Showboating or Serious Business

 "Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value." - Albert Einstein

The recently concluded National Rebuilding and Economic Partnership Consultation organized by the government of Dominica last week (February 19, 2018) was considered by some observers to be a laudable effort and key step in rebuilding Dominica following Hurricane Maria’s devastation. This may appear to be the case, but we respectfully provide an alternative interpretation of this activity which was directed at national reconstruction on the island.

Firstly, all stakeholders who dedicated time and effort to prepare briefs of their ideas for building a climate resilient Dominica need to be commended. Also notable, is the public recognition by the current governing administration that ‘building a climate resilient nation is not a task this government can do on its own’.  Whereas, this gathering brought together many expertise and stakeholders in Dominica, we believe many participants will be disappointed at the view that this was a show. This consultation was an exercise to promote the Labor Administration in its ‘never-ending quest to stay in power’ and, secondly, to simultaneously satisfy International Donors.

The Financial Update was a major highlight of the proceedings. The financial secretary provided 'details' about government coffers and sources of funds.  In a nutshell, Dominica now exist on a unitary income stream. The Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) program pays for everything, yet the Public has never seen an independently audited statement of Dominica's CBI Program. The administration promoted a 'not-too subtle boast’ of how their fiscal responsibility kept the country from falling off a cliff in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Really! How about determining the composite costs of all the food, clothing, medical supplies, hygiene products, building material and hard cash generously provided to Dominica by regional and International Groups and organizations as well as by the vast Dominican Diaspora? Secondly, a report on the estimated pledges, monies received and those outstanding would have been informative, but was not provided. How difficult could that be? As Minister of Everything, Mr. Skerrit could have requested that the career public servants compile such a list (tabular format would have sufficed). This was a deliberate omission for reason he alone knows.  All Dominicans benefit from the generosity of the International community and, as well, tax payers from the Donor countries deserve appreciation and accountability on how their hard-earned monies are spent.
Two critical components were absent from the financial report. The Financial secretary provided approximate expenditure in year 1 (US $300M), years 2 to 3 (US $700M) and years 3 to 5 (US $221M) for total US 1.2 billion dollars. Firstly, details on source of funding were not delineated. With such an ambitious plan, details of funding should be known. Secondary, the total expenditure appears to be underestimated. Just ask any Dominican who is presently trying to replace a roof or update housing to category 3-5 hurricane resistance. For these reasons the Financial report emanating out of Skerrit's Finance Ministry was not serious.

The following section addresses additional reasons for the conclusion that this was a Labor party show rather than serious consultation:

The objectives of the exercise were ill defined. We are aware that the overall objective is to build a climate resilient country. However, without more specific aims, how will the country know that it has reached specific milestones. Without specifics, this could be a be a journey to infinity.

The approach(es) to execution were not stated. A serious plan should state that the ideas herein presented will be synthesized and condensed into broad categories and here is how we are going to collectively accomplish these goals. It would highlight engineering, architectural, and strategic plans to harness the power of stakeholders in order to execute said tasks. So, Skerrit says the Administration will plan additional meetings and consultations.  How many more? This exercise would have been more efficient, if the administration presented an outline or framework for recovery, into which input from stakeholders would be integrated.

A plan for integrating the knowledge and expertise of the various stakeholders was blatantly absent? The current Labor Party Administration is in the habit of giving no-bid contracts to Foreigners while ignoring skilled Dominicans. Indeed, at least 2 major post-Maria contracts (River Dredging and building houses) have been awarded to Foreign companies through no-bid contracts. Meanwhile, many Dominican contractors, skilled workers and Truck drivers remain idle.

Strategies to redress confounding variables were lacking. For instance, how will we deal with financial shortfalls, another Erika type Tropical Depression or another Maria-type Hurricane during the rebuilding period. As daylight always gives way to darkness, there are inevitably going to be stumbling blocks? Cost overruns, weather problems, environmental challenges are issues that need to be considered in this planning. How will adjustments be made to address the ‘If this occurs, then here are our alternative plans’?

Roosevelt Skerrit's Concluding rant and aggrandizing misbehavior. This was the most distasteful and disrespectful aspect of a National Public Forum that was billed by the Administration as a Consultation with Stakeholders. Typically, concluding remarks should consist of a brief summary of meeting goals, what was presented or accomplished and future direction. In this case, Skerrit's remarks should have highlighted how ideas would be developed into a solid plan and implemented to achieve climate resiliency in Dominica. Instead, Skerrit's concluding remarks clearly reflected that of a person who believed that many of his critics were not appreciative of his efforts in the post-Maria period; his comments reflected that of a person who harbored rage that bordered on derangement. He descended into a diatribe about the number of meetings he has had to attend. He pumped his chest as reflected by comments like "it is the first time we have ever seen any consultation or taking place, really, under any administration..." Interestingly, the few prominent consultants he identified by name were some of the same persons involved in the post TS Erika effort - we know where that got Dominica;  Nowhere!! This was the "I, Me and I" component of the the consultation. 

Fund Raiser in Chief
Mr. Skerrit's main contention was the fact that he had to do everything. He attempted to scold those who were critical of his one-man, go-it alone attitude stating that 'I am the chief fundraiser for the country and sometimes stakeholders want to meet with me, the Prime Minister, they don't want no acting Prime Minister or ...."  Finally he ranted about criticism of Labor Administration by the opposition parties and media for its politicization of the Relief and Recovery Efforts and violating the Procurement Act through awarding of 'no-bid contracts to Foreigners'. All of those who receive these no-bid contract just so happen to be friends of the Labor Party. We will not bore our readers as these issues have been extensively reported and covered in other post.  Suffice to say that Mr. Skerrit's 10-page , 30-minute rage was a distasteful end to the Consultation.  He knew that Dominicans were listening, Regional and International Agencies and Press were present, so he sought to maximize impact. It was politicking at its best from a character who said he was not being political. It was also very shameful and embarrassing! But, the Labor Party supporters loved it, so who cares about the rest of Dominica.

The National Rebuilding and Economic Partnership Consultation was a show to promote Skerrit and the Labor Administration in preparation for the next elections constitutionally due in 2019. We are in agreement with the comments by Tony LeBlanc (President of the Builders and Construction Association of Dominica, BCAD) who in his concluding remarks stated that "There cannot exist any collective responsibility at any level of society without providing opportunity and support towards empowering its people'.  Like all recent crises, the current Labor Administration will not shy away from taking advantage of a crisis for their own selfish interest. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria on Dominica is no exception. The Labor Administration and, in particular, Roosevelt Skerrit should be reminded that rebuilding Dominica after Maria is not a game or Show or opportunity for self advancement. If Dominica permit these manipulations to continue, the current behavior of Skerrit and his minions may win Labor Party the upcoming electoral battle, but Dominica will lose the war on climate change in the form of life and property.

No comments:

Post a Comment