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Uncertain future of Ross University triggers fears of economic decline

by: - August 2, 2018
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New Ross University School of Medicine Student Center in Picard, Portsmouth (Photograph compliments: Ross University)

(Press Release) Roseau, Dominica, August 1st, 2018 – The United workers Party continues to strive for the return and harmonious operation of Ross University in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

The growing fears, anxieties and concerns over the uncertain future of Ross University School of Medicine (Ross) as a major driver of economic activity in Dominica, necessitates that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addresses the nation urgently on the way forward.

The 40-year-old Medical School, born and raised in Dominica, left our shores after Hurricane Maria and has not returned contrary to widespread public expectations in a country where its operations account for more than 30% of national economic activity. The Ross University contribution in the Dominican economy includes:

1) Employment- A significant number of Dominicans have been employed at all levels of Ross’ organizational structure, ranging from faculty workers to unskilled workers.

2) Travel/Transportation – Airfares to LIAT and passenger taxes and landing fees to the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Inbound and outbound logistics and ground transportation costs.

3) Housing – almost exclusively provided by Dominicans who heavily invested in housing for students and faculty over the years. Recent official estimates put the total at-risk investment in housing stock in the Picard area at over 50 million ECD – all borrowed from local financial institutions. These loans are serviced directly from the student rental income which ranged from $400 to $700 USD per unit per month.

4) Food, utilities, and entertainment/recreation – The multiplier effect of these ancillary services to the Ross students spawned an entire system of economic activity in the Portsmouth community in particular. As a result of the movement of these goods and services the state received VAT, corporation tax and PAYE income and Social Security benefited from growing employer and employee contributions through the years.

5) The uncertain future of Ross in Dominica threatens a range of benefits that have formed part and parcel of the Dominican economic landscape for decades with no viable alternative under a Dominica Labour Party government that appears to be simply idle and aloof. The banking and financial sector may be affected because of mortgage delinquency and bad debts which can further plummet a contracting economy.

We understand that the leadership team of Ross has presented to the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica a number of investment support issues and public infrastructure improvements that need to be addressed satisfactorily to facilitate a return of the American owned university.

With reports that Ross may open its doors in another CARICOM country, the people of Dominica have a right to know what are the requirements for the return of Ross that government has been unable to meet. And should Ross move into another Island, as we sincerely hear, would that move be temporary, and what is the government’s plan for securing the return of Ross at the earliest opportunity?

The failure of the Dominica Labour Party government to respond adequately to the needs of Ross and thereby secure its earliest return, reflects another profound disappointment of this government. The slow improvements in the national hospital’s infrastructure while Ross was becoming a first-rate medical school bears eloquent testimony of the incompetence that have led us to this untenable situation under the leadership of a Prime Minister who actually took over direct responsibility for Ross University from the Ministry of Health.

In this regard, the United Workers Party has commenced stake holder consultations with Dominicans at home and abroad on an agenda to secure the return of Ross University. We will engage the owners of Ross with clear commitments to deal decisively with the investment support and public infrastructure improvements that are needed for a resumption of operations in Dominica.