Dominica at thirty six
For a country 36 years of age is a mere blink of an eye; but as we look back over the more than three decades of our existence as a nation it is worth taking stock and deciding whether we are on the right track towards economic prosperity and social maturity or whether we are drifting in the ocean without direction or purpose.
Over the last 36 years we have produced a large number of persons who have excelled in the international arena in all fields including law, sports, entertainment and in academia. For example, a few weeks ago the Sun reported that a son and daughter of our soil, Dr. Carissa Etienne, head the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and Ambassador Irvin LaRocque, Secretary General of CARICOM, met in Guyana to discuss health issues affecting the region.
Measured by any criteria, Dominicans enjoy a quality of life that is the envy of many countries in the world. Though the development of our infrastructure leaves much to be desired and we complain about the increase in youth violence, we have to admit that Dominica is one of the most peaceful countries on the planet and the most naturally beautiful. As our National Anthem exhorts us, we should "gaze in wonder at those gifts so rich and rare".
But as we celebrate our 36th year as a free people we need to face one of our most elusive challenges. That is solving the economic problems that seem to restrict our development. In fact Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit made the point, that this is our major failure, in his address to the nation on the occasion of the country's 27th anniversary of independence when he said "every single administration since independence has come to power with a mandate to improve the conditions of the people of Dominica. Every one of them, regardless of political colour has faced different challenges and has responded to them to the best of their ability". He did not say that their best, including his government's, has not been good enough.
Over the past few years, the government has been promoting a form of drunken optimism about the state of the economy which, we believe, makes the task of recovery much more difficult. This drunken joyousness over the balancing of some economic figures, made luminous by the collection of VAT, is likely to lead to a painful hangover unless the Dominican public is told the truth about the woefully inadequate productivity of its labour force. Reasonable optimism has to be based on clear-headed assessment of the situation on the ground. This assessment tells us that all the growth sectors are in serious states of coma and it will take our collective vision, unity of purpose and the might of the many to help them recover.
One of the challenges that face our country as we celebrate 36 years of independence is the need to come together as one to decide what type of country we will bequeath to our children. Whatever we decide Dominica should look like in the next decade we must agree that we have to be faster, smarter and more nimble to survive and prosper in a world that is increasingly becoming a small village.
In his address to the nation which he will deliver on 3rd November 2014, Prime Minister Skerrit will tell the nation much of the same things he said last year. That the economy is rebounding, that despite the real threats of Black Sigatoka the agricultural sector is doing fine, that his government is making efforts at curing the unemployment cancer and that he is employing methods to reduce the high energy bill including the on-going geothermal project in the Roseau Valley.
Unfortunately the public will not hold the Prime Minister and his government responsible for achieving national goals. In fact, this has always been the problem of the past 36 years of independence-our politicians and senior administrative officers are not dismissed when our projects and programmes fail. For the politicians we reward their failures by re-electing them at five-year intervals and of course permanent secretaries are fixed in concrete.
So we have some crucial matters to occupy our minds during independence 2014, including a general election in a few weeks. But the successes and triumphs of the past 36 years should provide us with the confidence that nothing is beyond our reach if we use the potential that we are blessed with and if we realize that together we will achieve but separately we are destined to fail.