Presenting a live broadcast of the address to the nation by the Prime Minister. If you do not see the video below, click here.
Address to the Nation, Friday, October 6, 2017
Fellow Dominicans, residents, visiting volunteers, well wishers, Members of the Dominica Diaspora, the international media…friends all….
I continue to marvel at the sense of purpose and determination that characterizes the attitude and approach of Dominicans at home and abroad to our current national crisis.
Going out and seeing the devastation and talking and listening to our people I have also felt the incredible, deep, defiant spirit of my fellow countrymen and women.
It is this spirit that tells me our cause is not to fail, and that it will not fail!
I wish once again to thank and salute the scores of visiting volunteers, aid workers, peace keeping officers and all others who have come to Dominica living and working under very trying and difficult circumstances and who are helping to return a degree of normalcy to our island.
Your efforts are warmly and sincerely appreciated by the Government and people of Dominica. Many of you have gone over and beyond the call of duty, and I personally, want to let you know that this fact is not lost on me.
Citizens and residents, we are in the preliminary stages of the greatest disaster that has ever hit our nation.
I will not pretend to you otherwise: We have before us many, many months of sacrifice and struggle.
And yet/I view our task with optimism and hope.
This greatest disaster, will yield our finest moment!
We will go forward together… and our united and inflexible resolve, will make us invincible.
Do not stoop to panic, or fear mongering, on social media! Be confident that together we will build a New Dominica.
Tonight, I will announce a first set of measures designed to move us from relief…in the direction of recovery.
But before I do so, I would like to update you on where we are.
I was pleased to hear the UN Resident Coordinator say that while there are still major challenges the recovery in Dominica is becoming more evident. The relief operation is going in the right direction and even the greenery that has characterized this land over the years, has started to return.
To date the Government of Dominica in collaboration with our foreign partners/ has distributed over 250 metric tonnes of food and 169,000 litres of water in over 93 communities.
The conditions have been unbelievably difficult and we must also consider the safety of those trying to deliver relief.
At this point, the national supply of food and water is satisfactory. But it remains essential that we all look out for the vulnerable members of our communities to ensure they are being covered.
If you know of families not being adequately served by the national distribution exercise, please let us know. Get word to the village councillors, those involved in the distribution or to your Parliamentary Representative. No one should be going to bed tonight worried that they will not have adequate food or water tomorrow.
Our Food and General Supplies Committee is continuously working on strengthening the distribution network at the community level. Until recently their biggest difficultly has been the blockage of roads.
The intense mobilization of heavy equipment has resulted in access across much of the island by vehicles. By the middle of next week we will be in a position to send food and water trucks to most communities.
Road access to the airport was restored last week. To date, access has not yet been restored to the communities of Bagatelle as a result of landslides and flooding. Heavy equipment is actively engaged in trying to restore access to Bagatelle/ which we expect to be made during the next week.
With respect to water, Dowasco is doing its’ all!
Crucial equipment and supplies have been ordered and should be received shortly and will begin/ gradually/ to impact communities in the days ahead.
However the water situation for many, will not be regularized in short order, because of the severity of the damage.
The government is currently in discussions with a leading regional supplier to install what is commonly referred to as community water tanks in several of the hardest hit villages across the island.
These tanks, numbering in excess of 100, and with a capacity of up to 3, 000 gallons each, have been sourced and, together with at least three additional water trucks, should go a long way towards easing the strain on residents with respect to accessing adequate volumes of pottable drinking water.
Power is returning! Earlier this week power returned to J Astaphan & Co. Ltd., National Cooperative Credit Union, Windsor Park Stadium, National Bank of Dominica, Jays Ltd., Burton & Co. and Depex in Roseau. The first streetlight to come back on was near Depex.
At Portsmouth, power returned to Central Cooperative Credit Union, Rudolph Thomas & Family Ltd., M&R Trading Ltd., Roosevelt Douglas Primary School – which is now a shelter – Portsmouth Police Station, the Portsmouth Hospital, the Portsmouth Fire Station and shops on Borough Square.
Following discussions with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, I am pleased to confirm that permission has been granted for the resumption of commercial passenger traffic at Douglas-Charles Airport.
Despite the damage to the Air Traffic control building, Canefield Airport is ready for moving commercial passengers as well.
We believe the Roseau Ferry Terminal can be made usable within the next few days depending on progress on the restoration of water and electricity.
DOMLEC is currently working hard to restore power to East of Independence Street, between River Street and King George V Street in Roseau and is planting poles and stringing lines in Portsmouth and other parts of Picard.
Mobile phone service has been restored in Roseau & environs spanning all the way south to Pointe Michel and some parts of Bellevue Chopin.
Morne Daniel – covering areas on the west coast all the way down to Coulibistrie
Portsmouth – proper, Glanvillia
Cochran – covering Morne Prosper, Sylvania
Pond Case – covers Belles, interior
Melville hall Airport
Service will be restored this weekend to
A satellite communications system is to be deployed at La Plaine.
200 kilometres of fibre has been ordered and has already arrived in Antigua where it will be shipped to Dominica to renew the fibre ring. Next week we expect that parts of Roseau will be reconnected to fibre.
A phased approach will be employed with respect to the reopening of schools. The first date is October 16th 2017 when we plan to open the following 14 primary schools.
Petite Savanne (Bath Estate)
We also hope to open Northeast Comprehensive School
Other schools will reopen on a case by case basis, once remedial works are completed. Where there is major damage we will accommodate students in a classroom setting under large tents – located as close as possible to the school compound. Several tents, chairs, desks and portable toilets have been ordered and should be arriving in Dominica within the next 10 days.
Of course, several of our senior students, especially those taking crucial exams in the months ahead, are being targeted for temporary lodging in neighboring islands. The mechanics of this off island arrangement are being finalized with sister governments in the region.
In the area of health, the Princess Margaret Hospital can now offer dialysis, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, emergency surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry and A&E.
The Portsmouth Hospital is now functional.
All major health centres are functional.
The Treasury and Computer Centre operations have been temporarily relocated to the 1st Floor of the Financial Centre.
Priority has been given to the processing of salaries and other monthly payments. To date, salaries have been issued to all financial institutions except the following, which need to collect cheques:
It can be confirmed that First Caribbean International Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, National Bank of Dominica and the National Cooperative Credit Union have paid the cash into personal accounts.
Public assistance has been approved this week and payments should be paid by Monday 9th October
Grants to Village Councils should also be completed by Monday 9th October 2017.
All loans to the Commonwealth of Dominica, which have fallen due since passage of the hurricane have been paid. These include payments to the World Bank, CARICOM Development Fund, EX-IM Bank of China and Societe General.
Fellow Dominicans, as I said to you earlier, nothing is happening at the speed we would all wish; but it is happening.
Relief is intensifying and each day, moving further in the right direction. I will have more progress to report to you in a week’s time.
I say to our local, regional and international partners, we need you still and we thank you all.
Roseau in 2017 marked the point where the idea that there was no need for Caribbean unity, was stopped in its tracks and forced back.
It is now time to look to economic recovery.
Tonight I announce the first part of our economic recovery plan.
1. We will stabilize and support demand in the economy. The Government will try wherever possible to maintain the previous year’s level of government procurement, employment, wages, and routine operations.
2. Insurance of property in Dominica exceeds 100% of our annual GDP. Not all insured properties are totally destroyed thankfully, but we expect substantial insurance payouts to be made over the next few months. We will work with local and international insurance companies and banks to expedite the arrival of loss assessors and the flow of insurance payouts at lower transaction fees.
3. We will accelerate the full re-opening of all ports and ease the flow of goods through ports.
4. We are working with our development partners to bring in the necessary equipment required to take our clearing and cleaning efforts to the next level. Heavy clearing machines are being loaded on to boats to travel to Dominica as we speak.
5. We will waive taxes and duties on the importation of all food and construction materials for six months.
6. This is a time of great national effort and personal sacrifice. We will not tolerate anyone taking unfair advantage of the situation. We will put in place a consumer watch dog in charge of ensuring there is no profiteering and price gouging.
7. We expect businesses, banks and credit unions to expand their services as quickly as possible to help normalize the situation.
8. We will sit down with lending institutions to see to what extent they can extend a period of forbearance for their borrowers.
9. We will enforce and if necessary update building codes to ensure that all new construction complies with these codes. We all know the consequences of not doing so.
10. The process of repair and rebuilding will take time but for many people their current housing situation is difficult beyond belief and so in the mean-time we will be bringing substantial quantities of roofing and temporary shelter.
11. We will facilitate the Social Security Fund offering a voluntary advance of up to $1,000 on non-contributory pension payments. There should be no long-run costs of this measure, but the Government will indemnify the Fund of any costs of doing so.
12. We shall also offer voluntary advances on government salaries of up to $2,000 to help the rehabilitation of homes.
Fellow Dominicans, agriculture and our natural environment are a vital way in which we make our livelihoods. Agriculture and the hotel sector are central to our clearing, transport and other relief efforts.
We are looking at how we can revitalize food production quickly to support immediate planting. Earlier this week, I wrote to the Ministries of Agriculture and Trade, inviting them to do the analysis and come up with a regime of measures and other incentives for consideration by the Cabinet.
Food production is key to the resuscitation of not only our local economy but also the sustainable daily livelihood of our people. Therefore, we will be leaning very heavily on regional and international partners to help devise a formula for getting appropriate lands cleared and tilled and certain crucial crops planted. I am proposing to chair a national strategy meeting on this very important topic within the next two weeks. Whatever has to be done to get food back in the ground…will be done!
Fellow Dominicans, we must rebuild Dominica, in safer situations, with stronger designs, resilient materials and robust infrastructure that reduces our vulnerability to another Maria.
Our idea that we could be the first climate resilient nation in the climate change era and be an example to others has caught the imagination of the world.
The United Nations Secretary General will visit us shortly and afterwards we will travel to Washington to develop, structure and fund a Climate-Resilient-Nation-Fund for Dominica/ with the World Bank and the UN.
In addition to the World Bank, we shall be discussing our ideas with all of those who fund climate adaptation and resiliency; from the Green Fund and Global Environment Fund, to the Climate Initiatives of US Foundations and international development agencies.
All of them will be present in Washington for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. We are not talking to them about making some individual homes climate resilient…we are seeking help for the entire island of Dominica!
From issues of food and energy security, coastal and river management, to climate resilience of all homes, schools and clinics.
The devastation has concentrated the minds of the international community. In a world of many disasters from the Mexican earthquake to the Las Vegas shooting/ that will not last. This is a moment that we have to capture for the benefit of all Dominicans for this and future generations.
We are also going to present to our development partners some further ideas on how to support the recovery especially our agricultural and tourism sectors. I hope to be in a position to update the nation on this, on my return from Washington next week.
Fellow Dominicans, residents, friends and well wishers, we are all in this together. We aim to rebuild a better, more resilient Dominica; however long or hard the road is.
We walk together on that road, hand-in-hand, shoulder to shoulder, and because we do, we will arrive early.
I thank you once again for your very positive and determined attitude to this task.
This weekend and early next week, we look to our international partners for meaningful support and assistance. I am confident of needed help coming to Dominica.
I look forward to addressing you again, in the not too distant future, when, once again, we shall provide insights into how the recovery and rebuild exercise is progressing.
Thank you very much for listening and May God continue to Bless and Guide our land and its wonderful people.
I thank you.