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Editor’s note:This article was written by Edward Lawrence and published in the Oct 3rd,08 issue of the Chronicle Newspaper.

It is Indeed opportune to establish a reasonable pace in the race towards social and economic advancement.

Our journey to join the rest of the developed world must involve the total commitment of our resources, both human and material. If not, we may take decades to do so, or in a worst-case scenario, we may never get there.

It is senseless, for example, to clamour for the opportunity to be an integral part of the movement towards regional unity and our people are not in a position to reap maximum benefit. Through education and training, our people will be well placed to take advantage of any actual and potential opportunities that emerge from our alignment to significant groups or territories.

Only the possession of tremendous wisdom on the part of small nations’ leaders can guarantee the elevation in the quality of the human resource. We all may be tempted to assume that contemporary politicians in administrative, decision-making positions not only recognise the obvious, but also do the obvious, that is, spend more on the education of persons. The emphasis must be on people-centred development, this is genuine development.

Every country needs to attain the highest level of infrastructural development that is permissible under prevailing circumstances. The demands of modern industry and communication must be satisfied. A substantial part of the effort should include the provision of facilities which make trade and commerce easier.These facilities are desirable and worthy of relentless pursuit, however, of greater importance is the attempt to sharpen the skills of nationals. This is what we ought to concern ourselves with here. Infra-structural development is an evitable consequence of human resource development, hence, the emphasis must be on personal advancement of individuals.

As the century rapidly progresses, the thrust towards the education of the masses must be intensified. The absence of mineral resource should compel those in authority to look in the right direction. It is customary for the leaders of a country to formulate policies that will facilitate economic and social development. Chief among them would be the establishment of a priority list that is consistent with the needs of the country. Needless to say, this list must be set up after intense thought and consultation. This is absolutely necessary because it is becoming even more apparent that the race for sustainable development will assume greater importance as other territories jostle for positions of economic and political prominence.

Like many other nations in the developing world, our economic survival depends, for the most part, on our ability to sharpen the skills of our people and to motivate them in a manner that will increase their self-worth. Having equipped our people for survival and the world of work, they must be presented with the opportunities for them to contribute to the advancement of their country. This is of vital importance since there is the implicit assumption that those who succeed at school will be absorbed in the job market.

Our small island is confronted with the enormous task of managing its scarce resources amidst the need to educate its people up to the tertiary level and beyond. The aim should be to create multi-faceted and multi-talented people. There will always be the need for the specialists but we must seek to increase the number of people who can adapt to changing global conditions. Economic and social trends will change, there is no doubt about that! Flexibility and the ability to shift emphasis from one productive area to the next will be the key to the attainment of economic stability.

Because financial resources are scarce, there must be the attempt to seek assistance from friendly nations. Experience would have taught us that nations do not remain friendly forever. As such, there is the need to broaden our circle of friends in the inter¬national community. This, however, should be done with skill and much fore¬sight. Also, out own efforts must be planned and provisions should be made for unforeseen circumstances We must never put all eggs in one basket, This is becoming more apparent as we intensify our thrust towards tourism, example.

It will certainly be to our disadvantage if we compromise our sovereignty and allow ourselves to be dictated to by powerful nations. For the most part, some oi our traditional well-wishers have diverted both their sympathy and funds to other parts of the world. This should, in fact, inspire our leaders and others oi good repute to recognise the efforts of those who have our interests at heart and create the ambience for further discourse. Our leaders must be careful too, that they do not allow themselves to be drawn into diplomatic or political disputes involving nations who have their own axe to grind.

Our collective pursuit of excellence will be hampered by the lack of foresight on the part of leaders who fail to appreciate the fact that greater budgetary allocations must be made for education. Education here does not necessarily involve the formal setting in the classroom. The process has to continue, involving the community and its resources, both human and material. Under ideal conditions, our school would have the capacity to conduct many activities with the potential to impact, not only students under their care but the community at large.

However, since these schools are unable to do so, they ought to work collaboratively with community partners. Such a symbiotic relationship can only augur well for the development of our people.The process of educating nationals will never be completed, however, as individuals acquire skills and expertise they must be utilized in the most efficient manner regardless of their social status or political affiliation.

We must appreciate the value of the physical infrastructure. However, there must be similar concern for the development of the human mind. The capacity to engage in independent thought and to discuss issues critical to national advancement must forever be fostered. This can only happen if the facilities are put in place. Of course, there must be the will to do so. In the rural areas, the village councils or village improvement committees must get to work sooner rather than later and engage villagers in discussions or other sessions where they are given the opportunity to do some critical thinking about issues affecting them and to look at objective ways of solving them. The goal would be to develop their creative and problem-solving skills.

It is indeed the opportune time to question politicians on their strategies to realise people-centred development. They need to be held, to a certain extent, for the ignorance and lack of intellectual development of the people in their constituencies. Their level of seriousness about the issue should speak volumes about their suitability for positions of leadership. It would appear that the issue of people-centred development will be debated well into the future. This may be necessary until such time that something meaningful and far-reaching is done about it.

Those in public office, who assumed these positions based on the promises that were made during election campaigns, should be made to honor these promises and eventually, held accountable for the lack of development of these people. Programmes must be tailored to achieve consistency with their aptitudes and inclinations with the result that the people can find employment to take care of their basic needs. In the absence of this, there will be nothing short of a waste of resources since a significant proportion of them will fall through the cracks created by short-sighted mercenaries who feast on the ignorance of people.

A perpetual challenge of this country is the fashioning of the collective will in a manner which brings benefits. It will take more than “flag days” and recitations of the national pledge and majestic declarations to instill patriotism in our people.

Certainly, there is a need for individuals to feel that their efforts are valued and rewards are delivered accordingly. Meritocracy, the principle of just rewards and equity arc valuable starting points from which our efforts at unity should begin. Collectively, it is easier to reap maximum rewards.

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One of the most contentious issues in Dominica is whether Government is doing enough to develop an enabling environment for local and overseas private investment.

Many persons cite Government’s failure to put appropriate policies in place to facilitate private sector investment, as well as the existence of entrenched bureaucracies in public offices as major inhibitors to investment. They say this has caused local and foreign entrepreneurs to seek overseas options for investments originally planned for Dominica.

These critics acknowledge that Government has an overriding responsibility to protect Dominica from unscrupulous investors. They also accept that Government has every right to scrutinize the business bonafides of would-be investors and also to insist that they set up business in compliance with established laws and business practices.

But they contend that Government has been slow to attract and assist new investments in Dominica and this impedes the growth of the private sector. They also say the list of significant new investments created or supported by Government in the last five years is much too short to generate the type of economic upturn the island needs.

It seems fair to note that some of the investments under the auspices of Government did not unfold in a way that fully satisfied the public in terms of time-frame, magnitude or local involvement. A recent example is the ongoing public outcry about a geothermal project granted to a foreign company while a local one was seemingly sidelined.

It certainly looks as though Government has a lukewarm outlook on private investment. For example, Government’s proposed broadcast legislation contains severe restrictions on overseas investors’ participation in Dominica’s broadcast media. It also lists draconian criteria for the entry of local entrepreneurs to the broadcast media.

Potential investors often complain about crippling bureaucracies in the licensing and registration processes. Hiccups are to be expected in any business environment and no system is perfect, but if Dominica hopes to create a truly business-friendly environment, the problems caused by unnecessary ‘red tape’ must be fixed quickly and permanently.

Businesses cannot rely on Government or its agencies to make them viable, but if Dominica seeks to promote private investment to create national wealth, Government should help them as much as possible. If acquiring necessary licenses and permits is too slow or difficult, then Government should move decisively to streamline the processes.

Global economic forces have pushed Dominica into an era of free trade and open markets. This is the basis on which the island receives much of its foreign aid from the Western developed world. This is also the basis for creating an enabling environment for private investment.

Attracting and maximising investment in Dominica requires much more than a spoken commitment. Among other measures, there must be clear and precise moves by Government to give investors attractive concessions and to refine legal and licensing systems to support business, trade and investment.

It is not Government’s ‘lip service’ but the way investors are treated in ‘real terms’ that determines the business climate here. Protection of the nation and the people comes first when dealing with investors, but Government should fine-tune the process of wooing and retaining investors to turn the private sector into the engine of economic growth.

This Article was published in the Editorial section of the Chronicle Newspaper – September 19, 2008

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