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Senior Counsel responds to Kent Vital’s commentary

by: - August 15, 2018
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Re : Kent Vital’s Commentary: Diamond in the rough: What would it take to transform Dominica into its full development potential? My response.

I never knew of Kent Vital before he became leader of the Dominica Freedom Party. This is not my point against him. My complaint is that Vital, like the leader of the United Workers Party, is not a friend of fact. In the course of the recent public discussions on Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Vital made a public statesmen that RUSM left because the Government of Dominica refused or failed to accredited it. This was a complete lie as RUSM was in fact accredited by the Dominica Medical Board until December 2018, a fact clearly displayed on the University’s website. Vital’s statements was made at a time he knew nothing about the facts which led to Adtalem Global Education ‘s decision to leave Dominica; transparent evidence of a reckless disregard for the truth. However it gets worse.

In his commentary Mr Vital, an economist, refers to the 2003 Poverty Assessment Report by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). This reports covered the years 1997/8 to 2002/3 ( 5 year period). The Dominica Labour Party was elected in January 2000. Therefore this report covers the first two years of the DOLP administration. In this 2003 report the experts reported that the highest rates of poverty existed in the mid to late 1990s. Nevertheless, this economist now politician relies on a report 15 years old to speak of conditions today, especially after TS Erika in 2015,, and Hurricane Maria in 2017. This reliance requires study in the art of deception. In any event, Vital in his usual style failed to refer to the 2009/2010 poverty report. This 2009 report covers the years of the DLP administration only, and reported on significant reductions in poverty. The experts wrote

“On the basis of this most recently conducted study the level of poverty has fallen from 39 percent in 2003 to 28.8 percent in 2009. Absolute poverty, as measured by the indigence rate, has also declined from 10 percent in 2003 to 3.1 percent in 2009.

This reduction in poverty is mainly attributed to attempts by the Government, since the last study, to stabilise the economy, contain the debt, expand the social and physical infrastructure, and prioritise initiatives through targeted public expenditure. International assistance has been used to expand the physical infrastructure that would contribute to economic development – airport development, roads and highways and agricultural access roads. The introduction of a VAT, which has yielded expanded revenues allowing the Government to increase expenditures on targeted subsidies and transfers”

This was 2009, some eight years ago. We are now in 2018.

Subsequent to the CDB 2009/2010 report on poverty the IMF among others including the Chief Statistician in Dominica reported on significant reductions in poverty and unemployment. Employment has improved dramatically as well a fact also confirmed by the IMF. The available statistics show the following decreasing rates of unemployment; 1997………23.1, 2001…11.9%, 2009…13.9%; and 2013…10%. Accordingly, unemployment dropped by some 13% from 23% in 1997 to approximately 10% ( give or take 4%) in 2013. This before the introduction of the National Employment Program. The recent data from the Credit Union and Social Security indicate the employment figures are even better. None of this is referred to by Vital, a trained economist. Mr Vital also failed to refer to the World Bank’s assessment in 2015/16 that Dominica was ranked the 7th wealthiest country in the Caribbean. All of this is public knowledge and available on the WWW.

Mr Vital’s deception in his portrayal of Dominica is further aggravated by his failure to refer to and acknowledge data sourced from the Dominica Social Security, the National Co-operative Credit union, the Ministry of Finance, and the website of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and other readily available sources

In 2000 the total contributions to the Social Security was 26.6 million dollars. By 2017 the contributions to Social Security grew to 56.9 million dollars, a growth of some 30 million dollars from 2000. For 5 of these years Dominica under an IMF program. Recently, the National Co-operative Credit Union, a grass roots financial institution, celebrated breaking the 500 million ( half billion) bench mark. In the year of Maria 2017, this Credit Union report on a 67 million or thereabouts increase in assets and deposits

In 2010 the World Health Organization produced its GPE Discussion Paper Series No. 30. This was an assessment of health services in 191 countries. Dominica ranked 35, the highest ranking for the Caribbean region. Sometime ago World Telecommunication/ICT indicators of the International Telecommunication Union show that Dominica has the 3rd highest percentage of cell phone subscription and users in the Caribbean. Cell phone subscription and use are obvious indicia of progress.

More importantly, the more recent financial data which include 2017 paint a very different picture from that crafted by Vital. For example

i. In 2000 Dominica had total private sector savings deposits of 247.8 million. In 2017, private sector savings deposits were $950.3 million

ii. In 2000 our net foreign reserves was 86,. 3 million. In 2017 our reserves were $1, 437.0 ECD, that is 1.4 billion

iii. In 2000 our money supply 663.1 million. In 2017 the money is circulation was $1,628.7 billion

iv. In 2000 total deposits in Dominica was 663.1 million. In 2017 2.246.9 ECD billion ECD.

v. In 2000 total revenue from agriculture was 100.89 million. In 2016, revenues were 245.93 million, in 2017 revenues were 188. 31 million with an ECCB projection of 227.31 million for the year 2010. In contrast Saint Lucia’s total revenues from agriculture in 2016 was 72.7 million and 15.4 million in St Kitts.

vi. In 2000 our public debt to GDP was well over 100%. In 2016 public debt to GDP dropped to 67%.

These are indisputable facts. Nevertheless, Vital referred to not one of them. These fact frontally contradict Vital’s attempt to paint Dominica as a failed State, or State on the verge of collapse. Bearing in mind, he portrays himself as a successful economist, his flawed portrayal reminds me of what the late High Court and Court of Appeals Judge Satrohan Singh once said in relation to an economist who gave evidence before him; he ( the economist) tried to bamboozle the Court by selectively removing or ignoring the trees in the forest in order to convince the Court that the forest had disappeared. Vital has simply ignored the forest.

Since Maria, Dominica’s recovery since Maria is nothing short of remarkable. More on this another time.

Then there is Vital’s adopted mantra on governance and corruption. This is the plan and mantra of the opposition forces; take a page from Goebbels, create a lie, and push it. The chief architect and cheerleader of this mantra is the leader of the United Workers Party, Lennox Linton. Neither Linton nor Vital have produced a single identifiable objective fact to support their obsession, mantra and allegations.In an interview with Huffington Post in 2016 Linton was directly asked for the evidence of sales of diplomatic passports. This exchange took place. Q refers to the questions from Huffington Post, and A in bold are the answers from Linton.

Q: I haven’t seen any evidence yet. Where is the evidence that money changed hands?

A. Alison [Diezani Alison-Madueke] wound up with a diplomatic passport within six days of meeting [the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt] Skerrit. The police found millions in cash in Alison’s house. [Embattled Macau billionaire Ng] Lap Seng said in a U.S. court that he got a diplomatic passport because he had promised to invest twenty million dollars in Dominica. The evidence is circumstantial.

Q: Speaking of evidence, the last thing I heard, Thomson Fontaine [UWP member and Senator] and the government were taking each other to court over his allegation that suspected terrorist mastermind Dawood Ibrahim had acquired a Dominican passport. Since then, nothing. What’s happening there?

A. The government don’t want this court case to move forward. They have too much to hide.

Q: But where is the evidence that Dawood Ibrahim got a Dominican passport?

A. My understanding is that Thomson Fontaine received a tip-off.”

This was the trash given to the Huffington Post in 2016 by a man who later in January 2017 went on CBS to paint his country as a peddler of diplomatic passport without a shred of evidence. He also maliciously accused the Government of running a mail-order CBI program. Least we forget Linton’s insidious assault on Dominica is not limited to Huffington Post or CBS. After the crushing devastation of Maria, Linton’s first call of duty was “apologize” in New York on behalf of Dominican for the sale of diplomatic passports. This man actually said “Dominica was committing crimes against humanity; “this after Roosevelt Skerrit was moved to tears on live television in Antigua when speaking of the death and destruction. The sole purpose was to undermine the difficult task facing the Prime Minister in seeking help from the international community, and subvert the obvious need for a massive relief and recovery process. He then went to Colorado a few weeks ago to paint Dominica as a S–t Hole. Vital ‘s position is perhaps worse. He points to no ascertainable fact but nevertheless embraces his mantra of corruption, and like Linton, publishes it shamelessly to the world, closely following the footsteps of Linton.

Vital must restart the process by being honest. If he wants to peddle this tired empty allegation of corruption he must provide facts. Plagiarism or the mere recital of unfounded allegations are not fact. He cannot rely nor use “ evidence” which resides solely in his brain. He must stop cherry-picking out-dated information. He must not speak out of ignorance. He must confront the indisputable and readily available facts and current data. If he does not do so, he too will end up on the shelves in the dusty museum of failed and failing politicians who seek public office through deception, that is of course if he is not there already. In the meantime, his commentary has been archived in the museum of fake news.

15th August 2018
Anthony W Astaphan SC