As the Commonwealth of Dominica observes the second anniversary of the devastation of Hurricane Maria on the night of September 18th 2017, the Dominica Business Forum (DBF) Inc. continues to sympathize with all those who lost loved ones, suffered injury and destruction of property and livelihood.
Special recognition is extended to the private sector enterprises who suffered incalculable, additional loss as a result of the looting and the DBF Inc. is in solidarity with those private sector enterprises that are yet to recommence operations and those that were forced out of business.
Without devaluing the above mentioned need to recognise, sympathise, reflect or celebrate as the case may be, on the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the Dominica Business Forum (DBF) Inc. considers the decision of the Government of Dominica to declare Thursday 19th September, 2019 a public holiday, with little or no consultation with the private sector organisations, as insensitive and oblivious of the challenges of the private sector. This action by the Government, amplified by the short notice provided, demonstrates a lack of appreciation, and may be even considered as a complete disregard, of the additional burden placed on the private sector to meet the cost of wages of employees when there is no parallel production, posing fresh and additional risk to employees of further job losses in the private sector. This present action adds to existing challenges of the private sector at a time when existing government’s policies have severely affected the sustainability of many private sector enterprises.
The DBF is not opposed to any decision or actions of giving thanks, celebrating, reflecting or taking stock on the events of 18-19th September 2019. However, we do not support the need to render Thursday 19th September 2019 an unproductive, and at the same time an expense day, for the private sector and the country. This is not the path to recovery.
The private sector is obliged to pay wages for that day and in cases of the essential services, employees have to be given double time payment.
The success of accumulating revenue from the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme and the liquidity of the State has so far not been infiltrated through the local economy and certainly not the bulk of the private sector. Given that all expenses for the concert are absorbed by the government, it is therefore reasonable to suggest that the Government of Dominica compensate the private sector enterprises by making a contribution towards the payment of wages for the loss of production on Thursday 19th September, 2019. An equivalent tax rebate would be appropriate.
It is important to note that Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd, September, 2019 have been declared days of National prayer in observance of the 41st anniversary of independence.
It must also be noted that since Hurricane David in 1979, Gilbert in 1988, Hugo in 1989, Luis is 1996, Ivan in 2004, Irma and Maria in 2017 and a myriad of other storms and natural hazards have affected other Caribbean countries, all of which have recovered. We are therefore at a loss as to why the emphasis on the second anniversary of Maria. It is therefore necessary to be informed as to whether this is going to be an annual or a bi-annual event, or just a one-off, in order that the private sector can cater for it in its financial projections and annual work programmes.
We are in the peak of the 2019 Hurricane Season, when the private sector has to be prepared for interruptions in the event of inclement weather, therefore it is apparent that the ramifications of this additional burden of another public holiday has not been thoroughly considered or examined and its impact on productivity and recovery not even the necessary consideration.
To avoid a repeat of this scenario, the Dominica Business Forum Inc. recommends more frequent and timely private-public sector consultation.