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Dominica keeping financial obligations to public servants despite no revenue

Thursday, October 05, 2017

ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit yesterday said that public servants had received their salaries for the month of September even though the Government has not received “one dollar” since Hurricane Maria pummelled the island on September 18.

Speaking at the daily briefing updating Dominicans on the progress of rehabilitation, Skerrit said that his Administration was also in talks with the private sector on plans to get them functional as quickly as possible and hinted at the possibility of providing land and concessions in that regard.

He said while the World Bank had made available loans and grants totalling more than US$60 million to the island, he was hoping for further negotiations to bring the figure up to US$100 million and would soon be holding talks with representatives of the Washington-based financial institution.

He said while the salaries were paid and the Government had been meeting its financial obligations, “further discussions will be held with our creditors.

“We have not earned one dollar since the hurricane,” Skerrit told the briefing, adding that his Administration is bracing for the “serious fiscal challenge that the Government will have now and in the months to come”.

Skerrit also announced that the authorities have decided to declare the capital a “pedestrian area,” banning all vehicular traffic into the city.

“Just too many people come into the city… if you have no business in town just don't come into town,” he said, adding that the Government will enter into an agreement with several bus drivers to provide free rides for people to and from the outskirts of the city.

“My appeal to all of us is to cooperate,” he said, adding that the high number of vehicles in the capital was hampering the work of the rescue and other teams.

Skerrit also acknowledged that the country is facing a problem with heavy-duty equipment to clear roads and as a result an agreement had been reached with operators in the region so that in the next few days heavy fleet of equipment expected here soon.

“Our intention is to clean from Roseau going out,” he said, adding that heavy equipment will also be placed in the north of the island to help in the clean-up exercise.

“Our intention is to get commercial activity going on,” Skerrit said.

Prime Minister Skerrit also indicated that the authorities would be examining the possibility of lifting the state of emergency and curfew in some areas, but said that would depend on the advice provided by the police.

“The intention is to end the curfew in some parts of the country… but that advice will be given by the commissioner of police later today (yesterday),” he said.

Regarding the availability of supplies, Skerrit said that while many friendly governments were providing relief material to Dominica, his Government had entered into an agreement with a business in Barbados for supplies.

He said a decision on the reopening of the Douglas-Charles airport, north of here, will also be taken soon, and reminded Dominicans “this is not the time for any type of complaints”.

Hurricane Maria left a trail of death and destruction when it hit the island last month, with preliminary estimate indicating that the damage could be in the vicinity of billions of dollars.