A weekly Column by Kent Vital, Political Leader, Dominica Freedom Party
Starting with this issue, we in this re-energised Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) are happy to bring you this weekly Column.
A better quality of life for our people and our future generations is the ultimate goal that the Freedom Party will pursue should we receive the nod to once again govern this country. Pursuing this goal requires balancing of the economic, the social and the environmental dimensions of development.
The economic dimension centres around our ability to earn income. It pains me to see our economic state as a nation! It hurts when I hear that there are people in our land who cannot afford to have three meals a day. It is sad that some of our people have to suffer the indignity of regularly asking the Prime Minister to meet expenses that our people should be in a position to meet for themselves if they had decent work and pay, and/or thriving business; or if their children and extended family were doing well enough to assist them. This (the "Red Clinic" as it is referred to) is a clear indication of rampant poverty in our land. Off course statistics corroborate the high level of poverty in our country.
Indeed the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report dated September 2017, prepared by the government of Dominica with technical assistance from the World Bank with regards to the impact of Hurricane Maria noted "…it is likely that there will be a 25 percent reduction in overall consumption, which will result in an increase in the poverty headcount from 28.8 (in 2009) percent to 42.8 percent."
But our people don't just want to escape poverty! We must be able to consume desired goods and services well beyond basic necessities. Our people want to own aesthetically attractive homes that are well-furnished and well-appointed. Our people want to live in a safe and attractive neighbourhoods. We want to own attractive and comfortable vehicles to allow us the mobility to enjoy this beautiful land.
We want to enjoy leisure activity and be able to travel for vacation. We certainly want to be able to set aside adequate savings for retirement and emergencies and to assist with the tertiary education of our children! We desire health insurance and adequate access to health care to put our minds at ease and that of our families should the misfortune of major illness occur – something that can throw many into poverty.
We want to be able to enjoy the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the middle class in North America and Europe! That is why many of our people migrate to these places! They are pursuing that middle-class dream! Many of our young people are desperate to leave our shores as they see very little hope for a bright future in Dominica. But we call on our people to have hope!
The Dominica Freedom Party will pursue strategies to enable the vast majority of our people to achieve that middle class dream right here at home! While we know that we are a long way from that goal, we absolutely know that it is possible within 20 years! What would it take? First and foremost, it will take having in place a government of integrity! That is the most important ingredient that the DFP will bring to the table. Development is not just about having good ideas. As for that matter, I have seen a few good ideas in the annual budget address of the current Skerrit-led administration.
Some of those ideas may have been influenced by what they pick up from listening to weekly radio programme of the DFP aired on Q 95 radio every Wednesday from 8.00pm to 10.00pm. The problem of the current Skerrit-led admiration is that they do not have the integrity that it takes to make even good ideas work! Corruption certainly hurts the country in many ways and we will speak more on that in another article. Civil servants and other development partners must be motivated to perform to their full potential and there must be an appropriate institutional framework for preparing appropriate plans and for effectively implementing them.
The DFP will bring that to the table. Strategic and systems thinking will be the hallmark of the DFP's approach to planning. Attracting development financing will certainly be a key ingredient for achieving the results we want and as would be their efficiently use free of corruption. Hence, we will connect with development partners and investors abroad and a good name is key to this. We will connect with Dominicans living overseas – they too want a lovely homeland. We will improve the management of the Citizen by Investment programme. We will improve the administration and efficiency of our revenue streams. We will definitely reduce waste and corruption.
But improving our quality of life goes well beyond the economic dimension. In next week's article we will discuss the kind of social environment we desire as a people and the imperative for protecting our natural resource base. It is the careful balancing of the economic, social and environmental dimensions that would lead to the quality of life we crave. In future articles we will drill down into more details of what it takes to do better as a country. Let's go places with Freedom.