Commonwealth of Dominica
Area: 754 sq. km. (290 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Roseau (population
Terrain: Mountainous volcanic island with
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Dominican
Population (2003 est.) 70,352.
Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 0%, slightly
Ethnic groups: Mainly African descent, some
Religions: Roman Catholic (80%), Anglican, other
Languages: English (official); a French patois
is widely spoken.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 14.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2003)--18.9/1,000.
Life expectancy (2004)--male 74, female
Work force (2004 est.): 47,000 Agriculture--37%;
Unemployment--exceeds 26% (Eastern
Caribbean Central Bank estimate).
Type: Parliamentary democracy; republic within
Independence: November 3, 1978.
Constitution: November 1978.
Branches: Executive--president (head of
state), prime minister (head of government),
cabinet. Legislative--unicameral House of
Assembly. Judicial--magistrate and jury
courts, Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (High
Court and Court of Appeals), Privy Council.
Subdivisions: 10 parishes.
Political parties: Dominica Labor Party,
Dominica Freedom Party (ruling coalition
partners), and United Workers Party
Suffrage: Universal adult.
GDP (2004): $282.2 million.
GDP growth rate (2004): 3.5%.
Per capita GDP (2004): $4010.
Natural resources: timber, water (hydropower),
Agriculture (18% of GDP): Products--bananas,
citrus, coconuts, cocoa, herbal oils and
Manufacturing (7% of GDP): Types--agricultural
processing, soap and other coconut-based
Trade: Exports--$41.2 million (2004):
bananas, citrus fruits, soap, and cocoa.
Major markets--CARICOM 61%, U.K. 18%, U.S.
3%. Imports--$145 million (2004):
machinery and equipment, foodstuffs,
manufactured articles, cement. Major suppliers--U.S.
35%, CARICOM 29%, E.U. 13%, Japan 5%.
Almost all Dominicans are descendants of African
slaves brought in by colonial planters in the
18th century. Dominica is the only island in the
eastern Caribbean to retain some of its
pre-Columbian population--the Carib
Indians--about 3,000 of whom live on the
island's east coast. The population growth rate
is very low, due primarily to emigration to more
prosperous Caribbean Islands, the United
Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
English is the official language; however,
because of historic French domination, the most
widely spoken dialect is a French patois. About
80% of the population is Catholic. In recent
years, a number of Protestant churches have been
The island's indigenous Arawak people were
expelled or exterminated by Caribs in the 14th
century. Columbus landed there in November 1493.
Spanish ships frequently landed on Dominica
during the 16th century, but fierce resistance
by the Caribs discouraged Spain's efforts at
In 1635, France claimed Dominica. Shortly
thereafter, French missionaries became the first
European inhabitants of the island. Carib
incursions continued, though, and in 1660, the
French and British agreed that both Dominica and
St. Vincent should be abandoned. Dominica was
officially neutral for the next century, but the
attraction of its resources remained; rival
expeditions of British and French foresters were
harvesting timber by the start of the 18th
Largely due to Dominica's position between
Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually
became predominant, and a French settlement was
established and grew. As part of the 1763 Treaty
of Paris that ended the Seven Years' War, the
island became a British possession. In 1778,
during the American Revolutionary War, the
French mounted a successful invasion with the
active cooperation of the population, which was
largely French. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which
ended the war, returned the island to Britain.
French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in
In 1763, the British established a
legislative assembly, representing only the
white population. In 1831, reflecting a
liberalization of official British racial
attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred
political and social rights on free nonwhites.
Three Blacks were elected to the legislative
assembly the following year. Following the
abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became
the first and only British Caribbean colony to
have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th
century. Most Black legislators were
smallholders or merchants who held economic and
social views diametrically opposed to the
interests of the small, wealthy English planter
class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the
planters lobbied for more direct British rule.
In 1865, after much agitation and tension,
the colonial office replaced the elective
assembly with one comprised of one-half elected
members and one-half appointed. Planters allied
with colonial administrators outmaneuvered the
elected legislators on numerous occasions. In
1871, Dominica became part of the Leeward Island
Federation. The power of the Black population
progressively eroded. Crown Colony government
was re-established in 1896. All political rights
for the vast majority of the population were
effectively curtailed. Development aid, offered
as compensation for disenfranchisement, proved
to have a negligible effect.
Following World War I, an upsurge of
political consciousness throughout the Caribbean
led to the formation of the Representative
Government Association. Marshaling public
frustration with the lack of a voice in the
governing of Dominica, this group won one-third
of the popularly elected seats of the
legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in
1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was
transferred from the Leeward Island
Administration and was governed as part of the
Windwards until 1958, when it joined the
short-lived West Indies Federation.
After the federation dissolved, Dominica
became an associated state of the United Kingdom
in 1967 and formally took responsibility for its
internal affairs. On November 3, 1978, the
Commonwealth of Dominica was granted
independence by the United Kingdom.
Independence did little to solve problems
stemming from centuries of economic
underdevelopment, and in mid-1979, political
discontent led to the formation of an interim
government. It was replaced after the 1980
elections by a government led by the Dominica
Freedom Party under Prime Minister Eugenia
Charles, the Caribbean's first female prime
minister. Chronic economic problems were
compounded by the severe impact of hurricanes in
1979 and in 1980. By the end of the 1980s, the
economy had made a healthy recovery, which
weakened in the 1990s due to a decrease in
In January 2000 elections, the Edison James
United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the
Dominican Labor Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P.
"Rosie" Douglas. Douglas died after only a few
months in office and was replaced by Pierre
Charles, who died in office in January 2004.
Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced
Charles as Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister
Skerrit’s leadership, the DLP won elections in
May 2005 that gave the party 12 seats in the
21-member Parliament to the UWP’s 8 seats. An
independent candidate affiliated with the DLP
won a seat as well.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Dominica has a Westminster-style parliamentary
government, and there are three political
parties--the Dominica Labor Party (the majority
party), the Dominica United Workers Party, and
the Dominica Freedom Party. A president and
prime minister make up the executive branch.
Nominated by the prime minister in consultation
with the leader of the opposition party, the
president is elected for a 5-year term by the
parliament. The president appoints as prime
minister the leader of the majority party in the
parliament and also appoints, on the prime
minister's recommendation, members of the
parliament from the ruling party as cabinet
ministers. The prime minister and cabinet are
responsible to the parliament and can be removed
on a no-confidence vote.
The unicameral parliament, called the House
of Assembly, is composed of 21 regional
representatives and nine senators. The regional
representatives are elected by universal
suffrage and, in turn, decide whether senators
are to be elected or appointed. If appointed,
five are chosen by the president with the advice
of the prime minister and four with the advice
of the opposition leader. If elected, it is by
vote of the regional representatives. Elections
for representatives and senators must be held at
least every 5 years, although the prime minister
can call elections any time. The last election
was held in January 2000.
Dominica's legal system is based on English
common law. There are three magistrate's courts,
with appeals made to the Eastern Caribbean Court
of Appeal and, ultimately, to the Privy Council
Councils elected by universal suffrage govern
most towns. Supported largely by property
taxation, the councils are responsible for the
regulation of markets and sanitation and the
maintenance of secondary roads and other
municipal amenities. The island is also divided
into 10 parishes, whose governance is unrelated
to the town governments.
Principal Government Officials
President--Dr. Nicholas Liverpool
Prime Minister--Roosevelt Skerrit
Minister for Foreign Affairs--Charles Savarin
Ambassador to the United States and Organization
of American States--Judith Anne Rolle (Third
Ambassador to the United Nations--Crispin
Although the Dominican ambassador to the
United States has customarily been resident in
Dominica, the country maintains an embassy in
the U.S. at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW,
Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6781).
Dominica also has a consulate general co-located
with its UN mission in New York at Suite 900,
820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017 (tel:
Dominica's economy grew by 3.5% in 2004 after a
decade of poor performance. 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
Bananas and other agriculture dominate
Dominica's economy, and nearly one-third of the
labor force works in agriculture. This sector,
however, is highly vulnerable to weather
conditions and to external events affecting
commodity prices. In response to decreasing
European Union (EU) banana trade preferences,
the government has diversified the agricultural
sector, 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 mangoes,
guavas, and papayas. Dominica also has had some
success in increasing its manufactured exports,
primarily soap. Dominica also 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's high, rugged mountains,
rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs,
waterfalls, and diving spots make it an
attractive eco-tourism destination. Cruise ship
stopovers have increased following the
development of modern docking and waterfront
facilities in the capital.
Dominica's currency is the Eastern Caribbean
Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among
members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union
(ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB)
issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and
regulates and supervises commercial banking
activities in its member countries. The ECCB's
primary monetary policy goal is to maintain the
long-standing currency peg of US$1 = EC$2.7.
Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S.
Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free
entry into the U.S. for many goods. In 2004,
exports totaled $41 million, with 3% going to
the U.S. Dominica's imports totaled $145
million, 35% from the U.S. 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).
Like its Eastern Caribbean neighbors, the main
priority of Dominica's foreign relations is
economic development. The country maintains
missions in Washington, New York, London, and
Brussels and is represented jointly with other
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
members in Canada. Dominica also is a member of
the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the
British Commonwealth. It became a member of the
United Nations and the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) in 1978 and of the World Bank and
Organization of American States (OAS) in 1979.
As a member of CARICOM, in July 1994 Dominica
strongly backed efforts by the United States to
implement UN Security Council Resolution 940,
designed to facilitate the departure of Haiti's
de facto authorities from power. The country
agreed to contribute personnel to the
multinational force, which restored the
democratically elected Government of Haiti in
The United States and Dominica have friendly
bilateral relations. The United States supports
the Dominican Government's efforts to expand its
economic base and to provide a higher standard
of living for its citizens. U.S. assistance is
primarily channeled through multilateral
agencies such as the World Bank, the Caribbean
Development Bank (CDB), and through the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID)
satellite programs office in Bridgetown,
Barbados. The Peace Corps also provides
technical assistance, and has just over 30
volunteers in Dominica, working primarily in
education, youth development, and health.
In addition, the United States and Dominica
work together in the battle against illegal
drugs. Dominica cooperates with U.S. agencies
and participates in counternarcotics programs in
an effort to curb narco-trafficking and
marijuana cultivation. In 1995, the Dominican
Government signed a maritime law enforcement
agreement with the U.S. to strengthen
counternarcotics coordination, and in 1996, the
government signed mutual legal assistance and
extradition treaties to enhance joint efforts in
combating international crime.
Dominica had around 450,000 visitors in 2004,
over 350,000 of whom were cruise ship
passengers. It is estimated that 4,500 Americans
reside in the country.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Sheila Peters
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Alfred Anzaldua
Economic-Commercial Affairs--John Ashworth
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Terry Armstrong
The United States maintains no official
presence in Dominica. The Ambassador and Embassy
officers are resident in Barbados and frequently
travel to Dominica.
U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in
the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building,
Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950;