Dominica a country weighed down by despair and incompetent governance
By Thomson Fontaine
January 13, 2018 9:20 A.M
Roseau, Dominica (TDN)
- Dominica’s future has never before appeared so bleak and as we move into 2018 there is very little reason to be optimistic. Indeed the main factors which has contributed to the country’s demise in the past has been amplified by the hard hitting Hurricane Maria, a storm for the ages.
To begin, Dominica’s economic fortunes have waned over the years. Under the rule of the Skerrit led Dominica Labour Party (DLP), from 2000 – 2016 economic growth averaged 1.3 percent compared to 4.6 percent under the Dominica Freedom Party (DLP) 1980 – 1995 and 2.8 percent under the United Workers Party (UWP) 1995 – 2000.
This is deeply troubling because it means that with continued DLP rule things can only get worse. Such is the case because the DLP administration has demonstrated a perplexing lack of competence with a mismatch of ministers ill prepared for the task. Worse, not appreciating their shortcomings they have failed to seek and implement good economic advice.
Nowhere was that better demonstrated than when the government decided that the industry, which had given the country so much, agriculture was no longer of consequence. To make matters worse in a mindless policy move it sought to develop the tourism sector without considering the need to facilitate tourists’ arrivals into Dominica.
One could argue that a half-hearted attempt was made to spruce up Melville Hall airport even putting lights to accommodate night landing but that failed spectacularly, coming to an end shortly after it started. So after millions spent on a supposed upgrade the airport is today seeing fewer visitors than we saw in the early 1980s.
Any basic thinking would have revealed that for a successful tourism product there needed to be an international airport and many more hotel rooms than the paltry 780 that existed on the eve of Maria.
Having failed to secure the agriculture sector the economy grounded to a halt long time before hurricane Maria. Youth unemployment have spiraled out of control, poverty levels are rising rapidly and quickly eroding what’s left of the middle class. In addition the attendant social ills have made life on the island miserable.
Before Hurricane Maria the country was plagued by (i) corrupt and incompetent governance, (ii) high outward migration and (iii) galloping poverty and high unemployment.
Maria has succeeded in amplifying these ills, which if left unchecked can only lead to further ruin. Let’s take for instance the state of governance. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has apparently determined that his best hope for legitimizing his leadership is to mount a relentless campaign against the opposition and destroy every legislative control meant to keep him in check.
He single handedly destroyed the Integrity in Public Office (IPO) Commission by downsizing the office and more importantly removing its ability to challenge his ‘sources of wealth’ concerns raised previously. Not content to risk the abject rejection in the polls the prime minister brazenly moved to enact legislation that would legitimize bribing of voters, support a bloated electoral list, and effectively curb electoral reform.
But for the brave protest action of a handful of patriots, which forced suspension of the legislation, electoral reform would have died a painful death in Dominica and paved the way for his party’s continued stay in power.
On September 20, 2017 just two days after the passage of Maria key members of the Opposition were to be summoned in court on trumped up charges of initiating a February 7 coup against the government. This callous attempt to destroy the opposition by using the Court system is just another in the shameful attempts of this administration to retain the reins of power.
In a spectacular display of its incompetence the government failed to adequately address the concerns of Ross University or even attempt to proactively engage them before they made a decision to move to the United States, without a firm assurance of return to Dominica.
The medical university has been in Dominica since 1980 but while it has grown and developed the corresponding infrastructure so critical for a learning institution has stagnated. The Portsmouth Hospital is now in a worse state than it was in 1980 and the Princess Margaret Hospital has scarcely improved during that time.
No doubt one hears and feel the squeaks and groans of a country labouring under the weight of plain incompetence and a government incapable of doing right by its people. Will this situation explode in spectacular fashion in 2018 with social unrest or will good sense prevail?
For the year ahead the Dominican public must be given electoral reform with the reasonable assurance that those remaining on the Island will be given a fair chance for determining their destiny.
Anything less will impose a cost which will be clearly too great for the country and its citizens, or at least those who remain. Official numbers provided by government indicate that a staggering 25 percent of the population (17 000) persons used Maria as an excuse to flee the country. At the same time, hundreds of jobs have been lost as a direct result of Maria and there is little expectation that they will return anytime soon.
The country continues to limp along post Maria
In the meantime with the government appearing to be overwhelmed with the task of rebuilding the country after Maria and seemingly unable to match the task the country appears lost and in a state of perpetual despair.