Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has told the Nation in his Independence Day speech, that his government recognizes that “it has been tough”, but we have together achieved much.
In that regard, he invited all Dominicans, at home and abroad to join us on this journey. “This ship is yours. It belongs to all of us. We are Captain, crew, and passengers. Let us work in one accord to reach our destination and enjoy what awaits us there,” he stated.
“As we have always been, this Government continues to be responsive to the needs of our people in the best of times and in the worst of times. As we navigate through this period of world crisis, I will now announce some measures that are designed to cushion the impact on our people.”
Safety for Seniors – This Government has put in place a package of benefits for seniors that is unprecedented. Dominica’s seniors are entitled to health care and medication at no cost to them and will now be given a better community-based health care network. To support our Seniors, this Government also introduced the payment of a non-contributory pension to persons aged 70 and over. The government recognizes however that there are several vulnerable people between the ages of 65 and 70, who are retired, do not qualify for Social Security pension, and are not yet eligible for the Government non-contributory pension. We will now extend support to that age group.
Effective January 2023, individuals between the ages of 65 and 70, who are not in receipt of a pension, will be eligible to receive the non-contributory pension. We will also increase the pension amount of $300 a month, by 5%, effective January 2023.
In addition, for retired public officers receiving a government contributory pension, we have listened to your several calls for Government to put in place a system–similar to the Dominica Social Security pension system–which provides for increases in the pension in response to inflation. Currently, Government pensions received upon retirement are fixed until death or transition to the Social Security system. Therefore, Government is in the process of engaging a consultant to review the current pension system and make recommendations that will result in a more robust system. We are hopeful that this exercise will be completed in time for implementation during the next Fiscal Year.
A Clean and Green Dominica – As we build a Dynamic, Resilient Dominica we must continue our efforts to protect and maintain our natural environment. Together as a Government and a country, we must continue to plant trees, beautify our communities, and keep our surroundings clean.
Several community groups, businesses, and individuals have been assisting in maintaining a clean and green Dominica; however, much more can be done by those of us who reside in this country. The government has been playing its part by engaging road maintenance contractors and individuals under the National Employment Programme, the NEP, to clean and beautify our Nature Isle. Effective January 2023 we will go one step further by increasing the number of workdays for people engaged under the NEP from three to five days. This new measure will allow for an increase in wages for those engaged under the beautification component of the NEP.
An Engaged Public Service – Fellow citizens, guests, and a country cannot build strong and effective governance structures without an engaged and well-trained public service. As an incentive for meritorious performance, beginning next year, Government will offer the Annual Dominica Public Service Awards. These will be competitive awards for which people can be nominated by their departments or agencies, or by members of the public. There will be an award in each service stream, including police and fire officers, nursing, teaching service, general administration, and ancillary services. 30 We continue to encourage the heads of departments to make recommendations for the permanent appointment of officers who have been acting in positions for extended periods, where there are vacancies.
Some 673 public officers have received permanent appointments over the last two years. Two other concerns have been raised by officers regarding acting appointments: 1) Officers acting in positions with fixed scales (that is, positions with no increments) only receive 75 percent of the difference between the officer’s substantive basic salary and the basic salary for the higher position; and 2) The gratuity for officers acting for extended periods immediately prior to retirement or resignation, is computed on their average basic salary for the last three years.
To address these issues, with effect from January 1, 2023, a public or police officer, who has been acting in a position with a fixed scale for more than 12 consecutive months, will receive 90 percent of the difference between the officer’s substantive basic salary and the basic salary for the higher position.
In addition, for the officers qualifying under the provisions of the Pension Act Chapter 23:80, regulations will be made to allow for the following: For the purposes of the computation of gratuity and pension for officers, the definition of salary will include the acting allowance received, if that officer’s resignation or retirement is immediately preceded by an unbroken period of an acting appointment in the same established position for a period of 36 months or more. Salary will also be defined to encompass the acting allowance received, where an officer’s resignation or retirement is immediately preceded by an acting appointment and a permanent appointment in the same position for an unbroken period of 36 months or more. This new policy will apply to all qualifying officers, retiring or resigning from the Public Service with effect from January 1, 2023.
In addition, I have highlighted on numerous occasions the need for supervisors within the public service to complete their subordinates’ appraisals in a timely manner so that officers could receive their increments on time. Most supervisors have heeded the call, while a few are still lagging or are no longer in public service. The government has therefore taken a decision to pay all increments that have not been paid for Calendar Year 2021 and prior because EADRs has not yet been done. We will begin paying these increments in December 2022. In 2019…. we promised a better deal for Public Officers. This included better opportunities for teachers, police officers, fire officers, nurses, and others. The Reclassification of the Public Service to ensure that salaries are more equitable has been at the forefront of Public Service Reform over the last three years.
I am pleased to report that the Job Analysis and Job Evaluation Exercise has been completed in collaboration with all Unions representing the Public Service. Four hundred and forty-two (442) established positions evaluated have been recommended for an adjustment in classification level. 33 While we are finalizing the full cost of implementation, Government remains fully committed to implementing the Reclassification in the new financial year with effect from July 1, 2023. Additionally, the review of the Primary School system has been completed. As was done for the Secondary School teachers, the creation of new positions of Deputy Principal and Senior Qualified Teacher has been approved and will take effect from January 1, 2023.
Payment for Police Rest Days – Under the present system, Dominica’s police officers are required to work for six days after which they receive two rest days. However, with the high demand for the services of the police during and in the aftermath of the two recent major disasters (Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria in 2015 and 2017, followed by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021), many of the officers have not received their accumulated rest days. This matter has been raised by the officers and investigated.
The government has been advised that allowing the officers to take all their accumulated rest days, which amount to over 50 days in some instances, would disrupt the operations of the Police Service and compromise national security. The government has therefore taken the extraordinary decision to pay the police officers for the rest of days 34 accumulated up to June 30, 2022. Payment will be made to these officers by January 31, 2023.
Dominica Diaspora Bond – We recognize that Dominicans who reside abroad love their country and want to contribute to its development. They also want to have savings for their later years. The Government will therefore promote and issue the Dominica Investment Bond. This will not only raise funds that will allow Dominicans abroad to support the national infrastructural and general development of their country but will also give them the opportunity to save money for their senior years and support investments in land or property and businesses in Dominica. And pay for their children’s university education.
Respectfully, my question is in regards to to the mention of the “Dominica Investment Bond”. Specifically, what protocols would be required to demonstrate source of funds (from the investor), and secondly, what entity(ies) would give an investment rating of those Bonds. And would the bonds be backed by sovereign debt, as assessed against Dominica, or would the bonds not be collaterilised? I would like to invest upwards of like $100,000,000.00 one hundred million US Dollars. But more clarity is necessary.
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