By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has stepped into the fray over the controversial announcement by Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) that it intends to relocate its operations from Dominica to Barbados and has offered to assist by providing incentives that would enable the hurricane-ravaged island to remain attractive to Ross.
“Antigua and Barbuda recognises the monumental role played by Ross University in the economy of Dominica; a move away from our neighbour would impact, even in the short- term, employment, foreign exchange earnings, and air arrivals,” Browne said.
For these reasons, he said Antigua and Barbuda stands ready to assist in helping to resolve in part the challenge of airline connections for Ross University students heading to Dominica from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and from any airport requiring transit into Antigua, the government of Antigua and Barbuda will lower or even to eliminate transit taxes that those students are now required to pay, foregoing revenue that Antigua might have collected;
“Antigua and Barbuda accepts that whereas no injury was intended by the other CARICOM country whose government agreed to accept Ross University, the negative impact on Dominica nonetheless, should Ross University not return, will be monumental.
“There is every responsibility owed by Ross University to engage in a win-win outcome by maintaining operations in Dominica, while expanding and diversifying its market operations to an additional CARICOM state.
“The member states of CARICOM must also act to lessen the negative impact on our neighbour, to whatever extent governments find possible, primarily because these circumstances had their origin in a natural disaster,” Brown continued.
Noting that Ross University is a very significant player in economic terms for the multiple Dominican businesses that offer goods and services to the university’s thousands of students, faculty and staff, he pointed out that an economic downturn in Dominica coupled with the freedom of movement – resulting from the single economic space that is the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – cannot be helpful to the cause of regional integration.
“Antigua and Barbuda has never shirked its responsibility to extend assistance to the people and government of Dominica in times of distress. Now more than ever, Dominica will require our helping hand,” Browne concluded.
Meanwhile, citing the comments being made locally and regionally regarding the efforts to seek to retain RUSM in Dominica post Hurricane Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he considered it necessary to make available to the public his letter dated July 9, 2018, to the president and CEO of RUSM.