Politics kills a paper factory
Severin McKenzie, the proprietor of Nature Island Paper Products Incorporated says "the politics of abuse, victimization, and discrimination" has destroyed his business
Thousands of rolls of white toilet paper is scattered around the factory floor at Shed #5 at the AID Bank industrial site at Canefield.
They are discarded, damaged, destroyed, wet and useless. Expensive Israel-built equipment is being destroyed slowly by rust.
Nine large white bails of paper products, each as large as a fully grown tree trunk, from which the rolls were to be manufactured is stacked against a wall.
A dead rat rots in the dust.
That's the state of affairs at Nature Island Paper Products Incorporated (NIPPInc), one of the most promising manufacturing entities to emerge in Dominica in a decade. "Almost three years after Hurricane Maria the only paper manufacturing facility in the Commonwealth of Dominica lies in rubble," said Severin McKenzie, the proprietor and creator of NIPPInc.
In assessing the reason for the failure of NIPPI, McKenzie puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of politicians in the current administration whom he has accused of placing party politics above the development of the manufacture sector.
"There is no doubt that the demise of Nature Island Paper Products Inc.is primarily due to the politics of abuse, victimization, and discrimination," McKenzie said in a statement that he was scheduled to present to the press on Monday at a conference. "There is no doubt that the experience of Nature Island Paper Products Inc. is one of a local type of apartheid, where a company is destroyed or brought on its knees unless it subjects itself to the dictates of the politicians in power".
As McKenzie tells it, the company began December 2009 when he delivered his final draft of a proposal to the bank for financing a toilet paper factory.
"I am the first to admit that I had totally miscalculated the viciousness of our political system and our politicians in government," McKenzie said.
In his report to the press, he tells the story of the "woes and tribulations" of NIPPInc such as slow bank approval of factory facilities; damage to equipment because of faulty electrical wiring; loan refinancing road blocks; lack of support from major local purchasers of the product; government's failure that led to the abortion of a large market in Venezuela, among others.
"Recognizing governments hostility towards the company, in 2016 we decided to divest the company to change its ownership base. We incorporated Nature Island Peoples Paper Company (NIPPCo) and a number of Dominicans at home and abroad invested in the new company," McKenzie wrote. "When Hurricane Maria struck on September 18th 2017, we were in the process of finalizing a management agreement with NIPPCo to take over the operations".
Since Hurricane Maria in 2017, the manufacture sector that contributed 1.3% of GDP to the economy in 2018 (3.4 % in 2015 and 2.4% in 2010) has been struggling for survival. Manufacturing brought in US$ 11.6 million in 2010 but only $5.07 million in 2018.
For instance, Dominica Brewery is now operation out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Bello is now producing and exporting products out of the USA; most cottage industries are having supplies issues due to the hurricane's destruction of agriculture and Dominica Coconut Products have reemerged as DCP Successors after signing a financial agreement with the Government.
Having assessed the past, present and future of the paper producing company, McKenzie may have to step out of the business of NIPPInc, or government will have to change its policy on local manufacturing.
A former member of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) who contested the Grand Fond seat for the DLP in 2000, McKenzie said he currently has no party political affiliation but the DLP has not forgiven him for his past foray in party politics.
"I was aware of the political party's disdain towards me. Ten years earlier I had played a very effective role in removing one party in government and eight years later I publicly dissociated myself from the ruling party. In other words, in 2000 I helped removing UWP from office and in 2008 I distanced myself from the DLP. I had in fact committed two mortal sins for which I will never be forgiven".
But what is the future of the NIPPInc?
"This is a political battle, but I am not prepared to engage in any tribal politics," McKenzie said. "The government's attitude of destroying organizations and by extension entire sectors for the sake of one individual, is a blatant reality of Nature Island Paper Products Inc."
McKenzie said in January 2018, he wrote a proposal for restructuring of the NIPPInc loan but to date he has not received a response from the financial institution.
"The government of Dominica made a facility available at the AID Bank for the manufacturing sector at 2.0%. All attempts made to access the facility have been futile," he said.
Nevertheless, the equipment is still functional and the market for the product still exists.
"Nature Island Paper Products Inc. has submitted a proposal to the AID Bank, the Government of Dominica and CREAD for restructuring of the loan, to expand operations to incorporate the production of paper towels, table napkins and biodegradable products which would replace the plastic and Styrofoam products that were banned by the government of Dominica," McKenzie said.
"We have also submitted an additional proposal for research and development of banana byproducts into paper. The technology is available and it would be a productive linkage with agriculture which may well be the stimulus needed for the rehabilitation of the banana industry".
Apparently, these proposals await the approval of the Prime Minister.
"The systems are in place for the recommencement of operations under new management and possibly new ownership," McKenzie said. "The demand for toilet tissue on the international market continues to grow, particularly in the present COVID-19 pandemic where disposal cleaning products are the preferred choice".