Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
By Caribbean News Now contributor
ROSEAU, Dominica -- The citizenship-by-investment (CBI) program has been a life-saver for the people of Dominica – without it, the country would have struggled to recover from Tropical Storm Erika. That was the message from Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who addressed the Dominica Business Forum on Wednesday, February 8, 2017.
“The government’s challenge is to attain annual economic growth of 5 to 7 percent,” said the prime minister. “We have set this target in the context of rebuilding our infrastructure and businesses, finding the resources to address the impacts of climate change, meeting the needs of the population and honoring our external and local obligations.”
The prime minister told the forum that all the investments have been made possible by the country’s CBI program.
“The immediate focus is on the hotel and real estate sectors, but it will soon go beyond that,” he said.
The construction work already in progress and projects planned to commence this year should result in a dramatic increase in 5-star quality rooms within the next two to three years. These new investments will stimulate demand in the economy and support expansion of the private enterprises as the supply chain to the sector grows and diversifies.
The cabinet is now formalizing a mechanism for channeling CBI resources to support viable manufacturing and agro industries. Cabinet has already approved an amount to be loaned to a local private investor to support the purchase of the Dominica Coconut Products plant from Colgate Palmolive.
In addition, the government has already made available from CBI resources:
1. $10 million dollars to the AID Bank to lend to farmers to invest in the agricultural sector with an interest rate of 3 percent and a grace period for beginning repayment of 6 months.
2. $15 million to the hotel and restaurant owners for the upgrade of their plants, with an interest rate of 3 percent and a grace period to begin repayments of one year.
3. Another amount has just been approved by the Cabinet for the further development of the music Industry in Dominica. These loans are being administered by the AID Bank will be at an interest rate of 2 percent and a grace period of one year.
There will also be a facility made available to manufacturers, with tax breaks for businesses that invest substantially in the upgrade of their premises. “None of these initiatives could be done without the significant inflow of resources from the CBI program,” the prime minister said.
“Capital projects are being financed from inflows from the CBI program. These include the West Bridge, the Douglas Charles Airport, all of the Road Works, the eradication of pit latrines and the Housing Revolution, and the National Employment Program.”
The government says it will use CBI funds to grow and expand the economy, provide a source of cheaper financing for the private sector, eradicate poverty and build a modern infrastructure to accommodate the growing economy.
“We have invested millions thus far and will make a further investment of US $15 million in the development of the geothermal plant,” the prime minister noted. “I am sure that you all look forward to the significant reduction in the cost of energy that will follow. This will have a positive impact to your businesses and this should also stimulate investments by others in establishing new businesses.”
Dominica may not have been the first country to introduce a citizenship program, but it allows the country to survive in a global atmosphere of uncertainty, according to the prime minister.
“There is a lot of misinformation, inaccurate statements and downright lies circulating about the program,” he said. “The clear intent is to undermine or destroy the program. The calculated and coordinated attack on the CBI program by elements in Dominica, with support from external elements, is causing serious threat to its continued success. We should not allow this to happen.
“Dominica operates its CBI program in an open and transparent manner, with our main objective being to attract high quality applicants. We see each new citizen as being part of our community, therefore the grant of citizenship to these individuals is taken very seriously.
“We have created a product that is internationally competitive, a winner, and a leader in the regional push to attract foreign direct investment and stimulate job creation. Moreover, unlike those obtained via the banana industry, the CBI program is a product which is owned by us, is marketed by us, and one from which the direct benefits flow into our Treasury and our economy,” he continued.