Grell considered Moreau as a man of stature, whose passing “is a major event in the history of the current generation of our Dominican intellectual and professional giants in Dominica, those at home and abroad.”

migrants
Gordon Moreau receiving Dominica's second highest civilian award from President of Dominica HE Nicholas LiverpoolPhoto courtesy Sean Douglas.


Dr. Grell considered Moreau to be “a man of great humility, at peace with the many wonderful events of Caribbean life and their origins, not the least of which was his love for, and great knowledge of, the Trinidadian calypso, spawned when he was a University student ‘down South’.

He never cowed to external pressures when discussing issues as a writer and journalist and professional, and was always frank and earnest with his views expressed as a Caribbean man.

He knew his roots, of which he was deeply proud. This gave him his strength of character, commitment, and an abiding faith in the concept of community.”
“A man of great depth and honesty. To me as a physician, Gordon’s passing is a striking contemplative land-mark relating to the issues of our Men’s health and wellness, nationally.

There is a cord in my soul touched by his passing. Albert Schweitzer sums it up for me “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It then bursts into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit” like Gordon Moreau.

Meanwhile, government minister Charles Sevarin had this to say about Moreau: “In my capacity as Minister for Public Utilities, Energy and Ports, I had the privilege of working with Gordon Moreau because the Government turned to him when the decision was taken to merge the Airport Services Division and the Dominica Port Authority to create the Dominica Air and Sea Ports Authority(DASPA).

“He did the consultancy on that proposal and the Government was so satisfied with the work that he had done he was appointed to actually implement the merging of the two institutions. And then when the DASPA Board was established by law he was appointed Chairman of the Board.

He subsequently said to us that because of his health, he was not able to continue in that role. It was a tremendous loss to us in this infant entity with all of the various challenges that we had to confront that we could no longer have his services on a full-time basis. But we could always refer to him whenever we needed advice.”

Speaking to the local media, Dr Thomson Fontaine in reflecting on the death of Gordon Moreau said he was moved by “the intellectual depth which Moreau brought to his analysis of contemporary Dominican events, particularly with regards to politics.”

Dr. Fontaine recounted the more than three hours that he spent with Moreau and Shermaine Green analysing the 2005 general elections before a national audience just days after the Dominica Labor Party won the May 10 general elections.

According to Dr. Fontaine, “I have always been impressed with the depth of knowledge and wisdom that Gordon brought to discussing Dominica politics. For years I have followed his commentary and writings, and I must say that we have lost a great Dominican, and he will be sorely missed.”

In recognition of his tremendous contribution to Dominica in the field of Accounting, Mr. Gordon Moreau was bestowed with Dominica’s second highest award, the Sisserou Award of Honour (SAH) at the Parade of Uniformed Groups on November 3rd 2008 by the Government of Dominica.

Mr. Gordon Moreau served as a Town Clerk in the 1960s before going to the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad on a Canadian Government scholarship to study accounting. Mr. Moreau completed an Msc in Accounting in Trinidad before returning to Dominica.

Mr. Moreau served on every major Board in Dominica, including the Dominica Social Security, National Bank of Dominica, Dominica Banana Marketing Corporation, National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), AID Bank, Dominica Broadcasting Corporation, Roseau Cooperative Credit Union among others. He was also a member of the OECS negotiating team on the Liberalisation of the Telecommunications sector in the sub-region.

Government Press Secretary Sean Douglas also contributed to this report.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Prime Minister Skerrit erred in not attending conference

By Dr Emanuel Finn

What was dubbed a unity conference in Roseau by a group of professional Dominicans residing in the Diaspora and Dominica was snubbed by prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
dr emanuel finn
Dr Emanuel Finn.


Instead of addressing the conference, the prime minister, the minister responsible for Diaspora affairs and his entire government boycotted it. Did he help himself and more importantly our country with this immature and shameful behavior? Well maybe he and his handlers believe so. He certainly did not show leadership in the manner he handled the visitors.

Real leaders confront their enemies and detractors head on and even try to win them over. Bullies and cowards run away and hide among the safety of their supporters, henchmen and protectors when confronted.

Whether you like or dislike the Diaspora Unity group, their big egos, strong personalities and dispositions on issues, as an elected leader it is the prime minister’s duty to welcome and demonstrate to them that Dominica belongs to them as well.

These are folks like you Mr. prime minister who hail from all corners and the belly of Dominica. They are not from Guangdong province, China Sir. The prime minister is suppose to be the leader of all; the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ and he should have exercised ‘Carpe Diem’—Seize the Day.

The concept that anthropologists call 'Transnational Space' come to mind. The manner in which civil society links individuals into groups that span frontiers, both geographic and socioeconomic.

The link between transnational organizations and the developrime ministerent of citizenship has generally been explored in terms of the results within countries, and how national manifestations of global movements impact the fabric of democracy. Transnational collaboration especially within organized Diaspora groups lead to developrime ministerent opportunities and is a win-win satiation for progressive counties.

One example is the new Israeli Ambassador to Washington was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Columbia and Princeton Universities.
The most worrying aspect of Skerrit is his volatility and the troubling and unpredictable trajectory when dealing with controversial issues of national importance and confident opponents.

Instead of exercising mature diplomacy, we have on our hands an immature political leader who is driven by his own myopic concerns and interests rather than by clearly defined aims and interests of our country.

This kind of behavior has become routine in the arena of domestic politics, where its negative consequences tend to be contained and promoted by some members of the media and by his party.

However, such irresponsible grandstanding in the sphere of Diaspora relations can have far more destructive consequences. It can unleash a dynamic of reaction and counter-reaction, where at a certain point ‘fighting words’ serve as a prelude to real and sustain developrime ministerent.

This fantasy of Skerrit is that he boasts that he will win all 21 seats or at least 16 and more. If that is indeed the case, then it overlooks the fact that big money and hand outs play a huge part in our relatively feeble economy and platform politics where issues and policies are not examined closely.

Yes, our country possesses natural beauty and other important commodities, but it is in a political quandary where easy and cheap political money talks and few people ask real questions.

Where is all this money coming from and how is it accounted for? Are we making a deal with the devil and is Dominica for sale as a result? There is little doubt that Dominica is dominated by a self-serving prime minister, who if not checked, in time is capable of anything.

Please let history be our guide---remember ‘Colonel’ John and his militia- the Dominica Defense Force?

According to the Inter-American Developrime ministerent Bank in Washington DC, in 2006 the value of remittances that Dominica received from the Diaspora amounted to about 181 million dollars.

Does Skerrti know or understand the barrel economy? Oh no...As long as he is the ‘top dog’ very little else matters. Is Skerrit’s belligerent behavior consistent with the fact that he did not earn the office of prime minister in the first place? This high office was dropped in his lap after the tragic deaths of two prime ministers while in office and he was the only one left standing? (Sorry for this reminder-may their souls RIP).

As my late grandmother would constantly recite to us in La Plaine, ‘You cannot appreciate fully what you have if you bought it cheaply or you have not worked hard and scarified to acquire it’.

It will take more for serious people to respect Skerrit-more than his Jing ping and quadrille dancing before a national crowd. More than his grandstanding to show folks who is the boss man and in charge.

What is puzzling about Skerrit’s ill response to the unity conference is that back in April he sent a congratulatory message to a member ( not the group) embracing the group’s effort at its highly successful NYC conference and pledged to work with them.

Could Skerrit have made an opening short statement and go about this merry way? Where were the elder statesmen like Charles Savarin and Chares Maynard—'the good Fredomites' to provide wise counsel to the young and inexperienced prime minister? No, juvenile diplomacy does not and cannot result in adult, mature and respected democracy and leadership.

Simplistic commentators and supporters of Skerrit will claim that their man did the right thing by ignoring a bunch of folks from America who have no new ideas or money.

They will characterize them as a lynch mob waiting for an opportunity’ to jump’ at the prime minister. Should Dominica and its sons and daughters be treated and disrespected in such a shameful manner?

But how do they deal with Mr. Chavez and the Venezuelan shutting down the airport with no notice and no regard for our sovereign. I heard your apology Mr. prime minister but how can you apologize for the foreign folks actions and deplore and ignore our folks? Easily, especially if they give you lots of money it to run your campaign with impunity.

Of course this writer is thankful to the Venezuelan government for its support-but I think this relationship needs to be better managed. By the way how are plans for the coffee plant going and was it your idea Mr. prime minister or that of comrade Chavez?
Unfortunately, there may be a more dangerous force at work here.

Is Skerrit trying to provoke and let loose local ‘actors’ to embark and exploit the fragile ideological differences between Dominicans and their Diasporas counterparts for his political gain during the upcoming elections sensing that he has lost the Diaspora support?

Forget Dominica as long as he is the top dog that is what that counts. Civil society and' the good freedomites' who have defected to his side need to call Skerrit on this shameful and juvenile act.

This pathetic spectacle might be funny if it was not so serious. Only this time, we need clear and experienced leadership to work out the dynamics to help our island home put present and past petty differences between Diaspora and our folks in perspective and move on with the business of Dominica.

Where was the rest of the government? They have surely succeeded in making themselves look like little boys and girls in a big world. Small-minded politicians who cannot see beyond their chances in the election and bowing obediently to their dear leader. Mixing up geo-political strategy with domestic political ‘games’ in this way is a dangerous and unforgiving business.

Congratulations to the organizers of the Unity conference and thanks to the political leadership who attended and put forth their plans for our island nation. I must tell you that your work, love and dedication to our island home is much appreciated and is not lost.

Such behavior by our elected prime minister and government makes it a sad day for Dominica. In the process it diminishes all of us all of us who share Dominica’s ideals, hopes and dreams.

Take heed in the fact that you have emphatically demonstrated the unconditional love for the land of your birth. You are winners and this writer wants to thank you on behalf of all our people who have left our shores and also our forbearers who gave us the confidence to do so.

I hope you had an enjoyable time at home and God’s speed and safe travels back to the places you now call home away from your real home.


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Monday, August 17, 2009

Astaphanism and Dominican politics

By Wilbert Connor

The most closely studied political economy is that of the United States of America. The politics of this country is characterized by what is termed as special interest groups.

Lobbyists are professional bodies formed to influence the direction of government policy. Special interests are what they are, groups interested in pursuing particular activities and projects.
anthony astaphan
Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan.


They can determine where ‘earmarks’ are created and where they come to bear. Strategically, the elected government officials are positioned to carry out the calls of the special interest groups.

They provide bedfellows with campaign finance and the wherewithal to direct the local, state and federal elections. Policy initiatives are sometimes influenced throughout the tenure of elected officials and statutory institutions and individuals.

In the Caribbean, there are similar groups (usually businessmen) with similar functions. Historically, in the capitalist state, those with economic power have generally wielded political power whether directly or indirectly. Howell D. Shillingford comes to mind.

He was once upon a time the political king of the west coast partly because of his economic power - he owned a lot of land! Even the surname Charles was a powerhouse several years ago from J. B. Charles to Dame M. Eugenia Charles. Money meant power.

In our contemporary time there’s Astaphan: Anthony Waddy Astaphan (Tony), the son of Waddy Astaphan, grandson of Joseph Astaphan. They have the economic power and their affiliation have somewhat affected political power and direction in Dominica.

Tony Astaphan is an attorney by profession and his legal practice takes him across the Caribbean representing several prominent individuals like the Birds from Antigua, Dr. Kenny Anthony from St. Lucia, and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves from St. Vincent among others.

Of course, he’s popularly known as senior counsel by some and notoriously so by others. Nonetheless, this is an accomplishment he’s attained in his legal endeavours in 1999 bestowed upon him by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

When the Birds ruled Antigua & Barbuda Tony’s advice influenced government affairs there. Because of his outspoken and vocal nature and his consistent convincing manner of speech he is listened to. He continues to have much influence in the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and the Labour Administration.

He is considered the number one public government defender! He claims to be merely an advocate. Depending on the issue at hand he is more or less a defender of the government or of the prime minister. He has been a public embarrassment both here and abroad too as we shall see.

Let me at this point attempt to define ‘Astaphanism’. Astaphanism represents the concerted precept whereby Anthony Astaphan’s political and economic views are superior to that of others and should stand.

Tony Astaphan was instrumental in having Ambrose George removed as Finance Minister during the tenure of Pierre Charles as prime minister of Dominica. At the time he proclaimed that no one should be finance minister but the prime minister himself. We would all recall the famous line from him in relation to Ambrose George, “He knew, he knew, he knew….”

Think of controversy, and think of a mediocre spin on it in the Dominican political context. Layou River Hotel saga, justified; suing Matt Peltier and The Times for exposing the truth about questionable land dealings by the Prime Minister – justified; the opposition parties which represent almost 50% of the nation’s voters on the question of electoral reform – ridiculed as being unnecessary.

Astaphanism is thus derived from the conspicuous presence of Mr. Astaphan’s well-known public positions which carry through in government policy. He speaks for the Prime Minister (I guess with or without permission).

This is also expressed in his legal services that are employed by the Labour Administration. For all intents and purposes it sometimes suits the government to allow Astaphanism precedence over the Ministry of Legal affairs and the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Legal services provided on behalf of the Government of Dominica on the current and very famous Layou River Hotel/ambassador David Hsui case in the British Virgin Islands is a case in point.

It is alleged that much financial help and other support was given to the Dominica Labour Party during their campaigns especially in 2005.

A senior counsel in legal terms is a high ranking distinguished lawyer, but Dominicans probably know Tony as the de facto prime minister of Dominica. It is said that he speaks for the prime minister out of convenience.

Ladies and gentlemen, regardless of what you think, the man is listened to by all. Unfortunately, his criticisms of those he apparently does not like are distasteful and uncharacteristic of a senior counsel. This is apparent when he calls them names.

It reminds me of the colonial era when ‘certain’ human beings were considered inferior, or less than others. Humans are humans, and not animals. Genetically, biologically, socially and intellectually humans are characteristically different from animals.

In spite of this expressed attitude some people still like the man. He apologizes when it suits him and takes back the apologies when he wants. Remember though, he is not a politician. Some people are afraid of him because he is a high-powered lawyer.

Contemporary Astaphanism really began to take hold when the late Pierre Charles was prime minister of this country. The distinguished calypso writer Pat Aaron penned the words of “Puppet Master”, and this song helps to explain the whole concept a bit clearer sharing some insight into Astaphanism and Dominican politics.

Perhaps a closer look at this splendid work of art will help you decide one way or the other if there’s any such thing as Astaphanism in this small island state called Dominica. Please read these two verses as expressed in calypso:

Does your country have a puppet master,
Who controls all the people through their leader?
He controls for his profit
He has the leaders in his pocket
He trades economic power for political power
Dominica has its puppet master
He doh like no foreign investor
The government is in his hold
He doh like leaders who he can’t control

Puppet master never runs for office
For people’s welfare that is not his business
He doh want man who competent
To have no say in government
He’s the king of the law
Taking anybody as leader
Each time a leader dies he puts a successor
Each time telling the public this is the best leader
He really thinks he is a little god
He sees desi black girls as his reward.


Please read the lyrics one more time, digest and think it through. The song makes reference to power hungry puppet master and propaganda puppet master. Pat Aaron is skilful at analyzing one’s personality and fashioning words to ably communicate that personality to his listeners through songs.


Notable criticisms of Astaphanism

Well-known and eloquent US-based Dominican attorney Gabriel Christian had this to say about Tony Astaphan recently on the Hot Seat on Q95: “Senior Counsel is loose with the truth…; the man is injurious to the national interest”.

Christian was expressing utter disgust at the fact that Mr. Astaphan responded “no” to a question from Christian as to whether or not he’d read the Contract between the government and West Indies Power granting the corporation rights to explore for geothermal resources in Soufriere.

He was aghast at the unsubstantiated defense being put up by Astaphan as a senior counsel defending something he was ignorant about. These two gentlemen campaigned for the very same cause years ago, that was to get the Dominica Labour Party in government. Some things must have fundamentally gone very wrong.

He is always in a battle of sorts with one of the Caribbean’s best eloquent and investigative journalists Lennox Linton. The only thing they agree upon is that they breathe the same air!

The Griffin St. Hilaire - Pierre Charles succession plan issue now comes to mind. There have been documented inconsistencies in the position(s) held by Astaphan. According to one journalist Astaphan says that there was an agreement in principle for St. Hilaire to have succeeded Charles at one point.

At another time he stated that there was no such agreement. What are we to believe? Was there a concoction of sorts, a confused defender or deliberate misunderstanding of the facts?

The latest embarrassment for Astaphan was a live incident on radio when he sought to characterize Athie Martin and Angelo Allen as political antagonists of the government.

He accused them of concocting a story about what turned out to be a factual statement made by Dr. Edwin Carrington insinuating that Hugo Chavez’s position could possibly be the biggest concern for CARICOM at the Summit of the Americas held recently in Trinidad. Astaphanism was put to shame.

He later apologized but still sort of later recanted. His lack of research, quick to condemn attitude, political biasness took precedence over better judgment. Alas, it was not a court of law!

According to the St. Lucia Star newspaper dated April 8th 2009 he apologized to Sir Fenton Ramsahoye in a Commission hearing when he represented Dr. Kenny Anthony former St. Lucian prime minister. This was another silly mistake that could have been avoided by the gentleman because he got the facts wrong.

Perhaps the most notable was the Matt Peltier Roosevelt Skerritt court case. The matter is still current but from all accounts both the court and public opinion are on Matt’s side.

The PM has already paid over $51,000.00 to the State in the land matter and the Court Master recently denied Mr. Skerritt’s legal counsel, led by Tony Astaphan, a request for disclosure of sources of information by Matt Peltier and The Times.

Benefits of Astaphanism

- Astaphanism has proven to be an effective distraction to the opposition parties. They always respond to his points of views whether or not they can be validated as truth or untruths.
- There’s a fair share of Mitsubishis in the public service right now


Setbacks of Astaphanism (cautious points)

Distraction to the conventional political process. When sitting governments
allow non-elected members to be so influential in the political process this skews everything from who has real power to who actually wields that power.

Elected members and even ministers are subjected to his legal, economic and political positions on matters of national interest.

When the prime minister does not speak on selected issues the senior counsel speaks on them. By all means he’s a much better spinner!

How will Astaphanism play in the upcoming general elections? I guarantee you these public outbursts will continue and the labour party’s ‘advocate’ will have his say in spite of and despite… Let democracy reign.

Democracy is perhaps the political system which is supposed to allow freedom of expression to reign. In this system however, some are freer than others to do or say as they please. One’s ability to articulate well will be advantageous to the orator.

If you continue to repeat truth over and over again the listener will believe, and likewise if you are bombarded with what appears to be untruths and distortions all the time the listeners will eventually believe!


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Towards Dominica's 2010 general elections

By Wilbert Connor - Political Commentator

Perhaps a comprehensive and conscious effort needs to be made by all those concerned to revolutionize the manner in which candidates are chosen to run for general elections.

I concur with regret that any popular guy or woman in a community qualifies him or her to be called upon as a potential parliamentary representative, at least in Dominica. This is unfortunate even today when the intricacies of running, or rather managing a country are more demanding.
unity and progress
Leaders of the three major parties.


Granted, there is public claim that Romanus Bannis was a ‘good’ parl. Rep. – he beat two doctors to become the eventual representative for the Castle Bruce Constituency in 1990 and 1995. His popularity benefited the United Workers Party (UWP).

Reginald Austrie, the Minister for Petro Caribe has not been a role model for those who aspire to make politics a career. Mr. Skerritt has been able to use his youth, connections, and skills (not really sure) along with his training in psychology to make headway in his political life.

The increase in remunerations may at long last attract dedicated and bright minds into the political fold. The current government ministers have broken the record of being the first beneficiaries of a decent salary. The timing is a whole new and separate question of conscience!

The Freedom Party had Heskeith Alexander and Henry George holding significant ministries in agriculture and education respectively. Did they really help or retard these areas of development in the country? Thanks to them for volunteering their services over the years, however.

We must set standards and minimum requirements and qualifications for those wanting to serve the country at the highest levels. It’s not a matter of wanting to do it, but being ably qualified to be a partner in managing a precarious country like Dominica.

Charles Saverin and Julius Timothy, for all intents and purposes, have been a disservice to their (former) parties and constituents. We do know better that it’s not all for the national good as the reason for crossing the floor. Both Timothy and Saverin have used their ‘influence’ to desecrate the UWP and Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) by their calculated departure from their parties.

Leaders

Who stands out as the best political leader in Dominica right now? Your guess is as good as mine. Objectivity can help answer the question. Otherwise, if you profess to be a Labourite the obvious answer is Skerritt.

If you’re a UWP-ite, Ron Green (some may dare say Edison James); Judith Pestaina if you are a Freedomite, Dr. Riviere if you are a supporter of the PDM. Pappy has a massive listenership but not a following. What grants either of them the supremacy of leader in Dominica?

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is its leader but his presidency is highly questionable. Roosevelt Skerritt’s prime ministership has been questioned both here and abroad, just like Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad & Tobago is a born again Christian.

Let’s examine our party leaders. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is 37 years old. This has its advantages and disadvantages. He is sometimes confused about the way forward with a one track mind – it’s the One-China Policy- that’s it.

It’s the stadium (with no international airport and hotels, parking etc. to complement this albeit, needed infrastructure), that’s it! But is that what we judge him by? Well, by these of course, and his strong quest to keep (the new) Labour alive.

Ronald "Ron" Green was always looked at as quietly intelligent with hidden leadership potential. His varied and rich background naturally attracts a wide following. Whether or not we all agree this following spans across party political boundaries.

Will this really work out to his advantage as new leader of the UWP? Ron may create an interesting web of followers and command much respect, something which was lacking from his predecessor.

As the sole woman political leader in the game Judith Pestina brings with her some characteristics of the great old Dame. She brings natural acumen, a meticulous way of doing things and a certain level of boldness to the DFP.

However, I think her quest for leadership of this country is somehow delayed by her relative late start in the process. We still need to be mindful of her past distinguished career in diplomatic circles.

Dr. William “Para” Riviere is a political scientist, historian and lawyer. Sounds like the text book leader, the possible best there is. His style is best suited for an educated, sophisticated and well-read electorate.

Unfortunately, we have not reached that far in Dominica, politically. And so, for Para, I don’t think we know what we’re missing.

In Dominica, some of us vote for party, for individuals (the candidate) on our own. Others vote for any leader, just like that! Some get converted rather quickly changing parties like we’re changing clothes. Others ‘stay where their mother put them’. This is Dr. Riviere’s fundamental challenge.

The Parties

US senator and democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama showed in the United States presidential primaries that money mattered for effective campaigning and producing results. The DLP showed similar clout in 2005, and they won. The morality of the victory for some is another issue.

The UWP used a local strategists like Brian Linton to manage its campaign in 2005, while the DLP with all its financial resources had Hartley Henry et al. The DFP was swallowed up in victory to use a biblical expression, and the PDM was perhaps still in its embryonic stage.

The ‘none of your damn business where Labour got its money from…’ was a sour point in the last campaign. Some contend that the UWP should have played a little dirtier to get by. It was the Taiwan-China melee’ all through.

Traditionally, or so it appears local political parties are sought after to pledge allegiance to a world power player if they get elected. Will the UWP get back it demand status? Or, are those days a thing of the past?

Can the DFP reach that stage, or think about 2015? With the changing fortunes in the global economy would the Labour party become similarly impecunious?

The DFP’s finance base is unknown, although observers have noticed that some local businessmen in Roseau are beginning to show their support in more ways than one in recent times.

It’s an obvious demonstration of disgust with the status quo. What some of the well-to-dos have been waiting for was an organized and effective DFP to rally around the ‘indelible mark’ left by Mamo over a decade ago.

They do not think that they’ll be ready in one and a half year’s time but can create an impact with the UWP the next time around. The DFP shares common concerns with the UWP on the Integrity in Public Office (IPO) Act of 2003, concerns over allegations of corruption, and mismanagement of the country and economy.

Chances at the 2010 polls

Forget about the pollsters, al least for now. Strategists use pollsters to present the picture of the political state of a country at a particular point in time. The DLP uses these poll results to maintain or create a ‘particular status quo’.

The results may represent a true reflection of the particular state at that point in time. What have all the polls shown in the past? For one, we can agree that there’s a possibility of skewed results depending on who sponsors the polls and the point in time it was conducted.

The authenticity of the exercise must be determined by independent individuals or independent institutions. Interpretation of results is another factor that can influence a following to a party or away from the party.

It is widely believed that incumbent parties generally stand a better chance at re-election, ceteris paribus. Based on this theory, Labour has the advantage. The government has the government machinery at its disposal, the connections, the subtle, overt, covert propaganda machinery, the DBS, the GIS etc.

But, as we saw in 2000, this is not always the case. The DLP and DFP got into an (uncomfortable) marriage of convenience for a common cause ‘to get the UWP out at any cost’. Some think we are still counting the cost. Ask Mamo, well she’s dead, but check Crazy’s archives, or ask Athie Martin.

Talking about Athie, if Athie Martin, Lennox Linton, Angelo Alleyne, et al have their way a reversal of fortunes for Labour may just come through. Their resilient quest for justice, grace mercy and peace and the implementation of the IPO unceasing never may just bear fruit.

The UWP needs to go back to Edison James and its original themes of “Fear No More”. As we are on themes, as you are reading ask yourself if all are eating. I know it depends on who is answering the question.

If you’re eating, you may vote red again. If you are not eating, or were eating well you have a choice to make. It’s one of four: (i) don’t vote at all; (ii) vote the DFP; (iii) vote the UWP; or (iv) vote the PDM. Well, for entertainment, the pappy show!

The DFP has some momentum but not enough time for 2010 unless they have large sums of money to begin a massive campaign. They have quality in a cadre of professionals, but not quantity (a large following). The same may be said of the PDM.

So far, the average Dominican still sees the DLP getting back into power if elections are held today, vis-à-vis the lack of readiness by the opposition parties.

Skerritt’s reputation may have been tainted, but he still commands the title of most popular leader in the country, fortunately or unfortunately. Some contend that the DLP started its re-election campaign after it won in 2005 with unconventional methods of governing.

It’s alleged that ministers/parl reps give money directly to all and sundry for various projects, directly to village councils which are supposed to be politically neutral.

Ponder on this question: Are good candidates hard to find? What about Julius Timothy/UWP and the Roseau North constituency? According to Bob Marley, “Chances are…” What about Loreen Bannis-Roberts? Has she concretized her position in Castle Bruce? Is electoral reform too late for the UWP?

The UWP sees into the future and the crystal ball shows – no reform, we lose again because there will be no free and fear elections. The watchword for each party should be formidable candidates.

That should represent each candidate’s basic character. No longer would it be sufficient for DLP candidates to depend on the popularity of Skerro. That’s a phenomenon of the past. Labour has to garner strength from the freedom converts.

Swanson Carbon has repented and confessed his regret with remorse the indelible. His salvation and that of all true freedomites will only come if they support Workers in 2010.

No one party can stand alone, at least not just yet. Wizard’s words are still true, “Those were the days, brother those were the days….” when Freedom won landslides victories in the ‘80s. I reckon that not even Labour can do it alone, much less for Workers.

We must note the initiative by the UWP to have a sustained weekly radio programme, The Workers’ Voice. It’s a matter of quantity and not quality, though. It’s too monotonous.

The Political Hour is an unprecedented political radio programme with an approach that deals with issues from a grass-roots mind and spirit angle. Freedom & You is dynamic bringing back the politics of the ‘80s.

But how many people do these programmes reach with the education and opinions they provide? Somebody needs to conduct a scientific study. The government/DLP is in a category by itself taking advantage, fairly or unfairly of the media at their disposal: Discoveries on DBS with Cecil, Focus on Government with Mervin, The Heng with Mervin, and GIS etc.

The DLP has been campaigning since their victory in 2005! I know for sure that the morning talk shows have a greater listenership than the night shows. We may soon see political parties purchasing morning talk show time – it may soon turn to syndicated programmes.

An intriguing phenomenon over the last eight years during the life of the DLP administration is the fascinating number of ministers that have passed through the respective ministries.

This is just unprecedented and for fairness sake it has not just been for logical cabinet reshuffle only. There have been three prime ministers, four ministers of agriculture, and three ministers of education.

OK, two ministers of community development. There has been five attorney generals, three ministers of trade, three ministers of health, among others.

Never mind that the ministry managers, otherwise called permanent secretaries remain in place, but they have to put up with different minister changes each with different personalities, different visions for his/her ministry, and different temperaments.

A start and stop, stop and start modus oparandi of basic functions and projects is commonplace. Oh, what about the divide and rule philosophy of some ministries? Consider some examples: legal affairs, ports, attorney general’s office, communication and works, aviation, public utilities, etc.

What’s the rationale or sensible logic with all those divisions? My mind tells me that the minister must suit the ministry, not circumstances must suit the minister. This goes for any administration.

And there are some perennial seat winners who for some known and unknown reasons cannot be made ministers like Urban Baron, well “Rome” dead. However, Kelly Graneau got through. I guess circumstances made him what he’s been.


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hilarian Deschamp, independence and black consciousness activist

By Gabriel Christian, ESQ

It was with deep regret that I learnt of the recent passing of independence advocate and black consciousness activist Hilarian Deschamps of Roseau.

Hilarian, a graduate of the St. Mary's Academy was a founding member of the Black Power Movement and Movement for New Dominica - both organizations were prominent in the black consciousness tide sweeping the Caribbean in the 1970s.

hillarian deschamps
Hillarian Deschamps on the right with Gabriel Christian was at the forefront of the black consciousness movement in Dominica.


Later, Hilarian was a founding member of the Popular Independence Committee (PIC) led by Roosevelt "Rosie" Douglas. The Roseau affiliate of the PIC, Cadre Number I - or Sisserou Youth Movement - was based at Hilarian's home on Goodwill Road.

Hilarian Deschamps home for a long time was an improvised headquarters of the movement for national liberation in Roseau and subject to police searches and surveillance in the colonial period.

Hilarian was a passionate supporter of African liberation and organized support for movements such as the MPLA of Angola, FRELIMO of Mozambique and the PAIGC of Guinea Bissau.

It was at Hilarian Deschamps house that the news of the impending invasion by Mike Perdue and the Ku Klux Klan was disclosed to Michael and Roosevelt Douglas by Algernon Maffie.
Maffie, inspired by his patriotic sentiments, was adamant that no such invasion of Dominica could be allowed and that the government must be alerted. The coup plot information, later dubbed the "Bayou of Pigs" was subsequently turned over to Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, who promptly arrested and successfully prosecuted the coup plotters who included former Prime Minister Patrick John.

In later years Hilarian migrated to South Africa and worked a diamond mine concession in the western Cape region with his wife, Dominican born attorney Deborah Deschamps - Felix of Castle Bruce.

He returned to Dominica in 2007 to assist the development effort and was found dead at his home on July 20, 2009. Hilarian was, like so many leaders and activists, a flawed man who confronted personal limitations and challenges.

However, on the issue of independence, the rights of black and indigenous people to a dignified life, and social justice, he was committed to beneficial change. His home was always open to those of progressive thought and he was generous in sharing his knowledge of Dominican, Caribbean and African history of struggle for social change.

May his legacy where it concerned the quest to improve life on Dominica, the African Diaspora and Africa not be forgotten. May his soul rest in peace. A Luta Continua! The Struggle Continues!


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Human trafficking and Dominican migration to St Maarten

By Thomson Fontaine

It is a hot summer day late in 2005 and passengers on the boat called “Trik Pony’ know that something is wrong. The boat has begun to take on water and their captain has abandoned ship, taking the only safety craft on board, claiming that he was going on shore for help.
migrants
Passengers trying to enter St Maarten illegally on this leaky vessel in June 2005 are relieved at been rescued.


More than four hours have passed and the passengers are becoming more desperate. They know that if help does not arrive soon they could all drown. The sails on their leaky craft is torn and the vessel weighed down by the weight of the passengers and now water is drifting aimlessly in the waters of the Caribbean.

A few among the 62 men, women and children on board can swim and begin to prepare themselves for a possible swim to shore. Unfortunately, the shore is no where in sight. They are 40 miles away from the nearest piece of land in St Maarten, panic begins to set in.

Suddenly, there is a glimmer of hope. One of the female passengers from Dominica eagerly peers at her mobile phone, the only one on the entire boat. She has some signal. As anxious passengers look on, she dials a number and within moments she is patched through to the ST Maarteen police.

Within minutes, a coast helicopter and police boat are dispatched to search for the distressed vessel. It is soon found and after about one hour , the relieved passengers are towed to shore. The captain and his rubber dinghy are also located and he is hauled off to jail.

Their joy at rescue is however short-lived. Within a day of being rescued, the 52 Haitians and 10 Dominicans are on a chartered flight to Dominica.

The dramatic sea rescue was front page news in St Maarten, where the passengers were been smuggled to. This was nothing new to the St Maarten authorities. They already had confirmation from Dominica that there was an organized human trafficking trade centered in Dominica. What was different this time though was the large number of Haitians involved.

The authorities in St Maarten were already making noises about the large number of undocumented immigrants in their country. This time they were determined to act swiftly to put an end to this new threat.

Before the heavy flow of largely Haitian immigrants through Dominica in 2004 and 2005, several thousand Dominicans had already moved to that Island. Many in search of better opportunities in a country famed for its duty-free shopping and hordes of tourists.

In the past, the authorities had complained bitterly to Dominica about it inability to stop the flow of migrants pointing to the ease with which visitors could enter Dominica. They wanted action and were determined to fight to prevent the problem from escalating.

In April 2005, they had requested and got talks with the Dominica government on the human smuggling issue. Talks followed a case in which the captain and a crew member, both from Dominica, of L’Eternel est Grand had to appear in court on human smuggling charges. The boat had been packed with more than 40 persons and two persons had drowned. The captain was subsequently found guilty and sentenced.

In June of that same year, another boat captain from Dominica Jeremiah Flerin of the Dominica-registered boat Liberty was found guilty of human smuggling and sentenced to an unconditional jail penalty of four years. Four of the boat’s 51 passengers were from the Dominican Republic, 45 came from Haiti, while the captain and his assistant were Dominica nationals. The boat was only registered to hold 5 persons.

Their response would now be aimed at both the unwanted immigrants risking their lives to come by sea and those who were coming legally disguised as tourists, and had taken up residence in St Maarteen. Up to that point, Dominicans and most other visitors could enter the Dutch side of St Maarten without entry visas.

In January of 2006 through the Franco-Dutch Treaty, the authorities sought to control persons entering St. Maarten/St. Martin (St Maarten is Dutch and St Martin French). Visa restrictions were imposed for nationals of Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana and Suriname.

By the time the visa restrictions came into effect, there were already approximately 2, 568 Dominicans residing in St. Maarten from a population of about 20 000 undocumented immigrants, from over one hundred countries. Haitians led the way with the most undocumented immigrants followed by the Dominica Republic, Dominica and then Jamaica.

The number of undocumented migrants from Dominica living in St Maarten is about twice the number of those legally registered. In the 1998 elections in that country, 577 Dominicans were registered to vote with a further 500 believed to be living there legally.

These estimates would put the number of Dominicans residing in St Maarten at about 3 600 or approximately 4 percent of that country’s population.

The authorities have also moved more aggressively to return undocumented migrants to their home countries. In 2004, more than 311 were sent back including 47 from Dominica. During 2005 – 2008, a further 186 were repatriated to Dominica. It is widely believed that a significant number of those sent back reentered the county illegally using boats from Dominica.

In addition to immigration control, the authorities have instituted a more stringent employment permit policy, which the country’s labor commissioner said was geared towards reducing the exploitation of foreign labor and promoting the hiring of locals.

While the active trade in human smuggling has been largely curtailed, the daily challenges of Dominicans residing in St Maarten continues. For many who left their country in search of better living conditions, it has been a difficult journey, one made all the more challenging with the onslaught of the global crisis.

However, unless the economic situation in Dominica improves, it is likely that many will continue to risk life and limb as they go in search of a better life just across the sun drenched horizon.


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National Conference huge success despite government boycott

The Dominican.net Newsdesk

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his party members were conspicuosly absent at the Unity and Progress International Conference held in Dominica on Saturday. Organisers hailed the event as a resounding success despite government’s boycott.
unity and progress
The Unity and Progress conference called on Dominicans to unite.


No reason was given for the government staying away from the event that drew leaders of all the political parties in Dominica including Opposition leader Ron Green, Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) leader Judith Pestaina, Para Riviere of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Leonard “Pappy” Baptiste of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), and Adenaeur Douglas of the Real Labor Party (RLP).

The Dominica conference was a follow up to the hugely popular international conference held in New York on April 25, 2009. Under the banner of unity and progress, organisers hoped the event would begin a national conversation on bringing together the disparate interests in Dominica in a common cause of national development, particularly in light of the upcoming general elections.

The conference, which was streamed live via video over the internet and carried by the local radio stations, drew thousands of listeners and viewers, and began at 9:30 A.M. under the distinguished patronage of H.E. Dr. Nicholas Liverpool, President of Dominica.

Leaders of the various political parties used the opportunity to lay out their views on the current state of affairs in Dominica as well as their plans for the future. Opposition leader Ron Green called for a ‘green revolution’ in Dominica while Judith Pestaina of the DFP stressed the importance of good governance for the preservation of the country’s future.

PDM leader Para Riviere called for a model of sustainable development rather than a dependence on handouts from wealthy neighbors. Adenaeur Douglas cited the escalating level of crime and violence in the country and called for an increased emphasis on the youth and education. While pointing to his role in helping scores of Dominicans migrate to the United States, Leonard “Pappy” Baptiste urged the removal of the current government in the next general elections.

Conference participants also heard from voices in the Diaspora including that of Dominican economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dr. Thomson Fontaine, Lynton Scotland a leading executive of the major electricity independent power producer in the United States, and Audwin Hamlet an IT specialist residing in Atlanta.

Dr. Fontaine, in his presentation, called for the political parties to help unite rather than divide the Dominican populace along party lines, noting that Dominica was at a critical juncture in which its people had to decide in what direction to take their country. Scotland encouraged the development of Dominica’s own domestic electricity supply while Hamlet called on Dominicans to unite for a common purpose.

A panel of distinguished persons including Jean Baptiste Popeau, Bernard Wiltshire, Athie Martin, Shirley Allan, Dr. Clayton Shillingford, and Sevarin Mckenzie made hugely impressive presentations ranging from the problems faced by returning Dominicans to the environment, civic responsibility, housing, and the greening of Dominica.

Popeau, who returned from England to contribute to Dominica’s development lamented on the difficulties encountered by returning residents in assimilating back into Dominican society. President of the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS), Dr. Clayton Shillingford questioned why the government would stay away from such an important conference and reminded participants that it was this same kind of wanton disrespect for the diaspora that had resulted in government completely ignoring the Diaspora Policy Paper prepared by DAAS and submitted to government.

At his turn addressing the conference, former Attorney General and president of the Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation (WEF) Bernard Wiltshire pointed to a recent Stanford University study, which indicated that Dominica could solve all of its energy needs from coconuts. Wiltshire took direct aim at Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit for allowing quarrying to be undertaken by an American individual without planning permission. In his view, the people of Layou were been sickened, the limited roads destroyed, and the environment irrevocably damaged by the quarrying operations.

In his presentation, environmentalist and former agriculture minister Atherton Martin sketched the countless possibilities that existed for Dominica to take advantage of becoming a green country. He spoke of the planting of trees in exchange for carbon credits that could see Dominica earn more than US $25 million a year, the development of a sustainable tourism product, the recycling of tires to use in road construction, and village projects where individuals earn foreign currency from the planting of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Sevarin Mckenzie, a noted architect stressed the need for Dominicans to build homes and not simply houses. He outlined his vision for sustainable housing development in Dominica and called for better land use planning in the country. Shirley Allan, a leading proponent for greater diaspora involvement in Dominica, called for a renewed sense of civic mindedness among Dominicans and for the spirit of ‘cours de mains’ (the age old practice of neighbor helping neighbor) to continue to exist in the country.

In presenting the keynote address at the conference, Francis Joseph, National Director of ChildFund Caribbean (formerly Save the Children) warned of the emerging social issues facing Dominica including crime, and deviant behavior among the youth. He called for a reexamination of the country’s priorities and for respect and togetherness among Dominicans living at home and abroad.

Conference organizers also honored and recognized Gloria Walsh for her work among the underprivileged in Dominica and Sam Raphael of Jungle Bay Resort for his outstanding contribution to Dominica’s sustainable development initiative.

The conference was organized by members of Unity and Progress for a Better Dominica including Joan Bellot, Shirley Allan, Sevarin McKenzie, Hendrix Pierre, John Maynard, and Adam Dupuis, who also served as conference chairman along with Matt Peltier of Q95 FM radio station.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Felix Chen comments on the Layou River Estate BVI trial

BY Claudine Moore - C Moore Media

The trial involving the Layou River Development began in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on July 27, 2009. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Mr Felix Chen, Chairman and President of Sino Union were both cross-examined at great length by attorneys for Rich Victory and David Hsiu, causing the trial to be continued until the
week of October 19, 2009.
felix chen
Felix Chen is suing Dominica's ambassador to China David Hsiu over the Layou River Hotel project.


This first trial in the BVI Court will decide whether the majority ownership of
Shangri-la International Development Holding Limited (“Shangri-la”) is owned by the
Government of Dominica or Rich Victory Investment Limited (“Rich Victory”), a company
controlled by Dominica’s former Ambassador to China, David Hsiu. Both Sino Union and the Government contend that Rich Victory transferred the majority shares in Shangri-la to the Government in 2006. Shangri-la is the joint venture formed to develop the Clark Hall Estate, in which Sino Union invested US$20 million.

This lawsuit to rectify the shareholder register of Shangri-la, to officially record the transfer of 51% of Shangri-la shares to the Dominican government, was as a direct result of Mr Felix Chen’s intervention and insistence upon recognition of the Dominican people’s interest in the Layou River Development.

“I am very confident that this trial will result in a successful outcome and the majority shares of Shangri-la will be placed into the hands of the Dominican government and the Dominican people, where they rightfully belong,” said Mr. Felix Chen, Chairman and President of Sino Union “I am driven to make the shareholder rectification and the Layou River Development happen as soon as possible, so the Dominican people can experience the benefits during these difficult economic times. I look forward to working closely and collaboratively with the Government on these issues in the near future”.

About C.Moore Media
C. Moore Media is a boutique international communications consultancy specializing in
international public relations and communication services. The company is located in New York, and the founder Claudine Moore has been placed on The PowerList 2010:Britains Top 100 Most Influential Black People. twitter.com/CMooreMedia www.cmooremedia.com


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Saturday, August 8, 2009

In Dominica where religion and politics collide

By Dr Emanuel Finn

It is a risky and treacherous minefield where and when politics and religion overlap. In recent general elections, the nation witnessed some clergymen and other members of the ecumenical community serving as advisors and strategists of political parties instead of just providing spiritual advice and guidance.

The historic paradigm shift between some clergy members and politics has far reaching consequences. It is a rare church goer in Dominica who does not care about politics, but until recently it was a rare (or not at all) priest or pastor who will dive into the divisive and polarizing world of Dominican politics. This is a question of value and place that outlasts elections.
politics and religion
Politics and religion freely intersect in Dominica.


If this current trend of priests and pastors getting involved in partisan politics continues, people are going to judge them less as preachers of the word of God, men of devotion of a higher calling, spiritual healers and leaders.

Instead, they will lose credibility and will be judged as political stooge, puppets and false prophets and messengers of the bible and the lord. That is a dangerous precedence that the church cannot allow and afford to happen. Instead the church should remain as a beacon of hope for all the people regardless of political affiliation and/or sentiments.

The worst case scenario is if these political parties are tied to scandals and wrong doings (which almost always happens) then invariably, members of the clergy who are deeply associated with them maybe viewed by the public with suspicious eyes. Birds of a feather flock together.

We will need much more than wearing our favourite colours; green, blue or red to lift our country up. We will need more than conventions with Lapo Cabrit and drowning music but real dialogue and respectable debate to move our country forward.

We will need less of politicians shouting from the roof tops with all kinds of pronouncements and hurling insults at opponents and institutions that oppose their positions and platforms. We will real and mature leadership in this modern era. The election season does not have to be a Beelzebub and Lucifer period due to the bitterness that exits among our people during that emotional time.

There are some members of the clergy in Dominica whose writings and preaching has had a profound impact on the population. The teachings of Christ are used as a liberation tool in the struggle against social injustice, human indignity, bad government and governance.

These soldiers of the lord use what can be described as a form of liberation theology to speak and act against injustice and unfairness. These courageous men of the cloth belong to the progressive modern Dominican clergy and are not bought for a few Pounds, Shillings and Pennies.

They are courageous and will not stand idle while their counterparts are using the church as a bully pulpit to support their political parties instead of speaking against issues that the lord does not approve as the bible tells us.

Important issues such as family values and the righteous roles of men in society. Not just taking but asking and encouraging all men to practice and foster their responsible roles in the decaying and disappearing traditional Dominican family unit and structure.

The clergy should demonstrate real leadership on proper conduct of our leaders and constantly reminding them that their actions speak louder than their words and shouts of their supporters. The roles of leaders of our country are not just to talk about God and how great he is all the time but also embracing a Christian value system in letter and spirit.

Unfortunately, the opposite happens as politicians invoke the name of God to rally their bases and use the church to spill their partisan messages and gain votes.

But the noble men of the cloth should live by the example of the late Pope John Paul II. In December 1981, Poland’s feared and ruthless Communist strong man, General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law in the Pontiff’s homeland.

Jaruzelski’s regime applied draconian restrictions on civil liberties and imprisoned and killed thousands of demonstrators and trade union movement members. The Holy Father, who supported trade unions and the freedom of his people, visited his troubled land and spoke about faith, the human spirit and the love. Soon after martial law was lifted in 1983.

The church in Dominica should be the ultimate vanguard and watchdog of the constitutional and human rights and well-being of our people. It should never allow itself to be compromised and or intimated by any government of the day, colourful and overconfident political personalities and misguided political leadership.

It should never remain silent on unjust social inequity issues such as police misconduct, questionable and harsh judicial practices and behaviors. No one can question the wholesomeness of the Christian value system. The ecumenical community has a moral responsibility and has to appeal to the best in Dominica.


It is the moral duty of the clergy not to get caught up with these political dynamics which have dire consequences. However, the Men of God should always be willing to seek out the truth and speak it out loud. These men should use the bully pulpit to speak truth to power.

Failure to act on high moral standards is a gamble that the church cannot afford to take and risk throwing respect and standing as a cornerstone institution. Unfortunately, the church’s credibility could be replaced by laughter, ‘pappy show’ and ridicule.

The church must view itself’ as ‘Gulliver surrounded by Lilliputians’ (politicians) and as a Field Marshal leading the ‘Troops’ (people) in a long, moral and ethical battle of spirituality (not religion), life and living. Members of the clergy must take a hard look at their political behaviors and the degree to which their own conduct and statements undermine public confidence in their truthfulness.

Failure to heed this advice of staying above and beyond the messy political fray means risking their important responsibility and dignified place in society due to the ugly spectacle of mixing politics and religion.
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Mixing God religion and politics in Dominica

By Dr Emanuel Finn

Historically the church in Dominica has always managed to avoid politics and has for the most part struck to a defined role as spiritual houses for the people.
dr emanuel finn
Dr Emanuel Finn.


Lately there has been a refreshing and proud presence of brilliant native born and raised priests and pastors who are highly educated, vocal, patriotic and opinionated. Some in this group hold no secret to the political party and candidates they support and some have gone as far as campaigning for their political party and candidate of choice.

Partisan politics now reigns in the house of the lord almighty and in its church yards. This dangerous paradigm shift represents a break with the accommodating and conservative past. Today’s clergy are butting heads and throwing themselves and the church into politics mêlée.

Politics today has a profound impact on this new genre of Dominican clergy. This in turn is having a profound impact on how the people view them and the church’s role in society. But the nation, the church hierarchy and authority must be careful and double vigilant that some members of the clergy might be straying too deep into partisan politics.

The church should engage in public policy issues, debates and endeavours instead of politics. Partisan politics has the very real potential of dragging this noble and holy institution into disarray and confusion with long lasting effects.

Members of the clergy must be mindful that their public and not so secret association and involvement in politics can result in loss of respect as they can be viewed as instruments and agents of politicians and political parties.

What ‘colour’ robe will you be wearing this Sunday Father at the 9:00 a.m mass? Is it red, blue or green? Maybe you should wear white or brown Father. What colour tie are you wearing this Sunday Pastor?

I learned more than thirty years ago in that small Catholic church in La Plaine that the church’s role is to prepare and encourage the congregation, community and country to a spiritual togetherness, higher understanding, tolerance, sisterhood and brotherhood.

The church should continue to pray for strength, humility and fortitude for our country, people and political leaders. Beyond the question of strategic advantage and influence by the clergy in certain constituencies and the political parties they support, lies the gray area where voters and people’s impression of personal and civic morality of these religious men overlap.

The Labour party candidate for the La Plaine constituency professes to be a Born Again Christian and preacher but Petter St. Jean is arrogant and quick to condemn, insult and demonize anyone who does not support him or his party.

Any biblical scholar will tell you that this behavior and conduct is not in keeping with basic Christian–Judaism doctrines, values and practices. Rather it is the work and behaviours of Beelzebub, Lucifer and other false prophets and messengers who call God’s name in vain.

Nonetheless, ‘Brother’ St. Jean is in church on Sunday mornings singing and praising God for his goodness and kindness-‘Yes God is great all the time people and he is a forgiving God.’ The powerful prayer comes to mind here: ‘Father forgive our trespassers as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

According to the book of Galatians 6:7, many churches will reap what they have sown. Today, many seem to be losing their respect, and influence as well as their parishioners. Such a trend is quite noticeable in Europe and the United States.

According to the Journal Christianity Today, ‘Now the great cathedrals of Europe serve not as houses of worship but as museums, empty of all but tourists’. The same trend can be observed in other parts of the world.

Is there a possibility that the Dominican church can be viewed as false religion because of their cozy relationships with politicians and their political involvement?

Can the church just fade away from a lack of legitimate and popular support when the politicians and political parties they support are no longer in power? Will the younger folks identify with them and their tarnish reputations not as spiritual houses but as religious political camps?

And how will true worship be affected long term as the churches continue to mix the potent combination of religion and politics?

Our churches and its leaders need to display more responsible leadership and worry more about spirituality and healing and less about religion, political positioning and posturing. A great deal is at stake for the church as a cornerstone institution and bedrock of our society and the sustainable well being of our country and its people.



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Friday, August 7, 2009

On-line Dominica Food & Drink Guide published

Leeward Consultants officially announce the 2009 updated Dominica Food & Drink website www.foodanddrink-caribbean.com and the launch of a digital version of the printed magazine.

In February 2009 we published an even bigger guide, packed with:
- Restaurant & Bar listings
- Delicious recipes
- Interesting articles
- Chef profiles
all available for viewing on the website and digital version

Practical & informative, the magazine is a celebration of Dominica's culinary heritage and a tribute to the island's industrious farmers, fishermen, proprietors, bar & restaurant workers, and various organisations.

The magazines are distributed free of charge, island wide, all year, so make sure you pick up a copy if you are in Dominica or contact foodanddrinkdominica@gmail.com
For those overseas, printed copies can be ordered on-line at foodanddrink-caribbean.com

So take a look at our website and do check regularly for SPECIAL OFFERS and NEW content not in the printed version.

A huge thanks to all our advertisers, contributors and sponsors who make this publication possible and to our readers, we hope you discover something tantalising and tasty in DOMINICA (WAI'TUKUBULI) FOOD & DRINK GUIDE 2009.

“Mange Dominik” and “Bon appétit”!

For other on-line publications by Leeward Consultants see:
Antigua Food & Drink Guide.

Caribbean Homes & Lifestyle Magazines - each issue contains a Dominica section:
(Latest Issue)

Spring 2009 edition.

Earlier issue

Thanks also to our website partners
thedominican.net
dominican-diaspora.com
dominicasource.com
bawilinkup.com
coffeeandvanilla.com
dominicatravelguide.com
dominicanewsonline.com


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PM Skerrit commits to capital investment and social protection programmes

By Sean Douglas

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented global financial and economic crisis, Dominica’s Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit presented the 2009 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals to Parliament with a commitment to: increase spending on capital projects; continue to invest in the growth sectors of the economy; provide more resources for the poor and the elderly while at the same time continuing to address the country’s fiscal and economic fundamentals.
pm skerrit
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica.


On Friday, July 31, 2009, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit presented to Parliament a $445.8 million Budget under the theme “Securing a Brighter Future in the Face of Global Crisis”. (View complete 2009/2010 Budget Address (PDF))

The planned total expenditure for the new financial year 2009/2010 is $490 million (includes amount provided for by statute), a 6 percent increase over the estimated actual expenditure for the 2008/2009 fiscal year.

Of the total, recurrent expenditure is projected to be $321.6 million, representing an increase over the previous year of 6 percent. The budgeted amount for the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) is $168.3 million, an increase over the previous year of 7 percent.

The success of the Government’s debt management programme is evident with the announcement that the Debt to GDP ratio now stands at 81%, a “tremendous movement away from the despairing 131 percent of some years ago”. Total Central Government Disbursed Outstanding Debt now stands at $665.9 million.

Debt amortisation, including debt service accounts for $43.8 million or 9 percent of projected total expenditure. Government’s fiscal operations in the new fiscal year are projected to produce a current account surplus of $26.4 million.

The primary surplus, the widely used indicator of fiscal stance in highly indebted countries, is projected to be $22.8 million or 2 percent of GDP for the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

At 3.2 percent, Dominica registered the second highest rate of growth among independent member countries of the OECS in 2008, and growth is projected to be 1 percent in 2009.

The largest share of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) has been allocated to Infrastructural Development (35 percent). This includes financing for ongoing projects such as the Roseau Road Reinstatement project, Roseau to Melville Hall Road, Road Improvement and Maintenance Project, Road Network Improvement project and the second phase of the Vieille Case Road. Significant amounts have also been included for Soufriere/Scotts Head, Fond St. Jean and Tane Tane.

The Prime Minister also gave a progress report on the Air Access Improvement Programme, a major pillar of the country’s public investment programme over the past few years.

“I am happy to report that this project is nearing completion and we are on track to complete the final ‘package’ of activities before the end of this calendar year, 2009. This package includes runway surfacing, drainage, fencing, and installation of navigational equipment and lights…” Prime Minister Skerrit stated.

Even as governments around the world are cutting spending in response to the global crisis, the Prime Minister announced that his Government will honour a commitment given in 2007 by implementing the third phase of its income tax reform programme from January 1, 2010. This measure has put more money in the pockets of an estimated 8,331 taxpayers in the country.

“In the Budget Address of July 2007, I stated Government’s intention to increase the tax-free personal allowance, to $20,000 per annum and to reduce personal income tax to 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent in the respective tax brackets over a three year period.

This policy has been implemented in stages, with personal allowance now at $20,000(up from $15,000) and current tax rates now at 16 percent, 26 percent and 36 percent, (down from 20 percent, 30 percent and 40 percent respectively). From January 1, 2010, the last phase of the three-year programme to reduce tax rates will be implemented and the new applicable rates will be 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent respectively,” Prime Minister Skerrit stated.

In the new fiscal year, the Government of Dominica, with the assistance of the Libyan Government, will implement the Yes We Care Programme. Three hundred (300) elderly citizens island-wide will benefit from the programme and thirty (30) persons will gain direct employment as administrators and caregivers.

Government has also announced that with effect from this fiscal year, it will pay subventions to Day Care Centres and Pre-Schools.

In his Address, Hon. Skerrit also highlighted a number of initiatives and programmes that have impacted positively on the Dominican population, particularly the poor and vulnerable over the last few years. These include:

As at end June 2009, the Dominica Social Investment Fund, Government’s response to addressing poverty on the island, had disbursed close to $6.5 million on social development projects. The Fund’s financing commitment to date is more than $10 million, all of which will be disbursed during this, the final year of this EU-supported project

Increased the minimum wage rates for the first time since 1989

Eliminated tariffs on more than fifty(50) items , thus directly benefiting consumers when world commodity prices rocketed

Removed the Excise Tax on LPG

Regularisation of squatters to give security of tenure to those persons who occupy such lands, thus benefiting 297 households

Approved pensions were made free of income tax

Providing every centenarian with a monthly allowance of $500

Increased public assistance benefits benefiting many, especially the elderly

Hospital user fees were eliminated for persons 18 years and under and 65 years of age and older (exemption now also applies to persons between the ages of 60-65)

Over 1000 persons in the last two fiscal years have had their houses renovated and in many cases rebuilt free of charge by Government under the National Housing Repair and Sanitation component of the Venezuelan funded Housing Revolution programme.

Introduction of a free comprehensive school bus programme serving villages across the country with the assistance of the Mayor of the City of Milan. 811 school children are currently benefiting from the programme

Implementation of school transfer grant for children moving from primary to secondary school, doubling the amount after one year from $250.00 to $500.00.

The establishment of the Small Business Unit in the Ministry of Trade to plug the identified gaps in the delivery of concessional financing and support services to micro, small and medium-size businesses and enterprises already in operation as well as the smaller “cottage” type industries. Over $250,000 has been disbursed to date to some fifty-nine(59) persons.

As the Government looks ahead, the Prime Minister reiterated the fact that his government had done well in the face of the global economic and financial crisis.

“Madam Speaker, in the face of crisis all around us, Dominica has certainly done well in keeping its economy going; maintaining project spending and sustaining employment creation. Doubters and naysayers notwithstanding, this much is undeniable. Government has responded comprehensively and competently to the mandate given to it by the people of this country. Our stewardship has been good,” the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance concluded.


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Dominica Freedom Party responds to the 2009-10 budget

The chosen theme for the 2009-2010 Budget Address is “Securing a Brighter Future in the Face of Global Crisis”. But what the budget has failed to address is how Dominicans can actually secure a future in Dominica in the face of little or no job opportunities, rising violence and crime particularly amongst the youth, drop in health services, falling standards in education despite the introduction of universal secondary education, which if not addressed urgently will lead to a national crisis! On the contrary, the Budget has not presented government’s overall strategy for securing a brighter future but reveals a lack of any strategy at all.

GOVERNMENTS OVERALL STRATEGY OR LACK THEREOF
Prime Minister Skerrit spoke of our grave dependence on conditions beyond our shores. What is the administration doing to reduce our dependence and vulnerability on conditions beyond our shores?

Rather than providing a strategy to build a diversified and resilient economy and so reduce our vulnerability, this Government has made us more vulnerable by making us more dependent on foreign aid.

While we welcome foreign aid, it cannot and should not be the basis for making our people self-reliant and independent, in control of their affairs and in charge of their destinies. Aid is unpredictable and volatile.

We should not make the security and welfare of our people dependent on the interests of foreign governments for when these interests change we are left in a lurch. And this government fails or refuses to understand this whilst it goes about equating a development strategy with how much aid it receives.

This is the fundamental difference between the DFP and the DLP. The DFP believes that building a thriving economy depends on our own initiatives, using our creativity and natural and human resources. The DLP believes that mendicancy is the answer to unemployment and lack of income.

The DFP sees foreign aid as a cog on the rims of the wheel of the Dominican economy; the DLP sees aid as the whole wheel. The government’s efforts at economic development have been lopsided and minimal at best.

While the DLP is likening itself to the DFP when it was criticised as a government of infrastructure, what the DLP is forgetting is that the infrastructure built by the DFP created employment and income which was sustainable. We only have to look at the Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard and the cruise ship berth to see what we mean!

EFFECTS OF THE CRISIS ON THE ECONOMY OF DOMINICA
In reporting on the effects of the global economic meltdown, the Prime Minister tells the nation that Dominica has been adversely affected by the global downturn. He cites Remittances as having declined sharply. Foreign Direct Investment has reduced by about 50 percent. Growth will continue to decline. Et cetera, et cetera.

Yet, the Prime Minister says in the same breath that the economy has fared, to use his own words, ‘‘more than satisfactorily.’’ Which is it Prime Minister—are we in the land of plenty, much better off than the British and the Americans or are we to face a bleak economic outlook as you stated at the meeting of the Monetary Council of the ECCB held here three weeks ago?

Most Dominicans know where we truly are. Some disturbing statistics: a steep decline in tourism receipts during the first four months of 2009. Tourism receipts are projected to decline by as much as 3.6 per cent of GDP.


GROWTH
The PM boasts of an economic growth rate of 3 per cent as an achievement of his government. I suppose that after the DLP Government allowed the economy to decline by an unprecedented 10 per cent in two years, a 3 per cent growth rate is indeed an achievement for them.

But let us compare the results of the Government’s economic management with the rest of the ECCU region. Economic growth is generally referred to as an increase in per capita income. In 2008, the ECCB reported that the per capita income of the ECCU as a whole was $20,590.

What was Dominica’s per capita income? $13,475, more than $7000 below the average of the ECCU. While the real growth rate of the ECCU averaged 3 per cent during the reign of the DLP (2000-2009), Dominica’s economy again lagged considerably at an average of less than one per cent.

A 3 per cent growth rate cannot provide jobs for the hundreds of persons who leave school every year and the hundreds who are forced to migrate because of a lack of employment opportunities.

A Dominica Freedom Party Government will double the growth rate by making strategic investments in export industries with high growth impact, increasing productivity through upgrading of production technologies and training and re-tooling of the labour force, and aggressively pursuing Foreign Direct Investment. This is no idle boast or mere politicking.

In the 1980s, following the worst hurricane that has ever hit Dominica and the gross mismanagement of the Labour Party, the Freedom Party Government grew the economy by 6 and 7 per cent in real terms per year, and the distributive impact of that growth was far more widely spread than what obtains today.

While the PM says that ‘there is no fiscal or economic crisis in our country...” (Page 52) “our people deserve to take some comfort in the fact that we are not among the countries most adversely affected by the global crisis…..”; adding (page 26) “…while the official figures are not yet available on the country’s poverty and unemployment situation, we are very confident on the basis of reasonableness and logic, that there would have been a significant downward movement in both poverty and unemployment.

This is clear from the continuing increase in economic activity and growth, despite the global crisis and in the number of projects being executed all over the island.” he notes (page 36) that “there is no disgrace in seeking access to this facility that has been established precisely for the countries like Dominica reeling under the effect of the global financial apocalypse.

The contradictions continue (page 28) when he identifies “our country’s binding constraint, all things considered, is the insufficiency of the direct investment, domestic and foreign, that is needed to be addressed in the creation of economic growth and job opportunities.” These statements are inconsistent and a deliberate attempt to cloud the economic difficulties/realities to the public.


I now wish to highlight some of the productive sectors referred to in the budget starting with

AGRICULTURE
Agriculture has always been a vital part of Dominica's economy. The DFP objectives in agriculture are to ensure food security, but also to move to higher levels of diversification, production and productivity and to enhance our competitive position in regional and international markets.

This has been lost over the past decade and has not been restored by the policies and practices of the present administration. Land use practices must reflect the suitability of land to particular crops while a delicate balance between agricultural and industrial development and protection of the terrestrial as well as the marine environment must be maintained.

While the Prime Minister concludes that “our efforts in agriculture have paid off”, that conclusion is not supported by the facts; we continue to see, declines in banana production and export output, capacity to reduce the food import bill, reduction of employment in the agriculture sector, the farm labour shortage issue and out migration of people from agriculture. Are these the signs of Agriculture having ‘paid off’?

TOURISM

The Budget identifies the 2010 Tourism Master Plan as ‘a template for developing a range of products and services to advancing the sector over the next 10 to 15 years”. While we acknowledge ongoing activities such as the Waitukubili National Trail Project, EU financial support for destination marketing and rural tourism, the 3 year Eco Tourism Development Programme, development of new accommodation facilities, re-branding of our tourism product “Defy the Everyday – the Nature Island –Dominica’, we cannot agree that “ The efforts by Government over these past five years have gone a long way to lay a solid foundation for building a more vibrant and sustainable tourism industry in Dominica”. Why?

1. More hotels have closed down over the last five years viz Continental Inn, Vena’s Guest House, Sisserou Hotel, Reigate Hotel, Wesleyan Apartel, Castaways Beach Hotel

2. Existing hotels/guest houses are operating with skeletal staff and occupancy on average is less than 60 per cent per annum.

3. Persons with the requisite skills for the hospitality industry continue to be in short supply.

4. While the increase in visitor arrivals may have risen from 380, 769 in 2005 to 460,475 in 2008 these numbers do not tell the true story. The true story is:
• Cruise visitors number approximately 380,000
• Same day visitors approx 800
• Stay over’s approximately 79,000.

It is obvious that the segment of the market that contributes most to growth in income and permanent employment has remained stagnant at just above 70,000 (stabilizing at 70,000 plus but less than 80,000).

5. The environment has been severely sabotaged through continuing unplanned use of land for tourism development and an unclear land use policy

Tourism development cannot be sustainable in the absence of what seems to be a lack of integrated planning. This would entail policies which provide for development of the human resource for tourism, an agricultural policy which complements tourism development, safe and secure air access, and innovative use of our existing sites and attractions to enhance our tourism product.

Environmental protection and the importance of the relevant EIAs cannot be overlooked. I would strongly advise that this be identified as a major component of the planned Roseau River Promenade Project so that any potential natural disaster is averted.

By its own admission and quite contrary to laying a solid foundation for building a more vibrant and sustainable tourism industry over the last five years, Government states (see page 34) that “it will be more proactive in stimulating the economy through direct financial support to existing and start-up business ventures.

For years, stakeholders in the industry have been asking for such assistance and while we note that the AIDB has been “facilitated… in accessing inexpensive financing to be on-lent at equally concessional rates …” we have not been told how concessionary these rates will be. Given the challenges faced by small business in the current global economic climate, we would expect that this will be a package of measures which will not only be relegated to low interest rates.

It is important that the government and banks understand that where the income flow has become decidedly lower as a result of the current economic downturn, it will be important for stakeholders to keep businesses open and persons employed. Concessions being considered will therefore have to include not only the reduction of the repayment cost but restructuring of loans so that it is not just only the interest rate effect that should give some relief but also the maturity structure which if lengthened will also ease up repayment. What cannot be implied is taking on of new debt as income levels not only for the hotel sector but for all business in general have declined substantially.

So while we welcome the promised funds for private sector development, we caution that these funds must be appropriately designed to positively and significantly impact the unemployment rate and national income. Important issues such as diseconomies of scale and institutional support for the formation of backward and forward linkages must be systematically addressed if these funds are to have the desirable macroeconomic impact.

In light of the challenges faced by hotels and guest houses, it is not clear why the Prime Minister’ has decided “…to contribute all of the US$5.1million ...received under the IMF’s Exogenous Shocks Facility towards investment in a hotel facility… While we do not doubt the need for more export ready rooms, we believe that such investment is better left to the private sector.

Government’s role is to facilitate such investment and not to get in bed with the private sector to build a hotel which it hopes “… will succeed in leveraging additional financing from the private sector for a Government/private sector joint venture in this vital sector of our economy”. Experience elsewhere has shown that few if any such investments where Government is directly involved have succeeded…. Just thinking of the political interference which will ensue is in itself a recipe for disaster.

It would therefore seem to us that in this context, that money should be put towards increasing output for exports and greater marketing promotion of the island as an ecotourism destination.

What is however more worrying is when the PM (on page 52) states that “we are receiving financial support for our efforts from the IMF, not through a stand-by arrangement or even a PRFG, but through its Exogenous Shocks Facility , a facility from which Dominicans have nothing to fear”. Is he telling Dominicans that this financial support is free? According to the IMF, the ESF is designed to provide a buffer to low-income countries like Dominica to face exogenous shocks through loans which are more concessionary that is loans which carry an annual interest rate of 0.5 per cent with repayments made semi-annually, beginning 5½ years and ending 10 years after the disbursement.

A key objective of this financial assistance is to provide a bridge until the country has adequate stability and administrative capacity to implement a comprehensive economic program supported by an IMF engagement. So there is no free lunch!

The Government has identified tourism as the sector to spur economic growth following the decline of the banana industry. Yet, successive budgets have not reflected a decisive shift in resource allocation in favour of the sector. In this fiscal year, for instance, the Government has allocated only 5 per cent of the capital budget to tourism-specific initiatives (and I refer here to marketing and promotion and the EU-funded SFA 2006 programme).

By comparison, individuals and organisations are allocated 20 per cent of the recurrent budget and 13 per cent of the total budget by way of transfers to fund their current expenditures as opposed to growth-inducing expenditures. The budget for marketing and promotion of the island is $3.5 million. There are smaller islands in Caribbean with larger tourism marketing budgets. So much for the Government’s boasts of having a growth agenda! That the Government has failed to rev the tourism growth engine is borne out by its own admission in the Budget Address of its failure to attract Foreign Direct Investment in the sector.

CRIME
The Budget makes no provision for addressing the increase in juvenile crime which is becoming a major problem in Dominica. The DFP would develop community parenting programs which would help parents and communities to develop conflict resolution and anger management skills at an early stage.

It is important that Dominica is not left with a criminal sub-culture that will engulf the children of law abiding citizens and at the same time make life in the island intolerable with all its consequences for migration and economic stagnation. Curbing violence, whether this is a result of drug use or other factors, has important implications for the security and safety of locals and visitors. Investors (both local and foreign) will not invest in an environment where they do not feel safe or are not sure they will survive to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

The DFP will ensure the maintenance of an effective law and order apparatus which accelerates law enforcement through a transformed criminal justice system. Trials must be swift and punishment certain but just. Prisoners should earn their keep as far as possible and the opportunity must not be missed to re-educate and train prisoners for gainful employment and to be socially functional when they leave jail while juvenile crime will need to be given special attention.

The DFP will mount a nation-wide programme to inform society, particularly our youth, about the risks posed by the drug economy, money laundering and white collar crime.

ENERGY

The relief received from the provision of fuel under the Petro Caribe agreement is less than a dollar per month for the average consumer. This is negligible.
The delay in formulating an effective Energy Policy, especially one which takes advantage of Dominica’s hydro, wind, solar and geothermal potential, has cost consumers dearly.

This 9 year delay in placing geothermal exploration at the helm of Dominica’s Energy program will not only delay the relief to consumers of electricity by another 6 to 12 years, it may delay, in the best case scenario, much needed investments of industries which consume high volumes of electricity to generate employment.

If the exploration agreement with government which has not been disclosed does not leverage the resources for the people of Dominica to make this country a low cost energy producer from geothermal, then in the worst case scenario, we will be no better off than we are today because transmission and distribution of electricity in Dominica due to our terrain is prohibitive compared to our sister islands.

Poor procurement practices in the selection of the Soufriere catchments area may also jeopardise any benefits that may be realized from exploiting geothermal energy to generate electricity.

PETRO CARIBE

The PM said in his Budget Address that the financing offered by Venezuela for the fuel under the Petro Caribe Agreement is not a debt, not even arrears. The Agreement definitely says that the 40 % of the fuel price is financing offered by Venezuela at an interest rate of 1 per cent to be repaid over a period of 23 years. That IS a debt obligation.

By referring to the debt as ''technical arrears'', (a term used by the IMF to describe arrears that are to be rescheduled in the future but terms and conditions of which are not yet formalized with a (new) contract), is the PM implying that we are not able or won't be able to repay Venezuela and so we need to reschedule the payments?

The PM's statement rather than clearing the air on the Petro Caribe debts, as he boasted in his Address, has made the situation surrounding the Petro Caribe arrangements more confusing for the public. The bottom line is we still do not know what the long term debt is to Petro Caribe.


HEALTH

We see no major initiative to improve the quality of care at the health facilities despite the increasing level of public complaints. Additionally no metric is provided to guide us in determining what if any improvements we have made in the delivery of healthcare. Even with the announcement that user fees will not be paid by persons in the 60 to 65 age range, we did not hear what the quality of care available to them is when they go to our hospital and how that has improved year to year.

Our once envied healthcare facilities are now woefully inadequate to the needs of the country and even with the promise of the PRC, MOU; we are yet to see any moves towards improving conditions at our only hospital. The DFP will develop a much more efficient Medical Health System which will retain our trained people and other technocrats to get the development job done.

SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES
An unsettling feature of this Government’s approach to the management of the public finances is the frequency and growing size of supplementary estimates which threaten to undermine the integrity of the budget planning process.

Supplementary estimates are meant to cover unforeseen expenses such as rehabilitation following the passage of a storm. But even such expenses can, to some extent, be provided for by forward looking budgeting given the fact that we know we are susceptible to storms between June and November and we have relevant information from the meteorologists before the commencement of the hurricane season.

Recent Supplementary Estimates have been very large even when there are no hurricanes. The size of unbudgeted spending jumped from $28.6 million in FY 2005/2006 to $60.5 million in FY 2006/2007, and Hurricane Deane had not yet struck. Remember the hurricane was in August 2007 after the end of the 2006/2007 fiscal year.

For the Fiscal Year 2008/2009, the original capital expenditure estimate was $143.1 million. As a consequence of the Finance Minister’s supplementary budget, total capital spending reached $200.7 million. The supplementary estimates or what is more appropriate, additional spending was 40 per cent of the original capital budget and 13 % of the original total budget.

Supplementary estimates now include such items as road maintenance, payment of utilities, purchase of bins, retroactive payments and a host of other expenditures that can be properly forecast and hence included in the normal budgetary process.

Furthermore, the use of supplementary estimates has been abused by this government, especially the Prime Minister as he seeks to advance his politically partisan ends. These suggest a weakening of the budget planning process, which does not do well for proper and effective management of taxpayers’ monies despite the claims of efficiency by the Minister of Finance.

RECURRENT ESTIMATES
The Recurrent Revenue estimates for 2009/2010 is 10.5% above that for 2008/2009. One would have thought that with the rising cost of living and with reduction in overseas remittances, the Government would after three years of introducing VAT would now be in a position to EITHER reduce the rate of the VAT OR exempt a few more basic items from the tax.

The Government seems to forget that a number of tariff items were exempt from Consumption Tax before the introduction of VAT. These items which were exempt from Consumption Tax now attract VAT at 15% . Additionally, most services which now attract VAT were exempt from taxes before.

Imagine revenue from VAT has increased from $89.8 million in 2006/2007 to an estimated collection of $122.7 million in fiscal year 2009/2010, an increase of 32.9 million in just three (3) years! From VAT alone! If this is not taxation, then what is?

Dominicans must never forget that before VAT we paid consumption tax at 20% and sales tax at 7% and over 600 items were exempt from consumption tax. Today you pay VAT at 15% but every time the commodity value changes, at the end of the day, the consumer no longer pays 15% but over 45%.

While other countries have drastically reduced the VAT in face of the global crisis (,France has just reduced VAT from 19.6% to 5.5% to boost tourism) even if this is for a limited period, Dominicans continue to reel from this tax burden, yet the P M boasts of a tax free budget! Government’s claim of no increase tax budget is further illustrated when one looks at the tax to GDP ratio.

GDP stood at $1.02 billion EC Dollars in 2008/2009. While Government estimated it would collect $310.2 million in taxes in 2008/2009, it did collect $323.7 million in 2007/2008. Tax as a percentage of GDP is 30.96%.


FOREIGN POLICY
The PM (at page 52) notes that “our proactive foreign policy has served to elicit funding support for our programmes of economic growth, social protection and poverty reduction. This foreign policy has enabled us to borrow not only from financial institutions such as the IMF but from our long and trusted partners and friends”.

While we have not been told what our foreign policy strategy is I would assume that we subscribe to a non-aligned foreign policy which was more aptly described by the late Errol Barrow of Barbados as “friends of all satellites of none”. Our foreign policy should not make us more vulnerable and dependent on foreign aid. That policy should ensure respect for democracy and the rule of law.

It should also uphold our economic and political principles so that we establish the kind of society which recognizes the ability, integrity and merit of every Dominican, irrespective of party affiliation, religious belief or creed to benefit equitably from the economic system. While we are grateful for the financial support received our foreign policy must not undermine investor confidence neither must it have the negative impact which could lead to the loss of skills and capital flight.

If (page 27) Government’s development strategy is “continuing to pursue a foreign policy that is proactive and exploited efficiently and productively” it is even more imperative that in the face of an ongoing global economic crisis, our foreign policy like our development imperative must be balanced.

While we welcome the establishment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on Infrastructure and Governance, we note the omission of “Good Governance” as a fundamental flaw in the establishment of such a Sub-Committee.

While Governance describes the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented – or not implemented, “Good governance” accomplishes the process of governance – that is the steering of the people – in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption and with due regard for the rule of law. It is therefore disappointing that at the end of this budget address, the PM omitted such a critical facet for the ensuring of transparency, accountability and integrity in public office.

In their campaign for good governance and transparency; the World Bank and the IMF have identified corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain which negatively affects equitable development and sustainable growth. Corruption is also the major barrier to sustainable economic growth and development.

When government is not transparent and accountable to the people, it loses the moral authority to govern. Until there is full disclosure and accountability in respect of the recent scandals in public office involving the purchase of garbage bins and fertiliser (without tender and at exorbitant prices from the brother of a minister), the DBS Board Chairman fiasco, among others, the achievements referred to in the Budget will remain hollow.

A DFP Government will restore honesty, transparency, accountability and integrity to public office. This is why I have the pleasure to provide you with a copy of a DFP perspective on Good Governance. This will be augmented shortly by the launch of our 5 year EC 200 million dollar economic revitalization plan – mention of which was made at our last Press Conference.

A plan which puts people before power, a plan which will give hope and a future to our youth through a youth empowerment scheme (YES); a plan which will revitalize sports, agriculture, a plan which will combine education with job creation so that adults as well as young people can be guaranteed jobs in their country and secure a brighter future which will enable them to overcome any local challenges in the face of a wider global crisis. This economic revitalization plan will seek to empower all Dominicans as we strive to build a sustainable economy for all.


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