Dominica PM says there’s much to be thankful for

ROSEAU, Dominica, (CMC) | Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has told Dominicans that while they are uncertain about the future, there’s still much more to be thankful about as they celebrate the Christmas Season.

In a Christmas message, Skerrit said that he is acutely aware that many people were not anticipating this type of celebration up until September 18 when Hurricane Maria “deprived …all of us, of that which is joyfully acclaimed as “the most wonderful time of the year”.

The Category 5 storm swept through the island killing at least 29 people and leaving millions of dollars in damages. The government has been seeking international assistance in rebuilding the island hoping for it to become the first climate resilient country in the world. In his message, Skerrit said that “we all bring to this Christmas, and in a real way, our uncertainties about the future, about our homes, our jobs and the physical vulnerabilities that surround us. “We bring to this Christmas living experience and evidence of the widespread devastation and destruction that can be caused by climate change and rising sea temperatures on a small island.

“However, with some introspection and a deep examination of the situation in which we found ourselves on the morning of September 19, and comparing it with what prevails today, we have cause to be thankful.

“Thankful for God’s gift of life; thankful for his call to us for a deeper review of our stewardship of the environment, and thankful for the many friends and benefactors who willingly and spontaneously have come to our aid as we continue to recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria.”

Skerrit said that with the blessing and support of friends and donors in the international community, Dominica has managed to obtain significant funding to establish the Climate Resilient Executing Agency of Dominica (CREAD).

“As you know, I have been devoting a fair amount of my time visiting old friends and making new ones in an effort to raise the two and a half billion dollars we need to fix the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. I can tell you that to date, we have managed to obtain more than half this amount in the form of actual receipts and pledges.

“I can also tell you that we continue to assist needy families in recovering their homes. This programme will be expanded in the New Year, 2018, with the arrival of consignments of additional building materials obtained with the generous assistance of the Republic of China. “

Prime Minister Skerrit said that existing agreements with the AID Bank have been amended so that farmers, hoteliers, manufacturers and landlords providing accommodation to medical students are now able to access loans at an interest rate of two per cent.

“The already generous conditions have been made even more generous, with for example grace periods extended up to one year in certain cases. Commercial farmers and fishers are due to receive EC$6,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) each as a grant while subsistence farmers will receive one thousand dollars.”

Skerrit said that international agencies have worked with his government and they have started to make grants ranging from EC$240 to EC$675 to approximately sixteen thousand households and children. This will last for three months.

“Communities that were isolated and inaccessible just three months ago, can now be freely accessed; it can also be said that some level of normalcy has returned to daily life in most of the country, particularly in the capital city of Roseau and in the town of Portsmouth. “The world now believes that we are a resilient people. There is perhaps no better way to demonstrate that resilience by allowing the traditional joy of Christmas to be visible in our gatherings and in how we greet each other on the streets.”

Skerrit said he was urging citizens to make this Christmas “one of praise and thanksgiving.

“As we do so, let us bring to the Christ child our devotion and commitment to Him and to the country he has given us to build as the first climate resilient country in the world.”