Friday, May 2, 2008

A Seamless Dominica and Economic Development

Let us now consider in what ways each of the selected advantages of a seamless Dominica may affect our economic development.

A seamless Dominica will have a population of about 150,000 citizens, twice its current official count
The mere doubling of the population increases the labour force and consequent pool of available, trained personnel immediately. Industries can spread their search for employees beyond the borders of Dominica. Also, the market for manufactured products from Dominica will be expanded if well organised.

Individuals, groups and associations overseas will position themselves to take advantage of opportunities to advance the development of Dominica
Development needs at home will encourage overseas Dominicans to offer their trained services to both private and public sectors, particularly where deficiencies occur.

In particular, expertise, which otherwise would be recruited from overseas non-nationals at a premium, may now be available from our own citizens abroad at less expense.

Dominica will have a ready-made pool of qualified people overseas to promote her in such fields as tourism, investment opportunity, etc.
It has been suggested that every overseas Dominican be looked upon as an informal tourism ambassador to their country. This personal, word-of-mouth contact has sent many a tourist to our country. Its effectiveness should not be downplayed. If properly equipped with promotional information, there is no telling the impact it can have.

Overseas Dominicans in business have a first-hand view of legitimate entrepreneurs who desire to invest in the Nature Isle. They can function literally as storefronts for investment in Dominica. With knowledge of investment needs and legal requirements, they can initiate the investment process.

Qualified oveseas Dominicans can be appointed as Official ambassadors instead of foreign nationals
Who better than your own citizen would you trust to represent your country with genuine interest and dedication? Nation states, like Dominica, have been used unscrupulously by foreign nationals to advance their own agenda as Dominican ambassadors. This practice should be discontinued to avoid scandals, which bring disrepute to our good name.

There are provisions for the establishment of consular offices in heavily populated cities around the world. Qualified Dominicans could fill these positions with minimum difficlty.

The advantages discussed in this post are few and serve to demonstrate the impact overseas citizens can have on the economic development of our country. To be fair, we must acknowledge that some of these activities already exist or have been tried. Why this is not the norm, I suspect, is because formal policies are not in place to lay the foundation. Official recognition is necessary to establish this foundation.

Back to Introduction

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Seamless Dominica-Diaspora: The Reality

All Dominicans are citizens of their homeland whether living at home or overseas. All the rights of citizenship are accorded to all by the God-given reality of birth. We share a common heritage in every sense of the word. But for the fact that some of us reside overseas and the rest at home, we would gladly embrace one another as kith and kin.

Ideally, when citizens leave home for other destinations, those left behind should look upon them as ambassadors going forth to spread the good news of our Nature Isle. They shower on them all good wishes for a safe journey and success in the attainment of their goals. And, when they return those left behind should once again embrace them and be anxious to learn of their successes. This idealism was the reality at one time in Dominica. What went wrong? What has killed this spirit of togetherness we cherished in spite of separation by land and sea? Maybe one of our social historians might help us understand the changing dynamics of this phenomenon.

Whatever the reasons for this loss, it is time to try and regain the seamless nature of our Dominican society. We acknowledge that todays world of globalisation is a thousandfold more complex. War, famine, disease, moral decline, greed and untold atrocities by man on his fellowman have produced cynicism and distrust, of which we must be wary. The rich nations are becoming richer and the poor even poorer. The present situation dictates the need, the urgency for developing countries like Dominica, to pool all our resources to ensure our common survuval.

Without further elucidation, it is very obvious that the sources of our Dominican resources include both those at home and overseas. It is absolutely necessary that Dominicans at home and abroad must unite to facilitate this mobilisation of our resources for the common benefit of our people. So, let's put the legal framework in place.

The Vision
What will it be like in a seamless Dominica-Diaspora society? I invite you to dream with me as we ponder the following:
  1. A seamless Dominica will have a population of about 150,000 citizens, twice its current official count
  2. Individuals, groups and associations overseas will be positioned to take advantage of opportunities to advance the development of Dominica
  3. Dominica will have a ready-made pool of qualified people overseas to promote her in such fields as tourism, investment opportunity, international symposia, etc.
  4. Qualified oveseas Dominicans can serve as ambassadors instead of foreign nationals who may use the office for illicit, personal purposes

These are only a few general areas where overseas Dominicans have an advantage. Several more can be listed. But, already, one can imagine the cost-effectiveness of having a seamless society. To a certain degree some of the above have been undertaken on an ad hoc basis as the occasion arises. However, there will be need for permanency and recognition in a formal framework.

Our next blog post considers a hypothetical situation in which overseas Dominicans can play a major role as an integral part of a seamless society.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Seamless Dominica-Diaspora: Legal Framework

As was stated in the Draft Dominica - Diaspora Policy Paper presented to the Government of Dominica, the relationship between Dominica and its Diaspora "... must persist whether or not things get better or worse so long as the framework continues to be honored by Dominicans at home and abroad. It is an arrangement for the long haul, and mechanisms must be put in place to engage in a continuing link of emotional attachment, nation building and promotion of national interests among future generations of Dominicans, at home and abroad". In essence, we are talking of a seamless society that transcends oceans, seas and continents.

From the foregoing blog posts, we can expect that the resentment between overseas and resident Dominicans will continue on an individual, experiential basis. However, the tendency to generalise this disharmony at the national level does not appear factual. There is every hope, therefore, the concept of a seamless society can become a reality.

The importance of overseas Dominicans to our country is clearly recognised at the official level by the establishment of this portfolio under a minister of government. Therefore, the authority for establishing a legal framework as recommended in the Diaspora Policy Paper above, clearly exists. What is needed now is the will to put it in place. How soon this is done will depend on the priority it is given. It would be prudent if Government gave it top priority in the interest of national development.

Here are some suggestions for getting the ball rolling:
  1. The minister responsible could prepare and release a policy statement outlining the mission and objectives of the portfolio
  2. A team of overseas and resident Dominicans could prepare a framework which specifies how the policy would be implemented in all relevant areas
  3. Finally, the policy be given parliamentary assent and become law

Let us not tarry further. Overseas Dominicans feel obligated to assist in the development of their homeland on an equal basis with resident Dominicans. Some feel discouraged, with some justification, when initiatives offered have been rejected. Dominica has everything to gain and nothing to lose in the establishment of formal relationships that give full recognition to oversea Dominicans as citizens of one seamless society.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

How the Diaspora Assists its Homeland

Some will, no doubt, argue that to say "Overseas Dominicans are not really welcome back home" is grossly exaggerated. Maybe they are right. Not only that, the statement is a general observation which may not reflect the true picture. We know we are welcome for national day celebrations, the world creole festival, carnival celebrations, and such other festivities.

These are special occasions when we return to be with relatives and friends and to enjoy the 'fĂȘtes' for which Dominica is famous. Of course, these are brief visits when we return to spend as much as possible in the economy. But we depart when the party is over. This may sound uncharitable, but, there is some truth in saying, we are welcome to visit and spend our money, then leave as tourists are expected to do.

That brings me to examine how Diasporans assist their homeland. From what is known, most assistance from overseas Dominicans are tangible: money and goods to families, bank deposits, building retirement homes, setting up businesses, donating money, equipment and medicines to health and welfare facilities and occasional expert help in times of emergencies. Such tangible assistance, though significant, are only temporary and remedial.

However, the Diaspora can play a greater, more fundamental and integrated role in the development of their homeland. To execute this kind of assistance, the Diaspora will require acceptance as an equal partner with Dominicans at home. This status should be acknowledged by a formal set of policies and procedures that define their relationship.

Ideally, Dominicans overseas and Dominicans at home should be considered as one seamless society, even though separated by sea. In fact, this is an objective of the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS), which prepared and submitted a report in October, 2004 called Draft Dominica - Diaspora Policy Paper commissioned by the Government of Dominica. Why this Paper has not been given due consideration boggles the mind. To quote from the Paper,

"This symbiotic relationship is overdue and cannot long be delayed. But it must be one built on respect, dignity, understanding, cooperation and a staged approach within an agreed framework as to what is doable in the short, medium, and long term. It must be a relationship built on a trust that straddles political partisanship and engages the public in a respectful consultation towards attainable results to be shared among all segments of society. It is to be a long term relationship and not a "one shot deal" or addressed to a particular project. It must persist whether or not things get better or worse so long as the framework continues to be honored by Dominicans at home and abroad. It is an arrangement for the long haul, and mechanisms must be put in place to engage in a continuing link of emotional attachment, nation building and promotion of national interests among future generations of Dominicans, at home and abroad".

The role of Diasporas in the development of their homelands are well documented. The Caribbean, in particular Jamaica, is only now catching up with the rest of the world, in officially recognising this vital role. Hopefully, other Caribbean countries, like Dominica, will open their eyes.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Brain Drain and Dominican Diaspora - Pt. Two

Following from Part One of the above subject title, you will conclude that there is something amiss between the Diaspora and its homeland. You are right, of course. I am sure most of you Diasporans have experienced, or know some who have experienced, some kind of rejection - for want of a better word - from our brothers and sisters at home. I have. Mine ended in a verbal confrontation with a member of the Bar, who thought I should have remained in Dominica rather than emigrating to Canada. Since then, I have tried to understand what is at the root of this disharmony.

Here are some of the excuses given by residents at home:
  1. You left us to struggle with difficult economic conditions and took refuge overseas, when the country needed you most
  2. You guys come back on holidays or to retire but have not made any contribution to national development
  3. Diasporans stand on their high horses and try to dictate how those who stayed behind should run our country
  4. Some of you with academic qualifications try to laud your high education over us
  5. We can take care of ourselves and don't need you patronising us

I expect you have heard other excuses as well, which I urge you to share with us in the comment section below.

These five randomly selected excuses are couched in my own words. But their message is loud and clear. Overseas Dominicans are not really welcome back home!

Ironically, the government of our homeland, for two years now, has a minister responsible for Diaspora Affairs as a separate responsibility. However, the Diaspora is still waiting on a clear policy statement on the functions and responsibilities of the department. Enough said.

As to the five excuses given for the disunity between the overseas and local Dominicans, I will examine them and try to discern exactly what they mean.

1. We abandoned them: To leave your country in search of higher education that your country cannot provide is a worthy decision in our culture. Education cannot be used as an excuse for anything. It is a legitimate pursuit which must be encouraged, particularly in this hi-tech world environment. It is even more commendable when the intent is to return better qualified to help your country.

To leave in search of better economic opportunity is also worthy for two obvious reasons: to improve your standard of living and of those dependents left behind; and, secondly, to relieve the burden on your country's unemployment situation.

2. No contribution to national development: Such an excuse presupposes that you had the opportunity to do so had you stayed. This is clealy without substance, unless you were given the opportunity, which you declined. Some of us wished we had the opportunity.

3. We dictate how to run the country: As far as I am aware, Diasporans only offer solutions for development initiatives. That is the only recourse open to participate in absentia. This is the purpose for the development of the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS). I can only assume this excuse tries to down-play the dire lack of managerial capacity at home.

4. Diaspora lauds education over those at home: This excuse is only a perception in some people's minds. I have not seen this in actual practice and, if it occurs at all, it would have to be at the level of individual exchanges, not of any national concern.

5. We patronise those at home: The notion that Diasporans are doing Dominicans at home a favour is wrongly characterised. Diasporans are trying to help their country, which they love and are entitled to do so. All developing nations need help from their respective Diaspora, and several nations gladly attribute their development successes to the role played by their Diasporas.

This subject is incomplete without your comments. I look forward, therefore, to continued discussion.


Brain Drain and Dominican Diaspora - Pt. One

I understand that there are more Dominican citizens living in the Diaspora than at home. This fact is astounding, to say the least. No wonder the amount of money and goods sent home - the barrel economy - has become a substantial portion of our Gross National Product (GNP). I am thinking, "if the barrel economy suffers severe reductions because of the current depressive state of the world economy, what impact would that have on our people's standard of living at home?"

Heaven, help us. We pray that the effect would be minimal. Dominica has just suffered a massive IMF/World Bank work-over by the imposition of severe fiscal restraints to help stabilise its economy and stimulate growth. It is not clear whether the results have been positive. But, what is clear Dominica needs substantial infusions of capital and money for sustainable development.

So, here comes her Diaspora? Or so we would think! Assuming there are 70,000 Diasporans around the world, if every one were to give just $5.00 per month - the cost of one beer - to a Dominica Development Trust, we would be adding $350,000 (three hundred and fifty thousand dollars) every month or $4,200,000 (four million two hundred thousand dollars) annually to the Dominican economy! Wow!

Then, why don't we? That is the question I will attempt to discuss, hopefully, with restrained emotion. Here are the key words, which Dominicans overseas would like you to bear in mind: selfishness; distrust; dishonesty; corruption; and last, but not least, politics. Yes, these key words together raise your eyebrows, and I am sure you have seen my drift. Five dollars per month is so negligible that every Diasporan would gladly subscribe, but for these key words.

Selfishness: Some of us in the Diaspora are indeed selfish. We grab on tightly to our wallets and rationalise that we worked hard to earn our dollars and will not give it to some 'politician' at home to put in his pocket. How do you describe this behaviour?

Distrust: How do I know that my money will go where they say it will? One cannot dismiss this reasoning, because many a Diasporan have experienced fraudulent behaviour from those they have trusted with their money. Even yours truly has learnt from this experience.

Dishonesty: A close relative of distrust, dishonesty rears its ugly head when others you trust with your money use it for their own purposes without your consent and knowledge. It is very difficult and heartbreaking to witness such purveyors of deceit.

Corruption: The use of this key word is rampant all over the world. Dominica is no exception. All her governments have been accused of its practice. It is no wonder, therefore, that fear of corruption appears to be the major obstacle in giving to organisations.

Politics: I have deliberately left this key word last because of its pervasive effect. Nothing of national significance happens in Dominica without the influence of politics, however subtle. What if the funds of the Trust were used for unauthorised political reasons? What if the management of the Trust were politically aligned?

My next page will continue on the Diaspora - Brain Drain and Dominican Diaspora - Pt. Two.


Why and should we migrate from developing countries?

That is a good question, especially when you migrate from a warm tropical paradise to the cold, gloomy climates of Europe and North America. In my case, it was first to England and later to Canada.

People migrate for various reasons: to seek further education, better economic opportunity, political asylum, to travel the world and even as fugitives from the law. From developing countries, however, the two main reasons are to further education and for economic opportunity.

In my case, education was the driving force. Our young men and women were, and probably still are, driven to obtain the highest level of education possible. Our current Prime Minister has declared that his dream is to have at least one degreed Dominican in every family. A lofty goal, indeed.

I have absolutely no quarrel with people migrating to further their education. But, my concern is with those who choose not to return after attaining their goal. Let me explain. The vast majority of those who migrate are products of the education system in these developing countries. The benefits of the investment in their formal education cannot be recovered. It is money down the drain, to say it graphically. This is a major cause of the phnomenon we call, aptly, the Brain Drain.

This has raised the controversial question, should young men and women be made to return the investment in their formal education before migrating? Or, should they pledge to return home to give service to their country as compensation? We have yet to resolve this issue. But, this pledge applies to students who receive government scholarships. So, what is the distinction between a government scholarship and government investment in formal education? A difference of amount, I'd say!