Ceremony kickstarts work on Dominica’s ‘major artery’

Milti-million dollar work to rehabilitate the EO LeBlanc Highway was official started yesterday with a groundbreaking ceremony in Macoucherie.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was in attendance along with Wei Wenxiu, charge d’affaires for the embassy of the People’s Republic of China – who are funding the project.

After Tropical Storm Erika severely damaged the island’s infrastructure, the governments of Dominica and China signed letters of exchange on 14 July last year.

WATCH HERE: Groundbreaking ceremony for EO LeBlanc Highway 

Later, on 16 November, both parties signed the Implementation Agreement for China-aided West Coast Road Post-Erika Rehabilitation Project in Dominica for the grant, which is worth EC$51.3 million.

Minister for Public Works and Ports, Senator Miriam Blanchard, was also on hand, as were cabinet officials, the construction team from Chinese firm Qingdao Construction Group Limited and President Charles Savarin.

Much of Dominica’s medium term economic and infrastructural development is located towards the north of the island and sits within close proximity of the EO Leblanc Highway.

Acknowledging the highway as a major artery between the capital of Roseau and the historic town of Portsmouth, Skerrit asserted that it was very important to arrest any deterioration in the quality of commuting across the west and north-west coasts of the island.

“Once the commitment was given that China would help, we all as Dominicans went to sleep the evening after [the passage of Tropical Storm Erika], assured in our minds that this day of commencement of works would come, and even more importantly, that the projected completion date of March 2019 would also be realised,” said the prime minister.

Opposition change

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In addition to being effusive towards the Chinese government for the gift, the prime minister lauded members of the United Workers Party for ending their rhetorical scepticism of China, noting that this paradigm shift aligns with his government and the rest of the country.

“I want to believe that that sorry era of our country’s history when persons absented themselves out of malice and contempt, is now over, and that the foreign policy of Dominica will no longer be sacrificed or undermined on the altar of partisan, political expedience,” Skerrit said.

Stating that it would be a mature approach to foreign policy, he said: “It is important for us to recognise countries will always have diplomatic relations between themselves, but there is something called sincerity which must be an important ingredient in that relationship.

“We thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its generosity and for always demonstrating its genuine solidarity with Dominica.”

Catalyst for economy

According to Senator Blanchard, the ceremony was the culmination of more than one year of preparatory work.

“The government of Dominica appreciates the patience of the traveling public to date and solicits the continued tolerance of road users as work progresses.

“The project will cover rehabilitation of identified damaged areas along the 45km of the EO LeBlanc Highway as a gift to the government and people of Dominica from the government of the People’s Republic of China.”

When completed, the road rehabilitation project is set to be a catalyst for tourism as well as industry, as it is part of the government’s push for development of high-quality cultural strips – reminiscent of Oistins in Barbados, St James in Trinidad or Gros Islet in St Lucia.

In sharing his vision, the prime minister said that “the highway will be well lit and I would want for people journeying that route to suffer the temptation of stopping in almost every village to make a purchase or to just take in and embrace some of the local culture.”

He closed by reiterating the calls from his budget address for the nurturing of small and medium-sized businesses, stressing that there is a need for Dominicans to become more innovative and industrious to create and produce novel items that simply cannot be overlooked.

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