How Dominica has navigated the coronavirus crisis

Dominica has been widely praised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has only recorded 88 cases and no deaths at the time of writing, all the while maintaining relative economic stability. Although little data is available regarding Dominica’s economy, reports suggest the pandemic hasn’t had a huge impact, epitomised by the fact the government is still pushing ahead with plans to build its first long-haul airport. While being an island nation has definitely helped Dominica with its coronavirus response, certain initiatives have proven key, including the ones outlined below.

The National Employment Programme

Dominica’s National Employment Programme (NEP) has enabled it to maintain employment during the pandemic. While many nations have cut back public expenditure because of the crisis, the Dominican government has kept providing EC$3.7 million per month to the country’s youth. This money goes towards things like helping them secure internships and jobs, and boosting their skills. The funding is also continuing to support young people in the long term through educational opportunities under its Education Mentorship Programme. Here, individuals are placed in schools where they can receive additional tutoring and the chance to study abroad in countries like Canada, the US and the UK.

The NEP is funded by the Economic Diversification Fund, one of the three investment routes available in Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme. This allows non-national applicants to obtain a Dominican passport in return for investing in socio-economic initiatives including the NEP, as well as things like building schools, renovating hospitals, and the construction of a national sports stadium.

The Safe in Nature initiative and CARICOM travel bubble

In order to safeguard the country’s ailing tourism industry, the Dominican government has introduced a couple of key measures. The first being its Safe in Nature initiative. This offers tourists a managed experience for their first five to seven days in the country. As part of this, visitors will stay at certified accommodation and be escorted to and from the ports of entry, as well as to hand-picked locations for water-based and land-based activities. It is hoped that this will encourage people to visit, safe in the knowledge that their quarantine experience won’t hamper their holiday.

The second way Dominica is encouraging tourists to return is by signing up to the CARICOM travel bubble. Here, the country has agreed that those from neighbouring St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados do not have to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine upon arrival in Dominica at all, and vice versa. Speaking about the move, CARICOM ambassador David Comissiong said: “Our CARICOM Heads of Government took a major step towards resuscitating the COVID-19 challenged travel and tourism sectors, with their agreement to institute a travel bubble among CARICOM member states and associate members which meet the agreed criteria.”

World Bank agriculture and infrastructure funding

The Dominican government has also managed to secure US$16.4 million worth of funding from the World Bank to finance various agricultural and infrastructure projects. It is believed that this can help cushion the impact of the pandemic, particularly as the US$3.6 million set aside for the Dominica Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project replaced funds that were previously redirected towards Dominica’s coronavirus response.

Upon the announcement, Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean said: “Agricultural livelihoods, food security, and resilience to climate-related shocks are key priorities for Dominica. This financing will support Dominica’s efforts in these areas, including providing local employment opportunities in the construction and agriculture sectors during this challenging COVID-19 period.”