Address by Prime Minister Of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit January 22, 2004
Home Up A message for Commonwealth Day 2004 from Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth June 30 - July 3, 2004 Visit of The Most Hon. P.J. Patterson to Saint Lucia Address by Prime Minister Of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit January 22, 2004




Governor General, Fellow Colleague Heads of Government, Members of Cabinet of St. Lucia, Ministerial Delegates, OECS Director General, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, the Media, Ladies and gentlemen.


I have mixed feelings as I stand before you today to address you as the new Prime Minister of Dominica. My joy at being here at the highest decision –making body of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States – the OECS Authority – is tinged with deep sorrow.

The Chinese philosophers of the Han Dynasty (about 200BC), in an attempt to reconcile the apparent contradictions of life, taught that Yin and Yang were one and the same, that is, two moments in the same cycle. Hence the answers of life were to be found in death, the keys to prosperity in poverty and the source of happiness in sorrow.

We Dominicans have been forced to reflect on this wisdom in recent years.

On January 6th 2004, our beloved Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon Pierre Charles, died suddenly. The death of Pierre Charles came less than four years after the passing of another great leader, Roosevelt Douglas.

Dominicans are a resourceful and resilient people, but the death of two Prime Ministers in a relatively short space of time is a heavy burden to bear.

Pierre Charles was a sincere, humble and deeply committed Dominican. From his early entry into local politics in the southern community of Grand Bay in the 1970s to national politics in the 1980s, Pierre Charles was willing to make sacrifices in the service of Dominicans. He was also willing to listen and learn from ordinary people who are often overlooked when national decisions are being made.

I make this promise to you that I will continue the good work that Pierre Charles started. I remain totally committed to pursuing, with even greater urgency, the economic stabilization and adjustment programme embarked upon by the Government of Dominica in June 2002.

Governments of the OECS, CARICOM and the international donor community have demonstrated their support for the Dominica Government’s efforts to stabilize the public finances as a first step before the resumption of growth. I want to assure you that I will build on the solid foundation that my predecessor has left me. I will continue to the right thing for the long-term benefit of this country.

On 19th December 2003, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a new arrangement with Dominica under the Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. Access to this facility represents a major achievement for our country and Government and a most important message to the entire regional and international community.

Another stage of my Government’s ongoing economic stabilization and adjustment program is the restructuring of our public debt. Last month, the late Prime Minister, Hon. Pierre Charles, led a delegation to Barbados to discuss debt restructuring with our creditors and donors. Extensive consultations with our creditors have already commenced and we hope to complete the debt restructuring during the first quarter of this year.

The economies of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union have been experiencing declining growth in output and GDP; increasing fiscal deficits and unsustainable debt burdens in most states in recent years. We need to accelerate the process to give effect to the 2002 Action Plan for Economic Growth and Transformation in the OECS.


Changes in the international trading environment have severely affected small, open and vulnerable economies like ours. There is the need to pursue with greater vigour the creation of an OECS Economic Union. My Government will do all it reasonably can to remove all impediments to ensure the establishment of an economic union in the OECS.

With the advent of the CSME and the FTAA in 2005, and a new relationship with the EU with the establishment of Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and ACP States, we can’t afford to waste any more time if we wish to survive as viable economic entities. The forefathers of integration in the OECS fought for political and economic union in the OECS. The new global realities dictate that we must make that dream become a reality within our lifetime.

I urge Colleague Heads to place special emphasis on relations with the French Doms and those OCTs that are not members of our Organization. They are an integral part of our history, our culture and our Caribbean family. We must forge closer relations with the Doms, the Dutch Antillies and the US Territories in our region as we seek to strengthen our integration movement. Those territories are of critical importance to Dominica and the OECS.

My Friends

As small countries in the global marketplace, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the monumental changes taking place in the international arena. But the accumulated wisdom we have inherited from our predecessors suggests that the way forward is to dig deeper into our own reserves. My instincts tell me that we should consult more regularly and honestly with the masses of our people and in particular with our young people. In effect, we must lead by consensus.
Our youth represent both our greatest strengths and weaknesses. We are all familiar with the plight of young people growing up in a rapidly changing world. This plight of youth in Dominica has been placed high on my Government’s list of priorities. But my Government also recognizes the enormous potential of youth. As a result, a new portfolio of human resource development has now been added to the brief of the Minister for Education, Sports and Youth Affairs.
Within the next few weeks, my Government will take to Parliament a National Youth Policy. The Policy is the result of extensive consultations with all the stakeholders over several months.

At the same time we are acutely aware that the scourge of HIV/AIDS can wipe out the seed-corn of our nation. By 2020, it is estimated that 68 million people will have died from Aids. The Caribbean is in the unenviable position as being second, behind Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of infection rates. AIDS is now the leading cause of death in the 15-44 age group in our Region, striking at the heart of our most productive sector. This situation threatens the economic growth potential of our small and fledgling economies.

We must acknowledge the outstanding contribution of our own Dr Denzil Douglas in the role he is playing in the fight against the scourge of our age. Earlier this month, US President George W Bush praised the tireless efforts of Dr Denzil Douglas in combating the disease in the Caribbean. We must redouble our efforts and engage a number of groups, charities, organizations and governments to tackle effectively the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In this regard I plan to accord to the fight against HIV/AIDS a high priority.

The AIDS crisis, this threat of death, should heighten our sense of urgency to improve the standard and quality of life of our people.

Colleagues, I want to challenge you, as we have been challenged in Dominica, to look again at the solutions we have been recommending to our people. We are committed to empowering young people, but have we given them the opportunity to participate fully in the major institutions of our lives?

We need to move with a greater sense of urgency and put provisions in place for the unhindered movement of the masses throughout our Region.

Our hucksters have been yearning for the free movement of people and produce throughout our Region but have we assisted them in any significant way to get locally produced goods from point A to point B?

Where are our schooners, where are our mass transport systems, where are our facilities for shifting resources around our Region? Will we have to wait until after the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007 to realize that we must use our local God-given resources to create wealth and happiness for our people.


As the newest Prime Minister to join the OECS family, I look forward to developing the kind of close relationship that my predecessor had with you.
I pledge to continue with even greater commitment the task of returning the Dominican economy to a sustainable growth path and to making a significant contribution to Regional economic, social and political integration.

We have the responsibility as leaders in this region to transform the lives of our peoples. I have already declared that the youth will be given special attention under my stewardship.

I am convinced that it is only when the masses are fully motivated and mobilized that we will reach that level of productivity that enables our region to put poverty and despondency behind us.

May God guide these deliberations.

I thank you.

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