Picard can't toss Ross loss
Support for their party inhibits most landlords at Picard, Portsmouth from complaining about the departure of Ross University School of Medicine, Portsmouth residents say
Ten months ago Ross University School of Medicine left the shores of Dominica. But the pain lingers.
Haitian migrants have, somewhat, filled the vacuum but economic activity in Picard, Portsmouth have not revived to any extent.
"Picard was a ghost-town until the Haitians arrived," said Pat Corbette, a landlord at Picard who has rented some of his property to Haitian migrants who have flocked to Picard by the hundreds.
"To everyone working Dominican in Picard (there) are two or three Haitians," said another landlord who spoke to the Sun on the usual conditions of anonymity.
"There are so many of them. At least they are keeping the banks off your back, at least for now…At least you can pay something off your mortgage," said Corbette.
Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) left Dominica, after 40 years, and resettled in Barbados in August 2018, eight months after the category five Hurricane Maria devastated the island on 18 September 2017.
In 1978, just a few months before the ravages of another hurricane, Hurricane David, Dr. Robert Ross established the University of Dominica School Of Medicine in Portsmouth with the enrollment of 11 students. When Ross left the island it was contributing about 19 percent of the Dominican economy or 19 cents of every dollar the island earned. Ross University campus comprised of approximately 273,000 square feet of property located on 33 acres of land, of which about 22 acres were under lease, and 11 acres were owned by Ross. Before Hurricane Maria, Ross University had approximately 1,215 students on its register and about 450 (315 Dominicans) faculty and staff in Dominica.
"Logically, one can conclude that the temporary closing of Ross University has led to a loss of (US) $9M in monthly revenue for Dominica and a loss of even more significant numbers in indirect business activity, " wrote Neal Nixon in an economic analysis of RUSM in the Sun in July 2018.
The landlords say the financial pain has become more intense since workmen from St. Lucia and other islands who were in Dominica assisting in the repair of buildings in the aftermath of Maria, and rented rooms at Picard, have now departed.
"I was doing very good in the days of Ross. Since Ross left you know what time it is? Gone down to zero," said a landlord. "Ross leaving was another hurricane."
"I was making four to five thousand dollars on juice," said Addison "Juice-man" Aaron. "Ross leaving almost kill me, man. That put me down flat, mash me up."
Although Juice-man is still at Picard plying his trade, he says his intake is now about $300.
But many landlords are taking the pressure of RUSM departure rather stoically. The landlords whom the Sun reporter spoke to on a visit to Picard last week say it is all about Dominica-style politics.
"That thing inside there is very political," said one landlord who added that he does not support the Dominica Labour Party (DLP).
"They (the landlords) will not comment on nothing. They are on the government side. They are not saying anything," another landlord said.
"It's the politics that have that hush-hush. They don't want to bring down their government. They are willing to die for their government."
"People putting party politics before their life," said Aaron. "They suffering but they saying nothing. They just taking blows."
But will the loss of RUSM have an impact on the DLP's chances of winning the next general election in Portsmouth?
"Portsmouth has always been voting one way-Labour. I believe in Portsmouth the DLP will win," said a landlord. "I oppose them every day but it's not an easy fight to get them out of office in Portsmouth".
Looking towards the future of Picard, the landlords and businessmen hope and pray that "something" will be done soon to ease their economic pain.
"We have to try to get something inside there," a landlord said. "A good school or something to create some type of energy in there. Some kind of investment that will employ two to four hundred people."
"I wish something will come to replace it. After 40 years we should try to have Ross back because people like Rosie and Mike (Douglas) did so much," said Juice-man.
"I've heard talk of a new school but it's such a hush-hush thing," said Corbette.
An attempt to speak to Renneth "Bubbles" Alexis, a major landlord at Picard and a supporter of the DLP was unsuccessful; the Sun was told that he was out of State.
But Ian Douglas, the parliamentary representative for Portsmouth told the Sun in a telephone interview that "the Government is working on a number of different options for the facility that Ross vacated in August 2018. When the Government is sure we will let them (the people of Picard) know. I don't want to speak while the government is still negotiating; whatever I say now while the Government is still negotiating (will not be) complete. I don't want to be premature in my approach."
Over the past few days an advertisement for the recruitment of students for a so-called Dominica University of Medical Services (DUMS) has surfaced on social media. The headquarters for DUMS is apparently located in India.