Roseau, Dominica: Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit bluntly slammed Lennox Linton- Leader of the opposition’s take on this year’s budget presentation. He criticized his response by referring that he was hoping to hear an alternative budget proposal for this fiscal year.
PM Skerrit stated that he was also hoping if he had no plan, then he would have at least pointed out which measures he would have included in or excluded from this year’s Budget.
He asserted that even after one week of the budget presentation, neither he nor the other members of the Opposition had dealt with the Budget, although what was being debated was the 2022/2023 budget.
“So, I take it that all of the members of the Opposition are satisfied with the Budget presented as well as the Government’s accomplishments over the past year. But they will not honestly and openly say so,” added PM Skerrit.
While responding to the Leader of the opposition, PM Skerrit remarked that he understands that the opposition is recommending the Budget as an election budget because of all of the planned investments outlined, including for agriculture, tourism, health, small business and other sectors; as well as the fiscal and other measures announced to bring relief to our people, improve their livelihood and their investments.
He further stressed that his Government is not about serving or appeasing people around election time—they are about delivering on their promises to the people of Dominica, ensuring their wellbeing, developing a sustainable economy and building a resilient Dominica.
PM Skerrit said that he has received very positive feedback on the 2022/2023 Budget from Dominicans here and abroad, residents, well-wishers, some in the international community and my colleagues in the region. He said people marvelled at the fact that notwithstanding the repeated economic shocks over the past seven years—Erika, Maria, COVID, and now the Russia/Ukraine War, this Government continues to transform the landscape of this country with extensive investments in the growth sectors, infrastructure and the people of Dominica.
PM Skerrit responded bluntly to every topic or issue raised by the opposition leaders and called it unrelated to the Budget and unrelated to what matters to the people of Dominica as they have nothing to say about anything wrong with the Budget.
While reverting back to the Opposition leader on the Citizenship by Investment Programme, PM Skerrit emphasized that based on his calculations, Government did not collect all of the revenues in the first two years after Hurricane Maria but collected more than it should have over the past two years.
Calling a strategy to the attack on the CBI, PM Skerrit stated that their agendas are undermining the welfare and wellbeing of Dominica. He has and continues to attack everyone who is positively helping Dominica – Be it an organization, a country, or an individual, for example, President Clinton, Sam Raphael, Range, the World Bank, the Chinese, the Moroccans, Venezuela and MMCE.
Then he went on and stated that the remarks made by the opposition leader on fees paid for marketing of the CBI are highly illogical. He added that there is an expenditure line item for the CBI Programme, which includes fees paid for marketing, due diligence conducted on all applicants to the Programme and some of the other expenditures related to that Programme.
Further, replying to the matter raised by the opposition leader on Dominica’s debt to GDP ratio, PM Skerrit noted that based on the statistics he presented, it was very clear that Dominica’s debt to GDP rose as a result of the sharp declines in GDP after Tropical Storm Erika, Hurricane Maria and during the COVID 19 pandemic.
He outlined that Dominica’s Debt to GDP was 68.9% in 2015. On the march to achieving the benchmark set by the Monetary Council of the ECCB – 60% GOD by 2030 – and now by 2035.
While answering the questions related to housing- Marigot, PM Skerrit stated that this Government has provided in excess of $7.8 million over the last four years by way of housing grants to the people of Marigot. They have also been provided under the Housing Recovery Programme. Earlier this year, they handed five new homes to five families.
PM Skerrit said,” I have come to realize over the years that caring is something that happens naturally. Showing sympathy is something that comes naturally and requires hard work. There are some people, no matter how hard they try, who simply do not have it. Linton finally came into this House and spoke about housing for Marigot.”
PM Skerrit further asked what he refers to when he speaks about a welfare state: the $300 to those 70 and over, housing to our people – free tuition at the State College, support to our students to study at universities, informs and books for our high school student, free transportation.
Condemning the opposition leader, PM Skerrit stated that he is simply providing lip service and appearing to be representing the people. As people saw immediately after Maria, once he had received his generator and repaired his House, he was satisfied—he slept comfortably at night, unlike them on this side of the floor.
“We are still trying to raise funds to provide decent resilient shelter for all our vulnerable people. And we will not stop until we accomplish this mission,” said the prime minister.
Criticizing the opposition leader and his blank vision, PM Skerrit mentioned that it is obvious that he has no vision of his own for the development of Dominica or its people. Instead, he knows very well how to create a bad image of Dominica. But the country will not get distracted. This Government still has a lot to do to rebuild this country.
Referring to the Budget, PM Skerrit highlighted that this Budget had been rightly dubbed an ‘across the board Budget. It will touch the lives of every Dominican of every strata. They have accounted for:
- The youth
- The Vulnerable
- Farmers/Agro processors
- Fiscal measures to bring relief to vehicle owners of all grades as well as electricity consumers
He said that these are targeted measures designed to give citizens a boost, providing a cushion in light of the current realities of the global economy- inflation brought on by the Russia Ukraine war as well as the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public finances and livelihoods.
To offset the potential impact of the war on food security, they are putting measures in place to strengthen the agriculture sector. This builds on the investments the Government have made over several years to support the farmers and increase production.
“Our aim is to increase the contribution of that sector to GDP. The measures in this year’s Budget are deliberately aimed at expanding production capacity for a wider cross-section of our society to encourage increased participation. We are talking about incentives for our hucksters, agro-processors, and in the coming months, people who wish to pursue the production of Cannabis by-products,” said the prime minister.