Questions on DFP Budget Response
In the last article we paused to share with you our answers to some questions we received about our response to the July 28th 2020/21 budget address by the Prime Minister of Dominica. In that article, we addressed the first two questions in which we explained our observation that there was a lack of reporting on sustainable development outcomes, and we gave our overall impression of the budget. In this article we will address two other questions.
Question 3: What are some of the areas that the DFP would have hoped to see financial allocation in the budget?
Answer to Question 3: The Dominica Freedom Party would have certainly like to see greater allocation for the total rehabilitation of feeder roads and allocations towards other more robust proposals to transform the agricultural sector. With respect to transforming agriculture, a critical element lacking from proposals by the current administration, not just in this budget presentation but also in its efforts over the past 15 years and more, is marketing.
Currently many farmers lament that they can't sell their produce, and clearly the government has no creative and workable plans in the areas of marketing, transportation to market and support for agro-processors to assist them to become internationally competitiveness. How about any serious strategy to encourage the involvement of young people in agri-business? You see, the thing is that the current regime does not seem to understand how to move the agricultural sector forward. At this point in our development, this sector could play a critical role towards Dominica reaching its sustainable development goals.
The government mentions the intention to pursue the international airport, but it has not made significant allocations in the budget in that regard. Maybe this is just a smoke screen once again to fool the people!
But beyond the specific areas mentioned in the address, our greatest concern is that very thought-full and careful planning has not informed the preparation of this budget. The budget appears to be informed by the government's desperate attempt to sound as if it has things under control. But we want to warn the people that a great economic disaster is looming and this government is not up to the task. If our country wants to see economic progress, we must address matters related to corruption so that there is better use of the people money.
I am of the view that if it was not for the misappropriation of the people money, then all feeder roads could have been in rehabilitated or kept in good condition. Further, Dominica could have had an international airport by now and quality of life of the people would have been much better. We certainly would have had fiscal reserves that would have help the country overcome the COVID-19 crisis. To make progress, our country also needed to seek-out and utilize its best skills – whether they are at home or abroad. Our people also need to be united towards the task ahead and clearly the current administration does not have the legitimacy to lead that effort. But that too needs to be addressed if we are to see significant progress towards sustainable development outcomes.
Question 4: The digital transformation of Dominica was a highlight of the budget address. What does the DFP think of Dominica's plans for the digital economy?
Answer to question 4: The Dominica Freedom Party does not think that the current government truly understands what it takes for Dominica to optimize the contribution of the digital economy. There need to be in place an appropriate competitive structure among the providers of telecommunication services so that access, quality, reliability and cost of telecommunication services are at levels that are supportive. There would need to be serious efforts to help retailers, manufacturers, exporters and others understand how to transition to the digital economy and assist them in doing so. Further, there needs to be a review of the legislative environment to facilitate the transition to the digital economy and the financial intermediaries must provide the facilitation needed.
Moreover, the country must be in good standing with the international banking sector since if this is not the case, our businesses will not be able to take full advantage of the digital economy. The country is already adversely impacted in that regard as can be gleaned from the report that flows from the Citizen by Investment Programme (CBI) are not able to reach our banking system because international corresponding banks have concerns over money-laundering in Dominica among other concerns. Does the government understand these things? Are they addressing these things? Or are they lost in their corruption and in the process they are simply deceiving the public, hoping to find excuses later to explain why their efforts failed?
Kent Vital Political Leader Dominica Freedom Party