Left to right: Lennox Linton and Roosevelt Skerrit
Left to right: Lennox Linton and Roosevelt Skerrit

In a scathing response to the national budget presented last week by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Leader of the Opposition Lennox Linton said the government of Dominica is misusing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.

"The single biggest national development challenge facing Dominica at this time is the need to eliminate the dangerous threat posed to our sovereignty and identity as a nation," Linton said in a written "Response to the National Budget Statement" that the United Workers Party (UWP) distributed to the press.

"This is not an economy for the people of Dominica; it is being built as a modern-day slave plantation organised by ruling party puppets of their foreign masters for their exclusive wealth creation benefit."

In the response, which was frequently interrupted by House Speaker Joseph Isaac when Linton made the verbal delivery, the Leader of the Opposition took specific aim at the CBI housing option that he claims is being used contrary "to the rule of law."

Linton also attacked the "illegality" "irrationality" and "procedural impropriety" of Government's decision to rent a house at Morne Daniel, at the rate of EC$32,000 per month, as the Prime Minister's residence.

Last Tuesday (July 30, 2020) Prime Minister Skerrit presented a $942.1 million "budget of faith" to parliament.

"People must have faith," he said. "This prime minister will not tire; this country will not falter; the people of Dominica will not fail".

In his 113-minute budget address, Skerrit said the Dominica economy has been decimated by natural disasters and by theCOVID-19pandemic.

"But this Government is not daunted," he said. "All regions are projected to show negative growth in 2020… This prime minister will keep pressing forward. Dominica will survive, this government will succeed."

In keeping with this rosy-outlook, the theme for 2020-2021 budget presentation is: "The Road to a Dynamic Dominica: Fostering Economic Resilience".

External debt, Skerrit said, is $683 million and domestic debt is $550 million.

Skerrit also announced a number of concessions and initiatives: to the manufacture sector (waiving VAT on packaging materials and equipment); duty free concessions on purchase of vehicles to tour and taxi operators; the construction of roads in the East, South ad some enhancement programmes in Roseau Central; the introduction of property taxes to reduce the number of derelict buildings in Roseau; a 48% reduction in taxes and fees for land purchases; decriminalization of marijuana legislation and a tax amnesty for a limited period.

But in his rebuttal Linton described that budget as "anaemic" and "devoid of any major macro-economic impact for the budget year".

"All we heard was how hard things are and how much we should be grateful for the little that is being done", he said.

Linton said the government's national infrastructure development plan, though ongoing, "is absent from the national estimates as it is absent from the real economy. No bid contracts have been doled out to foreign companies that largely import their high value labour and from all indications are paid from outside to outside the formal national economy".

He accused the government of failing "to provide the needed measures and stimulus needed to keep the economy growing".

"What the private sector needs now is direct meaningful injection of low interest stimulus loans in a quantum that provides the support that the economy needs. Introducing stimulus on a prescriptive dose basis only prolongs the ailment of a sick and dying economy".