COMMENTARY: Barbados, Dominica and Ross:  Debating the wrong issue

Sir Ronald Sanders

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS, and non-resident High Commissioner to Canada.  The views expressed are his own)

The debate, particularly on social media, following the decision by Ross University School of Medicine to relocate from Dominica to Barbados, is about the wrong issue.

Instead of focussing, incorrectly as it turns out, on the belief that the Mia Mottley administration poached Ross from Dominica, the debate should centre on yet another disastrous effect of Climate Change on Caribbean countries – this time on investment.

Ross’ principals made the decision to migrate from Dominica because, unfortunately, whereas that island has suffered repeated and destructive hurricanes, Barbados has remained outside of the main hurricane path for 65 years this year.  Therefore, as an investment decision, if a business is weighing-up options in the Caribbean, it is prudent to opt for a location where hurricanes are less likely.

After 40 years of close association with Dominica in which it benefitted from tax waivers and other incentives, none of which was threatened, Ross had little reason to consider departing Dominica, other than suffering destruction and disruption of hurricanes.

There was no need for the Mottley administration to poach Ross.  It is clear Ross itself was looking for a safer home.

If anything, the mistake Ms. Mottley made was not explaining the details on August 3 when she and Ross’ representative announced that the University was setting-up shop in Barbados.

Had she made the explanation on August 3 that she did on August 7, by which time toxic accusations had poisoned the Caribbean atmosphere, there may have been a clearer understanding by all.   On August 7, Ms. Mottley said the following: “Barbados came into the picture, only when, for Ross University, returning to Dominica for the start of the January semester in 2019, was not an option…  We enquired of Ross, whether all options and scenarios had been explored and fully exhausted. We spoke with officials of the Dominican Government who were still hopeful of a return of the school, but who conceded that a January start-up was highly unlikely given their circumstances. It was only after Dominica was ruled out for the January start-up of classes and when attention had turned to at least two other potential locations in the region, two sister Caribbean islands, that Barbados then embraced the idea of making itself available as a possible site for relocation”.

Ross was heading out of Dominica because it had already incurred huge expenditure fulfilling its obligations to its client-students and others since September last year when the island was devastated, and because it has to hedge its bets in the future against repeated and costly recurrences of hurricane damage and destruction.

In May 2018, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation organized a conference on physical climate risks and opportunities at EBRD’s headquarters in London.  Discussions focused on experiences and opportunities associated with managing these risks and on how to include them in financial disclosures.

The Bank released its recommendations for companies in a report titled, ‘Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities.’ In it, the EBRD recommends companies to perform forward-looking risk assessments and disclose material exposure to climate hazards such as floods, water stress, extreme heat, storms and sea level rise.  Publicly traded companies especially were advised to disclose the likely impact of climate change on their investment.   Failure to make such a disclosure to their shareholders could result in horrendous law suits.

So, the reality is that investment decisions are now caught-up in Climate Change.  It has joined many others including the creation of refugees, the loss of territory, and threats to the existence of age-old nations.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries should eschew the accusatory and unproductive hullabaloo over Ross’ decision to move from Dominica to Barbados. Instead, focus should turn to the real lesson that emerges from the event which is the imperative of ratcheting-up Caribbean efforts to fight Climate Change by confronting the governments of the profligate countries that are killing island-states and others by a thousand cuts.

At the 2015 Paris climate summit, small island states raised their voices in unison to pressure big polluting countries to accept the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than two degrees, over the pre-industrial level.  But those were words on paper; quickly forgotten and in one case completely abandoned.   Temperatures are already at 1 degree Celsius and heading rapidly toward two degrees.

I recall well the fretfulness of a former Prime Minister of Kiribati, Sir Ieremia Tabai, who served with me on the Eminent Persons Group that produced a report on Commonwealth reform in 2011. He desperately wanted to find a major investor for a hotel in Kiribati.  Today, Kiribati has had to purchase about eight square miles on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu for a little less than $9 million, potentially to move its population there one day.  Sir Ieremia’s nation is facing extinction.

There has been too much hot air and too little action over Climate Change.  By now every small island state should have had a Minister of Government and a department dedicated to fighting this issue every day and everywhere.  It is the region’s greatest challenge.

The Green Climate Fund has been more a repository of dreams and illusion than of reality and delivery.  Right now, the Fund has just over $1 billion left to allocate from its start-up donations. There is no agreement on how money will be delivered and what its priorities will be.

The World Bank Group delivered $20.5 billion in climate-related finance in the last fiscal year, but while that helps to build climate resilience in some states, it does nothing to stop or even to curb the disregard that is driving the destructive forces of Climate Change.

Last September at the United Nations, Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, declared: “We are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others.  There is little time left for action. While the big countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action and we need it now.”

Dominica has just experienced yet another blow from Climate Change – investment, too, is not secure and it has nothing to do with poaching.

There is another Climate Conference in December in Bangkok.  Caribbean countries should raise the banner, bang the drum, and rail against the coming of the night between now and then.

Responses and previous commentaries:

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  1. pippo
    September 5, 2018

    How do you spell climate change? B A N A N A S

  2. Ben
    August 11, 2018

    Anyone with an ounce of sense could have seen the writing on the walk after Erica. These Americans would not invest in the type of infrastructure necessary to combat what we’re experiencing and will continue to experience. Had Skerritt put all his eggs into one basket and rebuilt Ross you would all accuse home of pandering to the whim of those rich Americans. Had he done that and Ross still said Thank you but we’re still moving. What would be the cry.

  3. Pondering
    August 11, 2018

    I want to hear from Ross. Thats who is suppose to tell us why they moved to Babados.

  4. Pondering
    August 11, 2018

    I would like to hear from an official of Ross University. All that talk and all that quarreling makes no sense. Ross we would like to hear your reasons for leaving.

  5. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    August 11, 2018

    “Most of the people reading this blog wouldn’t have been around for the historic hurricane of 1955 in Barbados, but I am positive that EVERYONE has heard of Hurricane Janet! This September 22nd will be 58 years since this catastrophic hurricane hit our little island”

    Yes, indeed plenty of us was around, it did not only screw up Barbados, but Antigua also and many other Caribbean islands, it went into Miami, and messed up Miami so bad, Slinger Francisco “The Mighty Sparrow” sang a a calypso in which he said “Janet blow way the whole of Miami!” 

    In 1955, Antigua was even more backward than Dominica, they had no what they now called Deep Water Harbor, badges were used to ferry cargo assure. When the hurricane hit Antigua, it blew barges from way out of the sea all the way up to High Street right where Barclay/Royal Bank of Canada stands. 

    If Saunders was ten years old I am sure he remembers that. He is older than I am so he must remember!

  6. Brown
    August 10, 2018

    Maby it was climate change that make canival cruise line pull out of Dominica after 21 years

  7. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    August 10, 2018

    ”  debate should centre on yet another disastrous effect of Climate Change on Caribbean countries – this time on investment.” (Ronald Saunders).

    Ronald, based on what you said in the quote above I do not have to to read the balance of what you said to say you are talking nonsense! 

    If climate affects investments in the Caribbean, all of the foreign  investors in Guyana on the South American continent, to Jamaica and Bermuda in the North Caribbean would have left, and shall I say head to Antigua? 

    If you are insinuating that it is because of Climate change which caused Ross to vacate Dominica and relocate to Barbados, I can tell you, that you are way off base, that sentiment is bogus!

    Barbados is out there by itself in the middle of the Caribbean Sea edging with the Atlantic Ocean, and as vulnerable  to hurricanes the same as  Dominica.

    I am Dominican, grew in Antigua; the reason Ross left Dominica is because of our backwardness! Lack of International Airport, chased…

  8. Not A Herd Follower
    August 10, 2018

    It is not climate change, Sir Ron Saunders. Ross left because of the absence of a bias of the leadership in Dominica towards actions, according to its CEO, to resolving the deficiencies or inadequacies in Dominica. Did you read or listen to the statement of the CEO at the press conference with the Prime Minister of Barbados? Listen or read it carefully.

    • %
      August 10, 2018

      The CEO Lisa Wardell : Quote: “”We have found a government that is biassed in getting things done””.
      This suggests to me that lazy,and incompetent,incogerent and inarticulate Skerrit plus his other MISLEADERS are all very lazy ration sharing buffoons!!
      Skerrit Must Go
      Skerrit Must Go
      Skerrit Must Go Now

  9. Ibo France
    August 10, 2018

    Ross U left because of the many inadequacies of the country. Dominica sticks out like a sore thumb among her neighbors. The infrastructural developments have failed to keep pace with modernity. To blame Ross U transfer to Barbados solely on climate change is intellectual dishonesty. You, Mr. Saunders, have done further damage to your already fragile image with this frivolous, half-baked article. Go and do some real work for hour hefty monthly salary instead of writing frivolity.

  10. August 10, 2018

    Ross is a business and if climatic conditions are preventing the establishment from reaching its financial obligation then they have every right to move elsewhere.
    Didn’t Dominica just had a major hurricane and some of our natives moved to neighboring Islands and even as far as London and the United States so why cant Ross have the same opportunity?
    Ross is not a political party and in no way is obligated to remain in Dominica
    Would it be nice if they had stayed sure it would but the only people that should complaining are those who are financially impacted everyone else is just playing political games.
    Why it is a hot topic in Dominica? I do not get it.
    People are being idle and petty and they know the truth
    Ross left because the hurricane disrupted their business. (Plain and simple)
    Skerrit has nothing to do with that
    We have other businesses that have come and gone and Dominica stood strong so what makes people think that Dominica…

    • Neville
      August 11, 2018

      It was Skerrits fault and that’s it!. Ross asked for meetings with him but he always had more important things to do. Imagine that!!

  11. Scarsdale, New York
    August 10, 2018

    So sorry about Ross departure. Dominicans need to realize that we are the ones who have to come together and help in the development of our country. We can’t solely depend on our government. To much negativity due to difference of opinion from the political party they support. It is time terminate this dissociation; a major problem Dominica faces. The bashing of the country from the same residents who occupies it, won’t get us anywhere. The fact remains that we love our country and want to see development. Please let us unite regardless of what party we support and do what’s right for Dominica. I pray that one day Dominica will conquer the battle of underdevelopment.

    • viewsexpressed
      August 10, 2018

      It`s difficult to move on with this corrupt Labour Government and failed inept PM running this our loved island to poverty and to the ground. Skerrit has failed us and he must go and take his failed cowns with him.

      Skerrit must go……just Go…

  12. Brenda
    August 10, 2018

    I literally stopped reading at Climate change. What the heck!

    All the businesses going to be affected trying to figure out how they are going to make up that revenue.
    And you’re waxing on the climate?

    That’s like me asking you for something to eat and you telling me I will pray for you.

    I am sick of the climate change hoax I could puke.

  13. Sanders Magwaysah!
    August 10, 2018

    Sanders is another apologist. Climate change did not cause the ineptitude of a government which is a one man show. Climate change did not cause the death of our agriculture. Climate change is not why all major advisors are Baja n and they get most of the big contracts over local contractors. Climate xhange did not put Ma Domimique tax dollars in Pennsylvania garbage bin Bobol. I can go on and on..Sanders need to move on to the land of Red Kool Aid with his bovine scatology! We not drinking Kool aid anymore. Only fresh nature island juice from a new government can cure the cancer of poor governance running us down.

  14. Shameless Sanders
    August 10, 2018

    Sanders does nothing for Antiguans in Washington and is another one of the useless diplomats plaguing the Caribbean. Climate change is not why we have a lazy, corrupt and useless regime which appointed persons as Dominica diplomats who are regularly arrested for money laundering. Climate change did not cause thousands of tax payers dollars to disappear in garbage bins Pennsylvania. Climate change is not why all our Barbarian advisors could not prevent Ross from going to Barbados. Climate change is not why food aid sent to Dominica is is left to rot. Climage change is not why trained physicians like Dr Sam Christian, Dr Dale Dangleben and other Dominica born professionals are treated like dogs in their own country while Cubans and Chinese who can hardly speak English can work at the hospital. Sanders should be ashamed to post such unadulterated bilge water..bovine scatology to the max!

  15. Nacinimod
    August 10, 2018

    Another NATO maneuver….No Action, Talk Only

    Last September at the United Nations, Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, declared: “We are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others. There is little time left for action. While the big countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action and we need it now.”

  16. Real truth
    August 10, 2018

    Who is this #%*€#….clown!? I will believe everything in this article when all aircraft are taken out of the skies and all militaries go green……..Away with your new world order agenda!

  17. August 10, 2018

    Bro I have friends who worked in administrative departments of Ross. Ross has been planning to leave Dominica years ago. One person had given it five years,

    • OLI
      August 11, 2018

      If they were successful in their setup of the Bahamas campus, they would have begun phasing out from Dominica. Within 10 years they would have phased out completely.
      So they really planned on leaving Dominica years ago. Hurricane Maria just gave them the ticket to get out quicker.

      This situation also highlights the fact that people must put their trust and confidence in business establishments, man-made institutions and other things which can be here today and gone tommorow.

  18. August 10, 2018

    Dr Sanders i support and endorse your argument on the whole Ross sceniro except that you inadvertently forgot to add that the lack of Transparency and Accountability by the Skerrit led administration contributed to the sometimes negative discussion on the issue. PM Skerrit is a stranger to the truth (eg Chinese MOU).

  19. Jungle
    August 10, 2018

    An objective explanation. Well-said!

  20. REAL!!!!
    August 10, 2018

    I agree it has nothing to do with poaching but I will say it has everything to do with the an incapable Dominica GOVT ability to keep foreign investment on island.

    Mr. Sanders we know what we have on island as a GOVT and just need to remove them.

    Climate change may have expose every Caribbean island vulnerability but this ROSS situation has everything to do with a dis-functional and non performing GOVT in Dominica.

    I never heard in ROSS dispensation anything about Climate Change because they are fully aware every Caribbean island is expose and know clearly they would not go down that line as an explanation.

  21. RastarMarn
    August 10, 2018

    Garçon Stop Allyou Madness already with that Global Warming Hoax!!!

    Hurricanes have been mashing up these islands for centuries and who knows how long before that,,,

    That Stupid analysis that Barbados is not in the Hurricane Belt is a joke!!!,

    People have access now yeh we can search records of everything!!!

    • Ras
      August 10, 2018

      Rasta Marn, you’ve just placed yourself in the same category as Naive Trump!

      • RastarMarn
        August 11, 2018

        Ras Trump is in his own category with all the money in the world to do what he wishes and not have to bend over to the general fund,,,

        That category is a good one so thanks for the complement!!!

        Do the research and do the numbers before we had all these bottling companies and all the Stored water there was no Global warming issues,,,

        There is no Global warming,,, Protest need to be against all these bottling companies,,,

        Too Much water is being Bottled and Stored away!!!

        One of the first Science project that was introduced to Marn wasn’t the natural cycle of condensation and Rain, the sun heats up lakes rivers and the sea, the clouds go over the land when they get to a high altitude condensation forms and rain falls,,,

        Conglomerates like like Nestle, CoCa Cola, PepsiCo and all the other bottling companies need to stop their campaign of mass production using up water storing all this water at Warehouses, and restricting the natural cycle of Rain,,,…

  22. Jaimous Thomas
    August 10, 2018

    this is the real issue at hand but naïve, small minded Dominicans driven solely by their tribal party politics will fail to see it and take action but rather continue to divide the already weak country all in the quest for political power.
    Now more that ever stated before we need to together develop a plan for our country.

  23. Tom Brown
    August 10, 2018

    No where is safe now. God is in control and if he decides that after 65 years, hurricanes are going to take a different path which is more down south and Barbados gets a major hurricane. whats Ross next step. In the states it can be a different kind of disaster.

  24. Chakademus
    August 10, 2018

    Just another fool latching on to the fashionable rhetoric of ‘Climate Change’. Newsflash: Climate has always been changing and always will. Saying climate change is just like saying wet water, a combination of words that makes no sense. Of course businesses must hedge against weather phenomena, that is simple common sense, you don’t need an international conference to tell you that.

    Oh by the way, destructive hurricanes have been hitting our islands for millennia, and will continue to do so. Nothing new about that.

  25. %
    August 10, 2018

    I blame the departure of Ross ENTIRELY on the incompetence of Skerrit,his intransparency and unaccountability.We Dominicans are always left to guess on the things that Skerrit has messed up and when we are informed, it’s always too late.Hurricane Maria struck us in September 2017,there is no reason on God’s earth why Ross,a billion dollar company contributing 30% to the country’s GDP,should not be able to return by Jan of 2019.This DLP is shamelessly heartless…There are many other variables that lazy,idiotic Skerrit knows, that we do not know,and he should tell us.What about out terrible road network,the hospital that his own supporters are afraid to go to,the airport,the 25year agreement (Did incompetent Skerrit violate a clause?)? ……Skerrit’s ineptitude,dunceness,and slipshod attitude towards governance and Foreign Direct Investment,caused Ross to leave.
    Where The Wicked Rule the People MOURN
    This DLP is a Wicked and Evil Party

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