DFP political leader Kent Vital
DFP political leader Kent Vital

Beyond good governance including effective strategic planning which was discussed in last week's article, there are some other elements that we would like to lay out in this article related to fostering an enabling environment for investments.

Of course a secure environment and strong adherence to the rule of law are also fundamental to attracting investors. A secure environment is directly important for some undertakings such as tourism business. Beyond that, insecurity influences the cost of doing business and reduces a destination's investment appeal. In a separate discussion we will focus on the Party's strategy for creating a safe country, but a Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) Government would tackle that on three fronts – (i) address the social conditions that help fuel crime; (ii) more effective policing; and (iii) better administration of justice. With respect to the social conditions that help fuel crime, it is important to note that crime is more rampant in any country where people don't feel valued and where they don't have equitable opportunities to enhance their lot in life. That is why a DFP government will empower people through, education including vocational training, technical assistance to strengthen small business, and better access to finance among others. Overall success in such sustainable development efforts will contribute to less crime, but special attention will be paid to vulnerable groups and communities.

The DFP will invite the private sector and the nation at large to contribute to reviewing and updating the laws that are most critical to support thriving business and attracting investors. We will need to review these in relation to whether they hinder our international competitiveness and we would have to put in place complementary measures to improve productivity. For instance, in relation to labour, at the centre of our efforts towards promoting decent work will be the fostering of better mechanisms for rewarding workers for higher productivity. But while enhancing laws that would contribute to a greater ease and speed of doing business is important, government respect for existing laws and due process is undoubtedly the most critical element of rule of law in relation to attracting investments. Which serious foreign investor would invest in a country where the Prime Minister declares that no law, no constitution, will prevent him from competing in a general election? Such a declaration would cause potential investors to perceive that the same disregard for the law could confront them in the event of a dispute. Do you see why many investors currently don't see Dominica as a viable country – at least not a democratic one? Serious investors do their research! Dominicans, let us not let the Roosevelt Skerrit Government lead us along the current Venezuela model. A DFP government will have absolute respect for the existing laws! We will also ensure an independent judiciary, as well as independent good governance institutions to include the Electoral Commission, and the Integrity in Public Office Commission – all necessary, among other institutions, to promote the rule of law. Allowing these institutions to operate independently requires, among other measures, adjusting the appointments to the commissions so that no political party can exert control.

Beyond integrity, effective planning, security, and rule of law, putting in place adequate physical infrastructure, and keeping those in a good state of repair are fundamental undertakings for a government towards attracting private investments. During DFP's term in office (1980 to 1995), the party invested in what was then critical and strategic, including the rehabilitation of all major main roads and the expansion and improvement of feeder roads among other infrastructure undertakings. An international airport would have been the next logical step and some behind-the-scene efforts had started before the party left office. But alas, after 25 years there is still no international airport! A Freedom Party government will move resolutely to correct this. All political parties recognize the importance of an international airport to Dominica, but the Labour Party Government cannot be trusted to deliver this. They missed the boat over the last 19 years knowing fully that such an investment was critical to retain operations of the Ross University School of Medicine – which we lost to Barbados. There are other elements of infrastructure that we will move to address, including: the restoration of the neglected York Valley road; the rehabilitation of the road between Pont Cassé and Hatten Garden through the Kalinago Territory given its importance for tourism and as an alternative road to the airport; the improvement of the Jimmit/Warner road; and the restoration of feeder roads among others. Further, it will be important to improve sidewalks and the street scape in Roseau and Portsmouth and to increase parking opportunities as these would increase the country's tourism appeal and the comfort of citizens.

There is still more to discuss in this area, including the skill sets we need to develop and how we would otherwise seek to empower our people to invest in their own country. Stay tuned for next week's article. Let's go places with Freedom.

Kent Vital

Political Leader Dominica Freedom Party.