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dominican_fishermanfisherman repairing a small boat – by kretyen

Your Dominica morning news roundup for Thursday September 18th 2008:

Yesterday leader of the opposition honorable Ron Green speaking on behalf of the United Workers Party expressed serious concerns that the Labour Government is continuing to play the ‘blame game’ with respect to the cost of electricity in Dominica. Who cares who did what…consumers are only interested in see reductions in their electricity bills?

House Speaker Mrs. Alix Boyd-Knights says that Dominica Export Import Agency – DEXIA should consider some kind of ban on shop keepers who violate its regulated price ceilings from further sales of its products.

The Consumer Against High Utility Rates (CAHUR) says a meeting with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit this week on the issue of high electricity bills by DOMLEC has not deterred the organization from staging a major demonstration at the end of this month. According to the President of CAHUR Michael Coipel “We will go on with our demonstration and the only thing that can stop me is death”. Death! That’s a little too extreme Mr. C…don’t you think so?

Dominica Export Import Agency is in collaboration with the Reunion 2008 Office and Caribbean Export will be hosting a Trade Show Preparatory. Funded by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Reunion Office is said to be targeted at companies and exhibitors participating in this year’s 15th edition of the Caribbean gift & craft show (CGCS) and the 2008 exposition.

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5 Comments »

Comment by pete
2008-09-18 12:43:20

I guess the word is frustration. Dominicans are fed up and the pot is boiling over. I remember in 2001 it was a similiar thing. There were forcefull demonstrations which had unintended consequencies. Several months later the government scrapped a multi million dollar brand new power station that was almost underway, in part due to fears that the public would not support expected increase in fees that would invariable be required after construction (somebody has to pay for it)…lets see what happens this time…It should not come to this though. Its not unpredictable that these high bills would not be consequential at some point. Someone commented earlier to the effect that it’s a commodity that, if one can’t afford, one should do without or control usage. I think the consumers would say: “what??!!”. In a society that though capitalistic, there is some level of control on basic food prices and government is also involved (through Dexia) in the commodity import trade and regulation, and where there are heavy subsidies on things like health care, (not to mention the political promises) Dominicans view it as a right that the price be more affordable. I certainly agree that there is no value for money, given the unreliability/inadequacy of the service. If for nothing else, on that count at least, a tarrif reduction is in order! For a small island state with a small population and over reliance on government for development of the country, much is expected. Its part of the legacy. The people have been taken for granted for too long though. Let the voices be heard!

pete

Comment by Joel Halfwassen
2008-09-18 23:23:57

I was going to make a comment about how this news round-up smacked of the evils of socialism, but after reading what Pete wrote decided against it. Until Dominicans speak up and tell the Government to lay off their commodities (imported or not) then the government IS responsible for giving its people what are seen as ‘rights’. However…this is just the beginning of the downward spiral toward socialist economic stagnation. The island will never develop if the people don’t buck this trend and demand that the government take their hands off.

Joel

Comment by Suki
2008-09-19 10:02:08

Agreed. I have yet to see an example of significant government intervention really working.

 
Comment by pete
2008-09-19 14:13:21

Joel,

As much as you and I and many others would like to see true market economies prevail in Dominica and else where, in Dominica it will not happen just yet. You have to understand the country’s history and culture. It is still a small, poor country with a legacy of neglect from the colonialist french and english, and while other smaller (in size) islands flourished and increased in population and economy, several factors (physical no less) kept the island back. Included in that is the cost of working with the beautiful, yet very rugged, and mountainous terrain (read: cost of construction for buildings, roads, airports, harbors, agriculture services, power and water facilities). Factor into that the political promises (each party promises to deliver more before taking office) and decisions that have resulted in monopolies in some industries. Pile on that a mono-crop economy, much in crisis, that only now is breaking away from bananas. Factor the fact that government is the single largest employer on the island. Add to the mix the numerous natural disasters and mismanagement of the economy, and governments which have been slow to wean the country and the people off its supposedly mandatory social undertakings and you will see that really, there is no incentive for the public to ask the government to take hands off involvement in commodities and social service subsidies. Indeed, the public demands more intervention and delivery from government. It does not feel oppressed by the government’s involvements or subsidies. What do you think happened when the government tried to reduce some of its employment costs to reduce the burden of the public sector costs and help buoy the economy a few years ago? People do not understand the real issues, the connections and implications. Politicians take advantage of that too.

The other thing Joel, is that traditionally, the commercial investors have been few. So there is a tendency in some industries for those few (through their mis-management or otherwise) to royally deliver poor service, or simply dominate and hike prices up eg. there are only one or two cement importers and shortages happen all the time. The administrations have seen it fit for as long as I can recall to get into the business of some importing what it considers to be basic commodities (only a handful of goods really, but including items like sugar) I suppose in an effort to single handedly deliver cheaper goods on the market and prevent unfair prices to consumers. The government has always had a consumer protection unit, but I am not sure how much teeth it has and how strict any price control enforcement is. It is no secret as well that custom duties and tarrifs in Dominica are among the highest in the region. Never mind the countries involvement in Caricom, where there is a common regime of tarrifs etc. So the kind of market forces of competition that you have elsewhere (facilitated by good environments, ease of transportation, lowered cost of business etc) is limited on the island, and not necessarily just because of government regulation.We are getting into the microeconomics of it here and I don’t want to stray into that area…but you get the picture.

I think the key is to stimulate the economy and diversify and perhaps increase the skilled and educated worker base (stem the decades old labor and brain power drainage, but perhaps encourage desirables to come in). To some extent that is working out. The country is getting increased revenues from tourism and related services, but the economy is still fragile. There are more economic citizens and small business interests. People, particularly the youth are more empowered. There is more ownership in terms of puchase of durable goods, homes etc. But that is not all. The country needs desperately more and innovative investment. But more importantly, a change of attitude. Attitudes in terms of customer service, shortcuts to doing business, the public’s sense of entitlement, a favorable investment climate (think: procedures, government regulations, cost and access of basic services, trained and available workforce). I also think part of the problem is the heavy political interference in strategic initiatives. This goes on from party to party. The airport project is an example of that.

Agreed, it’s time for Dominicans, including the members of diaspora, to be more involved. The government has a role too, to minimize roadblocks and help create a stable climate. There is much ongoing education and PR directed at Joe Public. And it should not be just when there is a perceived crisis. By then, few may be listening. There are many challenges ahead, but also much progress too. Some of the decisions will take vision, involvement all around and courage and maturity to do the right thing. This is not all about critricizing. Given all that has happened in 30 years of independence, there is still much to be thankful for.

 
 
 
Comment by pete
2008-09-18 12:45:22

Further to the earlier comment, it was the company who had scrapped the new Power station.

Pete

 
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