22 November 2019

First Ever Climate-Resilient Nation: Dominica Amazes World With Formidable Eco-Conscious Economic Model and Inspiring Survival Stories After Hurricane Maria

Dominica aims to become the world's first climate-resilient nation, with critical support from the Citizenship by Investment Programme
Dominica aims to become the world's first climate-resilient nation, with critical support from the Citizenship by Investment Programme - (www.cbiu.gov.dm)
Affectionately called the 'Nature Isle of the Caribbean', the Commonwealth of Dominica leaves a lasting impression on those who visit it, conquering more and more travel journalists. Enthusiastic reviews keep pouring in, especially about the people on the beautiful island, who are known for their kindness, peacefulness and strong community sense.
Having resiliently survived several natural disasters in recent years, there is little now that shakes the 75,000 inhabitants of the island. The small but resolute country is winning over a wide spectrum of international stakeholders, ranging from nature lovers to economic experts.
A National Geographic article this week paid tribute to Dominicans' resilience and unity in the face of adversity, noting the government's formidable turnaround pace following mass devastation worth 226% of GDP in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, at a time when the island was still recovering from 2015's Tropical Storm Erika. Despite the magnitude of the destruction and the psychological cicatrices, Dominica not only prevailed, but exceeded all expectations. Immediately after Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called on the international community to join Dominica's fight against climate change and support its goal to become "the world's first climate-resilient nation". The response was instantaneous.

Dominica after Hurricane Maria and two years later. The infrastructure was rehabilitated using Citizenship by Investment funds.
Dominica after Hurricane Maria and two years later. The infrastructure was rehabilitated using Citizenship by Investment funds.
To date, Dominica attracts foreign direct investment from reputable individuals and families around the world through its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme. Investors are willing to contribute with significant amounts to Dominica's economy and receive its citizenship in return, along with a sense of pride for supporting the island's ambitious pledge to become fully climate resilient. The solidarity among investors grows with the completion of more and more luxury eco-resorts, currently counting Marriott, Hilton, Kempinski, Jungle Bay, Secret Bay and Sanctuary Rainforest, whose shares qualify for citizenship, provided the applicants first pass a rigorous due diligence process. The latter was marked with 10/10 points in this year's CBI Index, released by Professional Wealth Management (PWM) magazine, a publication from the Financial Times.

In August, multinational firm PricewaterhouseCoopers produced an extensive assessment of Dominica's CBI Programme for the past five years. The report concluded that "CBIP-funded public expenditure generated tangible impacts on almost every aspect of life in Dominica" and that "it was instrumental to the post-Maria recovery effort".

Earlier this year, leading accounting company Ernst & Young, British financial firm Smith & Williamson, and eminent Queen's Counsel Balraj Bhatia all pledged for Dominica's integrity, concluding that CBI could not be used as evidence of tax residence, therefore dispelling any myths where the two concepts were often confused. In fact, Dominica scored so well against various indicators valued by investors and was called a model for transparency and accountability of CBI funds, that it was officially declared as offering the world's best economic citizenship.

A few weeks ago, the Financial Times' PWM released a documentary unravelling just how much the CBI funding helped transform the island into a pristine ecotourism destination, ripe for sustainable investment opportunities. The 5-part series notes that Dominica is very selective about the CBI-approved hotels it allows to be built and prioritises quality over quantity, similar to whom it accepts as citizen through CBI. Dominica's strategy is by far not a race to the bottom, but quite the opposite – it is establishing a league of its own by building a sustainable ecotourism sector that educates visitors, citizens and businesses to respect the island's natural surroundings and way of living.

Importantly, the documentary notes that the Dominican diaspora, many of whom left after Maria and Erika, is slowly returning home. The CBI hotels are creating thousands of jobs in construction and hospitality, whereas those with an entrepreneurial spirit have the chance to set up their own businesses in ancillary services in travel and tourism. Dominica's thriving luxury ecotourism will further bring employment and business opportunities to farmers; fishermen; taxi drivers; tour operators; wellness specialists; artists specialising in handcrafting, culture and heritage; the Kalinago tribe; street food vendors; local artisans; restaurant and bar owners; Air B'n'B hosts; etc. Moreover, the National Employment Programme, also sponsored by CBI, tackles youth unemployment and was also involved in a post-Maria "Community Clean-Up and Beautification" action.

Meanwhile, the government has been putting aside millions from the CBI Programme to raise funds for the construction of a new international airport, "the only missing link" to catapult Dominica onto the global tourism scene, though still keeping in mind the quality-over-quantity principle. A new cruise village and port, also CBI-funded, will complement the island's regional connectivity and put Dominica firmly on the cruise map.

In addition, the new 7MW geothermal plant, partly funded by CBI, would provide the island with clean energy, lower electricity costs for the public and private sector, and ensure energy security in the long term.