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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Fellow Dominicans and residents

I write you this Christmas message acutely aware that for many of you, it will not be the type of Christmas you were planning for your family, friends, co-workers and employees up until September 18 this year. Maria has deprived you, and indeed all of us, of that which is joyfully acclaimed as "the most wonderful time of the year."

I am minded to recall the Christmas carol that sings out in chorus: What do you bring to the Christ – child? What do you bring to the crib?

We all bring to this Christmas, and in a real way, our uncertainties about the future, about our homes, our jobs and the physical vulnerabilities that surround us. We bring to this Christmas living experience and evidence of the widespread devastation and destruction that can be caused by climate change and rising sea temperatures on a small island.

However, with some introspection and a deep examination of the situation in which we found ourselves on the morning of September 19, and comparing it with what prevails today, we have cause to be thankful. Thankful for God's gift of life; thankful for his call to us for a deeper review of our stewardship of the environment, and thankful for the many friends and benefactors who willingly and spontaneously have come to our aid as we continue to recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria.

With the blessing and support of our friends and donors in the international community, we have managed to obtain significant funding to establish the Climate Resilient Executing Agency of Dominica (CREAD). This consolidates our first step in making Dominica the first climate-resilient country in the world.

It is through this resource mobilisation and executing agency that we will for example, permanently control flooding in Pichelin and convert Coulibistrie and Colihaut to safe and protected communities.

As you know, I have been devoting a fair amount of my time visiting old friends and making new ones in an effort to raise the two and a half billion dollars we need to fix the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. I can tell you that to date, we have managed to obtain more than half this amount in the form of actual receipts and pledges.

I can also tell you that we continue to assist needy families in recovering their homes. This programme will be expanded in the New Year, 2018, with the arrival of consignments of additional building materials obtained with the generous assistance of the Republic of China.

Existing agreements with the AID Bank have been amended so that farmers, hoteliers, manufacturers and landlords providing accommodation to medical students are now able to access loans at an interest rate of two per cent. The already generous conditions have been made even more generous, with for example grace periods extended up to one year in certain cases.

Commercial farmers and fishers are due to receive six thousand dollars each as a grant while subsistence farmers will receive one thousand dollars.

International agencies have worked with government and we have started to make grants ranging from $240 to $675 to approximately sixteen thousand households and children. This will last for three months.

Communities that were isolated and inaccessible just three months ago, can now be freely accessed; it can also be said that some level of normalcy has returned to daily life in most of the country, particularly in the capital city of Roseau and in the town of Portsmouth.

The world now believes that we are a resilient people. There is perhaps no better way to demonstrate that resilience by allowing the traditional joy of Christmas to be visible in our gatherings and in how we greet each other on the streets.

The man Christ, the Saviour of the world, who we celebrate at Christmas, is in our midst. He came to teach us and to mould us into becoming lovers. He is calling on us this Christmas to build a renewed Dominica; he is also reminding us that he works in mysterious ways to perform his wonders in our midst and in our land.

My friends, I invite you to make this Christmas one of praise and thanksgiving. As we do so, let us bring to the Christ child our devotion and commitment to Him and to the country he has given us to build as the first climate resilient country in the world.

I am joined by my wife Melissa and the children in wishing you a cheerful and peaceful Christmas.