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Economy of Dominica

Many consider Dominica's economic situation the most challenging of all the Eastern Caribbean states. While the economy has grown faster in more recent years, growth over the last decade was still under 1%. The country nearly had a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004. Growth in 2006 was attributed to gains in tourism, construction, offshore and other services, and some sub-sectors of the banana industry. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently praised the Government of Dominica for its successful macroeconomic reforms. The IMF also pointed out remaining challenges, including further reductions in public debt, increased financial sector regulation, and market diversification. Bananas and other agriculture dominate Dominica's economy, and nearly one-third of the labor force works in agriculture. This sector, however, is highly vulnerable to weather conditions and to external events affecting commodity prices. In 2007, Hurricane Dean caused significant damage to the agricultural sector as well as the country's infrastructure, especially roads. In response to reduced European Union (EU) banana trade preferences, the government has diversified the agricultural sector by introducing coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mangoes, guavas, and papayas. Dominica has had some success in increasing its manufactured exports, primarily soap. Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, tourism has developed more slowly than on neighboring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica's high, rugged mountains, rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it an attractive eco-tourism destination. Cruise ship stopovers have increased following the development of modern docking and waterfront facilities in the capital. Dominica's currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries. The ECCB has kept the EC$ pegged at EC$2.7=U.S. $1. Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. Dominica also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). GDP (2010): $765.4 million. GDP growth rate (2010): 1.4%. GDP growth rate (1998-2008): 0.8% Per capita GDP (2010): $10,500. Inflation of consumer prices (2008): 6.3%. Natural resources: timber, water (hydropower), copper. Agriculture (10% of GDP in 2005): Products --bananas, citrus, coconuts, cocoa, herbal oils and extracts. Manufacturing (3% of GDP in 2005): Types --agricultural processing, soap and other coconut-based products, apparel. Trade (2005): Exports-- $39.0 million (merchandise) and $82.0 million (commercial services). Major markets (2009) -- Japan (28.62%); U.S. (19.81%); Antigua (7.7%); Guyana (6.52%); Jamaica (5.4%); Trinidad and Tobago (4.2%). Imports-- $165 million (merchandise) and $49 million (commercial services). Major suppliers (2009) -- Japan (31.29%); U.S. (19.73%); Trinidad and Tobago (11.8%); China (11.58%).

Geography of Dominica

Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago Map references: Central America and the Caribbean Area: total area: 750 sq km land area: 750 sq km comparative area: slightly more than four times the size of Washington, DC Land boundaries: 0 km Coastline: 148 km Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 nm exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm International disputes: none Climate: tropical; moderated by northeast trade winds; heavy rainfall Terrain: rugged mountains of volcanic origin Natural resources: timber Land use: arable land: 9% permanent crops: 13% meadows and pastures: 3% forest and woodland: 41% other: 34% Irrigated land: NA sq km Environment: current issues: NA natural hazards: flash floods are a constant threat; destructive hurricanes can be expected during the late summer months international agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling

Government of Dominica

Dominica has a Westminster-style parliamentary government, and there are two major political parties--the Dominica Labour Party (the majority party), and the Dominica United Workers Party. The Dominica Freedom Party has lost its party base and is no longer a factor in elections. 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 nine 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 with the advice of the prime minister and four with the advice of the opposition leader. If elected, it is by vote of the regional representatives. Elections for representatives and senators must be held no later than 5 years after the first meeting of parliament, although the prime minister can call elections any time. The last election was held in December 2009. 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. Councils elected by universal suffrage govern most towns. Supported largely by property taxation, the councils are responsible for the regulation of markets and sanitation and the maintenance of secondary roads and other municipal amenities. The island is also divided into 10 parishes, whose governance is unrelated to the town governments. Principal Government Officials President--Nicholas Liverpool Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Foreign Affairs and Information Technology--Roosevelt Skerrit Minister for National Security, Labour and Immigration--Charles Savarin Ambassador to the United States and Organization of American State--Hubert J. Charles Ambassador to the United Nations--Vince Henderson Although the Dominican ambassador to the United States has customarily been resident in Dominica, the country maintains an embassy in the U.S. at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6781). Dominica also has a consulate general co-located with its UN mission in New York at Suite 900, 820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017 (tel: 212-599-8478). Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy; republic within commonwealth. Independence: November 3, 1978. Constitution: November 1978. Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--unicameral house of assembly. Judicial--magistrate and jury courts, Eastern Caribbean supreme court (high court and court of appeals), Privy Council. Subdivisions: 10 parishes. Political parties: Dominica Labor Party, Dominica Freedom Party (ruling coalition partners), and United Workers Party (opposition). Suffrage: Universal adult.

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History of Dominica

The island's indigenous Arawak people were expelled or exterminated by Caribs in the 14th century. Columbus landed there in November 1493. Spanish ships frequently landed on Dominica during the 16th century, but fierce resistance by the Caribs discouraged Spain's efforts at settlement. In 1635, France claimed Dominica. Shortly thereafter, French missionaries became the first European inhabitants of the island. Carib incursions continued, though, and in 1660, the French and British agreed that both Dominica and St. Vincent should be abandoned. Dominica was officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of British and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the 18th century. Largely due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the seven years' war, the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population, which was largely French. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure. In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free nonwhites. Three Blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became the first and only British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most Black legislators were small holders or merchants who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule. In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one comprised of one-half elected members and one-half appointed. Planters allied with colonial administrators outmaneuvered the elected legislators on numerous occasions. In 1871, Dominica became part of the Leeward Island Federation. The power of the Black population progressively eroded. Crown Colony government was re-established in 1896. All political rights for the vast majority of the population were effectively curtailed. Development aid, offered as compensation for disenfranchisement, proved to have a negligible effect. Following World War I, an upsurge of political consciousness throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the representative government association. Marshaling public frustration with the lack of a voice in the governing of Dominica, this group won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward Island Administration and was governed as part of the Windwards until 1958, when it joined the short-lived West Indies Federation. After the federation dissolved, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom in 1967 and formally took responsibility for its internal affairs. On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom. Independence did little to solve problems stemming from centuries of economic underdevelopment, and in mid-1979, political discontent led to the formation of an interim government. It was replaced after the 1980 elections by a government led by the Dominica Freedom Party under Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean's first female prime minister. Chronic economic problems were compounded by the severe impact of hurricanes in 1979 and in 1980. By the end of the 1980s, the economy had made a healthy recovery, which weakened in the 1990s due to a decrease in banana prices. In the January 2000 elections, the Edison James United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the Dominican Labour Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P. "Rosie" Douglas. Douglas died after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles, who died in office in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced Charles as Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister Skerrit's leadership, the DLP won elections in May 2005 that gave the party 12 seats in the 21-member Parliament to the UWP's 8 seats. An independent candidate affiliated with the DLP won a seat as well. Since that time, the independent candidate joined the government and one UWP member crossed the aisle, making the current total 14 seats for the DLP and 7 for the UWP.

People of Dominica

Almost all Dominicans are descendants of African slaves brought in by colonial planters in the 18th century. Dominica is the only island in the eastern Caribbean to retain some of its pre-Columbian population--the Carib Indians--about 3,000 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. English is the official language; however, because of historic French domination, the most widely spoken dialect is a French patois. About 80% of the population is Catholic. In recent years, a number of Protestant churches have been established. Nationality: Noun and adjective--Dominican (Dom-i-NEE-can). Population (2008): 72,000. Annual growth rate (2005-2010): -3%.(Negative population growth is due to external migration.) Ethnic groups: Mainly of African descent, mixed Black and European, Syrian and some Carib Amerindians. Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant (Methodist, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Baptist), Islam, Baha'l, Rastafarianism, Anglican, Jehovah's Witnesses, Nazarene, Church of Christ, and Brethren Christian Churches. Languages: English (official); a French-based Creole is widely spoken. Education (2005): Adult literacy--94%. Health (2006): Infant mortality rate--13/1,000. Life expectancy--men 72 years; women 77.9 years. Has among the highest numbers of centenarians per capita in the world, with 22 confirmed cases. Work force (2005): 24,370. Unemployment (2005): 13.1%.
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