EC$1.2 billion budget presented for fiscal year 2022-2023 in Dominica

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Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit

ROSEAU, Dominica – The global market has witnessed several shocks over the last few years, but the Commonwealth of Dominica has been able to protect itself from these thanks to assistance of the Citizenship by Investment Programme.

This year, the programme will be the main revenue generator, according to the government’s EC$1.2 billion budget which was presented on Tuesday 26 July 2022. The budget was presented under the theme Rising Above the Challenges, Seeing Beyond the Horizon, Embracing all Opportunities to Deliver Dynamic Dominica.

Americans looking for a better lifestyle will see the tangible benefits offered by the CBI programme of Dominica.

Dominica’s prime minister, Dr Roosevelt Skerrit, noted that through a strong vision and relentless efforts of the government and people, a new Dominica is being built, a more developed Dominica now exists, and Dynamic Dominica is within reach. He emphasised that during the this fiscal year, non-tax revenue is estimated to be at EC$513.8 million or 57.3 percent of the total recurrent revenue, which is predominantly receipts from the CBI Programme. While presenting the budget prime minister highlighted the achievements, challenges, and determination of the government of Dominica.

“If this administration had not restructured the CBI programme, our citizens would have had to shoulder a much heavier tax burden and many of the development programmes which have taken this country forward so rapidly, could not have otherwise been put in place,” said the Prime Minister during the budget proceedings in the National Assembly.

Major highlights of the fiscal budget 2022-2023

Agriculture: Prime minister Skerrit made significant announcements in the agriculture sector and announced an initial investment of EC$1 million in the provision of greenhouses, saran netting/cover material, insect netting, equipment, and irrigation systems to ensure the availability of fresh vegetables and fruits year-round. The government also plans to propagate and distribute 600,000 seedlings to farmers at a subsidized price. Prime Minister also announced a special fund of EC$1 million to support large banana farmers to satisfy the growing local and export demand.

In the fiscal year 2022-2023, the government also plans to give aid to an initial ten poultry farmers to increase capacity to 10,000 chicks and consideration of a licensing regime for whole chickens imported into Dominica. Besides this, the National Abattoir will be rehabilitated at the cost of EC$3.8 million to improve operations and output.

The prime minister also promised a EC$345,000 in investment for the development of locally-produced animal feed and subsidies of hatcheries for local production and export.  Furthermore, he said for the procurement of agricultural produce; the government will spend an additional EC$5 million to Dominica Export Import Agency (DEXIA) as a revolving fund for procurement of agricultural produce and EC$3.7 million to strengthen five new farmer producer organizations and crop production clusters to improve economies of scale.

Prime minister said the government also plans to increase the market share of Dominica agricultural produce, and an investment of EC$1.5 million will be made in the establishment of “Buy Dominica Depots in strategic Caribbean markets” in countries such as St Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, Tortola, St Maarten, St Thomas. An amount of $1 million is set aside for the marketing and promoting of Dominica’s agricultural produce and products.

New medical school: Prime minister Skerrit said that the government has entered into an agreement with CSOM Holdings Limited for the operation of a new medical school which will be named the American Canadian School of Medicine. It will be operated from the former Ross University Campus in Picard. The school will offer a four-year medical degree (MD) designed for students who have already completed Bachelor’s degrees and will be run by an experienced team comprising doctors who have held positions at major universities in the United States including a former vice president of operations of the Ross University School of Medicine.

Most of the students are expected to come from Canada, the United States of America, and the Caribbean. Initial preparations for a September 2023 commencement have started and will accelerate over the next few months. The prime minister urged all Dominicans to be prepared for the opportunities which will be created through the school in Portsmouth. He said the government is optimistic about the potential of this new school and its positive impact on Dominica and on the people in the North in particular.

Education: In the fiscal budget 2022-2023, the ministry of education, human resource planning, vocational training and national excellence received the second highest allocation of EC$78.8 million. The government will upgrade the Kelleb Laurent, Jones Beaupierre, Salybia and Castle Bruce primary schools to increase access to earlier childhood education. Besides this, the designs for the Goodwill Secondary School, as well as the Thibaud, Tete Morne, Calibishie, Bellevue Chopin and Sineku primary schools have all been finalised and are on course for construction to commence in 2023. This year, the construction of an early childhood facility at the Baroness Patricia Scotland Primary School will also be done.

Prime minister Skerrit added that the government is determined to provide access and ensure a comfortable learning environment for all children.

Reduction of VAT on electricity: Prime minister Skerrit, also announced that Value Added Tax (VAT) on electricity would be reduced effective from August 1, 2022. The government has decided to increase the number of VAT-free units from 100 kWh to 150 kWh of electrical energy provided by DOMLEC to domestic consumers per billing period.

Prime minister Skerrit said the complete removal of VAT on fuel surcharge on electricity bills will apply to all categories of consumers, namely, domestic, commercial, industrial, government and hotels. This measure will assist all of DOMLEC’s customers except those who are already receiving the VAT-free service.

He added that DOMLEC is working on recommissioning the PADU Hydro Plant which has been out of operation since hurricane Maria. It is expected that this plant will be operational by November 2022. This will provide further relief by reducing the amount of diesel-generated electricity and thereby reducing the fuel surcharge.

International Airport: Prime minister Skerrit promised the people of Dominica that this massive project would be delivered by 2026, and work on the same had commenced. The development of this Airport will increase opportunities for contractors, construction workers, engineers, plumbers, electricians, and other service providers. Due to the high volume of work, the supplies which will be required, as well as the expected high level of employment, many people and businesses in Dominica are expected to benefit during the construction of the International Airport. This Airport will be a game changer for Dominica and its people.

The prime minister said:

“I continue to call on Dominicans to equip themselves for the opportunities which will be available once the Airport is operational. I encourage students to begin pursuing relevant fields of study that will position them to take advantage of employment opportunities as air traffic controllers, specialized equipment maintenance personnel, fire-fighters, customs, immigration, and security officers, among others.”

Geothermal powerplant: While announcing the budget, prime minister Skerrit informed that the preliminary designs for the Geothermal Power Plant had been completed, and the government would sign the commercial agreements and begin mobilization for the construction of the power plant this year. The construction period is estimated at 18 months, and expectedly by 2024, the 10 MW geothermal plant will be operational.

The prime minister said the government awarded two contracts valued at US$2.5 million, for the preparatory work for the development of the transmission network from the Roseau Valley to Fond Cole and from Fond Cole to Sugar Loaf.

This transmission network will make it possible to connect the hydro and geothermal power plants from the Roseau Valley to the rest of the country. The lines will be upgraded from the existing 11 kV to 33 kV and 69 kV. The upgraded lines will result in a reduction of line losses and will be built to withstand the impact of a major climate-related event. This is a significant component of the country’s climate resilience plan for the electricity sector. He said the geothermal power will eliminate the fuel surcharge currently paid by consumers of electricity. This will result in a significant reduction in the price of electricity for all consumers.

Tourism: In this financial year, two additional areas will be established – Kalinago Tourism Development and Romance in Nature. Dominica was ranked by Travel and Leisure Magazine as the Best Island in the Caribbean for 2022. In this ranking, Dominica is described in these words, “anything-but-average island lures eco- travellers with a jumble of rain forests, volcanoes, hot springs, thunderous waterfalls, and black-sand beaches. It has an undiscovered quality that can be rare not only in the region but the world over. It’s a dream for hikers, snorkelers, and all kinds of adventurers, but the island also offers pockets of over-the-top luxury, including this year’s best resort hotel in the Caribbean – Secret Bay.”

The government will continue to position Dominica as a destination of choice for eco-tourism, sporting events, festivals, cultural activities, and conferences. The rave reviews we received from the successful hosting of a thrilling weekend of International Cricket earlier this month reinforces the opportunities to make Dominica one of the best sporting venues in the Caribbean.

“We have refocused our marketing strategy to particularly highlight our key attributes as a Nature Island under five areas of focus: aqua, health and wellness, agrotourism, adventure, and festivals and events,” said prime minister Skerrit.

This fiscal year, the government will also focus on product development, marketing, re-imaging and repositioning of the tourism industry. The government also plans to enhance the visitor experience through new projects. As well as the beautification, restoration, capacity building, and training will also be done.

Health: Prime minister Skerrit said about the accomplishments of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic and improvements in the healthcare and wellness centres.

He mentioned: “Government values the health and well-being of our people, and this is why we have spared no effort to continuously improve the standard of health care available in this country.”

In the last fiscal year, most of the resources of the ministry of health, wellness and new health investment continued to be devoted to meeting expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime minister Skerrit emphasized vaccine coverage in the country.

He also announced the projects commissioned by the government of Dominica. He said that the Dominica China Friendship Hospital was nearing completion and noted the availability of these machines, which will help to reduce the need for Dominicans to travel overseas for medical care and treatment. It also helps position Dominica as a hub within CARICOM for the provision of specialized services and as a means of boosting medical tourism. To date, Dominica has completed the construction of twelve new Health and Wellness Centers with funding from our Citizenship by Investment programme; and they are all in use. In addition, a new Health and Wellness Centre at Savanne Paille is now at an advanced stage of construction.

Prime minister Skerrit also shared details on the Marigot Hospital, which began in January 2020 and is now complete and currently installing the medical equipment and furnishings.

Housing: Prime minister Skerrit stated that in the last fiscal year, 213 families were provided with keys to new resilient homes.

“We have supported our people in repairing and rebuilding their homes, and we are building new homes for our citizens,” he said.

On September 16, 2020, the government introduced another innovative and transformational programme for Dominicans 40 years and younger, a programme which provides EC$10,000 to first-time home builders and purchasers of a home. Till now, the applications of 200 young people have been approved, and disbursements continue to be made for the purchase of building materials, payment of land/property transfer fees, construction-related services and labour costs.

The CBI programme of Dominica was launched in the year 1993 and is world-known for its due-diligence procedure. Investors can apply for the alternative citizenship of Dominica through two investment options – Economic Diversification Fund (EDF) and Real Estate Investment Option.

Prime minister Skerrit underlined tremendous advancements in the sector during the Budget 2022-2023. He emphasized that despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 to in-person classes, he said the government ensured that students across the country had access to online education through the distribution of over 12,000 digital devices. He also mentioned the newly constructed as well as rehabilitated schools, including Delices, Morne Jaune, Wills Strathmore Stevens primary schools, Grand Bay Primary School and Mahaut Primary School.

“Government continues to prioritize the transformation and modernization of the Public Service. We realize that an agile, resilient and modern public sector is key to the efficient implementation of government’s development agenda, a national driver for doing business, facilitating investment and delivering services to our people,” prime minister Skerrit also said about the recruitment of experienced teachers and principals in schools. He informed that a similar exercise has also commenced for Primary Schools.

During the Budget 2022-2023 presentation, prime minister Skerrit highlighted that the Citizenship by Investment Programme of Dominica had helped the government in achieving all the desired goals and providing a better future for its citizens. While mentioning the notable accomplishments of the government in the last fiscal year, he outlined the heavy investments in the country’s infrastructure and different sectors, including health and wellness, tourism, housing and many more.

Source: Commonwealth of Dominica

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