Dominica - Tips

Dominica Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Dominica

Flag of Dominica is green, with a centered cross of three equal bands - the
vertical part is yellow (hoist side), black, and white and the horizontal
part is yellow (top), black, and white; superimposed in the center of the
cross is a red disk bearing a sisserou parrot encircled by 10 green,
five-pointed stars edged in yellow; the 10 stars represent the 10
administrative divisions (parishes).

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Commonwealth of Dominica

Geography
Area: 754 sq. km. (290 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Roseau (population 14,500).
Terrain: Mountainous volcanic island with rainforest cover.
Climate: Tropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Dominican (Dom-i-nee-can).
Population (2005): 72,000.
Annual growth rate (2005): 0.8%.
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'I, Rastafarianism, Anglican, Jehovah's
Witnesses, Nazarene, Church of Christ, and Brethren Christian Churches.
Languages: English (official); a French patois 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.
Work force (2005): 24,370.
Unemployment (2005): 13.1%.

Government
Type: Parliamentary democracy; republic within the 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 Labour Party (incumbent), United Workers Party,
and Dominica Freedom Party.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (2005): $283.6 million.
GDP growth rate (2006): 4.0%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $3,790.
Inflation (2005): 4.6%.
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--$41.0 million (merchandise) and $82.0 million
(commercial services). Major markets--European Union (27.8%), Jamaica
(12.7%), Antigua and Barbuda (11.3%), Trinidad and Tobago (9.0%), and Saint
Lucia (6.8%). Imports--$165 million (merchandise) and $49 million (commercial
services). Major suppliers--United States (36.6%), Trinidad and Tobago
(20.5%), China (19.4%), European Union (13.4%), and Japan (4.6%).

PEOPLE
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. Nearly 80% of
the population is Catholic. In recent years, a number of Protestant churches
have been established.

HISTORY
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. 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
smallholders 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 recovered, but weakened again 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.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Dominica has a Westminster-style parliamentary government, and there are
three political parties--the Dominica Labour Party (the majority party), the
Dominica United Workers Party, and the Dominica Freedom Party. 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 at least every 5 years,
although the prime minister can call elections any time. The last election
was held in May 2005.

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--Dr. Nicholas Liverpool
Prime Minister--Roosevelt Skerrit
Minister for Foreign Affairs--Charles A. Savarin
Ambassador to the United States and Organization of American States--Chargé
Judith-Anne Rolle
Ambassador to the United Nations--Crispin Gregoire

Although the Dominican ambassador to the United States has customarily been
resident in Dominica, the country maintains an embassy in the United States
at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 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).

ECONOMY
Dominica's economy grew by 3.5% in 2005 and 4.0% in 2006, following a decade
of poor performance. 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 response to decreasing 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).

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Like its Eastern Caribbean neighbors, the main priority of Dominica's foreign
relations is economic development. The country maintains missions in
Washington, New York, London, and Brussels and is represented jointly with
other Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) members in Canada.
Dominica also is a member of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the
British Commonwealth. It became a member of the United Nations and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1978 and of the World Bank and
Organization of American States (OAS) in 1979.

U.S.-DOMINICAN RELATIONS
The United States and Dominica have friendly bilateral relations. The United
States supports the Dominican Government's efforts to expand its economic
base and to provide a higher standard of living for its citizens. U.S.
assistance is primarily channeled through multilateral agencies such as the
World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), as well as through the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Bridgetown,
Barbados. The Peace Corps also provides technical assistance to Dominica, and
has volunteers on the island working primarily in education, youth
development, and health.

In addition, the United States and Dominica work together in the battle
against illegal drugs. Dominica cooperates with U.S. agencies and
participates in counternarcotics programs in an effort to curb
narco-trafficking and marijuana cultivation. In 1995, the Dominican
Government signed a maritime law enforcement agreement with the United States
to strengthen counternarcotics coordination, and in 1996, the government
signed mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties to enhance joint
efforts in combating international crime.

Dominica had around 252,000 visitors in 2005, which represented a contraction
in both cruise line and stay-over arrivals over the record performance set in
2004. It is estimated that 4,500 Americans reside in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Mary M. Ourisman
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Martina Strong (Acting)
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Martina Strong
Economic-Commercial Affairs--Anthony Eterno
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Kate Raftery

The United States maintains no official presence in Dominica. The Ambassador
and Embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently travel to
Dominica.

The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey,
St. Michael (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 246-429-5246).

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

Caribbean/Latin America Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/
Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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