Presenting a live broadcast of the ground breaking ceremony for the new West Bridge. If you do not see the video embedded in this post, you can click here to view.
Below is the Prime Minister’s Feature Address:
• His Excellency Charles A Savarin, President of Dominica and Mrs. Savarin
• Cabinet Colleagues
• Senator Hon. Miriam Blanchard, Minister for Public Works and Ports
• Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Works and Ports
• Other Permanent Secretaries
• Staff of Public Works and Ports
• Representative of NSG Management and Technical Services Limited
• Senior Government Officials
• The Media
• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I can recall a popular sitcom from many years ago entitled “Norman is that you?” This evening I look at this engineering design….and I am tempted to ask the question….’Dominica, is that you?’
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what we envisaged and this is what we were talking about, when two general election campaigns ago, we said we would ‘take Dominica, to the next level’.
To many naysayers, this project may appear to have taken a long time to reach the stage of commencement. This afternoon I defend this, by saying…that’s because we wanted to ensure that what we construct for the people of Dominica is best suited to their needs.
When we said, post Tropical Storm Erika, that we would ‘build back better’, we also meant build back more attractively and also more modern.
This evening I commend former Minister Hon. Ian Pinard, current Minister, Senator Miriam Blanchard and the staff of the Ministry of Public Works, for their diligence and professionalism, in coordinating this project to date, with the consultants from the contracting firm, NSG Management and Technical Services Limited.
We are but turning the sod this afternoon, and it will be months before we actually traverse this bridge. But, I am prepared to say, from now, that its very concept, both in terms of its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal, has already revolutionized how we perceive and what we desire for our capital city of Roseau to become.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, my excitement this evening flows not only from what the eyes can see, but, more so, from what the mind can conceive.
I cannot say to you decisively now, where the financing will come from, but I am saying to you this evening, that the Roseau Enhancement Program must and will be pursued and implemented; because we cannot have a 21st century bridge at the entrance to a 19th century city. And since we are proceeding with this new age bridge, we have, of necessity, to also move forward with our plans to modernize the city.
So from the outset this afternoon, I am making known the intention of this Dominica Labour Party administration to forge ahead, albeit at a reduced pace, with the upgrade and modernization of our capital city, Roseau.
This Government is committed to pursuing a highway, sidewalk, drainage and lighting enhancement program, that will transform the experience of pedestrians in particular, all citizens and visitors alike, who traverse our city streets for work, shopping and recreational purposes.
Additionally, we shall, in the lead up to the next budgetary process, commence in depth discussions with commercial and residential property owners in Roseau, with a view to arriving at a regime of concessions for the systematic upgrade of privately owned properties in Roseau.
There is nothing I dislike more than looking out from my office window and seeing some of the tired and weather worn roofs and structures of some buildings in Roseau. The city is not going to be transformed overnight but today the process is starting.
I will have much more to say about this later in the year and in my Independence Message to the Nation, but, I merely wanted to wet your appetites this evening, and to set you thinking along the lines of how, in six short years, we can make Roseau the true ‘Darling City of the Caribbean.
So this evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not here merely to witness the start of construction of a new bridge and the much needed river wall rehabilitation. We are here also to signal a determination to forge ahead with the modernization of our City; that will lead to an improved and enhanced experience for pedestrian and motorized commuters.
I have no doubt that the contractors, NSG Management and Technical Services Limited, overseen by the Ministry of Public Works, will do an excellent construction job. But that is just the beginning of the process.
What is even more important than the construction of this bridge, is the necessary and needed assumption of ownership by you, the people of Dominica, and particularly, persons traversing Roseau on a daily basis.
Those of us who have had the experience of traveling to America, Asia, Europe and even countries closer to home in the Caribbean region, would know that the distinguishing feature of several cities, is not the enormity of buildings and bridges, but, the upkeep of such, and the cleanliness of their surroundings.
Take the much vaunted Singapore, for example. There are not many structures there that out-characterize this new bridge, in terms of structural and engineering innovation, but what I can tell you, is that around such edifices, is a pristine landscape, maintained, not only by the State, but, through the behavioral patterns of every single person traversing that City.
Rules and regulations initially may have triggered the appreciation for cleanliness, but I get the impression that for many persons there, environmental consciousness has now become a way life.
Interestingly also, in a city that attracts millions of visitors a year, you find that when tourists visit and find a clean city, they are conscious of its cleanliness and they too are inspired to keep it clean, notwithstanding any law that may require them to do so.
So the point I am making to you this evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that this new bridge and its environs, will only be magnificent and majestic, if we adopt a deliberate consciousness and practice to keep it that way.
If Dominicans do not litter this bridge and its environs, visitors to Dominica will not litter this bridge or its environs, either. It is as simple as that.
In the process, we shall have its picture-perfect beauty, still manifested months and years after its installation and commissioning. That is what great cities are made of, Ladies and Gentlemen. Not just steel and concrete, but pride and maintenance.
It is important to note, also, that we are embarking on this major project this evening, not by imposing additional taxation on you, not by contracting costly loan financing, but we are able to undertake this major eighteen million dollars ($18 million) project by utilizing resources raised from our Citizenship by Investment Programme. Ladies and Gentlemen we cannot underestimate the significance of such an achievement.
Eighteen million dollars ($18 million) is a lot of money for a country like Dominica, particularly, post Tropical Storm Erika.
A few weeks ago I visited and addressed several new citizens of Dominica in Europe, Asia and particularly Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. I impressed upon them the importance of their contributions to the development and modernization of our country.
I am sure they will all be proud when news of this project, to be financed 100 per cent by proceeds from their contributions, is circulated and made known.
Notwithstanding the significant benefits that our country has thus far realized from this programme – and I can point to many, some in our midst continue to deride this programme and do their utmost to black eye and besmirch the name of Dominica internationally. I am saying to you this evening, that it is projects such as this, which they are undermining, when they continuously spew forth negative information about our beautiful island home.
Some of these new citizens have never visited Dominica, but they are proud and grateful for this new sense of belonging, and they are eager to contribute even more, and on a sustained basis, to the development of our country.
Indeed, some of our agents abroad are in the process of assembling a group of professionals, who are also new citizens, to visit Dominica, to identify and appreciate areas of need where they can assist and lend of their many years of collective training and experience.
They will be coming to Dominica, at their own expense, for a few days, to determine how, as doctors, engineers, architects, scientists, educators, horticulturists and environmentalists, they can help in fast forwarding the development of our country.
I do not want them to arrive in Dominica to an environment of hostility, anger or hatred. I want them to feel welcomed and appreciated.
That is why, once again, I advise those who seem to make a favorite past-time of tearing down Dominica, to cease and desist from this less than desirable conduct.
Our progress as a nation is being stymied and stifled, as a result of the constant negative publicity the country is receiving, at the instigation of persons who are paid by the State, to promote its best interest.
This evening, for example, were we in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Bridgetown, Barbados or even Castries, St. Lucia, the news tomorrow, next week or next month would be that the country is getting a spanking new, structurally appealing bridge, that welcomes locals and visitors alike, to the capital city.
Do you think that is the picture that will emerge from today’s function, from all sectors of the society? I say nothing more than…let us wait and see!
This new bridge is nothing more and nothing less than what Dominica deserves.
It is nothing more and nothing less than what Roseau requires. We have to use the occasion of post Tropical Storm Erika to aim for the stars.
I heard recently where some were bemoaning the absence of greater tax concessions. They say nothing about the absence of new taxation for several years now, but dwell only on the retention of a few impositions that are helping to maintain an exemplary education system, an improving health care service and a network of social protection services, that are the envy of many neighboring countries.
I want to say here again this evening that the development of Dominica is first and foremost the responsibility of Dominicans residing in Dominica.
Dominicans living abroad have a role to play, but you who are here, and who benefit on a daily basis from the improvements and services that are available, must be more inclined to accept ultimate responsibility for their provision and maintenance.
We have reduced personal income taxes at a time when neighboring countries have increased personal income taxes. We have reduced corporate taxes, in an environment where other countries are increasing corporate taxes. We have subsidized and controlled the price of fuel at the pump, at a time when other countries are holding up Dominica as a model for the containment of inflation.
So while some in our midst, who themselves never ran a race, far less a business enterprise, can offer reckless ideas on the trot, we are meticulously balancing the fiscal management of this country, so as not to undermine its medium and long term economic wellbeing.
This idea of constantly playing to the gallery and wanting to score cheap, partisan political points is unbecoming of legislators, in this, the lead up to our 38th year of political Independence Thoughts, actions and utterances at this time, ought to be influenced by what’s best for Dominica, irrespective of what side of the House a person is seated.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a happy and momentous occasion for us all in Dominica.
By itself, standing alone, this is just a bridge. But part of its significance stems from the lengths to which we have gone to significantly improve its design, on that which existed before, and also, the fact that it, in essence, commences the gradual modernization of our capital city, Roseau.
From this day onwards, the attractiveness and appeal of Roseau can only get better.
To Mr. Ian Fields and the staff of NSG Management and Technical Services Limited, I say congratulations on the award of this contract. NSG has been with us for months now and was among the first corporate members to rush to our assistance in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika.
They never sought reward, but, immediately offered advice, from a structural and engineering perspective, on what can and should be done to get the country up and running again.
It was on their initiative, for example, that we were able to source the first set of Bailey Bridges from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
So I formally welcome NSG Management and Technical Services Limited to Dominica, because they have demonstrated a genuine desire to be part of our developmental process.
It is my hope, Sir, that this will be the start of a long and mutually beneficial working relationship, with the Government and people of Dominica.
Congratulations again to all concerned. Like you, I am eager for work to commence.
Therefore it is now my distinct pleasure and honor to declare work on this project started and, in so doing, to proceed shortly with the official breaking of the sod.
Dominica!! God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.
I thank you once again for coming out and invite you to join in the activities that will follow.
May God bless you all and May God bless Dominica! I thank you.