Dominica

Basic Information

Area: 754 sq km (290 sq mi
Population: 70,158 (July 2002 estimate)
Capital City: Roseau
People: Dominica is the only island in the Eastern Caribbean to retain some of its pre-Colombian population - the Carib Indians - about 3000 of whom live on the island's East Coast. The population growth rate is very low, due primarily to emigration to more prosperous Caribbean Islands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
The official language is English. However, because of historic connections with France, the most widely spoken dialect is the French patois, Creole.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic 77%, Protestant 15% (Methodist 5%, Pentecostal 3%, Seventh Day Adventist 3%, Baptist 2%, other 6%)
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD)
Major political parties: Dominica Freedom Party (DFP); Dominica Labour Party (DLP); United Workers Party (UWP)
Government: Dominica has a Westminster-style parliamentary government. A President and Prime Minister make up the executive branch. Nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition party, the President is elected for a 5-year term by the Parliament. The President appoints as Prime Minister the leader of the majority party in the Parliament and also appoints, on the Prime Minister's recommendation, members of the Parliament from the ruling party as cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister and cabinet are responsible to the parliament and can be removed on a no-confidence vote. The unicameral Parliament, called the House of Assembly, is composed of 21 regional representatives and 9 Senators. The regional representatives are elected by universal suffrage and, in turn, decide whether Senators are to be elected or appointed. If appointed, five are chosen by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and four with the advice of the opposition leader. If elected, it is by the vote of the regional representatives. Elections for Representatives and Senators must be held at least every 5 years, although the Prime Minister can call elections any time. Dominica's legal system is based on English common law. There are three magistrate's courts, with appeals made to the Eastern Caribbean court of appeal and, ultimately, to the Privy Council in London.
Head of State: President Dr. Nicholas Liverpool
Prime Minister/Premier: The Hon Roosevelt Skerrit MP
Foreign Minister: The Hon Senator Charles Savarin
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Dominica's memberships include: Commonwealth, CARICOM, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), The Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), United Nations (UN), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNESCO, Organisation of American States (OAS), IMF, WHO

Geography

Dominica, the most northern Windward Island, is mountainous and forest-clad and has a warm year-round tropical climate. Its varied flora and fauna are protected by an extensive national parks system. The island has the highest mountain in the Eastern Caribbean. Its volcanic peaks are cones of lava craters and include Boiling Lake, the second-largest thermally active lake in the world. The mountains act as a magnet for rain and serve as a water source for the hundreds of rivers that run down the lush green valleys, many cascading over steep cliff faces on their way to the coast. The driest months are February to June, the wettest month is August.

History

Spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named after the day of his discovery, a Sunday (Dominica in Latin), Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonised by Europeans, due chiefly to the fierce resistance of the native Caribs. France ceded possession to Great Britain in 1763, which made the island a colony in 1805. In 1967, Dominica gained autonomy in internal affairs, and on November 3, 1978, Dominica became an independent republic within the Commonwealth. After a turbulent first year of independence, marked by a corrupt government and devastating hurricanes, Mary Eugenia Charles of the Dominica Freedom Party was elected Prime Minister, the first female prime minister in the Caribbean. She remained in office for 15 years. In 1995, Edison James became Prime Minister following the victory of his United Workers Party (UWP) in the general elections.

Politics

In a closely contested election in January 2000, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) formed an alliance with the Freedom Party (FP) to oust the ruling United Workers Party (UWP). The leader of the DLP, Roosevelt "Rosie" Douglas was appointed Prime Minister of the coalition government. Following the sudden and tragic death of Rosie Douglas in October 2000, Pierre Charles was appointed Prime Minister. Pierre Charles himself died suddenly in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit was sworn in as Prime Minister on 8 January 2004.

A general election on 5 May 2005 returned the DLP to power. The DLP won 12 of the 21 seats with eight going to the UWP and one to an independent.

IMF

Following a request from Dominica, the IMF agreed in August 2002 to provide a 4.3m US dollar stand-by loan. The adjustment programme agreed between the IMF and Dominica is ambitious and requires the fiscal deficit to be reduced by nearly half to 5 % of GDP. To do this the government needs to sharply increase its revenue whilst reducing government expenditure.

Government plans to introduce cuts in the public service lead to a week-long strike in February 2003. After concluding its mid-term review in March 2003, the IMF announced that Dominica had not been able to reduce its fiscal deficit and stressed the need for the government to take substantial measures.

The 2003 Budget incorporated measures agreed with the IMF, which include a 5% cut in public service salaries. A public sector reform strategy and implementation plan was announced. Measures included in the 2004 Budget include a rationalisation of public services over two years, resulting in a reduction in its size and cost. There will be a further reduction in the wage bill, increase in retirement age (from 55 to 60) etc. There is a commitment to restructuring Dominica’s debt with the objective of reducing the net present value of the total debt by 50%. There will also be a series of capital projects, funded by donor governments/institutions, aimed at boosting the economy.

In July 2003 the IMF completed the first review of the Special Borrowing Arrangement. Following this review, the IMF agreed to release further funds under the programme which had been withheld because the government had failed to bring the budget deficit under control. In December 2003 the IMF approved a Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRFG) of US$11.2 million. Dominica has also obtained a World Bank structural adjustment loan of US$3 million. The first IMF review of the PRGF in February 2004 was judged satisfactory. The IMF announced in November 04 that it had approved a one-year extension of Dominica’s repayments totalling nearly US$42 million. In March 05 the IMF announced that following a positive review of Dominica’s performance under the PRGF covering the period June-December 2004, Dominica can draw down a further US$1.8 million, which will bring total disbursements to US$6.4 million.

Debt Restructuring

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) announced a debt restructuring package worth US413.2 million which would result in a reduction in the Net Present Value of Dominica’s future debt service payments. The new arrangements commenced on 1 October 2004. The Department for International Development (DFID) have established a Fiscal and Economic Programme in Dominica. This includes part-funding of an adviser to assist Dominica with the debt restructuring process.

Economy

Agriculture is Dominica's mainstay and bananas in particular, but less than a quarter of the island is under cultivation due to the mountainous terrain. In attempts to boost the economy Dominica is increasingly looking to niche markets in eco-agriculture and eco-tourism. Weak export prices and the gradual phasing out of preferential access to the EU market have affected the banana industry. Unemployment remains high at an estimated 20%.

In the adjustment programme agreed with the IMF, the government has undertaken among other things to review the tax system, to conduct a public expenditure review and to initiate a civil service reform program. The aim is to broaden the tax base, increase the efficiency of public spending, reduce the public sector wage and increase the public services' efficiency. The government also plans to increase banana production and has begun to restructure the banana sector. At the same time, it is implementing a number of programs to reduce poverty, improve education and health services and protect the environment.

The adjustment programme aims at structural reforms, but relies heavily on external financial and other assistance from institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, other CARICOM states, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the EU. The EU has also provided funds for several projects.

In November 2004 Dominica suffered an earthquake which damaged buildings in the north of the island. In addition landslides were caused by heavy rains. The damage caused will increase the strain on the economy.

In October 2002, the Financial Action Task Force removed Dominica from its list of non co-operating countries.

Basic Economic Facts

GDP (2003):US $255 million
GDP per head (2003):US $3,166
Real GDP Annual Growth:(IMF 2004 est) 3.5%
Inflation:Consumer Prices (IMF 2004 est) 2.3%
Major Industries:bananas, soap, coconut oil, tourism
Major trading partners (Export):CARICOM countries 47%, UK 36%, US 7% (1996 est.)
Major trading partners (Import):US 41%, Caricom countries 25%, UK 13%, Netherlands, Canada (1996 est.)
Agriculture:Tropical and citrus fruits are the main crops. Products for export are bananas, fruit juices, lime oil, bay oil, copra and rum. Forestry, fisheries and agro-processing are being encouraged.

International Relations

Dominica's Relations with Neighbours

Dominica, due to its proximity, has forged strong relationships with the French Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe. There are sizeable Dominican populations on both islands. Dominica takes its CARICOM and OECS responsibilities seriously and is an active participant in both organisations.

Dominica's Relations with the International Community

Dominica's relations with the International Community are varied and often based on personalities, for example its relationship with Libya and Cuba. Dominica enjoys close relationships with Taiwan and Japan who are both large aid donors. Dominica has also just established Diplomatic relations with Nigeria.

Dominica's Relationship with the UK

UK/Dominican relations are good. The Queen stopped over in 1994 on her Caribbean tour and there have been regular visits from Dominican Prime Ministers to the UK.

UK Development Assistance

Dominica benefits from a number of regional and sub-regional initiatives. These include technical assistance to the Caribbean Development Bank, technical assistance to the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery, support to CARICOM with implementation of the regional strategic framework on HIV/AIDs; support to the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) and to the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD).

DFID have established a Fiscal and Economic Programme in Dominica. This includes part-funding of an adviser to assist Dominica with the debt restructuring process.

Dominica benefited by 6.5 m from the 1997 Commonwealth Debt Initiative in recognition of efforts being made to reduce poverty.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Dominica represents a small market for British exports, but relies heavily on the UK to take about 50% of its total exports, including 90% of the banana crop. The UK's primary exports are machinery and transport equipment and food and beverages.

Trade and Investment witht he UK

Dominica represents a small market for British exports, but relies heavily on the UK to take about 50% of its total exports, including 90% of the banana crop. The UK's primary exports are machinery and transport equipment and food and beverages.

Bilateral Trade Figures:

  2004
UK Exports (m) 7.98
UK Imports (m) 9.64

Cultural relations with the UK

With a large number of Dominicans returning from the UK for retirement, cultural relations are strong. The Creole influence is however probably the most noticeable.

Recent Visits

The Princess Royal visited Dominica in April 2002. Baroness Scotland visited Dominica in May 2004 when she met Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and President Dr Nicholas Liverpool. This followed earlier visits in December 2000 and April 2002. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit paid a short visit to the UK in February 2004 and met Baroness Amos.

Health

Life expectancy: 76 years (men: 75 years, women: 80 years)
Infant mortality: 15 per 1000 live births

HIV/AIDS

The incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region is second only to sub-Sahara Africa. Dominica is tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic mainly through an education programme.

A UK-CARICOM Forum on Reducing Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDs in the Caribbean was held in St Kitts in November 2004. The Forum was attended by stakeholders from throughout the region. Participants included the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot; the Director of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, Sir George Alleyne; Dr Edwin Carrington, CARICOM Secretary-General and DfID Minister Gareth Thomas MP. The aim of the Forum was to accelerate the process of reducing HIV/AIDs-related stigma and discrimination through persons identified as 'Champions for Change'.

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