Dominica has real and potential advantage in the packaging and marketing of a coherent Nature Tourism. There are now no less than nine (9) separate initiatives in tourism all externally funded which together, provide substantial financial and technical resources capable of positioning the island's tourism for immediate and sustained growth. All the actions needed in tourism have already been detailed in the documents associated with these various externally funded initiatives. Many are already underway and the use of a Comprehensive Framework for Integrated Planning would facilitate the rationalization of resources (human, technical and financial) that would realise a coherent growth strategy for tourism that is directly linked to growth in agriculture, health, education, sports and other areas of the real economy.
World Cup 2007 is just three years away. Initiatives by the local private sector to position Dominica as the "rest and recreation" destination for the thousands who will be in the Region for several weeks should receive the fullest support and efforts aimed at upgrading accommodation, tours, entertainment, health and other services and facilities and arranging sea and air travel into and out of Dominica, should be a top priority for the next three years. In this regard, the work on the Melville Hall Airport should be scheduled to have night landing in place soonest before 2007.
Today, it is established that a Golf Course is probably the most important daytime attraction for the vast number of visitors, particularly retired and semi-retired tourists.
Government could identify approximately 200 acres of land, preferably in the North and provide this area of land as equity for a modern Golf Course development with villas to be developed around the Golf Course. A group of Private Sector investors, local or overseas could be invited to invest in such a project once Government can make available a suitable area of land in the North. A major hotel group could then be encouraged to invest in the North - similar to Sandals in St. Lucia or Four Seasons in Nevis.
Cruise Tourism is necessary and has many benefits. Unfortunately, Overnight Tourism receives negligible assistance compared to Cruise Tourism.
Government should concentrate on improving the roads and tracks to existing sites - particularly Trafalgar, and other existing sites with poor road access and road conditions.
Increasing the number of sites should be a future consideration after improving the sites and the road access to existing sites. Quality not Quantity is the way forward.
The numbers visiting various sites should be controlled by or ganising different groups at different times. There can be a relatively simple management programme for staggered visits to avoid overcrowding on cruise ship days.
The island needs to be cleaned up if we want to attract nature lovers. The garbage dumps, particularly in the north, attract flies. The empty lots in Roseau and Portsmouth are used as toilets and breed mosquitoes. There should be powerful incentives for empty lots to be converted into parking lots. Failure to develop empty lots in the city should result in high taxes on these empty properties.
The many derelict vehicles on the roadside should be dumped to prevent the mosquito breeding from the water collected by those vehicles all over the roadsides. Visitors complain about the mosquito problem.
Of major concerns are the many crimes committed against visitors, particularly when having a walk at nighttime. Such crimes are reported to the tour operators and travel agents and do serious damage to Dominica's image and reputation.
AGRICULTURE, MANUFACTURING AND AGRO PROCESSING
To get agriculture moving, a National Commission on Agriculture needs to be established involving the best available talent from the private, the public and civil society/NGO sectors. This initiative achieves the goal of sharing the responsibility for rebuilding agriculture among all sectors and allows the Ministry of Agriculture to play a facilitating role rather than attempt to manage sector and enterprise activities.
Specific priority actions relating to agriculture should include:
The Windwards and Jamaica should negotiate a new agreement for bananas so that the US makes a special exception with respect to bananas from Small Island States.
It is a known fact that the US objected through the WTO against the special concessions under Lomé because Chiquita wanted to keep out Dole & Delmonte from entering Europe through their operations in the Ivory Coast and the Cameroons, where bananas are produced on thousand hectare farms at prices even below some Central American States.
Applications should be made for special and differential treatment for Small Island States for traditional suppliers.
The US now recognizes that Special and Differential treatment is required to protect the Small Caribbean Islands from the drug trade. Therefore Dominica should pursue vigorously the concept of Special and Differential Treatment for bananas from Small Island States with the Windward and Jamaica.
Recent past years have been without hurricanes or very high winds to destroy/damage the banana cultivation. In fact the weather has been relatively favourable for substantially increasing banana production - even in the dry season. However, instead of producing less than seven (7) tons per acre, there is no reason why Dominica should not achieve at least twelve (12) tons per acre. Viability and profitability will increase with increased yield per acre.
Since the establishment of NAFTA, there is very little potential for manufacturing for export - whether it is agro-processing or assembly-type operations. It is very difficult to compete against Mexico, which has lower wage rates, lower freight rates, lower raw material costs whether it be agricultural raw material or inputs for assembly-type operations.
Special incentives should be granted to encourage and develop the export of fresh fruit - fresh citrus fruits, pineapples, paw-paw etc., to our neighbouring islands - Guadeloupe, Martinique, St, Martin, Antigua, Barbados and the Virgin Islands. Dominica cannot compete with canned or bottled products, which are usually manufactured from the rejects from the fresh fruits. Furthermore, the price of fresh fruit and vegetables is always much higher than processed fruit.
Special incentives for the exports of fresh fruits could attract the private sector to invest in the export of fresh fruit. An example of an incentive could be a license to import rice and sugar for a multiple of the value of the exports and vegetables.
Dominica has unexplored potential in water and energy. Initiatives for the trade with bottled water and eventually the bulk export of water should be given full support. Opportunities for production and sale of energy generated from geothermal sources could be significant. The proposals of a Canadian consortium (UNEC) and of the (DSEC) need to receive urgent attention with implementation dates of 2004.
MOTIVATING BOTH PRIVATE AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT
The construction industry and private investors could benefit from a package of special incentives for specific projects in the North of the island. Why the North? Because the threat of the volcanic eruption, which we are told will occur, demands that preparations are made for the disaster.
Grant funds from Donor Agencies should be pursued - such as a port facility, a well-equipped hospital etc., to prepare for the volcanic eruption.
Grant funding for disaster preparedness is usually favourably considered. Such projects will provide jobs and revenue to the construction workers and protect Dominicans when the eruption occurs.
Mobilizing finance for development is the responsibility of all Sectors and the joint effort needed here could be signaled from the Ministry of Finance through the establishment of a Resource Mobilization Task Force.
The Bankers Association, the Credit Union Movement, the NDFD, NANGO, the various private sector associations and the Ministry of Finance, along with representatives of the major donor groups located in Barbados, could together develop the framework and the strategy for sharing the responsibility in mobilizing resources for recovery, growth and development from domestic, regional and extra-regional sources.
The bottom line however for embarking upon a private sector growth initiative is the identification of market demand and ensuring the ability to supply the market with quality products at competitive prices which remains the raison d'être of the private sector.
REDUCING IMPORTS OF UNHEALTHY PROTEIN FOODS
Dominica should be looking at special assistance to increase the supply of fish to promote fresh, healthy protein to the population. The import of high hormone protein with high anti-biotic treatment will result in a fat, unhealthy population. Generous incentives to the private sector - whether local or foreign - for a well-equipped fishing fleet that can stay overseas for a few days, could increase the supply of local fish. All our neighbouring islands have surplus fish. Dominica has to import fish at certain times of the year.
Dominica needs to look at the possibility of growing fresh water fish in the upper sections of our many rivers and possibly the lakes.
This could add to our Nature Tourism Product not only for the health protein value, but also could provide some fishing attractions in some rivers and lakes in the mountains.
PUBLIC SERVICE/REDUCING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE/REDUCING DEBT
The high cost of the Civil Service can best be reduced by reducing Government expenses in most sectors by:
Privatizing such departments as the Public Works and other Departments
Releasing some public sector professionals to practise in the private sector - Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, Agriculturists, Economists, etc. Special arrangements could be made to direct projects to such professionals for a few years.
The debt burden should be reduced by selling/renting many government assets:
Agricultural land recently purchased
Buildings not required
Moving the High Court/Magistrate's Court/DEXIA to the old or new Government buildings and renting these high value buildings for shopping along the Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard.
Increasing revenue can be achieved in a number of areas such as:
Increasing the Hospital Fees for patients who are employed and have Health Insurance Coverage. There must be exceptions for those who cannot afford and for all emergency cases.
Secondary schools should impose a small fee on students whose parents are working.
Those students whose parents cannot afford should be given scholarships for free education in addition to the students who have earned scholarships through academic achievement.
The above fees could be used to maintain the hospitals and schools and to improve conditions for nurses and teachers.
The welfare Socialist System has been modified by most countries - even the developed countries. Dominica must move away from past policies, which it simply cannot afford.
Our hospitals, clinics, schools need some revenue to ensure quality and standards in maintaining their buildings, equipment, etc.
Building a modern, efficient public service must become the centerpiece of a new collaboration between the PSU, the Government and the private sector.
A positive and proactive approach requiring input from all social partners should shift the focus of all partners in nation building towards building a new customer-service and performance-driven public sector that can only benefit the workers, the productive sectors and the country.
We trust these IMG recommendations are found useful to Government's ongoing programme for stabilization and recovery.
JUSTICE ALBERT MATTHEW