Last week, the government of Dominica signed a deal with Montreal Management Consultants Est. (MMCE) to construct the Caribbean nation’s first international airport, a US$370m project that the nation’s CIP will fund in its entirety.
PM Roosevelt and members of his cabinet flanked the Permanent Secretary of the PM as she signed the deal with Anthony Haiden, the CEO of MMCE, the same company that has worked with the government over the last several years to build more than 200 social housing units in the hurricane-prone country.
“The Dominica International Airport project is the biggest contracted project not only in Dominica’s history but also in the history of the Eastern Caribbean region.”, commented Haiden during the ceremony. He also remarked on the evolving relationship between his company and the Skerrit administration. “Recent years have witnessed the rapid development of our relationship with fruitful results in several areas, such as housing, health care and other infrastructural projects. This relationship has withstood the test of time, natural disasters, international crisis and even Covid-19.”
PM Skerrit promised to complete the project in five years and highlighted that direct flights to the US and Europe will become a reality.
“I give you the solemn assurance that planes will land here direct from Europe and the US in 2025. This is a historic moment that will redefine the future of Dominica and its people,” said Skerrit.
“Today we take one step closer to fully claiming the new prosperity which will be ours,” continued Skerrit. “Today we create new opportunities for this country and its citizens. Today we help to secure our children, the children of Dominica, our children, and our grandchildren. Today we walk forward into the future, a future that for generations we have talked about; for generations, we have dreamed about but which this generation and this Dominica Labour Party Government is now building for our people.”
The project will reportedly create 3,000 jobs in the short term, underscoring the importance of CBI for smaller economies.
“We need this airport to achieve economic diversification, which we have been speaking about for many decades,” said Minister of Economy, Fidel Grant.
While a flutter of music and performances accompanied the signing ceremony, opposition factions were not in the same jubilant mood.
Opposition factions spoke against funding the project through the CBI, even holding small demonstrations throughout the island. Opposition-leader Lennox Linton labeled the government’s decision regarding the airport’s location “irresponsible.”
“A lot of people have asked why we haven’t been saying anything,” said Linton. “Well, the government probably needs some chance to get it right but the more time that passes, the more we recognize the reckless and dangerous work that the government has been doing. So we are forced right now to raise these issues, to voice these concerns.”
Linton said the question for the people of Wesley, the new airport’s location, was “is that what you want? Is the money that is going to end up in the hands of some people for their property worth the destruction of the village of Wesley as we know it?”
The government did not shy away from responding.
“Despite criticisms of the CBI,” PM Skerrit pointed out, “it has proven to be a prudent policy approach providing resources that have literally become a life-saver in this country in the worst of times. It is the availability of the CBI funds that have enabled the government to carry out many of its programs and infrastructural development without imposing any new taxes on our citizens”.
MP Melissa Poponne-Skerrit, who is also the PM’s wife, and who was present at the signing ceremony, indicated there was nothing new about the opposition’s stance. “This project has the support of the vast majority of the people of Dominica, even though a very tiny minority of voices continue to try unsuccessfully to talk it down. We understand that this is a case of history repeating itself for every significant project that has been undertaken by this government; these same voices have been opposed to it. They have consistently been on the wrong side of history.”
Knowing which side of one’s bread is buttered
Dominica’s CIP has long been a crucial economic driver on the island, and many have stood up in its defense. MP and Minister of Health Dr. Irving McIntyre reminded the people of what the CBI brings to the nation during a handing over ceremony of new homes to ten families in Cochrane last Thursday.
Addressing those present, McIntyre highlighted what the CBI has done for them and what they need to do for the CBI.
“You must appreciate the fact that you are not paying for these houses, and it is your Labor party government that is doing it for you, but where does your Labor party-led government get this money? It is from the CBI program,” he said. “This is why you have to defend and protect our CBI program.”
The Minister went on to articulate that the CIP’s contributions don’t stop there, saying: “Today the CBI Fund is providing houses for you, but tomorrow it will continue to provide houses for others as well, and there are many other areas that the CBI Funds have been utilized.”