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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 22 - Friday, May 31, 2002
The Cause of Dominica's Economic Plight
The economic plight of Dominica, which led to the recommendation of stiff fiscal and monetary measures by the IMF, is the result of incompetent governments failing to utilize our qualified people.

by: James Abraham

A few days ago I was sitting on an airplane approaching an International Airports and due to heavy traffic our plane had to circle a number of times. While maneuvering to get into position to land, the plane made a number of banks and sharp turns, which made it a little uncomfortable for me. As I sat there I began reflecting on situations in my personal life and at the same time I could not resist focusing on the current situation in my birth land, Dominica.

I was reminded of a story that I heard while employed at a prominent University. It was of this man and his wife who were at a small air strip watching a stunt pilot perform his flying routines; dives, flips, loops, upside down and stall etc. All in all it was quite a show. When the stunt pilot landed the plane, the young man went over to him and said, "You know, that must be fun. I've always wondered what it would be like to fly because I have never flown in a plane in my life".

The pilot replied, "I tell you what, I'll take you and your wife up and in addition if you can ride with me for an hour without screaming, hollering or saying anything, I'll give you $10". The young man agreed. Well, they took off and as the saying goes, this stunt pilot "let it all hang out" in an attempt to make this young man say something. He performed every routine he knew and more. After the hour the pilot landed the plane and after they got out, he said to this young man, "you are the best I have ever seen. Here is your $10". The young man replied, "You know, that was the hardest $10 I ever earned in my life. I almost said something &when my wife fell out".

Now, this question please. Do our leaders and politicians have individuals assigned to help with the apparent bad and poor management habits in government both past & present? While I'm not judging our politicians who may be engaged in such bad management practices in our country, I realize that one or more of such habits can become and have in fact become very destructive for the country.

For example it can start off and perhaps may have started off as an occasional one or two poor management acts. Incompetent some may add, poor, or no accountability, over spending, excessive and unnecessary travel with no follow up action, an unnecessarily large cabinet, spending above the means of government, which quickly escalated to three or four, and then there it is the IMF to the rescue.

As a professional in government affairs and working along a very wide and diverse sector of experts including economists, agriculturists, and environmentalists on almost a daily basis, I can certainly relate to my country's ailing problems. While on that plane, circling around to land and almost being tardy for a lecture, I reflected seriously on how fortunate my birth land (Dominica) has been to have such resources at its finger tips but yet its' leaders, for unknown reason(s) have continued to fail to recognize and acknowledge such resources and potentials.

Here is a question we should ask ourselves. Have "bad decisions and habits" become an epidemic on Dominica? Whats the answer? If you have the need and resources are available, why not use your own? For example, Dominica has in abundance brilliant sons and daughters which, had our politicians been pro-active, and not hardheaded could have made good use of their expertise.

Dominica possesses experts such as economists, environmentalists, natural resource personnel, architects, agriculturists, tourism experts, planners, etc. who could help rescue our country, by at least attempting to avoid having to face the IMF who has historically done far worse to countries before it could get better. We should have been consulted to help the government take preventative steps that may have prevented us calling on the IMF for assistance. We seem to have forgotten the negative experiences of our neighboring islands of Barbados, Jamaica and others and we have failed to take just one page off these countries history books and apply it to our current situation.

Unfortunately, knowing us as a people, we will all sing the good old cliché "It's not that easy or simple"&you are not on the "ground" and the asinine that goes along with it. But I disagree. I strongly believe that our politicians, both past and present should have had the foresight to envision that day ahead, and should have taken immediate steps to avoid such tragic situations, which could potentially destroy a lot of lives on the island.

After all, I can't help but point out this fact. Our local calypsonians (who are so often not recognized) saw this situation coming a long time ago. Upon reflecting and listening to some serious and well-penned lyrics, one can't deny the obvious fact that our calypsonians had it down packed. So why did our leaders and politicians fail to foresee such a situation and at least pay some serious attention?

Unfortunately, it would be unfair to only blame the government for this mess (regardless of party affiliations), because the leadership of our trade and professional unions has also failed its general membership by not seeing this as well. The nonchalant and lack of being pro-active by our civic communities, City, Urban, Town and Village Councils, government (past & present), businesses, politicians, religious groups, clergy, pastoral/ministerial stewardships, organizations, farmers, and the general constituents all failed and the blame is in abundance and must be shared for our country's demise.

Coincidental, but true, it is only now that almost every trade and professional union leadership on the island sees it fitting by taking a position and speaking out against the pending IMF proposals. However, I caution the layperson to not lose sight on these leaders, as it would be rational and appropriate to ask what's the motivation here?

Is it because some lavish life-style is being threatened by the pending IMF proposals? What Dominica needed a long time ago and I am afraid still needs, is unity and for us to come together to work as a team in sensitizing the citizens of Dominica in this historical moment of our existence. The question is, however, are we mature and humble enough to do just that? Can we cease all the political alignments, blame, envy and cursing and focus on keeping our eyes on the big picture?

Can the Dominican parliament all come together above party politics and do something in the history of our country by addressing this crisis? The point is, with all these dives, flips, loops and turns the pilot was able to land the plane safely. Has our pilots been navigating our country in manner that they can land it safely? Our complacent attitude and the tendency to become very dependent may have contributed to the economic turmoil that we are now in.

Sadly enough, when the "flight data recorder" for our economy is finally found it will reveal that too many safety and policy rules were violated and that is why it crashed. Now, we have no choice but to have the IMF loan us a bail out aircraft so to speak, while we can chart a recovery approach. Of course, with that must come stringent guidelines and directions, after all we have already proven that we can not fly a plane properly so we need experienced pilots to guard us along until we become proficient.

Unfortunately, in keeping with such guidelines the administration will have to, at least, consider downsizing the civil service in an effort to satisfy the IMF, if we need to be bailed out of this mess and we do. With the same token, it would be ludicrous and unconscionable for the administration to not consider reducing its own cabinet as well.

In addition, it is paramount that the administration and the special interest groups recognized the needs for some kind of consolidation and restructure method of governmental services and agencies? It is imperative that we as a people get away from this blame game, as it is common knowledge that there is enough blame to go around -- so the pointing fingers at anyone administration would be inappropriate and unfair.

The reality is, and has always been, that many of our leaders have made very bad decisions and exhibited poor judgments. The nonchalant and proud mentality that not even our brilliant and qualified sons and daughters are good enough to utter any word on the direction that our birth land should take, has been a significant contributor to our demise. We have rejected Dominicans, especially in the Diaspora, by not recognizing them and taking their advice and recommendation.

Now, we have the audacity to wonder why we are where we are today and to fault the IMF for stepping in. I am not advocating for the IMF recommendation for Dominica, but with the same token we must be fair and rational in our deliberation and analysis of how, why, and when we got to where we are today. Obviously we have found ourselves in dire straight and as such have no choice but to accept the terms and conditions, if any, of these lending institutions.

Our country, however, in the true sense of the word is a socialist state as compared to capitalist. Bearing this fact in mind, one must understand that the IMF typical conditionalities are often geared towards reduction of incomes, employment, and demands for and on services, goods, downsizing and other vulnerable variables. The fact is we knew of all these possibilities but failed to act pro-actively in taking preventative measures to avoided resorting to the IMF for assistance.

Instead we crashed the plane into the ground destroying the aircraft. Fortunately, for us all the passengers survived, some severely injured and some will lose limbs, etc. so to speak. In retrospect had we listened and utilize our qualified people we would have perhaps avoid such terrible crash landing. With that in mind, it is imperative that we as a people now determine our own destiny and chart that course of action. The IDP or a Comprehensive Plan is our only chance on capitalizing on drafting our country's future.

Ironically, some of Dominica's brilliant sons and daughters have been assiduous and authored splendid ideas, recommendations and suggestions to our country's administration both now and in the past, on ways to move our country forward, but our leaders have failed to act upon such recommendations. We in the Diaspora have made history by doing what no other country has done before, not even our politicians, by recently putting on this Diaspora symposium. We placed aside party politics, and came together as a team of experts in diverse areas, to put together this symposium that produced several excellent articles written by Dominicans but our administration still failed to be become pro-active.

We seem to operate in the same modus operandi, with a regressive and don't care attitude. We continue to fail to take heed and advice from others and resist change with a passion, especially when it's our people who are the authors of such change and recommendations. Barbados and Jamaica (just to name a few) have taken serious steps in charting their course of action.

Unfortunately, Dominica need it citizenry including, those of us in the Diaspora communities to come together to make our birth land the model of the Caribbean region, by turning decades of poor habits and mistakes into a positive outlook for the future. We must chart our own course of action, as it is time for us to give back to the island and cease the dependence on government for everything.

To accomplish that it is imperative that we realize, as a people, that our islands ailing problems have been a direct result of our own doing and neglect, don't care/ know- it- all attitude. As we attempt to move our country forward by charting our course of action and navigating that plane to it final destination, we must tackle the basics that we have been overlooking for far to long.

My hope, my aspiration, my vision and expectation is that we do not forget our formative and cultural upbringing that makes us so unique as a people. We have become everyone else, adapting to everything else but what we really are and as such our "Nature Isle" shall soon be no more and how much of us really care? This question we should all ask ourselves instead of casting blame.

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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 22
Public Servants Debate Stabilization Levy
Melville Hall Airport
The Cause of Dominica's Economic Plight
In Your Own Words
In Defence of Dr. Peters
Sports Highlight

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