Commonwealth of Dominica
|Motto: "Après Bondie, C'est La Ter" (Antillean Creole)
"After God is the Earth"
"Après le Bon Dieu, c'est la Terre"
|Anthem: Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendour
(and largest city)
|Vernacular languages||Dominican Creole French|
|Ethnic groups (2001)||black 86.8%
Carib Amerindian 2.9%
|-||Prime Minister||Roosevelt Skerrit|
|-||from the United Kingdom||3 November 1978|
|-||Total||750 km² (184th)
290 sq mi
|-||July 2009 estimate||72,660 (195th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|Currency||East Caribbean dollar (
|Time zone||Eastern Caribbean (UTC–4)|
|1||Rank based on 2005 UN estimate.|
The Commonwealth of Dominica, commonly known as Dominica, is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. It is distinct and separate from the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean nation. Its name (pronounced dom-in-EE-cuh) in Latin means "Sunday," which was the day on which it was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
Dominica's pre-Colombian name was Wai'tu kubuli, which means, "Tall is her body." Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans due chiefly to the fierce resistance of the indigenous people of the island, Caribs. Some 3,000 Caribs still living on Dominica are the only pre-Colombian population remaining in the eastern Caribbean.
Dominica has been nicknamed the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean" due to its natural beauty. It is one of the youngest islands in the Lesser Antilles, and is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, and is the home of many rare plant, animal, and bird species. The Sisserou parrot is featured on the national flag. Dominica's economy is heavily dependent on both tourism and agriculture, especially bananas.
Dominica is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea, the northernmost of the Windward Islands. The size of the country is about 289.5 square miles (754 km²). The capital is Roseau.
Dominica is largely covered by rainforest and is home to the world's largest boiling lake. Dominica also has many waterfalls, springs and rivers. Some plants and animals thought to be extinct on surrounding islands can still be found in Dominica's forests. The volcanic nature of the island and the lack of sandy beaches have made Dominica a popular scuba diving spot. Dominica is home to several protected areas, including Cabrits National Park. The local people like to say that Dominica has 365 rivers.
It is said that when his royal sponsors asked Christopher Columbus to describe this island in the "New World," he crumpled a piece of parchment roughly and threw it on the table. This, Columbus explained, "is what Dominica looks like—completely covered with mountains with nary a flat spot."
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a tropical forest blended with scenic volcanic features. It was recognized as a World Heritage Site on April 4, 1995. Currently it is the only such site in the Caribbean.
The Commonwealth of Dominica is engaged in a long-running dispute with Venezuela over the latter's territorial claims to the sea surrounding Isla Aves (Bird Island), a tiny islet located 70 miles (110 km) west of the island of Dominica.
The only two major cities are Roseau and Portsmouth.
Dominica has two seasons, wet and dry. The weather is very tropical in nature with the temperature being above 20 degrees C. most of the time. The high amounts of annual rain feed into the rivers. It is also in the hurricane region. In 1979, Dominica was hit directly by Category 5 storm Hurricane David, causing widespread and extreme damage.
The island of Dominica's indigenous Arawak people were expelled or exterminated by Caribs in the fourteenth century. The Arawaks were guided to Dominica, and other islands of the Caribbean, by the South Equatorial current from the waters of the Orinoco River. These descendants of the early Tainos were overthrown by the Kalinago tribe of the Caribs. The Caribs arrived on this island by special boats, which they are still making at their own territory on the island.
Christopher Columbus arrived at this island on Sunday, November 3, 1493. He and his crew soon left the island after being defeated by the Caribs. In 1627 England also tried and failed to capture Dominica. In 1635 the French claimed the island and sent missionaries, but were unable to wrench Dominica from the Caribs. They abandoned the island, along with the island of Saint Vincent, in the 1660s. For the next 100 years Dominica remained isolated, and even more Caribs settled there after being driven from surrounding islands as European powers entered the region.
But the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of British and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the eighteenth century. Largely due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in North America), the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure.
In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free nonwhites. Three blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following England's abolition of slavery occurred throughout the British Empire in 1834; in 1838, Dominica became the first and only British Caribbean colony to have a black-controlled legislature in the nineteenth 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.
Steps toward self-government
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 1980. By the end of the 1980s, the economy recovered, but weakened again in the 1990s due to a decrease in banana prices.
In the January 2000 elections, the Edison James United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the Dominican Labour Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P. "Rosie" Douglas. Douglas died after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles, who died in office in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced Charles as prime minister. Under Skerrit's leadership, the DLP won elections in May 2005 that gave the party 12 seats in the 21-member Parliament to the UWP's 8 seats. An independent candidate affiliated with the DLP won a seat as well. Since that time, the independent candidate joined the government and one UWP member crossed the aisle, making the current total 14 seats for the DLP and 7 for the UWP.
Dominica is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. The president is head of state, while executive power rests with the Cabinet, headed by the prime minister. The unicameral parliament consists of the 30-member House of Assembly, which consists of twenty-one directly elected members and nine senators, who may either be appointed by the president or elected by the other members of the House of Assembly.
Unlike other former British colonies in the region, Dominica was never a Commonwealth realm with the British monarch as head of state, as it instead became a republic on independence.
Dominica's legal system is based on English common law. There are three magistrate's courts, with appeals made to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and, ultimately, to the Privy Council in London.
Councils elected by universal suffrage govern most towns. Supported largely by property taxation, the councils are responsible for the regulation of markets and sanitation and the maintenance of secondary roads and other municipal amenities. The island is also divided into ten parishes, whose governance is unrelated to the town governments.
Like its eastern Caribbean neighbors, the main priority of Dominica's foreign relations is economic development. The country maintains missions in Washington, DC, 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. Dominica is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and of the International Criminal Court, with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the U.S. military.
Dominica is the only Caribbean state to challenge Venezuela's sovereignty claim over Aves Island and joins the other island nations in challenging whether the feature sustains human habitation, a criterion under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which permits Venezuela to extend its Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf claims over a large portion of the eastern Caribbean Sea.
It is a transshipment point for illegal narcotics bound for the United States and Europe and minor cannabis producer. Anti-money-laundering enforcement is weak, making the country particularly vulnerable to money laundering.
Dominica participates in counternarcotics programs in an effort to curb narcotics trafficking and marijuana cultivation. In 1995, the Dominican government signed a maritime law enforcement agreement with the United States to strengthen counternarcotics coordination, and in 1996, the government signed mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties to enhance joint efforts in combating international crime.
The Dominican economy is dependent on both tourism and agriculture. Forty percent of Dominican workers are in the agricultural sector, and Dominica's primary agricultural exports include tobacco, bananas, vegetables, citrus fruit, copra, coconut oil, and essential oils such as bay oil. The country's industries, other than tourism, include soap, furniture, cement blocks, and shoes.
The government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy in 2003—including elimination of price controls, privatization of the state banana company, and tax increases—to address Dominica's economic crisis and to meet IMF targets. In order to diversify the island's production base, the government is attempting to develop an offshore financial sector and is planning to construct an oil refinery on the eastern part of the island.
Dominica's economy grew by 3.5 percent in 2005 and 4.0 percent in 2006, following a decade of poor performance. The country nearly had a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004. Growth in 2006 was attributed to gains in tourism, construction, offshore banking and other services, and some sub-sectors of the banana industry.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team visited Dominica in September 2007 and noted that the economy is facing difficulties—in particular, the agricultural sector had been hit hard by Hurricane Dean. Nevertheless, the IMF said, "the authorities are continuing their efforts to introduce reforms and programs to assist the recovery and reduce poverty, while maintaining macroeconomic stability and strengthening growth."
They praised the government of Dominica for its successful macroeconomic reforms. The IMF also pointed out remaining challenges, including further reductions in public debt, increased financial sector regulation, and market diversification.
Bananas and other agriculture dominate Dominica's economy. This sector, however, is highly vulnerable to weather conditions and to external events affecting commodity prices. In response to decreasing European Union (EU) banana trade preferences, the government has diversified the agricultural sector by introducing coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mangoes, guavas, and papayas.
Dominica has had some success in increasing its manufactured exports, primarily soap.
Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, tourism has developed more slowly than on neighboring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica's high, rugged mountains covered with rainforests, freshwater lakes, 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.
Dominica's currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the currency, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.
Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. Dominica also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Dominica's tourism is underdeveloped. It does not have any world-famous chains of hotels. The lack of a large international airport or sandy beaches limits opportunities for standard tourism, but the rainforest-covered landscape and beautifully preserved environment could lure those looking for unparalleled ecotourism experiences.
Dominica has a few famous tourist spots, such as the Indian River in Portsmouth, Emerald Pool, Trafalgar Falls, Scotts Head (where the Atlantic Ocean meets with the Caribbean Sea), and the world's largest Boiling Lake which is inside of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica's World Heritage Site. This island country also has many excellent diving spots due to its steep drop-offs, healthy marine environment, and reefs. Dominica has also established three marine reserves to preserve and protect the marine environment for all users. There is one reserve each in the northern, central, and southwestern coastal areas.
In 2004, because of its unchanged natural beauty, Dominica was chosen to be one of the major filming locations for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and its follow-up, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Hampstead Beach, Indian River, Londonderry River, Soufriere, and Vieille Case, which is situated on the island’s northern tip, were among the places selected for filming. In 2007, CBS filmed its first pirate-related TV show called Pirate Master in Dominica.
There are two small airports on the island: The main one is Melville Hall Airport (DOM), about one hour away from Portsmouth; the second one is Canefield (DCF) which is about fifteen minutes' travel from Roseau. Neither is big enough for typical commercial size airplanes, although Melville Hall is under expansion. As of 2007, American Airlines, LIAT and Caribbean Star are the three major airlines. There is no night-time service, because the airports do not have night lights.
There is no major highway on the island. Before the road was built between Portsmouth and Roseau, people had to take boats, which took several hours. Now, it takes about one hour to drive from Portsmouth to Roseau. Minibus services form the major public transport system.
Almost all of the 72,000 nationals (July 2007 estimate) of Dominica today are descendants of African slaves, brought in by colonial planters in the eighteenth century. Today, blacks account for 86.8 percent of the population (based on the 2001 census), and those of mixed race another 8.9 percent. Dominica is the only Eastern Caribbean island that still has a population of pre-Colombian Caribs, who were exterminated or driven from neighboring islands. Only about 3,000 Caribs remain, making up about 3 percent of the population. They live in eight villages on the east coast.
The population growth rate of Dominica is very low, due primarily to emigration to other Caribbean islands, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, or Canada. English is the official language and is universally understood; however, because of historic French domination, as well as the island's location between two French-speaking territories (Martinique and Guadeloupe) Antillean Creole "patois," a French-based creole language, is the mother tongue of 80 percent of the people. Dominica is therefore a member of the Francophonie organization.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic (61.4 percent). Other religions (according to the 2001 census) are: Seventh Day Adventist (6 percent), Pentecostal (5.6 percent), Baptist (4.1 percent), Methodist (3.7 percent), Church of God (1.2 percent), Jehovah's Witnesses (1.2 percent), other Christian (7.7 percent), Rastafarian (1.3 percent), other or unspecified (1.6 percent), none (6.1 percent).
Dominica is home to a wide range of people. Historically occupied by several native tribes, only a Carib tribe remained by the time European settlers reached the island. French and British settlers each claimed the island, and both imported slaves from Africa. The remaining Caribs live on a 3,700-acre territory on the east coast side of the island and elect their own chief. This mix of cultures is important to Dominica.
The West African influences in Dominica remain in aspects of language (the use of certain words and the syntax of speech); dance; music (drum music and the rhythms associated with drumming); the type of songs, with call and response; food; the use of ornate dress, gold chains, and jewelry to show status; and the remnants of spiritualism—the animist belief that there are many spirits inhabiting the world, which bring good or evil and are associated with the ancestors. This remains even in the adaptation to Christianity in a great reverence for the dead and the ancestors and in the importance of funerals.
The famed novelist Jean Rhys was born and raised in Dominica. The island is obliquely depicted in her best-known book, Wide Sargasso Sea.
The dialect of Dominica also includes Cocoy and a Creole/French-based patois. Other than English, the majority of people speak Creole, which came from the French plantation owners from the neighboring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Cocoy is primarily a mix of cockney English imported by English settlers, with an infusion of African influence. It is mainly spoken in the northeastern villages of Marigot and Wesley.
Media and communication
Currently, there is no daily newspaper. There is a national television station and a few radio stations. Before 2004, there was only one telecommunication company called Cable and Wireless (Caribbean). Shortly after that, AT&T and a UK-based company called Orange started to offer service to the island.
The island has its own state college, formerly named Clifton Dupigny Community College. Some Dominicans get scholarships from the Cuban government to attend medical school in Cuba. Others go to the University of the West Indies or to schools in the United Kingdom, the United States, or other countries for higher education. Ross University, a medical school, is located at Portsmouth. In 2006, another medical school called All Saints University of Medicine opened in temporary facilities in Loubiere, with a permanent campus being constructed in Grand Bay.
All links retrieved October 16, 2017.
- CIA Factbook
- U.S. State Department: Dominica
- Discover Dominica: Nature Island of the Caribbean - Official government tourism website by the National Development Corporation of Dominica
- Dominica Hotel & Tourism Association
- Dominica - The International Monetary Fund
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