Diaspora Dialogues

GIS News, 2011

Diaspora Dialogues By Mara Etienne-Manley

In keeping with this year’s Independence theme, ‘Celebrating 33, Joining Hands in Unity’, the Government of Dominica continues play its part in encouraging the full engagement of the Dominican Diaspora in homeland development by hosting another of its Diaspora Dialogues under the theme, ‘Enhancing Partnership for Sustainable Development’.

On November 1st 2011, Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit along with officials from the Ministry of Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs and Cabinet ministers met with overseas based nationals at the Fort Young Hotel to dialogue on issues pertaining to the country’s development.

Also present at the gathering were representatives from the AID Bank, National Co-operative Credit Union, National Bank of Dominica Ltd, DEXIA, Invest Dominica Authority, and Immigration officials who were available to interact with and respond to questions posed by visiting nationals and returning Dominicans.

In the past many influential ideas have been generated from such diaspora meetings such as proactive diaspora engagement policies, mobilizing diaspora entrepreneurship for national development and strategies for sustainable economic growth, which have all assisted Government in developing policy solutions.

Minister responsible for Diaspora Affairs Hon. Dr. John Colin Mc Intyre says this Diaspora meeting is one of the most important events organized by the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit within his ministry, as it provides an opportunity for collaborative work between the Government of Dominica and the Dominican diaspora.

During his welcome address, the Minister also encouraged those present at the consultation to continue to share their ideas in the interest of national development.

“There has long been a fruitful partnership between our overseas based nationals and the government, and this is great example of working together towards a common goal. We look forward to an open and enthusiastic exchange of ideas...as these ideas will contribute to policy decisions of the future.”

Hon. Dr John Colin Mc Intyre also expressed government’s appreciation for the invaluable contributions made by Dominicans abroad as well as those who have returned home. “We would like to recognize the contributions of many of our returnees, Dominicans who, for whatever reason travelled abroad to live and develop their skills but have since returned to play their part in national development. We truly appreciate your contributions to the development of the Nature Isle. Also, we appreciate the efforts of those who despite residing in foreign lands, continue to keep Dominica in your hearts and always willing to assist in whatever way possible.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit welcomed those in attendance at the Diaspora meeting and thanked those who have made substantial investments in Dominica. He said there has been a recent increase in young returnees who have come here to invest and that government is willing to work hand-in-hand with those investors by providing a range of benefits to facilitate the smooth flow of business.

“What we have been able to do as a government is to partner with them in some form [by] providing very generous concessions…tax breaks, and allowing them to have access to financing, particularly through the AID Bank. So the AID Bank is there as a vehicle insofar as financing is concerned. And what we have been able to do as a government, is to negotiate special loan facilities for the AID Bank at more concessionary terms and we have seen in many respects the interest rates dropping from twelve (12) per cent to an average of about six (6) per cent.”

The Prime Minister also gave reassurance that his government is willing to embrace all Dominicans – those at home and abroad who have constructive and meaningful ideas to apply towards Dominica’s overall development.

“We don’t see you as foreign Dominicans, we see you as Dominicans no matter where you are, as long as you have a genuine interest in Dominica. So do not let anybody give you the impression that you are a second class citizen, you are a Dominican citizen who was born in Dominica…you’ve left this country to go and educate yourself to improve yourself, but nonetheless you have not forgotten where you’ve come from and that is critical.”

The Prime Minister also advised overseas-based nationals to invest in Dominica by opening a bank account at local financial institutions, purchasing property and building a vacation home on the island. He says these are all considerable ways in which the diaspora can contribute to Dominica’s development.

The Dominica leader also used the opportunity to apprise overseas-based nationals on recent improvements across the island in the area of infrastructural development, Education and Health.

During the 2011 edition of the Diaspora consultation, the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit of the Ministry of Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs distributed several documents to those present, such as the Returning Residents Information Manual, the Diaspora Policy document, 2011 Directory of the Dominican Overseas Associations and other pertinent literary publications.