Economist Dr. Thompson Fontaine: Dominica's economy is in bad shape
Contrary to statements recently made by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Dr. Thompson Fontaine, the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist says the Dominican economy "is really pathetic".
In what may be considered to be the most severe critique of the Dominican economy in recent times, Dr. Fontaine, currently an economic consultant to the government of South Sudan was responding to a statement by Prime Minister Skerrit last week on Kairi FM, a pro-government radio station.
"What was the size of the economy when Roosevelt Skerrit became the Prime Minister of Dominica," Skerrit asked rhetorically. "What was the size of our economy? We now have a billion-dollar economy. When I came it was about 300,000 or thereabout. It's now five billion dollars."
But Dr. Fontaine, a 2014 election candidate of the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP), said on Q95 FM, a pro-opposition radio station, that Prime Minister Skerrit's figures were misleading and way off mark.
"I've got news for Roosevelt Skerrit. Because as Minister of Finance he has to be truthful in his pronouncements," the economist said.
Dr. Fontaine added that he is uniquely placed to comment on the state of the Dominican economy and interpret statistics of the State's historic Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because from 1988 to1994 he was employed by the Ministry of Finance in Dominica collecting data to compile the annual GDP.
GDP is a universal measurement of the total goods and services produced by a country.
"I probably understand the Dominica economy as good as anyone in Dominica," he said. "Three hundred thousand is obviously wrong. We have not had a 300,000-dollar economy since the 1950's.
"Even if he meant to say 300 million, this is also not correct. Dominica's economy in 1984 was approximately $290 million-1984. That was 36 years ago.
"When the (Dominica Labour Party) took over in 2000 the Dominican economy was close to one billion dollars. It was $900.87 million.
"In 2019, under the leadership of Roosevelt Skerrit, it was 1.35 billion dollars. So in 20 years, listen to that very carefully, in 20 years, under the DLP government, Dominica's economy grew by $451 million dollars- over 20 long years".
In addition, Dr. Fontaine said, in 20 years the economies of islands of the sub-region have more than doubled; whereas Dominica's economy grew by about 50 percent.
In 2000, St. Lucia had an economy of 2.2 billion dollars; in 2020 it was five billion dollars; it therefore grew by 125%.
In 2000, St. Kitts had an economy of 1.17 billion; in 2020, the St. Kitts economy is 2.8 billion; an increase of 140%.
In 2000, St. Vincent had an economy of 1.06 billion; in 2020, the St. Vincent economy was 2.26 million; an increase of 105%.
In 2000, Antigua had an economy of 2.2 billion; in 2020 the Antiguan economy was 4.5 billion; an increase of 100 %.
"Every single island in the Eastern Caribbean, they have doubled their economy," Dr. Fontaine said. "In 20 years Roosevelt Skerrit has increased the economy by 50%"
He added that by every measure, the Dominican economy has decreased.
"Our unemployment rate has gone from about 15 or 16% to 45% today," he said. "We were exporting close to 150 million dollars of exports. That has gone to two million, if all that. This year we have stopped exporting totally.
"The level of poverty has moved from around 2% of the population to 45% of the population." Dr. Fontaine concluded: "The Dominican economy has gone down; it has not flourished in any way shape or form".
Dominica's economy was made worse when it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and by Tropical Storm Erika two years earlier.