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Commonwealth of Dominica



FLAG: On a green background appears a cross composed of yellow, black, and white stripes; in the center is a red disk with 10 yellow-bordered green stars surrounding a parrot.

ANTHEM: Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendor.

MONETARY UNIT: The East Caribbean dollar (ec$) of 100 cents is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 25, and 1 dollar, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 100 East Caribbean dollars. ec$1 = us0.37037 (or us$1 = ec$2.7; as of 2004).

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is being introduced, but imperial measures remain in common use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; CARICOM Day, 2 July; Bank Holiday, 1st Monday in August; National Days, 34 November; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Carnival, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


Although usually classified as one of the Windward Islands, Dominica, located between Guadeloupe to the n and Martinique to the s, marks the midpoint of the Lesser Antilles. To the e lies the Atlantic Ocean, to the w the Caribbean Sea. The island has an area of 754 sq km (291 sq mi) and is 47 km (29 mi) long by 26 km (16 mi) wide, with a coastline of 148 km (92 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Dominica is slightly more than four times the size of Washington, D.C.

Dominica's capital city, Roseau, is located on the southwest coast of the island.


The most rugged island of the Lesser Antilles, Dominica is a mass of peaks, ridges, and ravines. Several mountains are over 1,200 m (4,000 ft), of which the highest is Morne Diablatins, with an altitude of 1,447 m (4,747 ft). The whole land mass is of recent volcanic formation, and the mountain peaks are cones of volcanoes with lava craters and small lakes of boiling water. The largest of these is Boiling Lake near Roseau, which is the second-largest thermally active lake in the world. The coastal rim of the island is a thin strip limited by the mountainsides, which extend directly down to the shore.


The climate of Dominica is mildly tropical; in the winter months the temperature averages 25°c (77°f); in the summer, 28°c (82°f). The spring months are the driest; the heaviest rains fall during late summer. The average yearly rainfall ranges from about 191 cm (75 in) on the drier Caribbean coast to 508 cm (200 in) in mountainous inland areas. Destructive hurricanes coming in from the Atlantic Ocean can be expected during the late summer months.


Since few plantations could be established on Dominica's rugged terrain, the island is still covered with forests, some of which have never been cut except by the destructive winds of a hurricane. On one 4-hectare (10-acre) plot in the rain forest, as many as 60 species of trees may be identified. Some of the most common are chataignier, gommier, carapite, breadfruit, white cedar, and laurier.

There are no large wild animals, but the agouti and manicou can be found. Some 135 species of birds inhabit Dominica. The coastal waters abound in fish.


As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) formed in 1981, Dominica shares environmental problems common to the area's island countries. Water shortages are among the most significant. Other areas of concern are pollution from chemicals used in farming and untreated sewage. The nation's forests are endangered by the expansion of farming activities. Hurricanes are the most destructive natural threat to the environment.

Pollution of the nation's coastal waters threatens the tourist trade in the area. Two extensive areas have been set aside as nature reserves. The southern reserve, which constitutes Morne Trois Pitons National Park, is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers an area of 6,500 hectares (16,100 acres). In it are the nesting places of the red-necked and imperial parrots, both endangered species of Dominica.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammal, 4 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 11 species of fish, and 11 species of plants. The tundra peregrine falcon and the green sea and hawksbill turtles are classified as endangered.


The population of Dominica in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 70,000, which placed it at number 184 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 28% of the population under 15 years of age. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.8%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 78,000. The population density was 93 per sq km (242 per sq mi), one of the lowest in the West Indies.

The UN estimated that 71% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.67%. The capital city, Roseau, had a population of 27,000 in that year.

AIDS was the leading cause of death among people ages 1544 in the Eastern Caribbean region.


There are no restrictions on foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation. In 2005 the net migration rate was estimated as -11.6 migrants per 1,000 population. The number of migrants living in Dominica in 2000 was 4,000, close to 5% of the total population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The vast majority of Dominicans are descendants of African slaves brought to the island in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the population are of mixed descent and a small minority are of European origin. Dominica is the only island of the Caribbean on which descendants of the native Carib population still make up a community of significant size. Isolation and the establishment of a 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) reserve have enabled the Caribs, who number about 3,000 people, to preserve their identity.


English is the official language of Dominica. Nearly all Dominicans also speak a French patois, based on a mixture of African and French grammar and consisting mostly of French words, with some English and Spanish borrowings. Some islanders speak French as their first language.


About 61% of the population are Roman Catholic. Evangelical churches have a membership that accounts for about 18% of the population. About 6% of the people are Seventh-Day Adventists and 3.7% are Methodists. Other minority groups include Anglicans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Baha'is, Rastafarians, Baptists, Nazarenes, and Brethren Christians. About 6% of the population does not claim any religious affiliation.

Religious freedom for all faiths is provided for in the constitution and this right is generally respected in practice. All religious groups must register with the government to receive nonprofit status. Certain Christian holidays are observed as national holidays. The Dominica Christian Council and the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches offer opportunities for interreligious dialogue on religious and social matters.


A paved road circles the northern two-thirds of the island, connecting the two main towns, Roseau and Portsmouth, with Melville Hall Airport in the northeast. Much of the road system was severely damaged by a 1979 hurricane; reconstruction averages about 16 km (10 mi) a year. There were about 780 km (485 mi) of roadways in 2002, of which 390 km (242 mi) were paved. There are 2,770 passenger cars and 2,830 commercial motor vehicles on the island. A deepwater harbor has been completed near Roseau on Woodbridge Bay, and both Roseau and Portsmouth also receive ships. As of 2005, Dominica's merchant marine consisted of 32 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, for a total of 13,771 GRT. Dominica Air Transport and other small airlines connect the main airport with Martinique, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Barbados. In 2004 there were two airports, both with paved runways, one is a 760-m (2,500-ft) airstrip at Canefield, about 5 km (3 mi) north of Roseau.


The first island sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World was Dominica at which he arrived Sunday (dies dominica ), 3 November 1493. Carib Indians, whose ancestors originally had come from the Orinoco Basin in South America and, during the 14th century, had driven out the indigenous Arawaks, inhabited the island. The Caribs resisted conquest and the Spaniards soon lost interest in the island, which had no apparent mineral wealth.

In 1635, France claimed Dominica, and French missionaries visited the island seven years later, but strong Indian resistance to further contact prevented either the French or the English from settling there. In 1660, England and France declared Dominica a neutral island and left it to the Caribs. Within 30 years, however, Europeans began to settle on the island, and in 1727 the French took formal possession. Under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, however, France ceded the island to Great Britain, which then developed fortifications for its defense. French colonists established coffee plantations during the nearly forty years they held the island. The British introduced sugar production later, but the large slave plantations that characterized other West Indian islands never developed on Dominica. When Great Britain abolished slavery in the West Indies in 1834, 14,175 Dominican slaves obtained their freedom.

Dominica became the first and only British Caribbean colony to have a black-controlled legislature in the 19th century, but blacks lost most of their political power when the British government, acceding to the wishes of Dominican planters, diluted the strength of the Legislative Assembly and, in 1896, reduced Dominica to a crown colony. Great Britain governed Dominica as part of the Leeward Islands from 1871 until 1939, and in 1940 transferred governance to the Windward Islands administration. From 1958 to 1962, the island belonged to the Federation of the West Indies. Dominica became an associated state of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1967 and on 3 November 1978 became an independent republic.

In its first years of independence, Dominica had several problems. Hurricanes, especially Hurricane David in 1979, brought great destruction to the island, but the corrupt, tyrannical administration of Premier Patrick John led to numerous severe difficulties. Dominicans ousted John in June 1979, and, after a year of interim rule, Mary Eugenia Charles became prime minister in July 1980.

Charles, the first female prime minister in the Caribbean, remained in office for 15 years. (She died at the age of 86 on 6 September 2005.) Her Dominica Freedom Party received parliamentary majorities in 1985 and 1990, partly because of an improved economic picture. Charles fully supported and sent a token force to participate in the US-led intervention of the island of Grenada in October 1983.

In the early 1990s, controversy flared over the practice of granting "economic citizenship" to Asian nationals who invested $35,000 or more in the country. In response, the government implemented stiffer requirements, including licenses, waiting periods, and additional financial outlays.

Prime Minister Charles's DFP lost its majority in the 1995 elections, and Edison James, leader of the United Workers' Party, formed a new government. Under James, Dominica's economy improved, but charges of corruption concerning the continued sale of Dominican citizenship to foreigners, allegedly including gangsters and smugglers, seriously undermined his creditability. In the election held in January 2000, the UWP narrowly won a plurality of votes over the DLP and DFP. In 200004, UWP's Pierre Charles was prime minister.

In 2002, Pierre Charles told the Caribbean Development Bank that Dominica faced economic and financial collapse. Revenue from exports and tourism was down, and Charles cited the effects of globalization as one of the causes of Dominica's economic troubles. Charles died in office at the age of 49 in January 2004. Education Minister Roosevelt Skerrit succeeded him as prime minister. In November 2004, an earthquake damaged buildings on the north side of the island, and Prime Minister Skerrit estimated the damages would rise in the millions of dollars. Skerrit and the governing DLP won the general elections held in May 2005.


Under the independence constitution of 3 November 1978, Dominica has a unicameral parliament, the House of Assembly, with 21 members elected by universal adult suffrage (at age 18) and 9 appointed members (5 named on the advice of the prime minister, 4 on the advice of the leader of the opposition). The term of the Assembly is five years. The prime minister and leader of the opposition nominate the president, though Parliament officially elects the head of state, who in turn appoints the prime minister and cabinet from the majority party in the assembly.


Dominica's major political parties are the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), and the United Workers' Party (UWP). The DFP held power from 1980 to 1995, led by Eugenia Charles, the first woman prime minister in the Caribbean region. (Party leadership was transferred to Brian Alleyne in 1993, but Charles remained prime minister.) The UWP dominated the 1995 elections, winning 11 of the 21 elected seats in the National Assembly. (The DFP and DLP, led by Rosie Douglas, each won 5.) Following the elections, UWP leader Edison James became prime minister. The DLP won 10 of the 21 elected seats in the 2000 election and formed a coalition government with the DFP, then led by Pierre Charles, which captured two seats. In the 2005 general election, the DLP won 52.08% of the vote (12 seats), the UWP won 43.6% of the vote (8 seats), and the DFP won 3.15% of the vote. An independent held the remaining seat in the House of Assembly. Roosevelt Skerrit, who had been chosen prime minister after the death of Pierre Charles in 2004, remained prime minister.


In contrast to other English-speaking islands in the Caribbean, Dominica has a well-developed local government system. There are 37 village councils, made up of both elected and appointed members. Both Roseau and Portsmouth have town councils, and Canefield has an urban council. There is a Carib Council which governs the Carib territory, set aside for indigenous peoples. There are also 10 parishes, which are administrative divisions for the national government.


Dominica's judicial process derives from English common law and statutory acts of the House of Assembly. The courts of first instance are the four magistrates' courts; at the second level is the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. The highest court is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in St. Lucia, and one of its six judges must reside in Dominica and preside over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. In exceptional cases prior to 2003, appeals were carried to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

On 9 June 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The court was officially inaugurated in April 2005, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. As of 2005, however, the court's jurisdiction was limited to the CARICOM states of Barbados and Guyana. The CCJ heard its first case in August 2005.

The law provides for public trial before an independent, impartial court. Criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel, and to appeal.


A police force of 300 is in charge of law and order. Dominica, along with Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is a member of the Regional Security System, established in 1985. Defense from foreign attack would come from the United States or United Kingdom.


Dominica became a member of the United Nations on 18 December 1978 and belongs ECLAC and several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IMF, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, and the World Bank. Dominica is also a member of the WTO, OAS, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, CARICOM, the ACP Group, the OECS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The nation is an observer in the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). In environmental cooperation, Dominica is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


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 that affect commodity prices. With the decline of banana exports, GDP growth began declining and in the late 1980s, average annual GDP growth was 5.5%; in the early 1990s, about 3.5%, and from 1996 to 1999, 2.5%. In 2000, GDP stagnated and in 2001 there was a contraction of about 4.5% as adverse weather, a drop in tourism, and reduced export demand added to the effects of declining banana production. From 1998 to 2000, banana exports fell 24.6%, and then in the global slowdown of 2001, fell another 35.4%.

In response to decreasing European Union (EU) banana trade preferences, the government has diversified the agricultural sector, with the export of small quantities of citrus fruits and vegetables and the introduction of coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mangos, guavas, and papayas. Dominica also has had some success increasing its manufactured exports, primarily soap. Furthermore, Dominica recently entered the offshore financial services market.

Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, tourism has developed more slowly than on neighboring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica does have the highest mountain peak in the Caribbean. Rain forests, freshwater lakes, over 200 rivers, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it an attractive ecotourism destination. Cruise ship stopovers have increased following the development of modern docking and waterfront facilities in the capital. However, development of the tourism industry remains difficult because of the rugged coastline and the absence of an international airport.

The government is promoting industrial development involving agro-processing and light industry, and hopes to build an airport with greater accessibility. After the government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy in 2003, the 2004 GDP growth rate was reported at 3.5%. The country nearly had a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004, but it has managed to stabilize its debt and fiscal deficits using some difficult reform measures, earning the praise of international financial institutions (IFIs).


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Dominica's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $384.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,500. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at -1%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 18% of GDP, industry 24%, and services 58%.

It was estimated that in 2002 about 30% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force in 2002 (the latest year for which data was available) was estimated at 25,000. About 40% of the labor force was employed in agriculture, 32% in industry and commerce, and 28% in services. Unemployment was officially 23% in 2002.

Unions have the right to strike, organize, and engage in collective bargaining. As of 2005, unions represented about 33% of the workforce, with approximately 50% of all government employees belonging to unions as that same year. Essential services are prohibited from striking and this includes the coconut, citrus, and banana industries, as well as the port service that supports them.

The standard work week is 40 hours over 5 days. However, excessive overtime is not prohibited. The minimum wage is set by the government and varies from sector to sector. Last revised in 1989, the average wage was between us$.74 per hour and us$1.11 per hour in 2005 for most workers. These wages are not sufficient to support a family, although most workers earn more than the minimum. The minimum working age is 15 and this is generally observed without government enforcement. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 were permitted to work in certain family businesses such as farming. Occupational safety and health standards for adults and children are generally enforced by the government, and most employers comply with them.


About 26.7% of the total land area is arable. Agricultural production was on the decline even before the 1979 hurricane disaster. The main crop of Dominica is bananas, output of which had fallen to 29,700 tons in 1978. As a result of Hurricane David, production hit a low of 15,700 tons in 1979. Agriculture suffered a further blow from Hurricane Allen in August 1980. However, after outside financial support began to rehabilitate the sector, production rose to 27,800 tons in 1981 and totaled 29,000 tons in 2004.

Agriculture accounts for about 18% of GDP and employs about 40% of the labor force. Agricultural exports amounted to $15.3 million in 2004. Most crops are produced on small farms, the 9,000 owners of which are banded together in about 10 cooperatives; there are also several large farms that produce mostly bananas for export. Coconuts and citrus fruits are grown in commercial quantities. Production for 2004 included coconuts, 11,500 tons; grapefruit, 17,000 tons; lemons and limes, 1,020 tons; and oranges, 7,200 tons. Fruits and vegetables are produced mostly for local consumption.


There are about 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of pastureland, comprising 2.7% of the total land area. The island does not produce sufficient meat, poultry, or eggs for local consumption. In 2004 there were an estimated 13,400 head of cattle, 9,700 goats, 7,600 sheep, and 5,000 hogs. In 2004, production of meat totaled 1,364 tons; and milk, 6,100 tons.


Before Hurricane David in 1979, some 2,000 persons earned a living fishing in coastal waters, producing about 1,000 tons of fish a year and meeting only about one-third of the local demand. The hurricane destroyed almost all of the island's 470 fishing boats; afterward, only about a dozen vessels could be reconstructed for use. In 2003, the catch was 1,103 tons, up from 552 tons in 1991.


Dominica has the potential for a lumber industry. Some 46,000 hectares (114,000 acres) are classified as forest, representing 61% of the total land area. In 1962, Canadian experts produced a study indicating that over a 40-year period the island could produce a yearly output of 22,000 cu m (800,000 cu ft) of lumber. Before Hurricane David in 1979, annual output had reached about 7,500 cu m (265,000 cu ft). There are some 280 hectares (700 acres) of government land allocated to commercial forestry and about 100 hectares (240 acres) of forestland in private hands. Commercially valuable woods include mahogany, blue and red mahoe, and teak.


Dominica had no significant or recorded production of minerals in 2003, although small amounts of pumice are exported. What production there is of clay, limestone, volcanic ash, and sand and gravel is primarily for the domestic construction industry.


Dominica's energy and power sector is marked by a complete lack of any proven reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, nor does it possess any refining capacity. As a result, the country is entirely dependent upon imports to meet its consumption of fossil fuels. However, the country does have access to hydropower, which makes up a large portion of the nation's electric power generating capacity and production.

In 2002, Dominica imported an average of 820 barrels per day of refined oil products, the largest of which were gasoline at 470 barrels per day, and distillates, at 250 barrels per day. Liquefied natural gas imports for that year stood at 60 barrels per day, with kerosene and residual fuel oils each at 20 barrels per day.

Dominica's electric power sector is solely managed by a private utility the Dominica Electricity Service (Domlec). According to Domlec's 2002 annual report, the company had an installed capacity of 20,440 kW, of which diesel fueled generation accounted for 12,840 kW and hydropower at 7,600 kW. However, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for that year placed the country's generating capacity at 19,000 kW, with hydropower and conventional thermal capacity at 8,000 kW and 11,000 kW, respectively. In addition, the company's hydropower capacity can drop sharply during a very dry season. According to Domlec's 2002 annual report, installed hydropower capacity could fall to as much as 32,000 kW. In 2002, the CIA reported that Dominica's output and consumption of electrical power was 68.41 million kWh and 63.62 kWh, respectively, while the EIA placed production and consumption of electrical power at 65 million kWh and 61 million kWh, respectively. Domlec's annual report for 2002 placed total electric power output at 80.1 million kWh.

In April 2004, Commonwealth Development Corporation (London, UK) sold its 72% stake in Domlec to WRB Enterprises (Tampa, Florida).


Dominica has only light industry and most of it is connected with the processing of agricultural products. Industrial establishments include a plant for processing coconuts into oil and copra for export, four plants to process limes and other citrus fruits, two bottling plants, two distilleries, four small apparel plants, and four small furniture factories. Dominica exports water to its Caribbean neighbors; shoes, cement blocks, furniture, soap and toiletries are also exported. Home industries produce some leather work, ceramics, and straw products. Wood products, including furniture, are produced from local timber. Portsmouth is the main boatbuilding center.

Since the 1990s, the small manufacturing sector has been expanding at a modest pace, including electronics assembly, rum, candles, and paints. Industry accounted for 24% of GDP in 2004. While services account for 58% of GDP it only hires 28% of the labor force (with comparison to agriculture, which hires 40%)

The Dominican economy has high poverty (30%), high unemployment (23%), and a low per capita GDP (us$5,400). The Dominican economy has been hurt by problems in the banana industry. The entire economy suffers when weather conditions damage the banana crop, or when the price of bananas falls. The European Union has phased out preferred access of bananas to its markets, causing banana demand to fall. In response, the Dominican government privatized the banana industry.


Late in 1980, Dominica created a Council for Science and Technology, under the Ministry of Education. The Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute has been active in more than a half-dozen projects.


Local produce markets exist in all the small villages and towns. About 40% of the work force is employed in agriculture and many foods and manufactured goods have to be imported.

The island has sought to develop preserves of its unique flora and fauna to attract tourists.

The tourism industry has reoriented many artisan jobs, such as in the fishing industry; the Dominica fleet has increased from only 913 vessels in 1994 to more than 1100 in 2000. However tourism overall has been slow to develop because of poor transport and the lack of hotel facilities and good beaches. Commercial activity is concentrated in the morning hours, since tropical rains impede afternoon travel.


Dominica is well known for its exports of bananas, which reflect over a quarter of the country's commodity export revenues. Soap and cleaning products account for almost a third of exports (29%). Other exports include vegetables (3.7%), paint (3.1%), and perfume (13.7%). Exports accounted for $41.2 million in 2004 (mainly

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 39.3 127.0 -87.7
Jamaica 9.0 1.6 7.4
United Kingdom 6.2 9.7 -3.5
Antigua and Barbuda 4.0 0.3 3.7
France-Monaco 3.6 3.1 0.5
Guyana 3.3 1.5 1.8
Trinidad and Tobago 2.6 23.2 -20.6
United States 2.5 47.2 -44.7
Barbados 2.0 5.5 -3.5
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1.3 0.4 0.9
Saint Lucia 1.3 3.5 -2.2
() data not available or not significant.

bananas, citrus fruits, soap, and cocoa). The major markets are CARICOM, 61%; the European Union, 18%; and the United States, 3%. On the other hand, imports reached $145 million in 2004, mainly of machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, manufactured articles, and cement. The major suppliers are the United States 35%, CARICOM 29%, EU 13% and Japan 5%.

Dominica is a beneficiary of the US Caribbean Basin Initiative, which grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. In 2004, exports totaled $41 million, with 3% going to the United States. 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). Dominica and the other countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean

Current Account -38.1
   Balance on goods -59.4
     Imports -102.4
     Exports 42.9
   Balance on services 26.0
   Balance on income -18.5
   Current transfers 13.8
Capital Account 20.5
Financial Account 8.9
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Dominica 11.4
   Portfolio investment assets 0.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 12.1
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -2.8
   Other investment liabilities -11.8
Net Errors and Omissions 17.0
Reserves and Related Items -8.3
() data not available or not significant.

States (OECS) were scheduled to join the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) in June 2006.

In 2004 Dominica cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of ties with mainland China. China agreed to give aid worth more than $100 million over five years.


The increasingly unfavorable balance of trade produces a current account deficit and boosts the foreign debt. Recurrent hurricanes and other natural disasters, such as an earthquake that caused millions in damages in November 2004, have added to the debt burden. Dominica hopes to be able to offset the trade deficit with tourism revenues.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2004 the purchasing power parity of Dominica's exports was $74 million while imports totaled $234 million resulting in a trade deficit of approximately $150 million, increasing yearly.


The principal national banks are the National Commercial and Development Bank of Dominica and the Dominica Agricultural Industrial and Development (AID) Bank. Private commercial banks include Barclays (UK), the Royal Bank of Canada, and the Banque Française Commerciale. Dominica is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, which issues a common currency. Dominica has no stock market, and is considered an offshore tax haven for international companies. It guarantees a 20-year tax exemption. The International Monetary Fund reported that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $39.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $204.1 million.


Representatives of British, Canadian, and US insurance companies do business in Dominica.


Operating revenues come mostly from customs duties, excise taxes, and other taxes and fees for government services. The leading areas of expenditure are education, health, public services, housing, and defense.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2001 Dominica's central government took in revenues of approximately $73.9 million and had expenditures of $84.4 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$10.5 million. Total external debt was $161.5 million.


Taxes levied by the Dominican government include a progressive personal income tax ranging from 040%; a business income tax of 35%; social security taxes; a 3% gross receipts tax on retail sales; and taxes on land transfers and land-value appreciation. There is no capital gains tax except the land-value appreciation tax.


Specific import duties apply to food and ad valorem duties apply to other items. The government levies export duties on principal agricultural products; the charge is heavy on rum and cigarettes but lighter on bananas and coconuts. Under a 1992 Caribbean Community agreement, Dominica eliminated import licensing. Dominica adopted CARICOM's common external tariff, which ranges up to 35%. Additional duties are applied to cigarettes, rum and motor vehicles.


The amount of foreign investment in Dominica is limited, largely because the island lacks the infrastructure to support an industrialization program. Investment increased in the early 1990s under the Charles government, particularly in agriculture. The marketing of banana production is monopolized by European multinational corporations. Tax holidays and import-duty exemptions are offered as investment incentives. The area near the Canefield airstrip is an industrial estate and export processing zone. The government agency for industrial development has had some success attracting capital investment funds for the island. The introduction of an offshore financial industry may also attract investment, as well as increased tourism. Other investment incentives include repatriation of profits, alien landholding license fees, factory building/industrial estates, and residence/work permits.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows peaked in 1997 at $21 million before falling to $6.1 million in 1998. FDI inflows recovered to $18 million in 1999 and averaged about $13 million a year in 2000 and 2001. By 2003 there was a decent increase in FDI of up to $17 million, but FDI as a percentage of GDP continues to decrease.


Similar to its Eastern Caribbean neighbors, the main priority of Dominica's foreign relations is economic development. Dominica seeks to foster private enterprise.

Dominica's government until recently has been sensitive about market liberalization. In 1986, for example, it created an exportimport agency and announced a land-reform program, both to stimulate agriculture. Under the latter, the government purchased 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of land in prime growing areas and then guaranteed a minimum holding with security of tenure, as well as services and equipment, to small farmers and landless farm workers. As of 1994, the government encouraged agriculture expansion through a diversification program, which was aimed at improving the marketing of products and providing income guarantees for farmers who are in the process of diversifying into new crops. There was still serious concern about the implications of the restructuring of formerly protected European markets.

In August 2002, Dominica negotiated a one-year $4.3 million Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF and immediately the government implemented a 4% Stabilization Levy tax to tackle the financial crisis. Further economic austerity measures were taken while massive protests followed. But by 2003 the government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy, which included elimination of price controls, privatization of the state banana company, and tax increasesto address Dominica's economic crisis and to meet IMF targets.

The main problem has been that the small island's economy is dependent on agriculture and thus is highly vulnerable to climatic conditions. Development of the tourist industry remains difficult because of the rugged coastline and the lack of an international airport (though the government bought land for the construction of an airport in 1999). There has been much debate over proposals to build an airport capable of handling large jet aircraft because there is concern that an increase in tourist arrivals, as well as the promotion of eco-tourism, would damage the island's finely balanced environment.

Besides tourism, the government has attempted to diversify the economy and inspire confidence in investors and the population. For example, for a time the offshore business sector of Dominica was included on a list of countries deemed to be noncooperative in the fight against money-laundering. The government subsequently tightened up banking rules and set up a financial intelligence unit. Other positive events have been the establishment of diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China in March 2004 and the announcement by Prime Minister Skerrit in June that year that the Stabilization Levy had ended. In early 2005 a boost to the economy was given by the shooting of the feature film Pirates of the Caribbean.


Until the early 1980s, a high rate of unemployment, a markedly high rate of emigration, and very limited resources hindered the development of social service programs in Dominica. A social insurance system covers all workers from 1460 years of age, including apprentices. Under this plan, both workers and employers contribute specific amounts to a government fund, which provides pensions for workers reaching retirement age, compensation for workers who become incapacitated, and survivor benefits. There are also sickness and maternity benefits. The social security system is funded by worker contributions of 3% of earnings (7% self-employed) and a 7% employer payroll tax. Retirement is set at age 60.

Domestic violence is prevalent. A hotline manned by volunteers is available for battered women, and the Welfare Department often helps them find temporary quarters. Apart from the constitution, there is no specific legislation in force to protect women from sex discrimination. Property ownership is given to the "head of household" which is generally male. When a man dies without a will his wife cannot inherit the property. Many women in rural areas face considerably difficulty in meeting basic needs. Children's rights are generally protected, and education is free and compulsory.

Indigenous Carib minorities face minimal discrimination, and most live on a 3,700-acre reservation set aside for them by the government in 1903. Human rights are generally respected in Dominica. However, instances of excessive police force have been reported, and prison conditions are poor.


In 2004 there were an estimated 49 physicians, 415 nurses, and 6 dentists per 100,000 people. The one general hospital on Dominica is in Roseau, the 195-bed Princess Margaret Hospital. There are 7 health centers and 44 clinics scattered across the island. Serious tropical diseases such as yaws and malaria have been eradicated, but owing to the high humidity and rainy conditions, tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases continue to be a problem. Intestinal parasites afflict particularly those in the early years of life. Only 7% of newborns were low birth weight. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was estimated at 14.15 per 1,000 live births. Average life expectancy for that year was 74.65 years. Approximately 99% of the country's children were immunized against measles and the same percentage for DPT, tuberculosis, and polio. There were no cases of polio or measles reported on the island.


Hurricane David in 1979 destroyed the homes of over four-fifths of the population. Under an emergency housing program, construction supplies were brought into the island, and shelters were built for most of the population. Most of all dwellings are detached houses. In 1993, at least 71% were owner occupied. Most houses are built through the private sector, with individuals financing their own homes. Over half of all housing units were wooden, while smaller percentages were either concrete or wood and concrete.

Since the mid-1990s, the nation has participated in a reconstruction program focusing on techniques for hurricane retrofitting. Through the Cooperative Housing Foundation, eligible residents can obtain loans to aid in the upgrade of their homes.


Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. Technical and vocational studies offer practical training in technical and electrical engineering, auto mechanics, plumbing, general business, construction, and agriculture. Transportation to secondary schools is a problem for students in rural areas.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 81% of age-eligible students; 83% for boys and 79% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 92% of age-eligible students; 86% for boys and 98% for girls. It is estimated that about 91% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 19:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 17:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 28% of primary school enrollment and 32% of secondary enrollment.

Higher educational facilities include a teacher training institute, a technical college, a nursing school, and a local center maintained by the University of the West Indies. In higher-level institutions, there were 34 teaching staff and 484 students in 1993. The adult literacy rate was estimated at about 94% in 2003.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5% of GDP.


A national library system of about 50,000 volumes includes a Main Library in Roseau and branches in Portsmouth, Grand Bay, and Marigot. There is also a mobile library unit for rural areas. The Roseau Museum highlights the island's cultural and natural history.


In 2002, there were 23,700 mainline telephones in use, with an additional 9,400 cellular phones throughout the country. In 1997 there were 703 radios and 81 television sets per 1,000 population. As of 2004, there were 2 AM and 4 FM radio stations and one (cable) television station. Dominicans also receive TV and radio broadcasts from neighboring islands. In 2002, there were about 12,500 Internet subscribers in the country. Two weekly newspapers are published in Roseau, the Chronicle (circulation in 2002, 2,500) and the government-published Official Gazette (550), among other journals and periodicals.

The constitution provides for the right of free expression, and the government is said to respect free speech and a free press. Independent print and electronic media operate without restrictions by the government authorities.


There are many cooperatives and credit unions in Dominica. A chamber of commerce and a small Rotary Club also function. There is a Dominica Employers' Federation in Roseau. The Dominica National Development Corp. promotes both industry and tourism. The Association of Eastern Caribbean Manufacturers is a multinational union based in Djibouti. There are unions, such as the Waterfront and Allied Workers' Union, and professional associations, such as the Dominica Association of Teachers.

The Dominica National Council of Women and the Women's Bureau are umbrella organizations supporting a variety of national women's groups. Youth organizations include the Young Freedom Movement, the Scout Association of Dominica, Girl Guides, and YWCA. Sports associations are active for several different pastimes, including tennis, track and field, and squash.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Dominica's tourism industry has developed slower than that of neighboring Caribbean islands. However, the growth of ecotourism has helped make tourism a staple in the economy. The principal attraction is the rugged natural beauty of its volcanic peaks, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and over 365 rivers. Day trips to Dominica from Barbados, Guadeloupe, and Martinique have gained increasing popularity. Cricket is the national sport.

Citizens of the United States and Canada may enter the country with proof of citizenship; other foreign visitors must have a valid passport. All tourists must have an onward/return ticket. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected area.

In 2003, there were 72,948 tourists who visited Dominica, of whom 83% came from the Americas. The US Department of State estimated the average stay in Dominica at us$182 per day.


Maria Eugenia Charles (19192005), cofounder of the Dominica Freedom Party, became prime minister in 1980. She served until 1995, and was the first female prime minister in the Caribbean. Edison Chenfil James (b.1943) was prime minister from 1995 until 2000. Pierre Charles (19542004) was prime minister from 20002004. Roosevelt Skerrit (b.1972) succeeded him.


Dominica has no territories or colonies.


Adventure Guide to Dominica and St Lucia. Edison, N.J.: Hunter, 2004.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Hulme, Peter. Remnants of Conquest: The Island Caribs and Their Visitors, 18771998. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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Commonwealth of Dominica



Dominica is an island located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. Its total area is 754 square kilometers (291 square miles), making it the largest of the English-speaking Windward Islands, and it is slightly more than 4 times the size of Washington, D.C. Its coastline measures 148 kilometers (92 miles), and its capital and main urban center, Roseau, is located on the southwest coast.


Dominica's population was estimated at 71,540 in mid-2000, marking a decline of 1.14 percent from the preceding year and a fall from the official mid-1998 estimate of 73,000. The decline in population, despite relatively high life expectancy and a birth rate of 18.27 per 1,000 population, is mostly due to a high degree of migration, estimated at 22.39 migrants per 1,000 population in 2000. Migration is largely caused by lack of work opportunities, and Dominicans are to be found working in other Caribbean islands (notably the French overseas departments), the United States, and, to a lesser degree, the United Kingdom. At current rates of population decrease, Dominica could have only 65,000 inhabitants by 2010. The death rate is Dominica is 7.3 per 1,000.

The island's mountainous landscape means that its population is mostly clustered along the coast. About 30 percent of Dominicans live in the parish of St. George, in or around Roseau, while the volcanic interior is very sparsely inhabited. Generally, Dominica is not densely populated, and its population is by regional standards evenly distributed between age groups. Islanders aged 14 and under make up 29 percent of the population, while 63 percent are between 15 and 64 years old. The remaining 8 percent includes those 65 and older. Approximately 90 percent of Dominicans are of African descent, and the island is also home to some 2,000 descendants of the indigenous Carib population. A small minority of these Caribs are the last surviving descendants of the Caribbean islands' pre-Columbian peoples and live in a 3,700-acre reservation in the northeast part of the island.

English is the official language of Dominica, and the literacy rate is 94 percent. Nearly 80 percent of the citizens are Roman Catholic, with Protestants making up 15 percent, and the remainder spread among several other Christian and non-Christian faiths.


Dominica is the poorest and least developed of the Windward Islands. Its economy is mainly dependent on agricultural exports, especially bananas. The island's exceptionally mountainous landscape prohibits much cultivation. The island is also vulnerable to hurricanes. Even so, agriculture is the main source of employment and income revenue, and remains much more important to Dominica than to other Caribbean islands. As a result, the threatened removal of preferential access for Dominican banana exports into the European market is potentially disastrous for the island's economy.

Tourism has been slower to develop in Dominica than elsewhere, largely because the island has few white sand beaches (the most popular type of beach) and has no international airport. Since the 1990s, however, it has developed a reputation as an " eco-tourism " destination, capitalizing on its spectacular natural beauty and wealth of plants and wildlife. The government has also sought to increase the numbers of cruise-ship visitors, and this sector of the tourism industry has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The problem remains of balancing the need for increased tourism with protection of the island's unique and vulnerable eco-system.

Manufacturing is not developed in Dominica, but it is able to take advantage of locally generated hydro-electricity. The most successful venture is a large soap production facility, controlled by the U.S. Colgate-Palmolive corporation, which exports soap manufactured from local coconuts. This, together with other agricultural-processing activities, faces stiff competition from other Caribbean manufacturers. There is relatively little manufacturing aimed at the U.S. export market, as Dominica's limited infrastructure is unsuitable for large volumes of exports.

In an attempt to reduce dependency on banana exports, Dominica's government has tried to establish the island as an offshore financial center, offering tax-exempt status to banks, insurance companies, and other International Business Companies (IBCs). So far, a small number of IBCs have established themselves on the island. Of concern to critics of the system is the availability of "economic citizenship" to investors, which enables foreign residents to acquire a Dominican passport in return for a minimum investment in the island. The U.S. State Department has expressed concerns about money laundering and other illegal activity in connection with this initiative.

Despite attempts to broaden its economic base, Dominica remains critically dependent on agricultural exports and especially on the threatened banana trade. The resulting uncertainty from this trade has fueled migration since the mid-1990s and led to a decline in production and exports. Rural poverty is a large problem, and economic growth has faltered in recent years due to the banana crisis and natural disasters.


Upon gaining independence in 1978, Dominica established a single-chamber parliament under its constitution. The House of Assembly has 21 elected and 9 appointed members. The parliament elects a president, who acts as head of state and elects the prime minister and the cabinet. The country is split into 10 administrative districts, called parishes. Each is named after a Roman Catholic saint.

In the immediate aftermath of independence from the United Kingdom in 1978 Dominica witnessed considerable political turbulence. Stability took hold between 1980 and 1995, when the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), led by Eugenia Charles, won 3 consecutive terms in office. After a victory by the United Workers Party (UWP) in 1995, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and DFP formed a coalition government in early 2000. The sudden death of DLP leader and prime minister Rosie Douglas in October that year led to former minister of communications and works, Pierre Charles, taking over the position of prime minister.

The DLP has been traditionally more left-wing in outlook than the conservative DFP, which has favored strong links with the United States and a robust, pro-business approach to government. The coalition government of 2000 was hence a pragmatic response to the popularity of the UWP, which draws much of its support from the island's banana farmers. In reality, there are few major policy differences between the 3 main parties, with all supporting the beleaguered banana industry and encouraging diversification and direct foreign investment. The main political difference between the DLP-DFP coalition government and its UWP predecessor has been the decision to abandon plans for a new airport and hotel development in the northeast on the grounds of cost and environmental impact.

The government has a direct impact on Dominica's economy as a large employer and because it establishes the legal and regulatory framework for foreign investment. It raises revenues through a mixture of income tax , indirect taxes , and fees levied on offshore companies. In July 2000, the government announced that it would replace most existing indirect taxes levied on consumption and imported goods with a single value-added tax (VAT).


Because of its mountainous landscape and rugged shoreline, Dominica's infrastructure is extremely limited. Its roads, mostly confined to the coast, total 780 kilometers (485 miles), of which 393 kilometers (244 miles) are paved. Most of the island is totally inaccessible by car, and many rural roads are little more than impassable dirt tracks. There are no railways, while the 2 main commercial ports are to be found at Woodridge Bay, near Roseau, and the northwest coast town of Portsmouth. There are also cruise ship facilities at Roseau and at Prince Rupert Bay, near Portsmouth. The island has 2 airports, Melville Hall, in the northeast, and Canefield, north of Roseau. While both have paved runways, neither is able to receive large aircraft. Connections from Europe and North America must be made in Puerto Rico, Antigua, or other larger regional airports.

Telecommunications are also underdeveloped, although cellular phone usage and Internet access are growing, due in part to the development of the offshore financial sector. In 2000, the government announced its intention to liberalize the telecommunications sector by inviting foreign companies to compete in providing services.


According to estimates in 1999, agriculture still accounts for 21 percent of Dominica's gross domestic product (GDP), and employs 40 percent of the island's workforce. Bananas are the main agricultural product and export, earning US$17 million in 1998. But production and exports have fallen since 1994, due to uncertainty over the industry's long-term future and adverse weather conditions.

Industry accounted for 16 percent of GDP in 1999 and is dominated by a handful of agribusinesses , specializing in soap, dental cream, and beverages. Attempts to build up an export-oriented assembly sector have not led to sustained success.

Services, led by tourism, contributed 63 percent to GDP in 1999. This sector, together with a recently launched financial services sector, is of growing importance to Dominica's economy.

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Dominica 19,000 (1996) 461 (1996) AM 3; FM 10; shortwave 0 46,000 0 6,000 16 2,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Jamaica 353,000 (1996) 54,640 (1996) AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 0 1.215 M 7 460,000 21 60,000
St. Lucia 37,000 1,600 AM 2; FM 7; shortwave 0 111,000 3 32,000 15 5,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].


Unlike many other Caribbean island nations, Dominica was never a suitable site for sugarcane cultivation, as rocky and mountainous terrain made plantation production impossible. Only about one-quarter of the island is cultivatable. Climate, fertility, and topography are favorable for tree crops, however, and Dominica has been a producer of coffee, cocoa, and citrus fruits in its history. Citrus crops are still important, being grown for export to other Caribbean islands, but the biggest share of agricultural production since the 1950s has belonged to bananas. Like St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, Dominica experienced a "banana boom" in the 1980s when it was assured access into the U.K. market. Stable prices brought modest prosperity to many banana-growing communities. During the 1970s and 1980s, banana exports from Dominica tripled in volume, peaking at 70 percent of export earnings. The dangers of this one-crop dependency became evident in 1979 and 1980 when Hurricanes David and Allen destroyed much of the banana crop. Widespread damage due to hurricanes and tropical storms has been experienced again in 1989 (Hurri-cane Hugo) and 1995, when Hurricane Luis destroyed an estimated 95 percent of banana plants. Then in November 1999, Hurricane Lenny caused considerable damage to banana and other agricultural production. Fortunately, bananas are quick to produce fruit after planting and are hence a suitable crop in hurricane-prone areas.

A much greater threat to Dominica's banana industry, however, is the threatened removal of preferential market access into Europe for the island's exports. In 1995, the United States and several Latin American banana-exporting countries complained that the European Union (EU) was breaching international free-trade legislation by offering protected quotas to banana exports from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. This has brought the future of the EU banana regime into question. If the EU is forced by international pressure to dismantle its existing arrangement with exporters such as Dominica, the island will be forced to compete directly for the European market with large producers from Latin America. Experts agree that Dominica, with its small, family-run banana farms, cannot compete with the large, labor-intensive plantations in countries such as Ecuador or Honduras and will be forced to abandon bananas altogether. As a result, the number of banana farmers has already fallen from 4,366 in 1995 to 2,534 in 1999. One small possibility is that Dominica, together with other Windward island producers, may be able to supply a growing organic and "fair trade" market in Europe.

Given Dominica's topography (layout of land), there are few obvious alternatives to banana cultivation, although some moves to diversify agriculture have already taken place. At the same time, the Dominica Banana Marketing Corporation introduced a recovery plan in 1999 in an attempt to restore confidence among growers and to improve the quality of banana exports. With financial assistance from STABEX grants (money paid by the EU to support agricultural exporters in certain developing countries), the corporation encouraged farmers to replant bananas and to invest in fertilizer and other inputs. As a result, banana production in 1999 increased slightly from the previous year, earning US$11.5 million in the first 9 months of 1999 before the arrival of Hurricane Lenny.

Apart from bananas, Dominica produces a wide range of agricultural produce, both for local consumption (it is self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables) and for export. Some exports are directed to the French overseas territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and there is a thriving network of small traders and inter-island commerce. Coconuts, citrus fruit, and essential oils are the main regional exports.

There is a relatively large fishing industry in Dominica, but it is not modernized and almost exclusively serves the domestic market. A successful experiment in fresh-water prawn farming, supported by Taiwanese aid, has produced substantial amounts of prawns for the domestic and local markets. Japan has provided support for a fish landing and processing plant in Roseau.


Dominica's small manufacturing sector is almost entirely dependent on agriculture, and the island has built up a handful of successful industries specializing in soaps and other agricultural byproducts. The largest manufacturer is Dominica Coconut Products, controlled by Colgate-Palmolive, which produces soap from coconuts. The factory has an agreement to sell an estimated 3 million bars of soap each year to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Dominican soap is also exported throughout the region, but has recently encountered intensified competition from other regional producers, especially in the important export markets of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Other manufacturing is largely restricted to cardboard boxes and beverages, while there is a small export-oriented sector producing clothing. Dominica has not yet been able to attract significant numbers of foreign manufacturers, partly because its wage rates are relatively high and partly because its infrastructure is not suited to high-volume manufacturing. Like other islands, it seeks to attract investors with tax concessions and other financial inducements, but several offshore manufacturing plants have closed after their duty -free concessions expired, normally a 10-year span.

There is some mining potential in Dominica, especially in the island's northeast where there are believed to be deposits of copper.


Dominica's tourist industry is in its infancy compared to other Caribbean islands. For many years its rugged terrain, lack of beaches, and underdeveloped infrastructure prevented large-scale tourist development. In recent years, Dominica has successfully marketed itself as the "nature island of the Caribbean," seeking to attract "eco-tourists" interested in landscapes and wildlife. The government realizes that intensive tourism is incompatible with preserving the island's eco-system and in 1997 signed an agreement with Green Globe, the environmental division of the World Travel and Tourism Council, to develop the island as a "model ecotourism destination." The 3-year program provided technical expertise on environmental management as well as helping to market Dominica through specialist travel companies.

At the same time, the government has encouraged a steady increase in Dominica's tourism capacity, with several new hotels being built and considerable investment in cruise ship facilities. The new cruise ship jetty at Prince Rupert Bay, near Portsmouth, has dramatically increased the number of ships calling annually and brought significant tourism-related opportunities to the formerly depressed community of Portsmouth. Annual tourist arrivals are estimated at approximately 200,000, of whom about 75,000 are stay-over visitors. The great majority are cruise ship visitors who spend limited time and money on the island. Tourism receipts in 1998 were estimated at US$15.5 million.

Dominica's tourism industry is mostly small in scale and locally owned, with extensive links to other areas of the economy. Unlike other Caribbean islands, visitors are fed with locally produced food, and Dominica does not unduly extend its import bill by importing foodstuffs for the tourist sector. There is also considerable " trickle down " of tourism revenues, with retailers, restaurateurs, and tourist guides benefiting directly from the industry. On the other hand, critics point out that even restricted tourism can have a damaging impact on the environment, especially at the selected sites of natural beauty visited by large numbers of cruise ship tourists.

If the tourism industry has caused some controversy by threatening to spoil Dominica's fragile ecosystem, some initiatives taken by the government since the 1990s have been even more open to criticism. Like other small Caribbean economies, Dominica has tried to broaden its economic base by building up an offshore financial services sector. So far, a relatively small number of offshore banks and other international business companies (IBCs) have registered in Dominica, but the government is trying to attract more by making registration economical and easy. A Dominica-based IBC can, for instance, be formed over the Internet, and the government has also granted operating licenses to several Internet gambling companies. The ease with which such companies can be formed and the secrecy surrounding their operations have led some critics to allege that Dominica may be facilitating money-laundering and tax evasion.

Even more controversial has been the issuing of "economic citizenship" to foreign nationals. This means that Dominican passports are provided in return for an

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Dominica
Exports Imports
1975 .011 .021
1980 .010 .048
1985 .028 .055
1990 .055 .118
1995 .045 .117
1998 N/A .136
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

agreed minimum investment, which is supposedly used to develop the national economy. The first economic citizens were mostly Taiwanese, but in 1999 it was reported that 300 Russians had bought Dominican passports for US$50,000 each. This has encouraged allegations that the island may be involved in Mafia-style economic activity.


Dominica, although largely self-sufficient in food production, imports approximately twice as much in value as it exports, with imports of US$120.4 million dwarfing exports of US$60.8 million in 1998. Its main export markets are other Caribbean countries, which buy its vegetables, fruit, and soap, and the EU, which imports its bananas. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries accounted for about 47 percent of Dominica's exports throughout the 1990s, and Europe for 36 percent. The United States imports little from Dominica, but is the main source of the island's imports (an average of 41 percent in the 1990s), notably machinery and manufactured goods. Dominica's other main suppliers are the CARICOM countries and Britain.


After steady growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dominica's economy slowed in the late 1990s because of the banana crisis, hurricane damage, and a decline in manufacturing output. GDP growth from 1996 averaged 2.8 percent annually, a lower rate than neighboring countries, and in 1999 there was no growth at all, due largely to damage from Hurricane Lenny. As a result, inflation has been low since the mid-1990s.

Dominica's currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), shared with the 7 other members of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), is stable and has been pegged at a rate of EC$2.7 to US$1 for many years. This means that Dominica is not particularly vulnerable to fluctuating exchange rates , although transactions with

Exchange rates: Dominica
East Caribbean dollars (EC$) per US$1
Jan 2001 2.7000
2000 2.7000
1999 2.7000
1998 2.7000
1997 2.7000
1996 2.7000
Note: Dominican currency has been at a fixed rate since 1976.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Europe have been affected by the low value of the euro. There are plans for ECCB member countries to participate in a regional stock exchange, further integrating the economies of the small islands.


Dominica is one of the poorer countries of the Eastern Caribbean, but there are not enormous disparities in income. Traditionally a country of small peasant farmers, the island has a small urban middle class, made of professionals and civil servants, and a small urban working class. There are very few extremely wealthy Dominicans, although this may change with the advent of the "economic citizenship" program and the expected in-flux of rich foreigners. The wealthy few are, for the most part, descended from the plantation-owning elite of colonial times, although Dominica was never the source of enormous wealth and so, unlike Barbados for example, there is no "plantocracy." Although there are luxury homes around the capital, there is little ostentatious wealth, and Roseau does not have the facilities to cater to a millionaire lifestyle.

The poorest Dominicans live in remote rural districts, particularly in the north. Unemployment is officially estimated at around 20 percent of the population and, with the decline in the banana industry, is likely to increase. The poorest social stratum includes the descendants of

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Dominica N/A 1,679 2,142 2,862 3,310
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Dominica 33 6 11 3 6 8 33
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Jamaica 24 7 3 1 9 8 48
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

the Caribs, who eke out a unstable living from subsistence farming , handicrafts, and boat-building. Social facilities in the countryside are highly limited, and Dominicans have to travel to Roseau for most medical attention. Primary schools are distributed throughout the island, but most higher education takes place in and around the capital. According to UNESCO, there were a total of 152 schools in 1995, with 12,627 pupils attending 64 primary schools. Primary school education is free and compulsory, but families normally have to pay for schoolbooks and uniforms. Basic health care is widely available, but there are fees for doctors, for medicines, and for some hospital treatment. There is little state-organized social security, but church groups and other voluntary agencies are active in supporting homes and nurseries for the elderly.


Working conditions in Dominica are average for the region, although many Dominicans work on small family-run farms without regulation or trade union representation. There are only 2 trade unions of any size or influence, one representing civil servants and the others port and dockside workers. Wages in the small industrial sector are average for the Caribbean, standing at between US$100 and US$250 monthly, while wages in agriculture, where most workers are self-employed small farmers, are lower. Educational attainment can facilitate a career in the financial or associated informatics sector, and it is here that the highest wages, other than those earned by traditional professionals such as lawyers and doctors, can be earned. Physical working conditions in agriculture are arduous, and there is the risk of exposure to insecticides and other chemical inputs. Conditions in the few factories are generally satisfactory.

There is some informal sector activity in Dominica, with some related child labor, especially in agriculture and handicraft manufacturing. Women are well-represented in every area of employment.


1494. Dominica sighted by Columbus.

1763. British take possession of island after a century of conflict with France.

1903. Establishment of Carib Territory in northeast of island.

1950s. First banana exports to Britain.

1978. Independence from the United Kingdom.

1979. Hurricane David devastates Dominica; 37 killed, 60,000 left homeless.

1980. Eugenia Charles wins elections, staying in power until 1995.

1983. Prime Minister Charles supports U.S. invasion of Grenada.

2000. Coalition government formed between Dominica Labour Party and Dominica Freedom Party; premature death of Prime Minister Rosie Douglas.


Dominica's immediate economic future depends to a large degree on the outcome of the dispute between the World Trade Organization and the EU over the question of banana exports into Europe. If the EU is forced to abandon its preferential treatment of suppliers such as Dominica, the island will face a dramatic and possibly traumatic period of economic hardship. Even if a reprieve occurs, it will have to accelerate its efforts to create a more diversified economy with less dependency on agriculture in general and bananas in particular. There will undoubtedly be some international aid available for facilitating the diversification process, but few alternative crops will be able to offer the security and regularity of income offered by bananas.

Dominica is hampered by its topography and lack of infrastructure in terms of developing its tourist industry. But a massive influx of tourists would, in any case, damage its eco-tourism credentials and lessen the island's appeal as an exclusive nature destination. In the coming years, Dominica will have to balance the need for tourism revenue against the necessity of restricting visitor numbers in the interest of the environment. It remains to be seen whether Dominica's bid to join the Caribbean's offshore financial centers will be successful, but initial signs are not entirely promising.

The island remains unusually vulnerable, not just to devastating hurricanes, but also to economic decisions and developments beyond its control. Even its small manufacturing sector will have to face increased competition from other regional producers as the Caribbean's trade becomes more and more liberalized. Given these uncertainties, it is unlikely that the island will be able to make major steps in reducing poverty, unemployment, or high levels of migration in the near future.


Dominica has no territories or colonies.


Honychurch, Lennox. The Dominica Story. London: Macmillan,1995.

Caribbean Development Bank, Annual Report 1999. Barbados,2000.

Dominica: South America, Central America and the Caribbean 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: OECS. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed June 2001.

Welcome to a Virtual Dominica. <>. Accessed February 2001.

James Ferguson




Dominica's currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). One EC dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 cents. Paper money comes in bills of 1, 5, 10, and 20 dollars.


Bananas, soap, bay oil, vegetables, grapefruit, oranges.


Manufactured goods, machinery and equipment, food, chemicals.


US$225 million (1998 est.).


Exports: US$60.8 million (1998). Imports: US$120.4 million (1998).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Commonwealth of Dominica
Region: Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 71,540
Language(s): English, French patois
Literacy Rate: 94%

History & Background

The island of Dominica is part of the Lesser Antilles, located between the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean Sea, with a population of 74,900 people (1996). The island is approximately 754 square kilometers (290 square miles). The capital city of Dominica is Roseau.

Educational SystemOverview

Education is free and is provided by both government and denominational schools. Attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15 years. The educational system is divided into four main categories: preprimary, primary, secondary, and tertiary and is governed by the Ministry of Education. The system is modeled after the British (levels) and North American (grade) structures. Primary education begins at the age of five and lasts for seven years. Secondary education begins at the age of twelve and lasts for five years. Gross enrollment in 1999 at the preschool and primary level for children aged 5 to 11 was 15,982. Gross enrollment at the secondary level was 7,356 in 1999. Females accounted for 47.1 percent of enrollment in 2000 at the primary level and 57.0 percent of enrollment at the secondary level. The grading system (1997) for both primary and secondary schools is as follows: Excellent (85 percent to 100 percent); Very Good (70 percent to 84 percent); Good (55 percent to 69 percent); Improvement Needed (40 percent to 54 percent); Poor (26 percent to 39 percent); Ungraded (0 percent to 25 percent).

The educational system of Dominica consists of:

  • 83 preprimary schoolsall privately owned, managed, and funded;
  • 63 primary schools53 are government-owned, 5 are government-assisted, and 5 are private;
  • 15 secondary schools6 are government-owned, 8 are government-assisted, and 1 private-grant aided;
  • 1 school for the hearing impaired (governmentfunded);
  • 1 school for the mentally challenged (privately and government-funded); and
  • Clifton Dupigny Community College; Dominica Teachers Training College; and Princess Margaret Hospital School of Nursing.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary and primary education is free and compulsory and is provided in public, assisted, and private (independent) schools. Enrollment of eligible students between the ages of 5 to 11 years was 98 percent in 1999. At the preprimary level, the student-teacher ratio was 18:1. At the primary level, the ratio was 22:1. The highest student-teacher ratio was in the government-assisted schools (25:1), with the lowest being at the private schools (20:1). The student-teacher ratio was lower in rural areas (21:1) than in urban areas (24:1). At the end of grade 6, primary students sit for the Common Entrance Examination (CEE), which determines entrance into secondary education. Transition rates from the primary to the secondary level are among the lowest in the Caribbean, with only 60 percent of the 12- to 16-year-olds enrolled in secondary education. The Junior Secondary Program is available for those students who were not selected by the CEE to enroll in secondary school. This is a three-year program that leads to a select number of students being able to enter formal secondary school. A review of the CEE shows that, at the primary level of education, girls consistently outperform boys in all subjects, leading to a higher level of representation at the secondary level. The overall repetition rate for primary school students in 1998 was 3.3 percent, with males having a slightly higher repetition rate of 3.5 percent. The overall dropout rate at the primary level was 0.16 percent in 1999, again, with males having a higher average rate of 0.25 percent.

Secondary Education

The main objective of the 15 secondary schools is to prepare students for the successful completion of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examination, which determines entry into college. The secondary school system is divided into two cycles: a junior division for students normally between the ages of 12 to 14; and a senior division of secondary education for students older than the age of 14. To enter secondary school, all students are required to pass the CEE exam. The teacher-student ratio at the secondary level in 1999 was 18:1. The overall repetition rate was 9.9 percent in 2000, with males having a higher degree of repetition of 13 percent. The overall dropout rate at the secondary level was 2.8 percent in 1998, with males leaving school at a rate of 3.8 percent.

Higher Education

Secondary students who perform well (passing in five or more of their classes) on the examination(s) qualify for entry into postsecondary institutions. Postsecondary students have four options for enrollment: Clifton Dupigny Community College; The Teacher's Training College; Princess Margaret Hospital School of Nursing; and The University of West Indies.

Clifton Dupigny Community College (CDCC) was created in 1983 and consists of two "branches" or strands of instruction: the Academic Studies Division and the Technical Studies Division. The Academic Studies Division grants levels of certification and offers courses/majors in mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, computer sciences, geography, accounts, economics, sociology, history, Spanish, French, and English composition. Of the 460 students enrolled in 1998, approximately 70 percent were female.

The Technical Studies Division offers full-time, two-year diploma courses as well as one- and two-year certificate courses. Courses are offered in engineering as well as building and technical trades. Females accounted for only 20 percent of enrollment at this level in 1998.

Dominica Teachers Training College (DTTC) is a two-year, full-time program leading to certification accredited by the University of the West Indies. The DTTC offers certification in both primary and secondary education. The DTTC graduates roughly 30 teachers annually.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is available to students who have successfully completed all levels of their secondary studies and have passed the Caribbean Examination Council exam. On Dominica, UWI offers several part-time distance education courses that lead to certificates in public administration, business administration, and education.

Special Needs Education: The School for the Hearing Impaired and the Alpha Center are the two facilities that provide educational services for special needs students. The main objective of the Alpha Center is to educate students to be able to function independently in society to the highest degree possible. The Alpha Center also runs an early intervention program where young children, with their parents, learn to socialize and are taught rudimentary reading/writing skills.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The educational affairs of Dominica are overseen by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology is administered by a chief education officer, an assistant chief education officer, and several district education and specialist education officers. The Ministry also houses specialized units such as the Curriculum Development Unit, the Textbook Distribution Unit, the Education Planning Unit, the Measurement and Evaluation Unit, the Learning Support/Secretariat Unit, and the Materials Production Unit.

The total expenditure for education in 2000 was roughly $42 million, with primary education consuming the largest share of resources at 51.7 percent, followed by secondary education at 24.8 percent, postsecondary education at 7.0 percent, and contributions to the University of the West Indies at 5.0 percent. Total annual per-pupil expenditures in 1999 were as follows: preprimary ($60.07); primary ($1,405.45); secondary ($1,542.87); and postsecondary ($4,311.10).

Teaching Profession

To become a certified teacher, candidates must have attained four subject-passes on the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), including both English and mathematics. Teacher training is completed at Dominica Teachers Training College. The teacher-training program and subsequent courses are administered under the auspices of the Faculty of Education of the University of West Indies.

There is a lack of certified teachers particularly at the primary level. In 1999 only 64 percent of the primary teachers were certified. The majority (41 percent) of trained primary school teachers in 1998 were located in the western portion of the island, and 77 percent of the teachers taught at public institutions in 2000. The student-teacher ratio for qualified primary teachers in 1999 varied between 31:1 and 50:1, dependent upon the district. At the secondary level, only 31 percent of the teachers were trained to teach the content appropriate for their individual grade levels. The student-teacher ratio for qualified secondary teachers in 1999 averaged 53:1 yet could be as low as 21:1, based on individual districts. The vast majority of secondary school teachers were employed at either public schools (53 percent) or assisted schools (44 percent).

Women dominate the education profession at both the primary and secondary levels. At the primary level, roughly 80 percent of the staff were women in 2000. And at the secondary level, women accounted for 66 percent of school personnel.


Arguably, the facet of Dominican education needing the most attention is the area of teacher training. The majority of teachers are not certified. At the secondary level, there is no policy of continuous teacher training. Male teachers, particularly at the primary level, are scarce (representing only 20 percent of all primary teachers). Attrition rates among unqualified and temporary teachers, who form the bulk of the teaching force, are high. It is felt that the needs of Dominica's educational system is as follows: all teachers be certified to teach in their content areas; a continuing education program for all teachers be implemented; and male teachers should be actively recruited.

In an effort to increase professional development opportunities and to offer training to unqualified teachers, the Ministry of Education implemented the Teacher Training Project. This project trained unqualified teachers through select coursework. Also, professional development courses were offered for 50 principals and senior teachers. Though this project is surely a step in the right direction, it needs to be expanded to include supplemental training and professional development opportunities for all teachers.

Most promising and ambitious is the Long Term Education Development Plan. The Education Development Plan offers a philosophical and pedagogical blueprint for the education of Dominica for six years (1999-2005). The primary purpose is to raise student achievement with the premise that education leads to increased national and regional development. The Plan has six major components (Andrew 1999):

  • strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Education, improving the qualifications and professional development of the teaching staff, and strengthening the capacity of institutions through improved management and performance review
  • establishing a Preprimary Council and increasing accessibility to quality preprimary provision through a partnership with the private sector
  • introducing a National Curriculum and National Testing for primary and secondary schools and minimizing grade repetition and achieving Universal Secondary Education by 2003-2005
  • establishing new levels of staffing and employment and conducting a review of small schools so as to consolidate them either through linking or closure where these are ineffective and inefficient
  • improving reaching and learning materials and the provision of free textbooks for core subjects as well as new levels of professional development
  • expanding access to tertiary education and the range of course provision, improving the management of tertiary provision by amalgamating current colleges and raising finances to enhance operations.


Andrew, Max. The Education System of Dominica: An Overview. Roseau: Education Planning Unit, 1999.

Ministry of Education, Science, & Technology. Indicators 2000. Roseau: Education Planning Unit, 2000.

Tim Lintner

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Official name: Commonwealth of Dominica

Area: 754 square kilometers (291 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Morne Diablotins (1,447 meters/4,748 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 26 kilometers (16 miles) from east to west; 47 kilometers (29 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 148 kilometers (92 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Dominica, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, lies at the midpoint of the Lesser Antilles, between the French possessions of Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. It is often, but not always, considered one of the Windward Islands. With an area of 754 square kilometers (291 square miles), Dominica is slightly more than twice as large as the state of New Hampshire. The lush vegetation and abundant wildlife of the country's rain forests have led Dominica to proclaim itself "The Nature Island of the Caribbean."


Dominica claims no territories or dependencies.


Tempered by sea breezes, Dominica's tropical climate is generally mild and pleasant. Summer temperatures average 28°C (82°F) and may rise as high as 32°C (90°F). Winter temperatures average 25°C (77°F). Dominica has a dry season in the spring and a rainy season in summer, with rainfall especially heavy during the hurricane season in late summer. Average annual rainfall ranges from about 191 centimeters (75 inches) near the coast to over 508 centimeters (200 inches) in the mountains.

Season Months Average temperature: °Celsius (°Fahrenheit
Summer April to September 28°C to32°C (82°F to 90°F).
Winter October to March 25°C (77°F)


The rugged, mountainous terrain that covers much of the interior is the island's outstanding physical feature. The Layou River plain at the center of the island bisects the two mountainous regions in the north and south.


Dominica is located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, at the midpoint of the Leeward Islands. Whales and dolphins swim in the waters surrounding Dominica, with humpback whales migrating to the area during the winter months.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The mountainous terrain of Dominica extends under the sea. The waters surrounding the island are filled with coral reefs that support a diversity of marine life.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Guadeloupe lies to the north of Dominica, across the Dominica Passage; Martinique is south, across the Martinique Passage.

Islands and Archipelagos

Dominica is made up of one island in the

Coastal Features

A thin coastal strip lies between the sea and the mountains. The coast, which is heavily indented on the eastern side of the island, is fringed with coral reefs. Black, gray, and white volcanic sand is found on the beaches. Cape Capuchin marks the northern end of the island, with Prince Rupert Bay not far south. Scotts Head and Grand Bay are at the southern end of the island.


Dominica has a number of thermally active lakes, of which the best known is Boiling Lake, in the southeastern part of the island.


There are many streams and rivers, but none are navigable. The main rivers are Indian, Espagnol, Layou, Roseau, and Queens running west to the Caribbean Sea, and Hodges, Tweed, Clyde, Maclaralin, Grand Bay, Rosalie, and Wanerie running east to the Atlantic.


There are no desert areas on Dominica.


There are no areas of flat or rolling terrain on Dominica.


Deep ridges, ravines, and valleys are etched in the densely wooded mountains. The island's highest peak, Morne Diablotins, is located in the mountains to the north. Its second-highest, Morne Trois Pitonswhich, at 1,387 meters (4,550 feet), is nearly as high as Diablotinsis situated in the south. Other high peaks include Morne au Diable, Morne Brule, Morne Couronne, Morne Anglais, and Morne Plat Pays.


Scuba enthusiasts explore several underwater caves while diving in the waters surrounding Dominica.


There are no plateaus on Dominica.


There are no man-made features affecting the geography of Dominica.


Morne Trois Pitons National Park features the scenic Trafalgar Falls (70 meters /200 feet), made up of two waterfalls that flow together into a deep green pool.



Philpott, Don. Dominica. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Sullivan, Lynne M. Dominica & St Lucia Alive! Edison, NJ: Hunter, 2002.

Web Sites

Commonwealth of Dominica Web Site. (accessed March 14, 2003)

The Nature Island of Dominica. (accessed June 2, 2003).

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Dominica (dŏmĬnē´kə), officially Commonwealth of Dominica, republic (2005 est. pop. 69,000) consisting of the island of Dominica (290 sq mi/750 sq km), located in the Windward Islands, West Indies. Roseau is the capital and chief port. The island, of volcanic origin, is mountainous and forested, with a wide variety of flora and fauna and an extensive national park system. Dominica is subject to frequent destructive hurricanes. The population is largely of African or mixed European and African descent. More than three quarters of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics, the balance mainly Protestants. English is the official language, but a French patois is also widely spoken.

Bananas are the chief commercial crop and export. Citrus, coconuts, and coconut oil are also exported, and mangoes and root crops are raised. Industry is generally limited to food processing and the manufacture of soap and other coconut-based products. Tourism is a growing industry, but Dominica remains one of the poorer Caribbean nations. The main trading partners are Great Britain, the United States, and China.


Dominica is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1978. The head of state is the president, who is elected by the House Assembly and serves a five-year term. The head of government is the prime minister. The members of the thirty-seat unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly serve five-year terms; twenty-one are popularly elected and nine are appointed. Administratively, Dominica is divided into ten parishes.


The island was sighted by Columbus in 1493. English and French attempts at settlement were thwarted by the Caribs, who had taken it earlier from the Arawaks. An Anglo-French treaty of 1748 left Dominica in Carib hands, but both powers continued to covet it. In the 18th cent. Africans were brought in as slaves to work plantations. The island definitively passed to the British in 1815. Hostilities between the British and the Caribs led to the slaughter of large numbers of Caribs. Today, however, there are around 3,000 Caribs who occupy a reservation on the eastern side of the island.

Dominica has been a fully independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations since 1978. In 1981 there were two failed coup attempts. In 1980, Eugenia Charles and the Dominica Freedom party came to power; Charles, who survived two coup attempts in 1981, remained prime minister until she retired in 1995. Edison James, founder of the opposition United Workers' party (DUWP), succeeded her after a win at the polls. He remained prime minister until early 2000, when Rosie Douglas led the Labor party (LPD) to a narrow victory over James and the DUWP. Douglas died in 2000 and was succeeded by Pierre Charles, who died in 2003. Roosevelt Skerrit succeeded Charles as prime minister. Labor was returned to power, again by a narrow margin, in 2005, but won large majorities in 2009 and 2014.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Commonwealth of Dominica
Region (Map name): Caribbean
Population: 71,540
Language(s): English, French patois
Literacy rate: 94%

In the fourteenth century, Carib settlers called the island "Waitikubuli," which means "tall is her body." But the name that has stood the test of time is Dominica, granted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 to commemorate the Sunday on which he first sighted its shores.

Dominican media enjoys full freedom of speech. There is no daily newspaper, but the island does support five weeklies, all published in English. The Chronicle publishes on Friday and enjoys a circulation of approximately 3,000. Independent Publishing produces The Independent, which rivals The Chronicle in circulation numbers, and The Mirror, which is billed as a weekend newspaper and appears every Friday. Other weeklies are the Sun, which appears on Monday, and The Tropical Star, published on Wednesday. The Dominica Official Gazette is the island's government-sponsored newspaper. It published weekly from Roseau, the island's capital. The island also has an online news resource,, which posts news and information from local newspapers, including The Chronicle and The Independent, every Friday.

Lying between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans. In 1763, Great Britain took possession of the island from France, declaring it a colony in 1805. Dominica became independent in 1978, operating as a parliamentary democracy.

The country's head of state is a President, who is elected by its legislature, the thirty-seat House of Assembly. The President then appoints a Prime Minister to head the government. The population is approximately seventy-one thousand, and 94 percent of the population is literate. English is the official language, but French patois is also spoken. The cornerstone of Dominica's economy is agriculture, especially bananas, and profitability often hinges on the weather. After devastating storms in 1994 and 1995, the government has pledged to diversify the economy by encouraging soap production, adventure tourism, and offshore financial services.

There are thirteen radio stations on the island, 10 FM and three AM, and approximately 46,000 radios. There are approximately 6,000 televisions but no local broadcasting station. There are 16 Internet service providers


Benn's Media, Vol. 3, Ed. 147. 1999

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact Book 2001. 2001. Available from

Country Profile: Domica BBC News. 2002. Available from

News Dominica. 2002. Available from

Jenny B. Davis

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Dominica Independent island nation in the e Caribbean Sea, West Indies; the capital and chief port is Roseau. The largest of the Windward Islands, it was named after dies dominica (Sunday), the day it Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1493. The original inhabitants were Carib, but the present population are mainly the descendants of African slaves. Dominica is mountainous and heavily forested, and the climate is tropical. Britain and France disputed Dominica until Britain asserted full control in 1783. It became a British crown colony in 1805, and was a member of the Federation of the West Indies (1958–62). It achieved complete independence as a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1978. Eugenia Charles was the first woman prime minister (1980–95) in the West Indies. Dominica is one of the poorest Caribbean countries (2000 GDP per capita US$4000). Agriculture dominates the economy. In 1979 and 1980, hurricane damage severely reduced production. Exports: copra, bananas, citrus fruit. Area: 750sq km (290sq mi). Pop. (2000) 87,000. See West Indies map

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Commonwealth of Dominica; Dominique


Identification. Sighted on 3 November 1493 during Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the "New World," Dominica was named for the day: dies Dominica, "the Lord's Day" or "Sunday" in Latin. Carib Indians from South America had inhabited the island for almost six hundred years and other Amerindians had been there for as long as three thousand years, but their name for the island, Waitukubuli, meaning "Tall is her body," was not recorded for another two centuries. Spain soon lost interest in the island, but France and England fought each other and the Caribs for control throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After changing hands several times and two centuries of continuous British rule, Dominica became an independent republic on 3 November 1978.

Location and Geography. Not to be confused with the nearby Dominican Republic, Dominica is located between French-controlled Martinique and Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean. The capital, Roseau, is located on the calm Caribbean Sea on the western coast; the rougher Atlantic Ocean forms the island's eastern shore. Though only 29 miles (47 kilometers) long and 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide, those who have tried to settle and develop the island through the centuries have been frustrated with the difficulties of accessing its 290 square miles (751 square kilometers) of land area. With peaks over 4,500 feet (1,370 meters) high, it is the most mountainous island in the Lesser Antilles and one of the last islands in the Caribbean to be colonized. It provided refuge for indigenous Caribs and later for maroons (escaped slaves), and never developed the large-scale sugar plantations that characterized other colonies. Lush tropical rainforests cover two-thirds of the island, and annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches (127 centimeters) on the coast to 300 inches (762 centimeters) in the mountains. Its volcanic origin is evident in bubbling sulphur springs and the Boiling Lake, located in the 17,000-acre (6,885 hectare) Trois Pitons National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998). The island has few white sand beaches, but numerous waterfalls and rivers (Dominicans say there is one for each day of the year).

Demography. The 1991 population census counted 71,183 persons and provided an estimate for 1998 of 74,300 people. About twenty thousand reside in Roseau and its environs, reflecting the "drift" to the urban center during the last several decades of the twentieth century. A majority of the population, 89 percent, is of African descent, 7 percent are of mixed race, and 2 percent are Carib. The remaining 2 percent identify as white, Syrian Lebanese, East Indian, Chinese, and Portuguese.

Linguistic Affiliation. The country's complex colonial past is reflected in its languages. English has been the official language since the British took control in 1763, but it ranges from the standard varieties spoken in Roseau to creolized varieties in rural villages. A distinct English-based creole called Kokoy is spoken in Wesley and Marigot, two villages on the Atlantic coast that were settled by Methodist missionaries, estate owners, and their slave laborers from Antigua and other Leeward Islands in the late eighteenth century. The last fluent speaker of the Carib language reportedly died in the 1920s, although efforts are now being made to revive that language. A French-based creole, known officially as Kwéyo`l but also commonly called Patois or Patwa, arose in the early eighteenth century through contact between French colonizers and enslaved West Africans. Once the primary oral language of the rural population, its use is now declining among the younger generations. The Konmité Pou Etid Kwéyo`l (Committee for Creole Studies) was created in 1981 as part of the government's Cultural Division to document, promote, and preserve the language.

Symbolism. Dominica's national motto is Apres Bondie C'est La Ter, "After God, it is the land," emphasizing the country's French-creole heritage, strong religious orientation, and dependence on the soil. The national flag depicts a Sisserou parrot, found only in Dominica, within a red circle surrounded by ten green stars representing the parishes of the country; this is centered on a cross in yellow, black, and white stripes on a green background representing the lushness of its rainforests. The three-colored cross symbolizes the Trinity of God; yellow represents the main agricultural products (bananas and citrus); white, the clarity of its rivers and waterfalls; and black, the rich volcanic soil and its African heritage. The national flower, the indigenous Bois Caribe ("Carib wood"), was chosen because of its hardiness and for having persisted throughout human habitation of the island. It is said to represent the nation's history and continuity, and the ruggedness and resourcefulness of its people.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Geography has played a guiding role in the island's history. Due to the mountainous terrain and the resistant Caribs who inhabited it, Dominica was unclaimed by European powers until settled by French planters and missionaries in 1635. England, France's rival, soon vied for control. In 1686 both nations agreed to relinquish the island to the Caribs, yet repeatedly returned. By 1750, the Caribs had retreated to the rugged windward coast (they now reside in an area called the Carib Reserve). In 1763, France ceded Dominica to England in the Treaty of Paris. The French captured the island in 1778, but the English regained control in 1783.

The British concentrated in Roseau, and overseers ran estates for their absentee owners. The French, however, lived on small estates and remained well after the British took official control. A peasant-based agricultural economy and creole culture emerged. Maroons, often supplied with weapons by the French, terrorized the British from 1785 to 1814. Emancipation for all slaves was granted in 1834. Freed slaves from Dominica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe eventually took over the small estates. Dominica became the first and only British Caribbean colony to have a black-controlled legislature following the abolition of slavery. Called the "Mulatto Ascendency," they played a powerful role in politics, government, and cultural affairs into the twentieth century.

Dominica became part of the Leeward Islands in 1833, but changed affiliation to the Windward Islands in 1940. The country became an associated state within the British Commonwealth in 1967 before claiming independence in 1978.

National Identity. Social and political unrest (including attempted coups in 1980 and 1981), economic instability, and the devastating Hurricane David in 1979 complicated the transition to independence. Further divisions included language and historical settlement patterns, as rural villages were relatively isolated from each other and from Roseau and Portsmouth, the second largest town, since colonization. Despite internal differences, the national identity embraced by urban intellectuals and the government was the cultural heritage highlighting French, African, and Carib influence, more than British. A discourse of development unites the country.

Ethnic Relations. The population is predominantly of African descent. The Carib reside primarily on the Carib Reserve, but aside from maintaining some ancestral practices (such as basket weaving and boat making), they live like rural peoples around the island. People who identify as Syrian, Lebanese, and Chinese own some of the largest businesses in Roseau. Although there is some ethnic stereotyping, more salient social divisions fall along class, language, education, and rural and urban lines.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Roseau is the island's center of government, commerce, health services, education, and communications. The largest French settlement, it was named after the reeds that grow along the nearby Roseau River. French houses grew up haphazardly around a central market square; when the British came to power, they planned the remaining streets and house lots on an orderly grid system. Most buildings are small-scale, ranging from Victorian wood and stone townhouses with large verandas and fretwork to newer, more hurricane-resistant concrete structures. The city is dwarfed by the multi-story cruise ships that call at its newly rebuilt port. A large black and white crucifix and shrine on Morne Bruce overlooks the city. Old stone forts built by the British and expanded by the French include Fort Young in Roseau (now a hotel) and Fort Shirley in Portsmouth (in Cabrits National Park).

Rural villages vary by population and size. Many have a school, health center, post office, one or more churches, and rum shops. Larger villages have a community center and playing field for cricket. Rural homes are traditionally made of wood with galvanized metal roofing, and are perched on stilts. They usually have two or three rooms and a separate outdoor kitchen with a coal pot, fire, or more modern gas stove. Most are sparsely furnished, though those who can afford it fill their homes with store-bought knicknacks, dishes, and appliances. Some larger Western-style concrete houses with recently-available amenities like electricity and indoor plumbing are being built. Yards are kept neat and clean in both rural and urban areas. People socialize at shops, community centers, churches, or on the street.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Dominica's rich volcanic soil and abundant rainfall are ideal for growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, and root crops. These are sold at market or by street vendors, but people typically grow enough for their own consumption. Bananas and plantains are central to rural diets, and are prepared in a variety of ways. The growing and processing of manioc into cassava bread and farina was once a major subsistence activity, but now wheat bread is widely available from local bakeries. Land crabs, river crayfish, opossum, agouti, and fish are caught where available. Locally raised livestock include goats, pigs, and some cows. Crapaud or "mountain chicken," a type of frog, is the national dish, but a more popular creole dish is roasted breadfruit with salted codfish, onions, and peppers cooked in oil. Imported frozen chicken and turkey parts, tinned milk and sausages, and packaged snacks are increasingly popular. Staple foods like flour, sugar, salt, and rice are purchased in town or from village shops. Individuals often sell homemade cakes, coconut milk ice pops, and sweets from their homes.

Urban residents obtain produce from relatives outside the city or purchase it at market. There are several large American-style supermarkets in Roseau, offering expensive imported goods. Most restaurants are located in Roseau and Portsmouth; in rural areas, shops may sell sandwiches or fried chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken, an American fast food restaurant, opened in Roseau in 1997. When guests visit a home in both rural and urban areas, it is expected that some food or drink will be offered. Lunch is the largest meal of the day.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Holidays and important religious ceremonies are celebrated with the slaughtering of livestock and the preparation of large meals. Guests visit homes throughout the day and are given food, desserts, and alcoholic beverages or other drinks. Catholics make offerings of fruits and vegetables during church services or special masses.

Basic Economy. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, with bananas the chief export crop. Citrus and coconut products are also exported. The economy has historically relied on a successive monocrop strategy, but shifting markets, fluctuating prices, and natural disasters have recently increased calls to diversify.

Land Tenure and Property. In 1763, British surveyors divided the island into lots for sale; only 232 acres went to the Caribs. For the next two centuries, most large estates belonged to British or long-established French families. These were bought up during the "banana boom" of the 1950s by foreign investors and Dominican merchants and professionals moving into agriculture. Small-scale farmers remained scattered between the larger estates. In the 1970s, many estates were sold off in smaller plots. Today, land ownership with deed is highly valued by peasant farmers; land is also rented or worked by squatters. The Carib Reserve was expanded to 3,700 acres by British administrator Hesketh Bell in 1903, but by law it is communally owned by all its residents.

Commercial Activities. Agricultural products and manufactured goods including coconut soaps, bay leaf oils, juice concentrates, rum, cigarettes, paint, and plastic sandals are produced for sale.

Major Industries. The major industries include food processing, coconut product manufacturing, paint production, rum distilling, and handicrafts. There is a small commercial fishing industry and some commerce in timber and pumice. Tourism is developing, but is hindered by a lack of accommodations and an international airport. Billed as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean," recent efforts promote cultural ecotourism. Day cruise ship visits increased dramatically in the 1990s.

Trade. Imports total twice as much as exports. Manufactured goods, food, machinery, and chemicals are imported, chiefly from the United States. Agricultural produce is exported to CARICOM countries and the United Kingdom. CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market), a treaty established and signed by most Caribbean nations in 1973, coordinates foreign policies and economic integration. Bananas are sold to Geest, a British multinational corporation. Merchants travel to neighboring islands to sell agricultural produce and handicrafts.

Division of Labor. Professional positions, including highly desirable government jobs, generally require secondary and usually some post-secondary education. Rural villagers are predominantly peasant farmers, and sometimes run small businesses. Larger businesses are owned by upper-class Dominicans and Syrian and Lebanese merchants.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Prime determiners of social class are wealth, level of education, occupation, and family history including family name, and class may change through educational advancement or pursuit of a prestigious occupation. The wealthier upper classes are concentrated in Roseau, but there are also marked differences in social class and status in rural villages.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Styles of dress, food, and language were traditionally major symbols of class differentiation, and strongly reflected rural/urban differences. Today, however, rural folk desire the same goods and modern conveniences as urbanites. English still tends to be associated with the educated upper classes and Kwéyo`l with lower-class peasants, but this is changing as rural areas become more accessible and education more widespread.

Political Life

Government. Dominica has a British parliamentarian system of government, headed by a president and prime minister. The thirty-member unicameral House of Assembly has twenty-one elected and nine appointed senators, plus the Speaker of the House. A local government system allocates each village a council headed by a chairman (called a chief in the Carib Reserve).

Leadership and Political Officials. There are three principal political parties: the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), and the United Workers Party (UWP). The DFP, headed by Dame Eugenia Charles, governed from 1980 until 1995. Charles, known as the "Iron Lady of the Caribbean," was the first female Caribbean prime minister. She supported former United States president Ronald Reagan in the 1983 invasion of Grenada. The UWP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Edison James, won the 1995 elections. In 2000, it lost to the DLP and Prime Minister Rosie Douglas, who died after eight months in office. He was replaced by Prime Minister Pierre Charles in October 2000.

Elections are held every five years and are generally peaceful. Supporters travel the island in caravans by political party, and candidates often sprinkle campaign speeches with Kwéyo`l during rallies in rural villages. Political officials are generally respected and often invited to attend important meetings and events in villages; they may be severely criticized, however, if popular opinion turns against them.

Social Problems and Control. Since the early 1980s, crime has been very low. The police force is based in Roseau and maintains departments in larger villages. The court system is used to resolve land disputes and slander cases, but problems are usually settled within the family or village.

Military Activity. The police force includes a Special Service Unit and Coast Guard.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The Social Welfare Department was established in 1945. Since then, it has gradually expanded to include a national system of Social Security and various divisions such as Community Development, Local Government, Youth, Sports, Culture, and the Women's Desk.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been established since independence. They often work together and with the government to utilize limited funds for projects in rural development, agriculture, health, women, and culture. Funding and assistance come from churches (especially the Roman Catholic Church) and several international agencies including UNESCO, UNICEF, and the United States Peace Corps.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women and girls are primarily responsible for childcare, cooking, and household chores. In rural areas, they often grow vegetables and raise small livestock. The majority of vendors at the open-air markets are women, and many women supplement household income by selling homemade sweets and baked goods, weaving baskets, or by working as house cleaners or childcare providers. Men harvest and sell bananas (the main export) and other crops, tend large livestock, fish, hunt, and work in construction. Both men and women are employed as professionals. Men hold more positions of authority in the churches, but both men and women are active in politics and village affairs.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women's work is often valued less than men's work, although women's contributions are equally or more important to household maintenance. Women are criticized if they spend too much time out of the home, while men are allowed more freedom. Women, particularly as mothers, are very involved in community life and are often the center of extensive kin networks.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Only monogamous marriages are permitted by law. Marriage is based on individual choice, though generally limited by social class and religion. Many young people have children, often with multiple partners, and may cohabit for years before legally marrying, despite church disapproval. Men are expected to contribute financially to their children's upbringing, regardless of their relationship with the mother. Except among the upper classes, marriage usually comes later in life, after age thirty. Divorce is legal, but is rare and is frowned upon.

Domestic Unit. The household may be headed by a man or a woman. Households may consist of one person, a woman and her children (perhaps visited by her boyfriend), a nuclear family with the parents either married or cohabiting, or an extended household that includes several generations. Several families, often related through one matriarch, may have separate homes but share a common piece of land or yard with an outdoor kitchen or other resources.

Inheritance. The predominant inheritance practice is "family land," in which a parcel of land is owned jointly by descendants of the original owner, either male or female. Use of the land is determined by consensus or family tradition. Oral agreements frequently lead to disputes, but no part may be sold unless all co-owners agree.

Kin Groups. Kin groups extend beyond the household to include those related through blood lines, marriage, and friendship both within and outside the village; Dominicans frequently say that everyone on the island is related. Financial and material resources are often shared, and child fostering is common. Many households depend on money sent from relatives who have migrated overseas.


Infant Care. Children are cared for primarily by their mothers, but also by other relatives, friends, and neighbors. In rural areas, families rarely have separate cribs or rooms for infants, and they stay with the rest of the family. Small babies are kept at home, but are soon brought along to the fields, river, and elsewhere. When they begin to walk and talk, children are given small household chores. Once they start primary school, they are expected to run errands and look after smaller children.

Child Rearing and Education. Children are expected to be obedient, and corporal punishment is used when a child is troublesome or rude. Yet both boys and girls are taught to stand up for themselves and to engage in verbal play and teasing. Education is increasingly valued and is seen as a way out of the rural farming life. Preschool is available to those who can afford it. All children can attend primary school from ages five to fifteen, but must get a high enough score on the Common Entrance Examination by age thirteen to secure one of the limited spaces in a secondary school. As Kwéyòl is widely thought to interfere with children's learning of English, many rural parents now try to speak only English with their children.

Higher Education. Post-secondary education is limited to the Teacher's Training College, the Clifton Dupigny Community College, and a small branch of the University of the West Indies for continuing education. Adult education classes are offered in Roseau, Portsmouth, and occasionally in villages. Further education or training must be obtained on other islands or elsewhere overseas. According to the 1991 census, only 2 percent of the population receives a university education.


Greetings such as "good morning" or "good afternoon" are the most basic form of social interaction. People are expected to greet when they telephone, visit someone's home, or simply pass one another on the street. Strangers are eyed with suspicion, but are treated warmly once introduced. Close friends, especially girls, stand close to one another and often walk with arms around each other's shoulders or waists. Privacy is difficult to maintain but is highly valued; items are concealed when carried in public, and domestic problems are dealt with in the home.


Religious Beliefs. Roman Catholicism is the religion of over 70 percent of the population. None of the Protestant religions (Methodist, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Anglican, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of God) exceed more than 5 percent. Carib and West African beliefs in spirits and obeah (witchcraft) persist despite church disapproval. Rastafarianism is followed by some.

Religious Practitioners. Native Dominicans are now being trained as clergy, but practitioners of the formal religions, particularly Catholic priests and nuns, have generally been foreigners. Obeah practitioners or seers ( gadè ) are native or are from nearby islands.

Rituals and Holy Places. The religions hold services in their respective churches. Residents of smaller villages often must travel to larger villages to attend church. Some villages have stone Roman Catholic churches dating to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although new ones continue to be built in other villages. Many Protestant churches, especially Pentecostal and Seventh Day Adventist, have been built in the latter decades of the twentieth century. The frequency and days of worship depend on the religion.

Death and the Afterlife. Many traditional practices and beliefs, such as the Carib custom of burying the dead in a fetal position, have been abandoned in favor of Christian traditions. All Saints Day is observed by visiting cemeteries and lighting candles on the graves of deceased loved ones.

Medicine and Health Care

Common health problems include parasitic, intestinal, nutritional, venereal, and respiratory diseases, and illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Dengue fever (but not malaria), teenage pregnancy, and sanitation are major health concerns. Life expectancy is seventy-five years for men and eighty-one years for women. The healthcare system includes a main hospital in Roseau; smaller hospitals in Portsmouth, Grand Bay, and Marigot; and clinics staffed with trained nurses around the island. Doctors, both Dominicans trained abroad and foreigners from technical aid programs and staff hospitals, periodically visit village clinics. There is an off-shore American medical school, Ross University, in Portsmouth. Traditional medical knowledge includes the use of herbs, plants, and tree barks to cure illnesses, induce labor, and so on. A combination of prescription and natural remedies is often used, despite being discouraged by healthcare professionals.

Secular Celebrations

The state's major holiday is Independence Day, 3 November. It is preceded by festivals, competitions, and events starting in August, including Heritage Day, Creole Day (Jounen Kwéyo`l), and the three-day World Creole Music Festival, which was begun in 1997. Other secular holidays include Carnival, celebrated the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and New Year's Day. Villages celebrate their patron saints' feasts at various times during the year. Most fishing villages celebrate the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in June and July.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The arts are largely self-supporting, although major events receive government, international, and private funding. Village cultural groups receive some government assistance, and organizations such as the Cultural Division, Dominica Festivals Commission, and Movement for Cultural Awareness support the arts locally.

Literature. Largely due to the high illiteracy rate prior to the mid-twentieth century, most literature about Dominica has been written by visitors or foreign-born residents. Since the 1970s, there has been a surge of indigenous poetry, short stories, and plays, though much is unpublished or of limited availability. Local historian and anthropologist Lennox Honychurch has published detailed histories and academic scholarship about Dominica.

Graphic Arts. There is a growing local interest in painting, wood carving, pottery, and sculpture. Baskets and handicrafts are sold to tourists.

Performance Arts. African and European-influenced forms of traditional dance, song, music, and storytelling are performed at various cultural shows. The Karifuna Cultural Group was formed in 1978 to revive and promote ancestral Carib cultural expressions. There is a growing interest in modern creative dance.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Lack of funding, resources, and facilities has constrained the development of the physical and social sciences in Dominica. Studies of the environment and people, particularly the Carib, have been carried out by foreign researchers and some Dominicans attending universities abroad. With limited funding, the government's Cultural Division researches and documents cultural and oral traditions.


Andre, Irving W., and Gabriel J. Christian. In Search of Eden: Dominica, the Travails of a Caribbean Mini-State, 1992.

Baker, Patrick L. Centring the Periphery: Chaos, Order, and the Ethnohistory of Dominica, 1994.

Christie, Pauline. "Language Preference in Two Communities in Dominica, West Indies." La Linguistique, 30:716, 1994.

Commonwealth of Dominica. Population and Housing Census, 1991.

Cultural Division, Government of Dominica. A Directory of Cultural Activities, Artists and Major Cultural Groups and Institutions in Dominica, 1993.

Higbie, Janet. Eugenia: The Caribbean's Iron Lady, 1993.

Honychurch, Lennox. Dominica: Isle of Adventure, 1991.

. The Dominica Story: A History of the Island, 1995.

. "Carib to Creole: Contact and Culture Exchange in Dominica." Ph.D. Diss., University of Oxford, Trinity, 1997.

Krumeich, Anja. The Blessings of Motherhood: Health, Pregnancy and Child Care in Dominica, 1994.

Myers, Robert. A Resource Guide to Dominica, 14931986, 3 vols., 1987.

Pezeron, Simone Maguy. The Carib Indians of Dominica Island in the West Indies: Five Hundred Years after Columbus, 1993.

Stuart, Stephanie. "Dominican PatwaMother Tongue or Cultural Relic?" International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 102:5772, 1993.

Taylor, Douglas. Languages of the West Indies, 1977.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy, 1988.

Amy L. Paugh

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Dominica is the most northerly of the Windward Islands in the eastern Caribbean. It has been an independent state within the Commonwealth since 1978. Sighted and named by Columbus in 1493, it was disputed in the 18th cent. between France and Britain, changed hands repeatedly, and was finally held by the British when they beat off a French attack in 1805. The economy relies heavily upon bananas, cocoa, and coconuts, but has been severely affected by hurricanes.

J. A. Cannon

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The people of Dominica are called Dominicans. The majority are black, with about 6 percent of the population of mixed descent, and less than 1 percent of European descent. There are a small number (about 3,000) native people (Carib Indians).

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