Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur is urging Dominica prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit to tread carefully with the appointment of Barbados-born economist Avinash Persaud as his senior economic advisor amid the devastation already caused to the hurricane-battered island.
Persaud, who was seen accompanying Skerrit to the United Nations (UN) in New York over the weekend, where the Dominican leader delivered a speech pleading for assistance for his hurricane-ravaged country, has since confirmed to Barbados TODAY that he will be playing a major role in Dominica’s rebuilding.
“Yes, I was in New York with prime minister Skerrit assisting with his meetings at the UN and others. I am prime minister Skerrit’s senior economic advisor tasked with helping the economic recovery and rebuilding,” Persaud, who served as the economic expert on the UK government’s advisory panel on public sector information between 2005 and 2009 and also on a number of other distinguished and senior positions around the world, told Barbados TODAY earlier this week.
However, given Persaud’s role in the failed Four Seasons project (otherwise referred to as the Paradise development) in Barbados between 2010 and 2012, Arthur has called on Skerrit to think twice about putting his country’s future in the hands of the ex-Paradise executive chairman.
“Any basic due diligence would tell you that . . . Paradise is mangled and the job of reconstruction of Dominica is massive. It is urgent and will be complex and priority should be given to people who have experience and skill sets to manage complex reconstructions,” Arthur told Barbados TODAY this morning, adding that “there is no evidence of the exhibition of such capacities on the Paradise project”.
Not mincing his words on the matter, the former prime minister further warned that while the wreckage caused to Dominica so far could largely be blamed on category five hurricane winds and rains, “you cannot explain it [wreckage] in the case of Paradise” where Persaud was part of a team trying, but failing, to raise money to pay creditors.
Amid the ongoing storm recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria which claimed at least 27 lives in the country, the former prime minister and Barbados Labour Party leader, who now sits as an independent in the House of Assembly, suggested that if Persaud were serious about assisting Dominica at this most difficult time, he would do as the rest of the region has done and volunteer his services.
“The devastation is so real that it is important that the financial contributions go to the relief of the people rather than finding their way into the pockets of high priced consultants. There is always that danger when you have these kinds of catastrophes,” the former minister of finance said.
Arthur, who said he had been approached by a group of business people here to help to put together a package of assistance for Dominica, was adamant that “people who want to genuinely help Dominica should volunteer their services as far as possible and pull their weight to help rather than to profit”.
In this vain, he said: “I hope he [Avinash] is a volunteer and will continue to be a volunteer.”