Anthony LeBlanc
Anthony LeBlanc

Resilience to natural disasters of a country will not get better without greater empowerment of the people; and government cannot achieve its aim of being the first climate resilient country in the world when it denies its people real opportunities to participate in the rebuilding programme.

Anthony LeBlanc, the president of the Builders and Contractors Association of Dominica (BCAD) told participants of the National Rebuilding and Economic Partnership Consultation held at the Goodwill Parish Hall on 19 February 2018 that resilience goes beyond "our ability to afford" the initial capital but it includes "the whole life cycle of our development projects".

The consultation, planned and executed by the Government of Dominica, is a response to the devastation of Dominica's infrastructure, housing, tourism and agriculture by the category five Hurricane Maria on 18 September 2017. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has declared to the rest of the world that his government intends to make Dominica the first climate resilient country in the world. And, he says, the world is paying attention.

But LeBlanc told the consultation that "it would be reasonable to assume that resilience in a nation is irrelevant if there is no resilience in its people".

He added: "Building sustainable climatic resilience depends to a very large extent on enthusiasm of the people about the relevance of such a cliché".

For many years BCAD has consistently accused government of ignoring the building and contractors of Dominica by providing contracts to overseas companies.

"If all the exciting attributes of the building is from outside, and the people are just spectators, they will sooner or later come to the reasonable conclusion that the overall goal is to reduce and displace their relevance in their own land," said LeBlanc.

He continued: "In recent times, and with every storm, this is the reality of the Dominican economic space for the private sector. Public Sector development and procurement is not geared or rather very wanting towards building resilience in its people, and the harnessing of local human resources and talent in the rebuilding of the nation.

"BCAD's concerns on the denial of real opportunity for the involvement of local professionals and businesses in the supply of sustainable resilient public housing are well documented. It is sufficient to repeat that.

"BCAD is very concerned that there is the real danger that housing contractors [the backbone of the sector] will disappear through their non-inclusion in the government's housing programme. Moreover, we are losing the opportunity to prepare our local housing sector for export."

But Prime Minister Skerrit has responded by saying that he is under pressure to get the job done quickly because of the dire needs of the people.

Leblanc responds by saying the government is creating "a permanent emergency condition to justify non-transparent public procurement practices".