Waiting for the 2015-2016 budget
As Prime Minster Roosevelt Skerrit prepares to tell the nation how much he intends to spend for the second half of 2015 up to the middle of next year, and how he intends to raise this money, many Dominicans have unfortunately adopted a laissez faire attitude to the budget. They don't care.
Thankfully, Dominicans who care will not have very much longer to wait to hear what's in the budget for fiscal year 2015-2016- Budget Day is scheduled for Friday 24th July 2015.
But as has become customary on these occasions, the level of pomp and ceremony will be suffocating; men and women will be "dressed to kill"; they will forget that they are attending a meeting of Parliament to hear and evaluate how the Government intends to rescue a country that is quickly becoming the Greece of the Caribbean. They are not participating in a fashion show.
The fact that the economy is in shambles should not be debatable matter. Everyone with a modicum of understanding of an economy should agree that the Dominican economy is in need of major overhaul. Nevertheless, as usual Prime Minister Skerrit will re-harsh in Friday's budget address the same arguments that we heard in 2014; he also made the same contentions on the political platform during the December 2014 general election campaign.
On Friday the prime minister will continue to contend that his administration has done a lot for the development of the Dominican economy. In his recent Independence address Mr. Skerrit reeled off a list of accomplishments from tourism to agriculture, to infrastructure and geothermal energy, to job creation, as clear evidence that things are not as bad as they seem.
He emphasised then that "there are economic hardships the world over. There are social challenges across every continent but your government is working. You can see the evidence of our numerous achievements all around you. You have heard the number of new initiatives for further development and advancement of our country."
Additionally, in a self-congratulatory exercise at the launch of Loubiere Reunion 2014 Skerrit also revisited his list of accomplishments saying the country ought to be grateful for all his administration has achieved.
Just about two years ago, Mr Skerrit said that prospects for the 12 to 18 months ahead were "very good," and that "notwithstanding the pronouncements of the naysayers, there are clear and positive indicators and projections of economic acceleration in the months ahead".
In spite of the fact that his predictions did not come true, Prime Minister Skerrit will undoubtedly display some level of annoyance when he is told that many of his critics and maybe some supporters as well, believe that he is actively and deliberately distorting reality because they see the unmistakable signs that the Dominican economy is on life-support. Even a blind man can see, they say.
One of the vocal critics of the Government's economic policies has been Dr. Thompson Fountain, the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist and now United Workers Party (UWP) senator.
Dr. Fountain keeps saying that the "Dominica's economy is in a shambles…That is reflected in the increasing level of unemployment and very little economic activity taking place in the country."
He repeated that opinion last week when he responded on Q95 FM to an article in the Business Insider that indicated that Dominica is among countries at high risk of government debt crisis.
Although Dr. Fontaine agrees with Mr. Skerrit's argument that the island has been affected by the global economic crisis of 2008, he maintains that because Dominica's economy is not as integrated into the world economy as that of some of its Caribbean neighbours, the impact was not as severe. But it is not true that Dominica has been doing better than its neighbours, as the prime minister contends. The problem with the economy, Fontaine argues, is the inability of the Government to generate growth in the economy.
Critics like Dr. Fountain point to the fact that the economy is struggling because the tourism industry is not doing well and although there have been more cruise ships in the past couple of years these ships are smaller and moreover the passengers are not spending much.
Additionally, there are few capital projects in progress at the moment: the State House has been completed, so too are the State College building and the Chinese-built Edward Oliver LeBlanc highway.
In the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) election manifesto published for the December 2014 election campaign, the Government promised to reduce unemployment to 5% and to generate growth by 5-7% per annum. We pray that the measures contained in this first budget of the first year of this current Government's five-year term will reflect the DLP's commitment to make a concerted effort to keep its election promises. Let's all wait and see.