ROSEAU – The government of hurricane battered Dominica Wednesday rolled out new initiatives aimed at encouraging citizens to invest in the country even as it acknowledged that it had not been able to attract significant revenue since the passage of the Category 5 Maria on September 18.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that his administration had agreed on lowering interest rates from three to two per cent for loans to persons in the tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.
“It is still a significant sum of money all put together . . . we are talking about $35 million available to the private sector,” he said, noting that the funds and the new terms would become available from Monday.
In addition, he said a new facility, which would be “almost like a grant” would be made available later this month through the state-owned financial institutions to people who are still encountering difficulties in repairing their homes despite having received payments from the insurance companies.
But he warned those financial institutions that the government was prepared to take over the initiative, due to become operational on December 18, if they take more than three days from the receipt of an application to provide the funds.
“If that is not done we will terminate the agreement with these institutions,” he said, adding that the state would be prepared to administration the loan programme.
Skerrit, who is due to leave here to attend the Cuba-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit in Antigua later this week, said that since the storm, the government’s revenue had been severely impacted.
He said for the month of October, the government had collected just over four million EC dollars with the bulk of that, EC$3.3 million, coming from value added tax.
He said in November, the revenue stood at just over seven million dollars, with EC$4.3 million coming from personal income tax as a result of his administration honouring an obligation to pay public servants double salaries as had been agreed upon prior to the passage of the hurricane.
“Our hope is that the public servants will respond likewise and be productive….and be patriotic,” Skerrit said.
He said that the funds received are “nowhere close to what the government spends on a monthly basis” given that “we still have a lot of work to do, cleaning up areas and communities”.
He reminded reporters ‘the state can only spend what the state has”.
Skerrit also indicated that there a definitive position would be announced “in a few days” regarding the curfew that had been imposed on the capital since the passage of the storm.
“I am hoping within a couple days…that a definitive position would be taken on which do we go with. Do you go with removing the curfew all together and putting an end to the state of emergency because the state of emergency legally can only go up until December 31.
“If we have to extend it we have to get the authority of the Parliament (and) I don’t want to make any comment publicly to prejudice the competent authorities discussing this matter, because I have my own personal views…but I will wait for the competent authorities to advice,” said Skerrit who also announced that he is to travel to the United States and France later this month. (CMC)