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agricultural producePhoto by TropicallyTied

In the recently national budget address Prime Minister Skerrit highlighted the agricultural sector and how it offers a means to foster economic growth. He continued to underscore the many ventures of the government within this sector.

The Dominica Labour Party (DLP) administration over the years has invested heavily in fishing, horticulture, livestock, fruit and vegetables among many other areas in the agricultural sector.

An agreement was recently concluded with the government of Japan for the construction of a fisheries complex in Portsmouth costing approximately US$7.5.

PM Skerrit believes that efforts within the agriculture sector have resulted in significant economic growth. But there are still some people who thinks that there should be more incentives for farmers and fishermen in the sector in other for agriculture to have any significant impact on the Dominican economy.

What about you? Do you think agriculture sector have resulted in significant economic growth in Dominica?

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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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Editor’s note: This article was written by Edward Lawrence and published in the Sep 19th, 2008 issue of the Chronicle Newspaper.

It would appear that in out part of the world, it is a popular option for our leaders to depend on the directives of their new masters.

Moreover,it is possible for some leaders to be unanimously elected by the people but, in fact, pass the reigns of power over to elements both in and out of the country.

This would involve the conceptualization and implementation of ideas as well as taking key decisions. Any attempt to offer oneself for positions of leadership should be preceded by periods of intense thought, bearing in mind that it takes great effort and sacrifice to govern a country like ours.

Against this background, our leaders must resist the temptation to make promises which they know are extremely difficult and even impossible to honour. Rather, they must attempt to paint a realistic picture of our circumstances and devise ways of approaching them. Having done this , it may be much easier to get support from friends and well-wishers.

The current state of economic turbulence can erode public confidence in leadership at the national level. Consequently, the efforts of a few will be thwarted by the apathy of the majority who lose the zeal to work for the national good. No government is able to move a country forward without the Support of the people regardless of their political complexion. To doubt this is to fail to understand the dynamics and significance of people participation. Receipt of the popular vote is a license to serve , not to dictate to or alienate those who are endowed with ultimate power.

At the moment, it is not necessary to enumerate those areas . that warrant special mention but the dangers confronting our youth as well as the ease with which skilled persons are leaving our shores are worthy of more than mere mention. Moreover, the often spoken about tourist industry needs much more publicity if it is to compete with that in other destinations in the region and beyond. It is still shameful for us as a nation that Dominica remains unknown to many persons in North America and Europe.

Certainly, in this regard questions must be raised regarding the efficiency of our overseas tourism offices. Somehow, there is a need to engage those in the diaspora with a view to increasing their capacity to sell Dominica as a unique tourist destination. Certainly, it is not enough to orchestrate a media frenzy, advertising Dominica on the eve of national events such as Carnival or the World Creole Music Festival. In fact, the national interest will be better served if there is a never-ending endeavour to promote this country as a unique tourist destination.

The failure of our past economic ventures should not serve as a deterrent. Rather, it should equip us with the conviction that expert planning and organisation are an absolute necessity. Every deliberate national focus should include a profound resolve to improve the lot of our young people and those who have opted to return to make a contribution to national development. It would appear that there is an. increase in the number of persons who are becoming dejected and dissatisfied with the local political and economic climate. Of course, this is nurtured, in part, through the misconception held by some young persons that society owes them so much. They have taken solace in the promises made to them by those vying for political office, particularly during pre-election campaigns.

This country can ill-afford a major social upheaval orchestrated by disenchanted young people, neither can it withstand the wrath of adults whose purchasing power dwindles with every passing day. It will therefore do us a world of good if economic growth leads to equity and is measured in real terms. However, a necessary precondition is the creation of an atmosphere within which the average individual can take care of his basic needs. For the manifestation of tangible economic fortunes, our nationals must be assured that their efforts and sacrifices are not only valued but also transformed into visible progress.

A country will be judged by its ability to take care of its people. It can only do so if there is significant economic growth. Besides, there are tremendous benefits to be had when a country takes measures to make its people comfortable. Further, the vital tourist industry will come under threat if visitors are accosted, threatened or robbed by beggars or the homeless. Once again, the future of the tourist industry will be jeopardized if there is a high level of poverty thus forcing individuals to live in squalid conditions.

The current thrust in tourism should not be undertaken at the expense of the agricultural sector. We must be persuaded by the fact that this nation is well served by the elements. Thus, our future is tied with agriculture. It would be utterly unrealistic to view it any other way. Without doubt, an increased emphasis on agriculture would focus on the export market, thus keeping rural folks gainfully employed . An inevitable but desirable consequence of this is a reduction in the national food import bill.

It will be very difficult to persuade nationals to divert attention and effort towards national development if they are not convinced that they have a stake in die matter. Likewise, those who perceive that their efforts are not valued will be reluctant to contribute. This should never be allowed to happen.

At this juncture, our endeavours must be centred around the strategies that were employed to assist economic growth. Of course, they must be assessed to gauge their effectiveness. Having done this, there must be the willingness to employ new ways of doing things. These should bear tangible fruits, regardless of the source of die recommendations.

True leadership will seek to establish and sustain an inventory of the resources at our disposal and use them efficiently.

It never pays to appear helpless , particularly when there are persons with expertise and are willing to contribute towards the advancement of this country. The onus is always on those at the helm to confer a level of independence on those who have ideas and practical skills. Leaders who feel threatened by such persons can best be described as cowards.

These leaders are destined to retard the growth of our country. Those at the level of leadership and governance must pride themselves on their resolve to be circumspect and level-headed, particularly in matters of national significance. In an era of fierce competition and rising commodity prices maximum use must be made of all available expertise. Of course, this must be done with prudence and extra-ordinary common sense.

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