RDF SYMPOSIUM - ON COMMEMORATIVE MAGAZINE
Declaration of Principles
NY Governor Pataki
Want to go home?
DEXIA - New Approach
Mo n Mo Music
Productivity and Economy
Health & the Diaspora
A Call to Action
Do You Remember When?
Technol. & Intel. Capital
Planning for Agriculture
Security & Development
Dominica State College
DSS in Partnership
Dominica & Integration
Education for Survival
Globalisation & Caribbean
Skills for Internet Age
Legacy of Rosie Douglas-1
Dominicans Chart a New Course in the Process of Development
by Gabriel Christian Esq.
Fall 2001, and the world faces a war on terrorism, creeping recession and the continued diminution in bargaining power of the people of the developing world. Dominica, an island with a high proportion of its nationals resident in the United States and Canada finds its banana export dependent economy buffeted by the drop in production and prices. Amidst these challenges, the Dominican Diaspora's contribution to the island in the way of foreign exchange income and know-how is of increased importance. However, to maximize the advantages derived from the strategic position of its overseas nationals, there must be a change in the terms of reference.
The Diaspora has been treated in a dismissive manner, even while being seen as a source of financial and material assistance at times of disaster or economic downturn. The raw edge of petty jealousies common to human relationships has not been smoothed by any education program on-island, which values the contribution of the overseas national. It is true that individual families embrace their own relations, while too often frowning on the newfound wealth of some returnees with whom they lack a blood relationship. Some returning Dominicans from England have experienced such a bitter reception, that they have been forced to leave.
Such slighting of our own must stop. It will no longer be sufficient to pay mere lip service to the role of the overseas residents, while dismissing their right to vote or be treated respectfully. While the 1988 Reunion was a great start in rebuilding links between home and abroad, the Freedom Party government did not follow up with a concrete program to make Diaspora input to national policy routine.
The period of the United Workers Party revealed no memorable change in legislation, education or government sponsored events, aside from the continuation of the practice of meeting with visiting Dominicans to the local carnival. Even then, no directory was ever created or investment promotion pursued. The foreign investor continued, and continues, to be the prime object of government development policy.
No government of an independent Dominica has ever seen fit to create a coherent legislative and enabling environment to woo skilled and financially able Dominicans to return to build the island. Such benign neglect, despite the fact that the Diaspora Dominican is, de facto, the most critical source of foreign exchange income.
Concrete partnerships with overseas nationals in banking, information technology, air and marine transport, agro processing and other areas, a key piece in Dominica’s current development puzzle.
However, is the local administration or citizenry solely to blame? Indeed, there are enough stories that abound of loudmouthed and boastful returnees who attempt to “show-off” or run roughshod over their countrymen. Some returnees have inflamed feelings by behaving with a degree of arrogance and entitlement that undermined amity between the local and returnee community. In particular, it would rub a local farmer or civil servant raw when any returning Dominican would seek to be treated to the best of everything, while he/she may never have participated in development or charitable works for the benefit of the island while overseas.
To avoid the mistakes cited above and maximize Dominica’s benefit from it’s overseas based nationals, a new course must be charted. It is a course that must be grounded in the understanding that mutual benefit will only accrue to the divided communities where mutual respect and responsibility exist.
The Diaspora can benefit by partnering with local schools, businesses, hospitals and communities in the pursuit of worthy projects. A Dominican born scientist or entrepreneur, if he/she discards any illusion about being welcomed back as some savior, can bring a natural advantage to bear on any given local investment path. Knowledge of local culture and practice avoids one the missteps that a Chinese or German investor may make. One would have to be reasoned enough to repress any inclination to dismiss the intelligence of the local partner. Any such superiority complex could doom even the best-intentioned enterprise.
Simultaneously, the local partner would have to be shorn of misguided resentment born of the feeling that “this guy ran away to cooler climes when I was taking my blows and heat on-island.”
Really, I have met few, if any, Dominicans in the Diaspora who did not suffer the indignity of menial labour and sometimes hunger while attending college or “struggling to make it” in the early days of arrival.
So we must both embrace our mutual worth and the concept that cooperation across the divide of apartness outweighs any differences we may have. Truly, if the government, private sector and community organizations, do not engage in concrete partnerships with overseas nationals in banking, information technology, air and marine transport, agro processing and other areas, we would be discarding a key piece in our current development puzzle. Right now, thousands of young educated Dominicans who were suckled on the sweat and toil of our modest country folk, are giving their best years to the development and prosperity of foreign lands. We should recognize the role played by the overseas Jews, Chinese and Koreans in the development of their respective countries. We must observe those experiences and replicate them wherever possible. However, we must first inoculate ourselves against self-doubt and drink liberally from the chalice of faith in our God given abilities and patriotism.
In 1992, Irving Andre and myself co-founded Pond Casse Press to give a voice to the Dominican mute once muzzled by a perceived inferiority. Our literature was not literature for the sake of seeing our names in print. Rather national development was the core purpose. We were not content to merely critique those who would wound our people in print. We decided to take direct action and so created an independent Dominican owned platform for our literature.
Thus, we charted a new course by building the first Dominican press in North America. We have had modest success where we have had a respectful relationship with our Dominican links such as Frontline Bookstore, our former teachers and friends.
So far we have published seven titles. The symposium of December 8, 2001, which seeks to craft a substantive new course forward for the Diaspora, can have similar success. All we have to do is act with decisive wisdom, in respectful partnership with our brothers and sisters at home, and so enhance the quality of life on all sides.