With the hurricane season on the doorstep, the Commonwealth of Dominica is a humble source of inspiration in terms of building climate resilience. In a popular webinar hosted on May 27th by UAE newspaper Khaleej Times, the Prime Minister of Dominica, Dr the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, announced that the country will ban single-use plastic bags within the following two months.
The PM explained how the 'Nature Isle of the Caribbean' is attracting foreign investors to become citizens and contribute to the small country's feat to be "the world's first climate-resilient nation." Established in 1993, Dominica's Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme allows carefully vetted investors and their families to obtain second citizenship in exchange for a financial contribution, starting at US$100,000. To date, Dominica stands as the best country for citizenship by investment, according to the CBI Index, published by the Financial Times' Professional Wealth Management magazine.
After congratulating the PM on the exemplar handling of the pandemic, Allan Jacob, the Senior Editor of Khaleej Times, asked whether, "in the new normal", there would be greater interest in investing in Dominica, particularly via CBI. PM Skerrit credits Dominicans' discipline and the island's high-quality healthcare for the success. Moreover, foreign investors and external partners trust Dominica because of its transparent processes in using CBI funds.
"Our suppression of COVID-19 cases really has shown the committed spirit of the people of Dominica," PM Skerrit commented. "But it also demonstrates the robustness and effectiveness of our health system […] Normally, in circumstances after natural disasters like Hurricane Maria, you would have had associated health issues, whether it is water-bourne diseases or other forms of diseases. We never saw this in Dominica because of the effectiveness and robustness of our health system," he explains.
Dominica braved through two natural disasters in the space of two years: Storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017. Ever since, the small nation embarked on an admirable journey towards climate resilience. It uses funds from the CBI Programme to sponsor many transformative projects that prepare the island to withstand future weather challenges.
"We launched our Housing Revolution in 2015 following a tropical storm […] and also subsequent to that, in 2017, the hurricane [Maria]," says PM Skerrit. "We made a commitment to our citizens that, if we were to be visited by a similar storm, we will be in a better position to withstand the ravages of these natural disasters […] We in small countries do not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases but we are the major victims of the effects of climate change. And so, we made a commitment to build some 5,000 resilient, hurricane-proof homes."
With the project swiftly underway and thousands of Dominicans already living in new homes, PM Skerrit said more families are due to receive safe accommodation before the hurricane season starts. "We'll be handing over keys to 225 of those homes to deserving families across the length and breadth of the country." Since the Housing Revolution is fully funded by CBI, the Prime Minister thinks that new economic citizens can take pride in directly changing lives of their fellow citizens. "I believe it is a sense of commitment and a sense of contribution from our investors who have invested in the construction and the financing of those homes," the PM noted.
On why Dominica maintains an impeccable reputation, Premier Skerrit explains that the country strongly believes in transparency and accountability. "We have a very transparent way of spending our CBI funds," says the PM. "Our CBI funds are reported to the Parliament […] If you go to the Parliament and look at the budgetary estimates, you will see where we clearly indicate how these funds are being spent."
Moreover, Dominica modelled its CBI Programme so that it has a long-term, sustainable impact on the economy, standard of living, workforce skillsets and prospects. "We have decided to use the CBI funds in a sustainable way," says the Prime Minister. "We avoid using it for recurrent expenditure. We use it mainly for public sector investment programmes, the building of schools, […] hospitals, health centres, roads, bridges, the education of our human resources, our children, our youth."
Typically modest, the PM echoed what many investor immigration experts have repeatedly voiced over the past year: that Dominica is the 'poster child' for CBI transparency. "Without boasting, we can be a template for many countries with CBI programmes as to how best to utilise those funds to create jobs, to grow the economy, to reduce poverty, and to create a sustainable path for development in our country," says Mr Skerrit. Allan Jacob commented that this is "one of the reasons why you consistently top the CBI ratings."
On balancing development and sustainability, the PM said that Dominica is "at the forefront of climate change" and so the island is focused on implementing its green agenda, again putting the money from foreign investors-turned-citizens to good use. "Climate change is real, and we have lived the impact and implications of climate change," the Prime Minister stated.
Dominica seeks to "invest in sustainable projects that could help us withstand the effects of climate change," PM Skerrit says. "We're moving more towards renewable energy and, in the next few years, we will be able to produce about 85% of our energy through renewable means. We have this major geothermal project which, in large measure, will be financed with CBI funds. We will be able to supply most of our energy [needs] from geothermal [sources]," the Prime Minister explains. "Critically, we will be able to export the excess energy to the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, thereby […] eliminating the use of fossil fuel in our country."
Dominica's sustainability policies also address lowering pollution and reliance on plastic. "The other thing we will be moving very speedily to is using more renewable materials. For example, we were able to supply our citizens [with] over 100,000 renewable shopping bags, moving away from the use of plastic bags," states PM Skerrit referring to the "Go Green Dominica" initiative.
"We have banned Styrofoam material in our country," he continues. "In the next month or two we will be banning the use of single-use plastic bags in an effort to maintain our sustainable development agenda and also [for] the protection of the environment and, in so doing, putting us in a better position to deal with the effects of climate change."
Between 2013 and 2019, Dominica spent US$216 million from CBI reserves on economic transition and recovery efforts. This is detailed in a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) stating that CBI "generated tangible impacts on almost every aspect of life in Dominica."
In conclusion, Abhinav Mishra congratulated the Dominican officials and government-mandated firm CS Global Partners, saying that "with PwC confirming Dominica's superb standing and Dominica consistently gaining the number one ranking by the PWM/FT CBI ranking, the journey has been amazing and very-very well-managed."
Visit www.cbiu.gov.dm to find out how you can become an economic citizen of Dominica and support its journey towards climate resilience.
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