By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
ROSEAU, Dominica – At the official launch of Octavia “Teacher Bonnie” Alfred, the candidate for Castle Bruce constituency, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit, having compared his Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and Lennox Linton’s, United Workers Party (UWP) – the “difference between quantitative and qualitative,” went further to denounce UWP’s citizenship by investment (CBI) model “is a joke,” alluding to a joker in a pack of cards.
“Their CBI model is a joke,” Skerrit emphasized, “It is suicidal” But they had to agree to it, to get campaign funding. All these pretty ads you see surfacing were produced and financed by one sponsoring company.”
“Their agreement to give all their CBI business to one company would be disastrous for Dominica. His [Linton’s] plans to do away with all other CBI agents but one, would wreck this economy. He can come and suggest otherwise but I know they have promised one company an exclusive agency for Dominica’s CBI program,” Skerrit said.
Does Linton’s CBI “joke/suicidal” plans have anything in common with “Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) and Henley & Partners featured in most Caribbean countries with Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs) and Saint Lucia, one expert asked?
It has also been established in the international press and the UK parliament that SCL was engaged with the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) in Saint Lucia, an affiliate party to Linton’s UWP in Dominica.
Speaking at a Mother’s Day event, Skerrit, revealed that agreements will be signed soon for new housing in Roseau, stating, “We will build homes in the City of Roseau, we will also build homes in Roseau South, to help alleviate the housing challenges which we have in the City of Roseau and of course in Trafalgar as well in the Roseau Valley.”
“This is why the government has made a concerted effort to build homes, as many as possible to ensure that we can provide for families. Those of you who are waiting, I will say to you with God’s help, you won’t wait in vain,” he said.
According to Skeritt, Dominica’s housing revolution is good public policy. It is funded entirely by the CBI programme introduced in 1993 and earlier this month destined to become “the world’s first climate-resilient nation, the World Bank offered Dominica $27 million for geo-energy.
Skerrit repeated Dominica’s Housing revolution reality during the launching of “Teacher Bonnie,” emphasizing “I know housing is a major concern here in the constituency. Very soon, over 123 families will be receiving new homes. Rest assured; everyone will be housed in the Castle Bruce constituency,” he said.
The Dominica Housing revolution, Skerrit’s initiative, to build 5,000 houses throughout Dominica, under contract by Montreal Management Consultants Est (MMCE), embarked on an ambitious goal to ensure that Dominica becomes the world’s first climate resistant nation.
“The flagship project: Bellevue Chopin Housing is the first large scale installation of fibre optic services to an entire community on the island. All the utilities are underground thus making the reconnection of these a rapid process in the event the main services are lost,” Chris Timmins, project director of MMCE Dominica, said.
“All new buildings are constructed from a reinforced concrete technology, equipped with hurricane proof windows, underground services. The homes are designed and built to the European upper middle-income standard with all two- and three-bedroom homes, two fully fitted bathrooms and a fully fitted kitchen along with generously sized rooms. The homes are in excess of 1,600 square feet,” he added.
Skerrit remains committed to ensuring that the government continues the objective of providing a climate resilient country and the ambitious goal to ensure that Dominica becomes the world’s first climate resistant nation. Thus, there has been a direct boost to the construction industry since the Housing revolution programme began following tropical storm Erika in 2015 and hurricane Maria in 2017.
In the process, Dominica is boosting economic growth locally and regionally, helping to lower unemployment contribution to the socio-economics of the region. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) annual economic review, December 2018, indicate that Dominica despite the odds grew by 0.5 percent in contrast to Saint Lucia 0.6 percent (Anguilla 1.9 percent: Antigua Barbuda 6.5 percent: Grenada 4.8 percent: Montserrat 1.6 percent: St Kitts 3 percent: St Vincent 3.2 percent).
“There are presently roughly 1,000 construction workers directly employed in the construction of the housing developments. In addition to people who are indirectly involved as delivery drivers, air and sea transport, suppliers, concrete companies, quarries, etc, at the same time a large proportion of the construction costs are directly benefitting the local population creating employment and contributing to Dominica’s economic development,” Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie, noted recently.
At the UWP news conference May 10, Linton said “The UWP plans to continue the National Employment Program (NEP) “once the party gains power. Government will provide 12,000 jobs in Dominica by the year 2025. The jobs will come in agriculture; the jobs will come in tourism, the jobs will come in manufacturing, renewable energy and water industries.”
Dominica’s Minister for Climate Resilience, Disaster Management, Environment and Urban Renewal, Joseph Isaac, addressing a climate resilience consultation in building community resilience and to create the enabling environment for the development of climate-related projects May 15, said:
“The issue of climate resilience will, therefore, involve significant training across the board and also the sharing of knowledge at the community level,” Isaac said. “It will, therefore, require leadership and participation of everyone involved.”
According to the minister, the four major components for the building of climate resilience anywhere in the world are financial resilience, the environmental and the physical aspect, that is, building infrastructure networks and also housing.
He challenged participants to develop action plans aimed at starting “a revolution” of building resilience at the community level.
A request for comment from Caribbean News Now, May 16, to Nicolas George, UWP press relations office has thus far gone unanswered.
- What area of focus is planned for the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, renewable energy and water industries jobs?
- How will NEP be financed?
- How will the UWP finance its housing plan/project?
- What is the UWP housing plan expected to entail? How many houses, location, design, etc.
- Is there a blueprint for the UWP housing project and is it available for public review?
- Will the UWP raise taxes?
Public response to Linton’s policy on social media said, “Well he [Linton] has dreams that come true. What the opposition gang bangers have are nightmares and empty words. Nothing to show. Linton’s plans will raise taxes, which amounts to a pay cut.”
At the launching of “Teacher Bonnie”, Skerrit, reiterated that, “Dominica is in a precarious position after the passing of Hurricane Maria and we are still in a build back mode; we are in the intensive care unit. We need an A team to pull us out of the mess. Dominica cannot afford too many loans and fewer than 25,000 Dominicans are contributing to the coffers of the Treasury.”
In a previous unpublished request for comment from counsel to the government of Dominica, Anthony Astaphan, SC, said, “Our progress since Maria has been astonishing and our progress since Dominica was in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program based on the economy inherited from UWP; I think [it] has been simply fantastic, with full appreciation and applause from the regional and international community. And you have these guys [UWP’s] getting up and making these statements that make absolutely no sense to anybody else.”
“The UWP current plans will destroy Dominica’s Housing, the CBI program, and return the country to the stone age,” a social media commenter said. “It’s not the intervention of psychology; it is the practice of ideas in action. Its performance in a proactive, positive manner, not bombastically verbosity of opposition gang bangers and looters.”