In an Address to the Nation, Prime Minister of Dominica the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit announced Wednesday (November 5, 2014) afternoon that Election Day in Dominica will be December 8, 2014. The address is available at the following link:
Fellow Dominicans – at home and abroad, residents, friends and well wishers….
In keeping with this year’s Independence theme of “Our Nation, Our Responsibility”, it is my duty and indeed my privilege to address you…two days after celebrating our 36th Anniversary of Independence.
On 3rd November, in my Independence Day Address, I made reference to the package of policies and programmes which we have been developing over the past 14 years to boost the social and economic development of our country.
I made it clear to all that these policies and programmes should not be considered in isolation, but should be seen as essential components of a formula, which, when taken together, can speed up the transformation of this country. Indeed, they are the preconditions for the sustainable development of our beloved island home.
Through them, more and more Dominicans will be able to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, confidence, and opportunities to create wealth and employment, from wisely using the God-given resources of our country. In turn, the wealth created would be more equitably distributed through the provision of essential social services.
In that address I spent some time explaining how, at the dawn of the new millennium, Dominica was still reeling from the policies and practices of a by-gone, colonial age. As a result, our revenue from the one-crop economy fell dramatically. But this did not stop us from persevering to achieve the vision of a prosperous, peaceful and just Dominica.
As a responsible government, we adopted and implemented certain rigorous, but prudent fiscal policies; practiced careful economic management; and searched for additional sources of income. In this way we were able to regain confidence in our country, by the international community. Within one term we were able to halt the decline of our economy, and by 2014 we experienced modest economic growth.
Our greatest achievement however, is that throughout these trying times, we did not reduce the social services we promised our people. Indeed, we actually succeeded in increasing these essential services, especially those that benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, including the young, the elderly, single parents, the poor and the disabled.
But, we did not do it on our own. Our carefully chosen partners in development came to our rescue. In this way we were able to get loans on concessionary terms, and in many cases outright gifts, to support our social and economic advancement.
I then focused on some highly integrated policies and programmes that were necessary to bring about new thinking and behavior on the part of our people. These included: Good Governance, a greater appreciation of our Culture, universal access to Education, Environmental Preservation, Entrepreneurship, and the development of our Infrastructure.
Good Governance is essential for realizing the vision of the just and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.
In Dominica we have pursued this through the Local Government system that facilitates a constant two-way flow of information and vital resources between Central Government and communities. The overall aim is for Government to remain close to the people and, through the Parliamentary Representatives, ensure that the voice of even the most remote hamlet is heard and each community benefits from the wealth of the nation.
I explained also why we have paid particular attention to our traditional Culture. This unique “way of life” has sustained us through slavery, colonization, and centuries of adversity. That same culture makes us who we are today, holds our communities together, and provides us with a positive identity. We want to preserve this Culture and strengthen it!
I explained how, during the past 14 years, we have devoted an increasing amount of public expenditure to Education and Human Resource Development. In the process we have made education available to all Dominicans, achieving universal Primary and Secondary Education by 2005. We are now on target to achieve universal Early Childhood Education and a graduate in every household by 2015.
One of the benefits of universal access to education is independence of thought. Hence, during the past 14 years, more and more people have become aware of the need to protect and preserve our environment, instead of destroying it and adding to the threat of Climate Change.
Also embedded in this modern education that is now available to all Dominicans, is an emphasis on enterprise. One of the greatest needs of Dominica is a larger pool of entrepreneurs, men and women who have the skills and other resources to grow and diversify the economy.
That is why, during the past 14 years, your Government has intensified its support to both the established private sector, as well as the potential entrepreneurs, who need a helping hand to get their businesses going. We have empowered a range of financial, training, and support institutions to provide these services. We intend to allocate additional resources to these agencies, to help more Dominicans create wealth and employment.
Another essential prerequisite of development is a reliable and efficient infrastructure. During the past 14 years your Government has focused on upgrading primary, secondary and feeder roads throughout Dominica. By 2014 we had brought all major and secondary roads connecting villages and cities up to an acceptable standard.
The recent formal opening and naming of the Dr. Nicholas Liverpool Highway was part of the acknowledgement of the considerable progress we have made in up-grading our roads.
Similarly, the many improvements and recent renaming of the Douglas-Charles airport is a staging post to acquiring an international airport to enable travelers to get to Dominica more quickly from cities throughout the world. I have already shared with you the news that your Government has signed an MOU with a private company in the People’s Republic of China for the construction of an international airport in Crompton Point, using the Build, Operate & Transfer (BOT) model.
We have spent a considerable amount of money on these projects, simply because they are essential for the sustainable development of Dominica. We have to do these things if we are to survive and prosper in the new highly competitive global village.
The apex or keystone of the plan is the development of our own affordable, efficient, clean and reliable energy. As you know, we have enormous supplies of geothermal energy under our feet. Within the previous 14 years your Government has invested over $54 million dollars on the exploration and development of geothermal energy.
With the support of our carefully chosen partners in development, we are on the threshold of producing geothermal energy in commercial quantities by 2016. This will make electricity affordable for lighting up our homes and streets and driving our machinery.
Already, the Government of France has given its commitment to increasing its investment in this project, with a view to supplying electricity to Martinique and Guadeloupe. Cheaper electricity will also boost our manufacturing sector.
The preservation of our environment, improvement in the infrastructure and the spread of the entrepreneurial culture, will enable more Dominicans to earn a living from Eco-Tourism. The plan is therefore to diversify our tourism product, with Eco-Tourism as a major driver of economic growth.
As a result of this, over the last 14 years we have, through The Tourism Master Plan, created an attractive package of educational, cultural, heritage, community and sports tourism products, buttressed by eco-tourism.
A renovated Roseau City and an enhanced Portsmouth Town will become major tourist destinations, giving access to the heart and soul of Dominica.
A better trained workforce will also enable us to revive agriculture. My Government is committed to reviving Agriculture as a major pillar of Dominica’s economy. The reasons for this include food security, foreign exchange and linkages to tourism. With the help of our partners in development – particularly the Governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela – more Dominicans, especially young people, are returning to the land and seeing agricultural work as a business.
Based on these means of boosting the economy of Dominica we have been making some serious promises to our people.
We have promised to continue spending money on Communal and Cultural Development, on Education, on Technical and Entrepreneurial Training, on Infrastructural Development, and on the creation of wealth from our natural resources.
We have also promised to increase expenditure on essential social services as a means of raising the standard of living and enhancing the quality of life of ALL Dominicans.
We have given a commitment to:
• Improve the health services, including the construction of a new General Hospital; and giving our citizens free access to these services.
• Continue to invest in the Housing Revolution whereby we help needy citizens in every community to refurbish or rebuild dilapidated homes and in the process eliminate all pit toilets by 2020.
• Continue to construct at least 1,500 affordable homes.
• Continue to empower young people.
• Strengthen the “Yes We Care” Programme and increase support to the elderly.
• Make sure that the social safety net is strengthened to protect and care for all vulnerable groups including our children and female citizens.
• Embrace overseas based Dominicans with the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as we make available to resident Dominicans.
• Continue to be a peaceful and highly respected nation in the international community that has an enlightened approach to environmental and social protection.
These policies and programmes have already demonstrated their ability to take Dominica to the next level, in pursuit of the dream of a prosperous, peaceful and just society.
But what is more important is that these promises we have made to our people, are realistic. They are not pies in the sky. We have already secured firm commitments from our partners in development to finance every one of them. This commitment is based on the enormous confidence the funders have in the Dominica Labour Party Government and its policies.
Please keep in mind that what prevented Dominica from having to borrow at high rates of interest and to spend recklessly after 2000, was the enlightened Foreign Policy of the Dominica Labour Party Government, that was based on pursuing our own national interests and not what others tried to dictate to us.
I personally recalled making critical decisions about establishing and strengthening diplomatic relations with countries such as the People’s Republic of China, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Kingdom of Morocco.
Continued funding for these projects will depend on the assurance, from any new Government of Dominica, that it will not undermine relations with any of our funders, or any of the 96 countries and International Agencies which support our development.
We therefore need to send a clear message to the external world that Dominica is a stable and reliable partner in development. We also need to assure them that there will be no return to the recklessness that nearly ruined the economy and reputation of Dominica in the closing years of the 20th century.
Most important, we need to ensure that Dominica will not be forced, like other countries of the Region, to cut social services to our people and turn back the clock on social development. We cannot revert to backward thinking and behavior!
Fellow Dominicans, living at home and abroad, it is against this backdrop of a phenomenal record of achievement by your government, and a clear and realistic vision for the future, that I have decided it is necessary to seek a new mandate from you, the citizens of this country.
The success of our social and economic development strategy will depend on the messages we send to the world, and particularly to our development partners.
Do we wish to continue on a progressive trajectory, or will we, by our actions, trigger a reversal of the strides we made, over the past 14 years?
Shall we maintain strong diplomatic and other relations with those who have befriended us, or shall we go off on a fishing expedition…in regards to foreign policy and international relations?
Shall we continue to maintain responsibility for our pathways to progress, or shall we ascribe such to Europeans, interested only in the sale of Dominican passports?
These are crucial questions, Ladies and Gentlemen, that need to be asked and answered in the coming weeks, as we elect the group of citizens best suited to administer the affairs of state.
A wrong decision at this time could retard progress and set this country back, 10 or even 20 years. That would be disastrous for Dominica, going into the third decade of the 21st century.
Accordingly, and with full confidence in the capacity of voters to decide objectively and choose wisely…I have today, Wednesday, the 5th day of November, 2014 – in accordance with the provisions of section 54 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica – advised His Excellency, the President, to dissolve the Parliament of Dominica…with immediate effect…and, to issue a writ for the holding of General Elections.
I pray God’s Guidance and His Protection in the conduct of this campaign!
We will differ on policies…we will differ on personalities…but let us never lose sight of the need to keep the best interest of Dominica, foremost in our conduct, utterances and actions.
Nomination Day will be Wednesday, the 19th Day of November, 2014.
General Elections, and the date on which the Commonwealth of Dominica will determine its political, social and economic future, is Monday, the 8th day of December, 2014.
May God Bless and guide each and every one of you.
May God Bless the Commonwealth of Dominica.
I thank you!!