Dominica's prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit. (FILE)
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ROSEAU, Dominica – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called on voters in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country and follow their counterparts in Barbados and Grenada and give his ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) a clean sweep in the upcoming general elections.
Skerrit, speaking at the launch of the DLP’s candidate in the west coast constituency of St Joseph on Sunday night, said that a sweep of all 21 seats in the elections, constitutionally due by March next year, but widely expected later this year, would help ensure that the campaign by the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) to damage the controversial, but successful Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) is not successful.
Under the CBI, investors are provided with Dominican citizenship in return for making a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the island. Dominica is among a several Caribbean countries with CBI programmes.
“The only way to stop this treasonous campaign from unfolding and taking root in this country is for the voters of this country to deal with it once and for all in the ballot boxes of Dominica.
“This constant undermining of the national interest and the national cause has to stop and it will be stopped in the next general election in Dominica. I do not want any slim or even a large majority in Parliament ladies and gentlemen, I want a Keith Mitchell in Dominica, I want a Mia Mottley in Dominica,” he told DLP supporters.
Mottley led her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to a clean 30-nil victory over then then ruling Democratic Labour Party in the 2018 general elections, while Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) won all 15 seats in the 2018 elections, making it the only political party in the region to have done so on three occasions.
“I do not want no 18 seats, I do not want no 19 seats, we want all the damn 21 seats,” Skerrit said, telling supporters he wants “a clean sweep . . . to save Dominica”.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has been on a campaign calling on the government to inform the population what has happened to the “disappearance” of an estimated EC$1.2 billion under the CBI.
Opposition Leader Lennox Linton first made the claim during the budget debate here last month and called on Dominicans to demand transparency in the CBI programme as he urged them to “take our country back”.
Linton, who is also chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said a recent report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), praising Dominica for the use of the funds generated by the CBI programme, did not “look at the accuracy or the integrity of the receipts” relating to the programme.
He told radio listeners that the report did not address his concerns, raised during the budget debate that $1.2 billion was missing from the CBI income reported by Prime Minister Skerrit, for 2018/2019.
“ . . . They were just looking at how much money was spent from the CBI, but they’ve given us no indication [of] how much money was collected from the CBI over that period . . .
“We had a budget debate in July. One of the matters that emerged in the budget debate had to do with the under-reporting of the citizenship revenues for the very same year, 2018/2019. Does the report address that? No, it does not,” Linton said questioning the PwC’s motives as they were commissioned by CS Global Partners Ltd, an international legal consultancy firm, who he claims, has a “sweetheart deal with the Skerrit administration”, as they help the government to promote the CBI programme.
Linton alleged that the funds which he believes to be missing from the CBI revenues were purposely kept from PwC during the collection of data for their report.
The party and its supporters have been staging peaceful protests outside various public buildings here demanding accountability.
But Skerrit told supporters on Sunday that the intention of the campaign “is to create such doubt in the integrity of Dominica’s CBI programme (so) that foreign authorities would consider imposing sanctions against Dominica’s CBI programme”.
“They do not wish for our passport to remain a hassle free travel document to many countries around the world. They want countries to deny free access to holders of Dominican passports. Lennox Linton is helping them change our programme so that more countries will impose visa restrictions on holders of Dominican passports.”
Skerrit accused the opposition of seeking to damage the local economy, saying “they are upset that Dominica now has several international hotel brands under construction and coming to fruition under the CBI programme”.
In its report, PwC estimates that expenditure under the CBI programme could increase gross domestic product (GDP) by about EC$150 million and tax receipts by nearly EC$30 million, while significantly impacting Dominica’s long-term economic potential.
In dismissing the opposition claim of EC$1.2 billion missing, Skerrit said “in any currency, in any language one billion dollars is a lot of money. A billion dollars represents at least one fourth and realistically half or one-third of your total national budget”.
“They (Opposition) speak as if a prime minister or minister of government can walk into the treasury and take money, or collude with someone to remove a stash of dough in the middle of the night. But the opposition makes no sense on their allegations, this latest craze is being pushed by forces outside of Dominica and another bit of plagiarism by the leader of UWP.” (CMC)