The tale of two Dominican economies- one good, one bad
The 2015- 2016 budget presented by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on July 24, 2015 and the response from Lennox Linton, the Leader of the Opposition, two days later starkly illustrate the differences in perception between the two leaders of the main political parties on the state of Dominica's economy. The two pictures that they paint are as contrastingly different as black and white. Both versions cannot be correct.
Mr. Skerrit's version gives the impression that Dominica is blooming like the Flamboyant trees at the Botanic Gardens at the moment; Mr. Linton's version indicates that Dominica's economy is as rotten and foul smelling as garbage at the Goodwill landfill. It is rather obvious that both versions cannot be right.
Last Friday in the address that he named "Keeping it Real" we heard Prime Minister Skerrit describe his version of Dominican in glowing terms; the economy (past, present and future) was good and getting better, he claimed, and the Government's programmes and projects were delivering the intended results.
Later on in his address the Prime Minister accused his naysayers of publishing or promoting "various questionable articles and reports," to indicate that government's management of the economy has been a dismal failure. He then invited his critics to ask Dominicans (through a survey, we assume) to indicate whether "their lives have not been improved, and the quality of their existence enhanced, as a result of the policies of this government."
Mr. Skerrit also claimed that inequalities in unequal-Dominica have been levelling out in terms of home ownership and education. He gives no statistics to substantiate that claim but he sounded rather confident that his audience will believe him. And many may have believed him.
"Many, who never dreamt of owning a home, now do so, with some even planning to expand on the units they proudly own, as a result of the housing policies of this Government," the Prime Minister said.
Mr Skerrit did not forget to mention other programmes like the Government's school bus programme that he said is making life easier for parents of school children; householders who previously could not afford education for their children now have two or three university graduates in their midst; improvements in the road network have brought economic benefits to the road users and the communities.
Agriculture, the sector that the government has been accused of neglecting more than any other, according to the Prime Minister is up running with no signs of fatigue along the way. In the budget address Mr. Skerrit said: "Far reaching investments in the pork and poultry sub sectors, an aggressive expansion of non-banana crops, the operationalizing of the pack houses and the implementation of the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) Project, bring new hope and excitement to the sector".
Additionally Mr. Skerrit told parliament that main roads are now smooth; portable water is available almost everywhere and pit latrines are on the way to become obsolete.
Compare this version with Mr. Linton's who argued, in his response to the Prime Minister's budget address, that the Government's economic programmes have been a dismal failure and that Mr. Skerrit's policies are driving the rural poor into more entrenched poverty.
"Things are bad and getting worse," Mr. Linton categorically stated.
Calling his response to the budget "A 'Can Do' Commitment to Economic Review", Mr. Linton opined that the Dominica that Mr. Skerrit described in his budget address "is quite different from the one in which the people struggle and catch hell".
In today's Dominica, Mr Linton claimed, "we find: no jobs; low paying jobs; working poor people; no more savings; the unpaid monthly bills are piling up; land, houses, vehicles and appliances are being repossessed; the days on hungry bellies continues to increase; no money for school fees and school books and school clothes; in many cases no options left but to sacrifice dignity as a beggar at the mercy of a government minister".
Linton added , quoting the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, that Dominica has the smallest economy in the Eastern Caribbean with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of just over US$ 1.4 billion ;that the trade deficit has doubled since 2000 - it is now 500 million dollars; that Dominica's annual direct foreign investment inflows, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) was US$31 million, the lowest in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) big six ; and that tourists spend less in Dominica than any other Eastern Caribbean country.
One country; two perspectives; both cannot be correct.
The point we wish to stress here is that every Dominican must seek the truth- we must read more, observe, research, ask questions and critically analyse the statements that all politicians present in parliament and elsewhere. In other words, emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Otherwise we will continue to be people that politicians mould like play dough, manipulate like slaves, trick like innocent children. As we celebrate emancipation 2015 we must never forget Bob Marley's wisdom: none but yourself can free your mind.