Today I greet you with a profound sense of duty and solidarity as we recognize and celebrate the forty fourth anniversary of the Independence of our Nation.
Every major milestone in the life and development of a Nation is an occasion for reflection on where we are, where we have come from, and the auspicious paths we intend to take. This year, these deep reflections and considerations are foremost in my mind.
My dear friends, I do not ponder on them as an academic exercise, but as a son of the soil, a humble servant, whom the people have entrusted to lead this country for roughly half of the last 44 years of which we have been independent.
Today, I encourage the country to join me in these deep reflections. We must be cognizant of the turbulent past, our precarious first independent steps, and we must be proud too of the tremendous progress.
And this pride transcends into this year – a year where we continue to realize the clear vision that we have articulated for our country, as we celebrate another year of independence and survival in an increasingly challenging world.
The world is facing one of the most perilous periods in global history. We in the Caribbean are trying to survive in the deep, churning waters of global economic uncertainty. We are contending with the rising prices of basic goods and necessities.
We are caught in the cross hairs of a climate crisis, originating from actions elsewhere, but having devastating impacts on our islands in the region. We are impacted by the rapidly changing requirements imposed by international institutions for banking and trade. We all know life is complex, fast moving, difficult to predict or plan for, and high risk for island states like Dominica, with our small, open and vulnerable economies.
In this environment, regional governments are facing a rising tide of concern and discontent, fueled by uncertainty, fake news, and false prophets. Governments are being called on to address and manage these unprecedented challenges, while simultaneously meeting the development needs and aspirations of their people.
Regionally, our people are searching for solutions and relief, and in some instances are not fully appreciating the powerful impact of global dynamics on their daily lives.
As your Prime Minister, I have taken action every single day, and pursued policies to transform Dominica into the best place to raise our families, to work and do business, and to live in peace and harmony. The Government that I have the honor to lead has created jobs and economic opportunities, improved education and health care, upgraded infrastructure and at a very personal level, I have reached out to many of you to make a difference in your lives.
I have done this because I understand your personal struggles, and it has always been my determination as a Parl Rep, and particularly as Prime Minister, to ensure that the living standard of the people whom I represent, and every Dominican is of an acceptable level. Having worked so hard to improve the lives of our people for over two decades, I would be heartbroken to know that there is any level of stagnation or reversal of the country’s development gains and citizens’ quality of life.
The impact of the current global circumstances therefore, concerns me deeply. They have restricted the ability and policy options of Governments to intervene directly and aggressively to help their people. We have had to be creative and innovative to continue to meet your needs and to continue to move Dominica along to a better Dominica- a Dynamic Dominica.
We must remain vigilant, however. These are tough times for countries, for citizens, for governments and Prime Ministers. Dominica has had to withstand blow after blow in quick succession, from natural disasters, disease and war.
You and I did not cause or could not control Erika or Hurricane Maria. You and I did not create or could not stop COVID and the economic upheaval it has caused. You and I did not start and cannot stop the war between Russia and Ukraine or the high prices and supply shortages that the pandemic and the war have together inflicted on us.
Times like these remind me of the saying that when the developed world sneezes, we in the small island developing states catch the flu. The nature of our societies and economies is such that we do not have the resources and financial cushion to protect ourselves from global turbulence.
What I can guarantee you, is that your Government and I, are using all the experience, skills, intellect, and networks available to us, to ensure that all Dominicans are as shielded from the global circumstances as it is possible to do.
Fellow citizens, like you I listen to the news reports around the world; and as Minister of Finance, I am privy to all the economic reports and predictions on the challenges facing the global economy. As I mentioned, Dominica has not been immune.
The reality is that the COVID 19 pandemic adversely impacted the economic wellbeing of many countries, including Dominica. Combined revenue shortfalls and additional, unexpected COVID related spending on health, social support to the vulnerable, including those who became unemployed; support to businesses; expenditure related to the administration of health protocols for the Police, schools, the public service—all of these have amounted to well over $100 million.
These unforeseen expenditures have taken their toll on Government’s policy and programme implementation, affected cash flow, and the ability to provide the range and extent of goods and services that we would normally provide.
Notwithstanding, as a matter of priority, first and foremost Government had to act to save families and lives. These were not easy decisions. It has been a difficult balancing act and has taken the full effort of the entire Government, and all my experience as Prime Minister.
When faced with turbulent winds and storms, the responsibility of the captain of a ship, is to hold the vessel steady. He must work with his crew to keep the passengers safe; and keep the ship from capsizing or being damaged. You don’t go through a storm full steam ahead. Slow and steady is how you navigate the current global hurricane.
Government has had to proceed with extreme caution in this moment of international crisis. To keep the country moving forward, this Government has relied on its experience, utilized our network of friendships in the global community and despite facing reduced revenues and higher prices, we have pushed forward, albeit at a slower and safer pace than we had been moving before the storm.
Despite all the challenges, the reality is, that Dominica and her people have been kept safe. Our economy and society have been protected. And the country is stable.
Importantly, international agencies like the IMF and World Bank, are all indicating that Dominica is now back on the path of growth, and well positioned for the future. This is comforting news, and suggests we can look ahead with optimism, but in the meantime, until we see the results of the new growth, the environment is still troublesome and difficult.
Through every national and global difficulty; in every type of circumstance, this Dominica Labour Party government has been as constant as the North Star, in its service to people and country. We have done this by putting our people first, by telling them the truth, by easing the financial burden citizens have been called on to carry; by not raising taxes; and encouraging growth; by continuously supporting individuals, farmers, artistes, and businesses.
As we navigate these global challenges, the pace may be slower, but this government is still building our nation’s social capital; investing in our people and youth; protecting our seniors; promoting culture and entrepreneurship; looking after our public officers, ensuring more Dominicans are in resilient homes; improving our education and health care systems; upgrading infrastructure, and securing the future of Dominica and Dominicans.
Over the years, this Administration has delivered on its promises and kept faith with the people of Dominica, and the current crisis is no different. We have continued to do so, within the confines set by the times we are living in.
In two decades, against all the odds and every crisis, national and international, this Government has transformed our nation. We have pushed Dominica so far along, that we are achieving many firsts.
We have placed Dynamic Dominica firmly within reach and we will jump over the present hurdles to take the country and our people there.
Safety, Stability, Security and The Fight for Progress Some of us who live in Dominica complain that we are not moving fast enough, but I have met many of you who are visiting, and you have told me how amazed you are to see the progress that Dominica has made.
This country is being increasingly regarded as a success story and a model for resilience. Together, the Government and people have faced and overcome a global financial recession; we have survived and overcome the impacts of intense and frequent weather events; we have kept our heads high above the waters of disaster that threatened to pull us under.
As a global micro-state, we have limited resources, a small economy and tax base. These factors inhibit us; they make recovery from crisis far more difficult, and the period required for recovery, more protracted. In the midst of our frustrations, we still need to pause, acknowledge our accomplishments as a people and as a government, and give God thanks. Grateful for our achievements despite national and global constraints, we must maintain our dreams of bigger things for ourselves and for Dominica.
Dominica is Safe, Stable, Secure. Out of these global crises, let us now move forward together.
Over the years this Government has made a deliberate effort, and pursued progressive strategies and policies to uplift our people, and set our country firmly on the path to prosperity.
Last weekend we welcomed record numbers of visitors to our World Creole Music Festival, and our tourism continues to grow. If this year’s event showed us anything, it’s how our home-grown talent and culture are world class. As we position Dominica to be the premier destination and preferred choice for travelers, our new international airport will ensure enhanced direct access not just for visitors, but for the thousands of Dominicans in the Diaspora, who come home every year.
Our efforts are bearing fruit. In June this year, the famous Travel and Leisure Magazine which ranks tourism destinations, against their activities, sights, natural attractions, food, friendliness, and overall value, ranked Dominica as the number one tourism destination in the Caribbean. Ranked number 1 – look how far we have come Dominica.
This is what I mean when I say that this Government has delivered safety in the handling of national affairs, stability for our economy, security for our people and ensured that our country is moving forward, even in the worst of global times.
We are continuously improving our sites and attractions and creating more opportunities for Dominicans, as we develop our tourism product. Dominica now has four (4), five-star hotels, and four (4) more are under construction, in Salisbury, Portsmouth, the Roseau Valley and at Loubiere.
This is being complemented by the development of new attractions. Construction has begun on the world’s longest cable car in the Roseau Valley. This will create an opportunity for all citizens and visitors to have a tree top view of Dominica’s beauty, and for those with accessibility issues, or who simply do not want to hike that distance, they too will be able to experience the world’s second largest boiling lake.
We expect there to be a significant increase in the number of visitors to the boiling lake and it will provide additional opportunities for our local tour operators and service providers, who can provide aerial guided tours, as well as hiking tours. This is scheduled for completion in 2024.
Many of you would have seen the convoy of trucks taking up drilling equipment into the Roseau Valley over the last two weeks. We expect the drilling of two additional wells to take place over the next few months. When this is done, construction of our first geothermal plant will begin and be completed in 2024.
This is not only a major initiative in building a green economy, reducing our carbon footprint and addressing climate impacts, it is a way of ensuring lower energy costs for householders and businesses, and will enhance our competitiveness.
In the meantime, Government has taken action to reduce the impact of increasing oil prices on consumers, which caused an increase in electricity prices. Government took immediate action by subsidizing the price of gasoline and diesel; and subsequently we removed the VAT paid on the fuel surcharge and increased the number of VAT free units on domestic consumption of electricity.
Unit One at DOMLEC’s PADU Hydro Power Plant is now online, and the second Unit is expected to be online by the end of November 2022. This will directly result in an overall reduction of the fuel surcharge and therefore a reduction in electricity bills for all consumers.
We are also pursuing the development of our geothermal potential in the North of the island as well. A geothermal mapping exercise is now being conducted with the support of the University of the West Indies. This will provide us with important information on where the best sites for development might be.
Geothermal energy can provide much more than just electricity for Dominica, it can be the catalyst for investments in the development of green hydrogen and ammonia production for export and its byproducts can support investments in health and wellness centres, in aquaculture, greenhouses, agro processing and many other businesses. This is part of Dominica’s vision of a Dynamic Dominica, with a diversified economy that provides jobs for all our people.
The economic advancement of our people continues to be our focus. We view education as the basis for upward mobility of our citizens and that is why this Government has invested substantially in the education of our people. This Government introduced not only universal access to secondary school, but also to tertiary schooling at the Dominica State College. Now every student can earn an Associate’s Degree.
Our “One University Graduate in Every Household” policy has resulted in thousands of Dominicans being qualified at the graduate and post graduate level.
We have also invested in the redevelopment and upgrade of our school’s infrastructure across the country. Where people cannot get to the classroom, we have taken the classroom to them with the digital world. This standard of education characterized by universal access will propel Dominica forward.
Since taking over the leadership of this country, this Government moved to stabilize the macroeconomic environment and create a path for sustainable growth, notwithstanding the numerous climatic and exogenous shock events which have come ashore. As a result of our targeted policies and investments, we have seen the expansion of the agriculture sector, particularly in respect of nontraditional crops, horticulture, livestock, and fishing.
Manufacturing, and in particular, agro-processing, has not only increased sharply, but the quality of many of these products is well in line with international standards. These were on full display at the Botanic Gardens at the Ti Vilaj Creole and many people said to me they did not realize that Dominica has such a wide range of products to offer, and of such good quality.
Never before in our history have we seen so many of our local products on the shelves of our supermarkets, or available for consumption at our hotels and in other countries—This has been achieved with the support of this Government, be it through tax concessions, concessional loans and/or grants.
With Government’s significant investments in the productive sectors, we have seen the emergence of numerous new entrepreneurs including new agro-processors, farmers, hoteliers, service providers and distributors. We have also witnessed an increase in the demand for Dominica’s products; the expansion of existing businesses to respond to growth in demand; and thousands of sustainable jobs being created across the country as a result of these developments.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has been the biggest blow to, and restraint on global economic growth. Combined with the war in Ukraine the prices of food and fuel have increased substantially. These events have resulted in shortages of supplies, job losses, and hardship for billions of people across the world.
In Dominica, even with financial slow-downs and revenue losses, this Government has kept the economy turning over by pursuing our capital projects. As a result, Dominica has one of the lowest rates of inflation in the Caribbean. On the other side of the economic coin, Dominica is now projected by the IMF and World Bank to have a growth rate of 6% next year, after having one of the region’s most healthy economic growth rates this year.
This is further evidence that the economy of Dominica is safe and stable; that the people of Dominica are secure; and our country is still moving forward against the high winds of the global environment.
The Government of the Dominica Labour Party puts the people of this country first. All our policies and approaches have been geared toward advancing the country’s progress and ensuring the wellbeing of citizens.
Our most important and unchanging aim, is to protect the people of Dominica, improve their socioeconomic circumstances and afford every citizen, a life of dignity. This is what we go to work to do every day.
We cannot always stop tragedy or disasters from happening, but we can and have ensured that their impacts on the citizens of Dominica are not felt as severely as they would be, if this Government was not protecting the people. It is through people-centered policies such as those of this Administration, that progress, safety, stability and security are all achieved.
Fellow citizens, guests, one of the lessons COVID taught us, is that social and economic stability and security are built on citizens’ health. This Government is on its way towards establishing Dominica as having the best health care system in the region.
We have financed the training of dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel; created a number of new positions within the health service; increased the number and range of specialists available to provide health care nationally; commissioned new high-tech equipment to improve and expand diagnostic testing; built and upgraded several health care facilities—including twelve (12) new health centres and two new hospitals, and 3 more health centres are being built. We have also established a Hospitals Authority for more effective delivery of high-quality care.
Amidst all of this, we have not increased the cost of health care to our citizens. In fact, this Dominica Labour Party Administration was the first to exempt children (under 18) and the elderly (60 and over) from the payment of hospital fees.
We are also the first Administration to provide extensive financial assistance to the vulnerable to meet the cost of local surgeries, and we have provided millions of dollars in assistance to Dominicans who needed to travel overseas for health services which are not yet available here.
Government’s extensive revamping of the national health care system will achieve two broad objectives It will take Dominica’s health care for our citizens to number one in the Caribbean and it will ensure that our people enjoy optimal health to maximize national opportunities.
Your Government has sought to secure our people in every sector and to stabilise each sector, so as to achieve progress. The working conditions for public officers have been improved with the construction, repair or upgrade of the High Court and Magistrates’ courts, schools, fire stations, police stations and other government buildings. We are firmly of the view that we cannot ask our public officers to give of their best without offering them good working conditions.
Piece by piece, this initiative to improve the physical plant in the public service is being carried out. Training and improvement of conditions has also taken place at the sectoral level and the extensive review of terms and conditions, is creating a new deal for our nurses, teachers and police officers.
Not only are they working in improved physical plants, new positions have also been added, and overall conditions of service improved. As we move toward number one, our greater stability and progress will be built on a high performing public service.
Our farmers and our fisher folk are important contributors to our society, to our economy, to food and nutrition security. In recognition of that, the Government has invested heavily in supporting their livelihoods.
These investments are manifested in cash grants, training, the expansion of markets, the provision of boats of better quality, seeds and stock, chicks and feed, and emphasis has been placed on the value chain and high yield crops and catches.
The Government is supporting a sector that will not only carry Dominica forward by contributing $700 million to GDP by 2030, but in the process will result in us becoming a major player in regional food and nutrition security. To ensure we meet the set targets, Government will continue providing essential support to the farming and fisheries sectors.
To support the entrenchment of a strong sense of identity, we have placed the welfare and wellbeing of our Kalinago’s firmly in the centre of our development thrust. In Kalinago communities, your Government has addressed issues such as community improvement and resilience building, ensuring quality housing, health, educational and tourism opportunities.
Over 100 homes are currently being constructed, an emergency shelter will be built beginning the first quarter of next year, and a Kalinago Development Fund has been introduced by this Government to provide funding to the Kalinago to invest in the development of their homes and businesses.
Dear friends, it is not possible to create a strong foundation for progress unless a country addresses the issue of resilience of its infrastructure. In the face of the gravity of the climate crisis, one that this Government and people of Dominica understand only too well, this Administration has sought to improve national infrastructure and make it more resilient.
We are upgrading and improving the water system. We have taken services underground in new communities to ensure continuity of service in the aftermath of an extreme weather event. Bridges, roads, drainage, and access roads are being built, upgraded or reinforced to ensure they are able to withstand adverse events without collapse. We have done this in communities all over Dominica, from the City of Roseau to rural communities.
Housing the nation has been one of our foremost priorities and while COVID has impacted the construction rate of our projected target of 5000 new houses, over 2000 homes have been built so far. This is a clear signal of this Government’s commitment to improving the living standards, safety and security of our people.
There are new housing developments all over Dominica that are built in safe areas and that meet resilient standards to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.
Our people are comfortable and happy in those homes, but most importantly, they are safe. We want to achieve 90% resilient housing by 2030 and in addition to the new homes being built, we have provided grant support to thousands of Dominicans to improve, upgrade and construct their own homes.
These investments and initiatives of your Government are the hallmarks of safety, security, stability, and continuing progress.
Vision Dominica – A Caribbean Leader, A Global Player
As a cricketing nation and addressing you on the grounds where international cricket has been played, you will understand if I use a cricketing analogy. Across the world, governments and citizens are considering the field of play. The uncertainties of this era are not glorious. They have put the global community into a period of fear and anxiety. We in Dominica must look at how the ball is turning and prepare to play it to maximum effect.
Inherent in this is the very essence of Independence, which requires a small island state to craft the platform for its survival in the worst of global times, and for its success in a time of great uncertainty. While we cannot predict the future, we can say with certainty that we have put and are putting everything in place to achieve regional and international success and new levels of wellbeing and comfort for our people.
Forward To Prosperity
We may not always be able to move forward as fast and as far as we would like. We must keep on the alert, particularly if there is a coming global recession as some economists are predicting. Much of what we can do depends on what is happening at the global level. But you can be assured that your Government will continue to be prudent in the management of the country’s affairs.
Now is a time for stability, for experience, and to hold steady. We believe that the vision of a Dynamic Dominica is sound, and the elements of this vision remain very relevant. In the last three years of this Administration, and despite the global turbulence, this Government has fulfilled many of our commitments for the achievement of a more dynamic, social and economic space and climate.
By reviewing what we have accomplished, your Government has concluded, that with continued work and steadiness, Dominica can become a Caribbean leader and a global player. We now wish to share with you some elements that are really an expansion of our vision of Dynamic Dominica as a leading country in the Caribbean.
Responding To National Needs and Building Dominica’s
Prosperous People and Economy
The foundation has been set, the building blocks are being cemented in, now we must stay the course. We are executing a national vision that is leading towards the empowerment, resilience and prosperity of our people.
- A Future In Tourism – In this next phase this Government will create more opportunities and jobs for our people. We will continue to invest in the tourism sector, arrivals for which have been increasing and look promising. The training programmes that we have been offering will equip Dominicans to take on the jobs in the tourism industry at the major hotels, which Government has attracted and in which we have invested.
It is to be noted that tourism opens the door to a wide range of actors, from the Kalinago community showcasing our indigenous culture, to the expansion of our Festivals, to scope for small and large tour operators, to opportunities for those with restaurants and spas, those making juices or producing organic products, to fishermen and farmers.
The new international airport now underway, is expected to bring high returns on investment, jobs, business opportunities, entrepreneurship opportunities, new openings for communities to offer Airbnb type accommodation, for cottage industries and community-based activities. The investment in this airport will go well beyond the tourism sector and will benefit all Dominicans.
- Enhanced Fisheries and Farming Sectors – The farming, fisheries and tourism sectors are a natural fit with each other. We are giving our fishermen and farmers the resources to make a decent living through the expansion of their businesses and our national capacity.
Under this Government, new markets for farmers and fishers will present themselves in three ways. First, through sales to nationals with more spending power as the economy grows; Second, through a vibrant local tourism market needing food for hotel guests and restaurant patrons. And third, through export opportunities which contribute to regional food and nutrition security.
- Expansion in the Manufacturing Sector, Agro processing and small businesses is pivotal to Government’s goal of increasing local production and reducing imports.
Therefore, this Government will continue to provide the required technical and as far as possible, financial support to ensure that Dominica’s goods and services are well in line with international standards and can compete on the regional and international markets thereby creating greater opportunities for our products, and increased market share.
- Securing Our People – People security is not merely about enhancing physical safety; it is about comfort and dignity for our citizens. In this regard, the special regimes we have put in place for youth training, contribution to property ownership, sports and education for youth, will reap dividends and prepare our youth for a prosperous future, one far more comfortable than their parents enjoyed and beyond the grasp of their grandparents.
The Dominica of past generations is a long way away from the Dominica of today. Our investment in young people is geared at giving them the best opportunities in life to encourage our talented and gifted young people to stay in Dominica, and use their training and skills to help build up the country that has helped build them up.
- Digital Dominica – My friends, COVID-19 accelerated the transition to the digital economy in Dominica, as it did across the world, from the provision of online banking services to recreational activity, to the way we stay in contact, to medical examination and services and a range of activities that we never previously thought could be delivered online.
This has hastened the necessity for government to accelerate the delivery of services, including education and training services, to citizens via electronic platforms. Such delivery enhances our competitiveness in the region and places government services more quickly, effectively and easily within the reach of all Dominicans.
- The digital thrust in Dominica is being achieved and we are preparing our citizens to become global entrepreneurs who share what Dominica has to offer with the world, and earn foreign exchange in the process.
Well managed, the digital economy is a potentially lucrative area for businesses and citizens, particularly Dominica’s bright young people who so swiftly and successfully assimilate the intricacies of digital platforms and navigate the digital world.
The Government through its Digital Economy Programme will accelerate this area of economic activity and growth and continue training our people to participate in the gig economy.
• Infrastructure Housing and Construction
The infrastructure, housing and construction sectors have become lead actors in economic activity. They are pivotal to building our resilience against external shocks and enabling us to bounce back quicker. This is not only vital for our people and economy; it is central to job creation and as a fillip to economic growth. Our new international airport and expanded seaports will be major planks of this policy direction in national infrastructural development.
As we have always been, this Government continues to be responsive to the needs of our people in the best of times and in the worst of times. As we navigate through this period of world crisis, I will now announce some measures that are designed to cushion the impact on our people.
- Safety For Seniors – This Government has put in place a package of benefits for seniors that is unprecedented. Dominica’s seniors are entitled to health care and medication at no cost to them, and will now be given a better community-based health care network.
To support our Seniors, this Government also introduced the payment of a non-contributory pension to persons aged 70 and over.
Government recognizes however that there are several vulnerable people between the ages of 65 and 70, who are retired, do not qualify for Social Security pension, and are not yet eligible for the Government non-contributory pension. We will now extend support to that age group. Effective January 2023, individuals between the ages of 65 and 70, who are not in receipt of a pension, will be eligible to receive the non-contributory pension. We will also increase the pension amount of $300 a month, by 5%, effective January, 2023.
In addition, for retired public officers receiving a Government contributory pension, we have listened to your several calls for Government to put in place a system--similar to the Dominica Social Security pension system--which provides for increases in pension in response to inflation.
Currently, Government pensions received upon retirement are fixed until death or transition to the Social Security system. Therefore, Government is in the process of engaging a consultant to review the current pension system and make recommendations which will result in a more robust system. We are hopeful that this exercise will be completed in time for implementation during the next Fiscal Year.
- A Clean and Green Dominica – As we build a Dynamic, Resilient Dominica we must continue our efforts to protect and maintain our natural environment. Together as a Government and a country, we must continue to plant trees, beautify our communities and keep our surroundings clean.
Several community groups, businesses and individuals have been assisting in maintaining a clean and green Dominica; however, much more can be done by those of us who reside in this country. Government has been playing its part by engaging road maintenance contractors and individuals under the National Employment Programme, the NEP, to clean and beautify our Nature Isle.
Effective January 2023 we will go one step further by increasing the number of work days for people engaged under the NEP from three to five days. This new measure will allow for an increase in the wages for those engaged under the beautification component of the NEP.
- An Engaged Public Service – Fellow citizens, guests, a country cannot build strong and effective governance structures without an engaged and well-trained public service. As an incentive to meritorious performance, beginning next year, Government will offer the Annual Dominica Public Service Awards. These will be competitive awards for which people can be nominated by their departments or agencies, or by members of the public. There will be an award in each service stream, including police and fire officers, nursing, teaching service, general administration and ancillary services.
We continue to encourage the heads of departments to make recommendations for the permanent appointment of officers who have been acting in positions for extended periods, where there are vacancies. Some 673 public officers have received permanent appointments over the last two years.
Two other concerns have been raised by officers regarding acting appointments:
- Officers acting in positions with fixed scales (that is, positions with no increments) only receive 75 percent of the difference between the officer’s substantive basic salary and the basic salary for the higher position; and
- The gratuity for officers acting for extended periods immediately prior to retirement or resignation, is computed on their average basic salary for the last three years.
To address these issues, with effect from January 1, 2023, a public or police officer, who has been acting in a position with a fixed scale for more than 12 consecutive months, will receive 90 percent of the difference between the officer’s substantive basic salary and the basic salary for the higher position.
In addition, for the officers qualifying under the provisions of the Pension Act Chapter 23:80, regulations will be made to allow for the following:
For the purposes of the computation of gratuity and pension for officers, the definition of salary will include the acting allowance received, if that officer’s resignation or retirement is immediately preceded by an unbroken period of an acting appointment in the same established position for a period of 36 months or more.
Salary will also be defined to encompass the acting allowance received, where an officer’s resignation or retirement is immediately preceded by an acting appointment and a permanent appointment in the same position for an unbroken period of 36 months or more.
This new policy will apply to all qualifying officers, retiring or resigning from the Public Service with effect from January 1, 2023.
In addition, I have highlighted on numerous occasions the need for supervisors within the public service to complete their subordinates’ appraisals in a timely manner, so that officers could receive their increments on time. Most supervisors have heeded the call, while a few are still lagging behind or are no longer in the public service.
Government has therefore taken a decision to pay all increments that have not been paid for Calendar Year 2021 and prior, because EADR’s have not yet been done. We will begin paying these increments from December 2022.
In 2019…. we promised a better deal for Public Officers. This included better opportunities for teachers, police officers, fire officers, nurses and others. The Reclassification of the Public Service to ensure that salaries are more equitable has been at the forefront of Public Service Reform over the last three years.
I am pleased to report that the Job Analysis and Job Evaluation Exercise has been completed in collaboration with all Unions representing the Public Service. Four hundred and forty-two (442) established positions evaluated have been recommended for an adjustment in classification level.
While we are finalizing the full cost of implementation, Government remains fully committed to implementing the Reclassification in the new financial year with effect from July 1, 2023.
Additionally, the review of the Primary School system has been completed. As was done for the Secondary School teachers, creation of new positions of Deputy Principal and Senior Qualified Teacher have been approved and will take effect from January 1, 2023.
- Payment for Police Rest Days – Under the present system, Dominica’s police officers are required to work for six days after which they receive two rest days. However, with the high demand for the services of the police during and in the aftermath of the two recent major disasters (Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria in 2015 and 2017, followed by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021), many of the officers have not received their accumulated rest days.
This matter has been raised by the officers and investigated. Government has been advised that allowing the officers to take all their accumulated rest days, which amount to over 50 days in some instances, would disrupt the operations of the Police Service and compromise national security. Government has therefore taken the extraordinary decision to pay the police officers for the rest days accumulated up to June 30, 2022. Payment will be made to these officers by January 31, 2023.
- Dominica Diaspora Bond – We recognise that Dominicans who reside abroad love their country and want to contribute to its development. They also want to have savings for their later years. The Government will therefore promote and issue the Dominica Investment Bond.
This will not only raise funds which will allow Dominicans abroad to support the national infrastructural and general development of their country, but will also give them the opportunity to save money for their senior years and support investments in land or property and businesses in Dominica. And pay for their children’s university education.
Before I end, I wish to take this opportunity to address the issue of electoral reform. We made a commitment to the Dominican people in 2019, that we would engage an independent party to look at the issues raised about electoral reform.
We acted promptly in engaging Sir Dennis Byron, former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, former Chief Justice of the OECS Supreme Court and Privy Councilor, to serve as sole Commissioner to investigate and advise on the issues. While the Government engaged him, Sir Dennis does not report to the Government. The Electoral Commission has been the coordinator of the activities of Sir Dennis, and he has been working very closely with the Commission in carrying out his responsibilities.
At the request of the Electoral Commission, Government made additional funding available to the Commission to enable the drafting of new Bills to address changes to strengthen our electoral laws.
We expect that when the process has been completed and the draft Bills approved by the Electoral Commission, they will be shared with the Government, Opposition, and other stakeholders for consideration.
While we recognize that our electoral laws have allowed for proper conduct of our elections since our Independence, as with anything, there is always room for improvement. We therefore look forward to receiving and implementing the recommendations from this exercise.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that all that we have achieved, have not been achieved alone. The Almighty God has guided us through every twist and turn, and we are truly grateful. We give God all the praise. We also want to express gratitude to our many friends and partners who have stood with Dominica and supported us particularly in our darkest days.
Many of you Ambassadors, Senior officials and representatives are celebrating with us today, and you have journeyed to Dominica to stand in solidarity with us. We appreciate your presence here with us today, your commitment to Dominica and your support. Thank you!
We acknowledge as well, the dedicated service of our public officers, police officers, the private sector, NGO’s, and all Dominicans. So much more can be achieved if we work together, hand in hand for the development of our country.
My brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, friends, I have outlined just a few initiatives on which Dominica’s future stability and security will be based and some of the corrective measures to ease the burdens citizens are carrying. This Government has placed all our love, loyalty and skills in service of this country and people. We have had high seas, but our destination is a Stable, Secure, Safe,
Prosperous Dynamic Dominica.
I know it has been tough, but we have together achieved much. I invite all Dominicans, at home and abroad to join us on this journey. This ship is yours. It belongs to all of us. We are Captain, crew, and passengers. Let us work in one accord to reach our destination and enjoy what awaits us there.
We in Dominica are on the journey of national development; we are rising to a top place in the Caribbean. We have seen trials and challenges in the last 44 years, but we have also seen clear, steady, transformational progress, that should cause us all to sing the verse of that great hymn:
“Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come,
‘Tis grace have brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”
Unified, as one Dominica, one people, one vision, we mark this forty fourth anniversary with a sense of gratitude, grace, stability, security and progress. The journey of this nation and its people continues on God’s ordained path, knowing that whatever lies ahead, we as a people are in the hands of God and capable of taking this blessed nation forward to 45.
In so doing, we hold fast to the promise made in Jeremiah, “for I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you … plans to give you hope and a bright future.”
Happy Independence Dominica. Happy Independence to all
Dominicans May God bless our “Isle of Beauty.”