Government launches post-Maria housing programme with back-to-back public meetings in Delices and Riviere Cyrique
On Friday last week the Government of Dominica went east.
There, at Delices and Morne Jaune, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and other officials announced, before large crowds, a house-building programme in response to the catastrophe of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 when thousands of Dominicans were made homeless and roofless.
At a public meeting at the Carib junction in Delices, parliamentary representative for the area, Petter St. Jean, said that his government was about to "launch the biggest housing revolution in Dominica".
St. Jean added that his government had promised improved housing and that was what he was about to deliver; 400 housing units and 200 individual houses in four villages in the East.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your government is concerned about your welfare and that is why your government is determined to eradicate poverty and ignorance in the South East community through a deliberate policy to educate and provide for all," St. Jean said. "Never again, my friends, will a single parent be homeless and at the mercy of others because they cannot afford decent housing."
At the public meeting Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit reiterated his vision of making Dominica the first climate resilient nation in the world. He said that idea has been bearing fruit; the international community has since been "pouring money in Dominica".
"It is a huge undertaking but with the help of God that country will achieve that ambition," he said.
The buildings in the East and in other parts of Dominica will be constructed by Montreal Management Consultants Est. (MMCE), the company responsible for the establishment of the 340 residential units in Bellevue to re-house the inhabitants of Petite Savanne who were evacuated following Tropical Storm Erika. MMCE said earlier that it will also build houses in Roseau and Portsmouth.
MMCE is a major trader of Dominica's economic citizenship; the company's main office is located in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
At another gathering in Riviere Cyrique, two hours after the Delices meeting, Prime Minister Skerrit said the World Bank has allocated US$115 million to Dominica's rebuild effort. Skerrit said his Cabinet has decided to allocate US$40 million (about EC$104 million) of that amount on housing development.
"(That amount) is already committed, already signed," Skerrit said.
Approximately US$25 million is to be allotted to the agricultural sector, he added.
In addition, he announced that the European Union (EU) has provided eleven million Euro to assist Dominica in its reconstruction effort.
Skerrit said that the construction of the buildings in the east (Castle Bruce, Kalinago Territory, Laplaine, Riviere Cyrique and Delices) is to begin immediately.
"We will start clearing land on the site as early as next week," Skerrit said at the Delices meeting. "And at Laplaine as early as Monday. At Castle Bruce we have already started."
He added that Government decided to focus on the East because that area suffered more damage from the hurricane than everywhere else in Dominica.
Skerrit said government hopes to construct about 5000 homes all over Dominica to meet the needs of people whose homes have been damaged by Hurricane Maria.
To achieve that objective, Skerrit said, he is prepared to cooperate with anybody (obviously implying the opposition) who genuinely has the interest of Dominica at heart.
"If we want to restore our lives we have to work together," Skerrit said. "I have no axe to grind with anybody."
But the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has stated that the government has blatantly ignored its offer to assist in the development of Dominica after the storm.
And Anthony LeBlanc, president of the Dominica Builders and Contractors of Dominica has questioned the legality and wisdom of granting of this huge contract to a foreign company.
At the meetings in the East on Friday, officials of MMCE displayed designs of the buildings and promised to build structures "that will withstand all what nature will throw at it."
"This is not low-cost social housing," said Chris Timmins, an MMCE official. "The houses will survive well into the twenty-second century."
Meantime, Skerrit has warned the critics of Government's national housing programme that adverse criticism is not welcome because his work is guided by God.
"I am basically an instrument," Skerrit said in Riviere Cyrique. "You will not be criticizing the Government, you will be criticizing God.