Live Broadcast: Grand Opening of the New West Bridge. If you do not see the video below press here.
ADDRESS BY HONOURABLE ROOSEVELT SKERRIT
PRIME MINISTER OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA
At the Opening Ceremony for the New West Bridge
Monday, May 1, 2017
• His Excellency Charles A Savarin, President of Dominica and Mrs. Savarin
• Cabinet Colleagues
• Permanent Secretary, Ministry Public Works & Ports
• Other Permanent Secretaries
• Staff of the Ministry of Public Works & Ports
• Representative of NSG Management and Technical Services Limited
• Senior Government Officials
• The Media
• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Driving through the City these past few days, I found myself smiling and asking the question…..”Roseau, is that you?”
For I could not help but marvel at the impact this single project has had and is having on the beauty and appeal of our historic capital city.
My friends, on the surface of it, we are here this evening to commission a bridge. In reality, however, we are gathered to open the gateway to an emerging new Roseau.
This magnificent project, completed on budget and within the allotted time, has taken road construction and engineering in Dominica to….the next level!
And I believe, Ladies and Gentlemen, that in NSG Management and Technical Services Limited, Dominica has found a new friend and partner in national development.
The combination of NSG’s expert guidance and Dominican craftsmanship has worked without blemish, and I am confident, Mr. Stephen Hobson and associates, that it will work for us again on future ventures, as we accelerate our mission to enhance the engineering and aesthetic appeal of the historic city of Roseau.
Leadership is defined differently by many; given the prevailing circumstance. Awarding this contract to NSG twelve (12) months ago was a true test of my government’s leadership, as it was not easy going against the anticipated initial fall out from recruiting a firm, not known to Dominicans, but which was highly recommended by several Caribbean and hemispheric leaders as ideal for the job.
Many of you would recall the emergency situation that existed two years ago and the urgency of resuscitating life into this vital artery of the Roseau transit system.
It was a huge political risk, I must confess, but it was one that had to be taken, given the urgency of the situation and the need for us to set new benchmarks for development in Dominica.
I understand clearly the initial doubt and skepticism of some local contractors and craftsmen, who feared that there was a significant project going out of the hands of Dominicans. But Minister Miriam Blanchard and I met with the Principals of NSG and we said to them in clear and precise language – “We want you to oversee this project, but we want it done, as much as possible, by skilled Dominican craftsmen; utilizing as much local materials and equipment as possible”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sure you would agree that we did not need the official statistics for affirmation this evening.
Anyone who has objectively witnessed the unfolding of this project from the morning after the signing ceremony would attest to the fact that here, throughout the period of construction, was the perfect marriage of external concept and technology to local Dominican talent and national pride; all working to the glory and benefit of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Inspection and testing from the government at all stages of implementation kept us appraised of the progress and engaged in overall quality control.
I personally visited this project several times during construction and I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the Dominican work force. They were happy and proud of their contributions. They valued the expert guidance and team spirit of the NSG management. Site safety and protection of the general public was self-evident and highly effective, and as such, no days were lost on this project due to injuries.
Workers spoke of the tendency of the NSG personnel to integrate, however and wherever possible, the nuances of Dominican techniques and approaches to construction, as well as cultural factors; such as recognizing that little is done in Dominica on occasions such as international cricket, World Creole Music Festival, Carnival and such similar occasions.
In simple language, Ladies and Gentlemen, there was a cross fertilization of ideas and approaches that worked superbly in the interest of Dominica and for which, this evening, we are justifiably proud and truly grateful. Also, the traffic police provided excellent input and were instrumental in ensuring safe traffic patterns that allowed the work to progress smoothly.
Not a single piece of equipment that could have been sourced locally, was brought in for this project. Not a truck or excavator, which could have been rented locally, was brought in to work on this site.
Less than ten (10) non-Dominicans worked on this project and those who did, brought a specific and specialized skill-set that was not readily available locally.
Michael Evans, Michael Lusdoc and Mickey Seddon, along with their other onsite expert staff, gave generously of their knowledge and ideas and imparted new techniques and approaches, that will benefit Dominica and construction in Dominica, for many years to come.
And let me say as well, Ladies and Gentlemen, as Prime Minister of this country, I bear no malice towards those who had genuine doubt and concern as to whether this initiative, or some may say – this experiment – would have worked.
Of course, among us are those who would have criticized, irrespective, for the sake of criticizing. Like the proverbial cat in the Geico Ad, that’s what they do!
But then there were those who feared for the welfare and wellbeing of Dominican firms and artisans and who did not wish to see an influx of cheap labour, which could have been sourced here in Dominica. I understood that concern then and I say this evening, I appreciate those who felt the need at the time to speak up, objectively, in the interest of Dominican labour and talent.
I am sure this evening, we would all agree that the experiment worked and that Dominican contractors and small service providers got as much out of this project as could realistically have been expected.
By the same token, Dominica got the ultimate prize of a modern, state of the art, aesthetically appealing and engineeringly strong gateway to its City.
In summary, therefore, I say all is well that ends well and…..to God be the glory, great things he hath done!!
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, earlier I said that this completed project represented the gateway to the emerging new capital city of Roseau.
Clearly, we cannot have a spanking new bridge that leads to an old and drab looking City.
Several years ago, in a sister Caribbean island, there was a magnificent new highway that residents described as leading to nowhere, since it ventured into then uninhabited territory, for which there were no immediate plans of development.
Today, several decades later, that highway is the pride and joy of the nation; opening vistas to new upscale commercial and residential properties and providing a new and higher quality of employment for citizens.
This bridge we are commissioning today is but the first phase of what is earmarked to become the gradual and deliberate modernization of Roseau. It will not all be accomplished under my watch, but I am determined to lay and leave the foundation of a new Dominica capital city; that will not only be the envy of the Caribbean, but the pride and joy of every Dominican, resident at home and abroad.
In this regard, I invite you to rekindle flashbacks of the images of the proposed Roseau Enhancement Project circulated two years ago and which were described by the naysayers then as pie in the sky and wishful thinking.
NSG Management and Technical Services Limited, in association with our local architects, engineers and other builders, designed this bridge and transformed it from concept, 12 months ago, to reality, today, the first day of May, 2017. In short, I can report to you, here and now, that NSG delivered on its commitment and the result is here for all to see.
This evening, I am saying to all within the hearing of my voice, that these same stakeholders – together with local utility companies and property owners – have helped to design the Roseau Enhancement Project and, with the help of funds from the Citizenship By Investment Programme, we shall very soon witness, in this same capital city of Roseau, the signing of contracts for the start of work on the three main arterial roads leading into and out of Roseau.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not going to bite more than we can chew, at any one time. What we are going to do is to take small bites…
But read my lips and understand that The Roseau Enhancement Project SHALL start this year, and I expect Dominicans and visitors alike to be traversing a new-look, next-level road network in Roseau, before the magical clock strikes midnight! That is all I will say at this point.
Not only will those three arterial roads, with covered, enhanced sidewalks and underground utilities, be constructed in short order, but, I hope to be in a position, as early as this year’s budget, to announce a regime of incentives geared at encouraging property owners in Roseau to upgrade and enhance their residences and places of business.
It makes no sense Government fixing the roads and sidewalks but leaving so many properties in the capital city remaining dilapidated and run down.
To this end, the Enhancement of Roseau, Ladies and Gentlemen, must be a team effort and exercise. Henceforth, I will be looking to every property owner and resident of Roseau to play his or her individual part in this very exciting process of urban renewal.
Those in our midst who have no vision and who never can see anything positive or worthwhile in what we do, can once again say “don’t bother with Skerrit. That’s pie in the sky”.
They said this about the new Windsor Park Sports Stadium. They reiterated it with the refurbished Douglas Charles Airport, and the Dr. Nicholas Liverpool Highway. They said it about the abattoir and also the currently being constructed new national hospital.
And they did not stop there! Oh no! They said the same about the E.O. LeBlanc Highway and The Dominica State College.
They said so about the hundreds of new houses and housing solutions erected across the island. They said so about the provision of tablets to school children. They said so about our bid to provide tertiary education in far corners of the world for hundreds of Dominican students.
They said so about the New State House that has transformed the hosting of conferences and major events in Dominica. They said so about the ever-widening scope and reach of social services that now provide cover, relief and assistance to thousands of seniors, infants and single mothers.
My Brothers and Sisters, they will continue to say “no you can’t, while this Labour administration will continue to demonstrate “yes, we can” and, eventually, as we are doing here this evening, say “Yes, we did!!”
These guys will just not learn! Every single initiative introduced by this Labour administration has been met with doubt and skepticism by those who see it as their duty to criticize and undermine. But, we accomplished all that I just referenced, and we shall do more of what they say cannot be done.
Hence, in a matter of weeks, we shall make public, details of designs for the soon to be constructed arterial roads leading into and out of Roseau. Very soon as well, we shall sign a contract for the design of the new National Multi-Sports Complex at Stockfarm, which, I can confirm this evening, shall include, in addition to international standard facilities for basketball, netball, volleyball and tennis, an Olympic size swimming pool accessible to all Dominicans.
That too, they said, was a pipe dream, and that too shall come to pass…before the constitutional clock strikes midnight!
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we admire the luxury and attractiveness of this bridge, I invite you for a minute, to cast your eyes to the east of where we are. You see in the distance, an almost equally imposing bridge.
This bridge was built and named in honour of the memory of Mr. Emmanuel Christopher Loblack, a simple man, whose passion and determination was used to mobilise the labourers and domestics to form the first trade union in Dominica, the Dominica Trade Union.
It would have been an anachronism to open this spanking, new twenty first century bridge on Labour Day and allow it to lie alongside a bridge named in honour of the father of the labour movement of Dominica and which was in need of repair and rehabilitation.
On this Labour Day, we salute the pioneering work of Mr. E. C. Loblack. I am sure that many of you were struck by the impressive, new appearance of the E. C. Loblack Bridge as you entered the city. This rebirth of the bridge was accomplished with the full collaboration and consent of Mr. Loblack’s children, most of whom are here with us this afternoon.
Of course, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will not only be developing the inner city. Heading out of Roseau, a major economic hub of activity is the Roseau Valley and I can say here and now, this evening, that we are going to enhance the Roseau Valley and bring it to the desired standard of being a premiere Caribbean tourism destination…..again, all before the clock strikes midnight.
What we are saying this evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that the new Dominica is under construction. While others march, protest and destroy, we are focused and determined to work, create and build.
I have a clear vision of the Dominica I wish to leave for my successors and for future generations. I want to leave a Dominica that is pristine and beautiful. A Dominica that is modern, yet culturally uplifting. We should all strive to make Dominica and its capital city something we can all be proud of and know we shall attract visitors and businesses to establish here.
This is not Star Trek or Star Wars – I am not interested in transporting any other City or destination to Dominica. I want to build out Dominica and build out Roseau in its own graven image. Christopher Columbus, were he to return, must not only recognize Dominica as Dominica, but he must also marvel at the wondrous works that have been done by its millennium generation.
Not only shall we tackle infrastructure and aesthetics, it is necessary also for us to improve on the delivery of services. I want us to take greater pride in how we dispense service, not only to visitors, but to each other as Dominican consumers.
And yes, I hear and listen to those of you who conduct business with the various agencies of government. I hear and I read the comments of those using the ferry terminal, those transacting business at the sea and air ports, those paying taxes and other fees into government agencies. I hear you, Ladies and Gentlemen and I am working on it.
There is no point in our having this spanking new bridge, leading into a soon to be modernized and enhanced Roseau City, if the level and quality of service we dispense, is stuck somewhere in the 20th century.
We have to do something about our attitude to customers; whether black or white, local or foreign, rich or poor.
Your Government, Ladies and Gentlemen, is about building a new, modern, competitive Dominica. We cannot and will not beg our way through life. When once on our feet, we shall compete with the best of them!
Our villainized and demonized Citizenship by Investment Programme is helping to accelerate our pace to modernity.
I was encouraged by the interest of social and economic partners last week. Quite naturally, all who needed to be there were not in attendance, but, again, like the Cat in the Geico Ad, that is what they do!
I hope they realise that their presence or absence is not stopping progress in this country. If they come to these events, we welcome them… if they stay away, too bad for them, because the train will not stop running. We shall continue to propel the progress and development of this country….with or without the constructive input of those paid by taxpayers to assist with its development.
No longer am I concerned with the stalling tendencies of those who would wish for it to be said that Dominica is no better off.
Last week Monday we convened a national consultation on the economy and I came away from that initiative fortified in the view that we have enough hands on board to accomplish the task of transforming this beautiful country of ours. It would be ideal if all hands were on deck, but we shall not slow the pace of modernity and development, simply because some would rather we drag our feet and mark time.
They are professional protestors. That’s what they do!
If they had their way, they would protest every day.
Your government and I are the complete opposite. We are in a hurry to get the job done. We promised a transformation of Dominica and we shall deliver a Dominica of which Dominicans in the diaspora can be proud.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, friends; I welcome you this evening to the opening of this gateway to the soon to be created New Roseau.
It is today billed as “The New West Bridge” but clearly, five, ten, twenty years from now; it cannot be so called, because it would not be still new.
That is why I think we have to find a name for it. We have to immortalize this chapter in our nation’s page of history. I do not wish unilaterally to impose a name on you. I want for each of you to go away from here this evening, thinking of a suitable and fitting name for this impressive new piece of Dominican architecture and engineering.
Very soon, we shall make public the website to which each of you can go and suggest an appropriate name for this gateway. We shall assess your entries and I would wish to be in a position to announce the chosen name on November 3rd, as part of my Independence address to the nation.
So you have six months to think about it and six months to wait for the unveiling of the appropriate tag line for this magnificent piece of infrastructure.
In the interim, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want each and every one of you to adopt this completed project. I want it to remain looking like THE NEW West Bridge.
Keep it clean, keep it tidy, respect the investment, please do not vandalise it. Do not deface or destroy any aspect of it. Those lights are for the astonishment and amazement of you, and your relatives and friends when they come home for Creole Festival, Christmas, Carnival and other holidays and purposes. They are also for visitors to view and photograph.
This is OUR project, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let us all take ownership of it and preserve its beauty and appeal.
I wish to thank the management and staff of NSG Management and Technical Services for a job well done.
I wish to congratulate Minister Blanchard and her staff at the Ministry of Public Works, for a job well done.
I wish to salute the scores of Dominican skilled artisans and service providers who not only worked on this project, but who did so with pride and diligence.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen here assembled and those viewing this broadcast from around the world….This is the day that the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be glad therein.
God Bless You! God Bless Dominica!