Business Unusual in 2013
Black Sigatoka Spreads
The business of agriculture, at least banana cultivation, became more precarious when technicians announced that Black Sigatoka, the deadly disease of banana, was spreading despite the best efforts of the stakeholders of the industry. That fungal disease attacks banana leaves appearing as reddish brown streaks which lengthen and widen and then turn dark brown to black. Carol Severin-Abraham, coordinator of the Black Sigatoka Disease Management Unit of the Division of Agriculture said she was "concerned at the continued spread of the disease."
Meanwhile, agricultural officials undertook a search and destroy operation of citrus trees in Pointe Michel to eradicate the newly-arrived Citrus Greening disease. About 150 trees were cut down and burnt. Ryan Anslem, the plant protection officer of the Division of Agriculture, said the disease, discovered in Dominica in May 2012 had been found in several communities around the island including Pointe Michel, Cabrits, La Plaine and Wesley.
Corbette becomes AIDB ManagerThe banking industry welcomed the return of Julius
Corbette after almost 13 years since his lengthy court battle with the National Bank of Dominica (NDB) over his dismissal as general manager. In May Corbette returned as the chief executive officer of the Dominica Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank (AID Bank).
In the meantime, Corbette's former bank, the NBD, said it made a profit of EC$5.8 million in 2012; the bank's highest in four years. According to the NBD, that was done despite moribund local and regional economies and the slowly-recovering American and European financial markets. Shareholders were told that they would have received nine cents on every share.
In 2013 Light & Power Holdings Ltd. (LPH) of Barbados acquired majority interest (52%) in DOMLEC from WRB Enterprises Inc. (WRB) of Tampa, Florida. That transaction followed an announcement on November 28, 2012 that LPH had signed a Letter of Intent with WRB for the acquisition. DOMLEC is the sole electric utility for Dominica, serving 34,000 customers. The Dominica Social Security Scheme owns 21% of DOMLEC, with the remaining 27% broadly held by other investors.
But what perplexed many Dominicans was the reasoning behind the sale of DOMLEC because earlier the company revealed that it had recorded a 1.4 percent increase in sales
"Despite the slight growth in sales the company recorded a better fiscal performance than in 2011 due largely to improved control of spending for both operating and capital expenses," wrote DOMLEC's chairman, Robert Blanchard in the 2012 Annual Report. "Consequently the company's year-end results showed $8.2 million profit after tax. This fiscal discipline enabled the payment of dividends of EC$0.20 per share during the year."
In 2011 the Company recorded profits of EC$7.75 million.
Carnival Cruise Lines came again
After a couple years absence, Carnival was here. At last. And although it was not the jump-up type of Carnival persons in the sector nevertheless jumped for joy. Many of the more than 3000 passengers that the Carnival Conquest brought in went on tours and that seemed to please tourism officials.
"It was different than when Carnival Cruises was here the last time in that from eight to 1PM the Trafalgar Falls is a Premium Site dedicated only to the cruise lines," said Benoit Bardouille, the Chief Executive Officer of the Dominica Port Authority.
Ian Douglas, the Minister for Tourism, added that he believes the uniqueness of Dominica's tourism product gives visitors an experience not available on other islands and he hopes Carnival will return.
"We have done a lot of soul-searching and have reviewed our product with a view of improving it so that your guests can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Douglas said.
He led a Dominican delegation which welcomed the MV Carnival Conquest for its inaugural visit to Dominica on Monday, November 18, 2013. There were 3783 passenger on the vessel that docked at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth.
Cruise tourism is a major component of Dominica's tourism sector. During the 2012/2013 cruise season, there were 158 calls which translated into 212,316 passengers. Approximately 200 cruise ships are expected to call at Dominica during the 2013/2014 season, bringing nearly 323,080 visitors to the island, the DDA said.
Additionally, Tourism officials had other reasons to smile in 2013 when SeaBorne began flying into Melville Hall Airport.
Gary Foss President of SeaBorne Airlines believed it was a "dream come true" for his airline to be now filling the void recently created by American Eagle that stopped services to Dominica on March 31, 2013.
One of SeaBorne's aircrafts made its inaugural flight into Dominica's Melville Airport from Puerto Rico on April 1, 2013.
But there was bad news in the business sector when Brizee Mart, a supermarket located in Canefield, closed and Clear Harbour made several workers redundant.
Government, DAT, PWA end salary negotiations
Government and the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT), the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) and the Police Welfare Association (PWA) successfully concluded wage and salary negotiations for the 2009/2012 Triennium.
The benefits which will form the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the triennium included: increase in wages and salaries – 3% for 2009/2010, 1% for 2010/2011 and 1.5% for 2011/2012; increase in allowances and introduction of new allowances; grant of duty free concessions on purchase of vehicles to travelling officers; contribution to tertiary education and health and wellness programmes of the unions; allocation of housing lots to Police Officers; free medical attention for teachers injured on the job at Government institutions locally and at private institutions locally and overseas; and access to low interest mortgage loans, a government release added.
It continued: "In the 2006/2009 Triennium, Government approved an increase of 6%. The increase for the 2009/2012 Triennium is 5.5%, notwithstanding the declining global fiscal and economic conditions which have affected both developed and developing countries alike".