Dominica - Poverty and wealth

Dominica is one of the poorer countries of the Eastern Caribbean, but there are not enormous disparities in income. Traditionally a country of small peasant farmers, the island has a small urban middle class, made of professionals and civil servants, and a small urban working class. There are very few extremely wealthy Dominicans, although this may change with the advent of the "economic citizenship" program and the expected in-flux of rich foreigners. The wealthy few are, for the most part, descended from the plantation-owning elite of colonial times, although Dominica was never the source of enormous wealth and so, unlike Barbados for example, there is no "plantocracy." Although there are luxury homes around the capital, there is little ostentatious wealth, and Roseau does not have the facilities to cater to a millionaire lifestyle.

The poorest Dominicans live in remote rural districts, particularly in the north. Unemployment is officially estimated at around 20 percent of the population and, with the decline in the banana industry, is likely to increase. The poorest social stratum includes the descendants of

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Dominica N/A 1,679 2,142 2,862 3,310
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Dominica 33 6 11 3 6 8 33
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Jamaica 24 7 3 1 9 8 48
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

the Caribs, who eke out a unstable living from subsistence farming , handicrafts, and boat-building. Social facilities in the countryside are highly limited, and Dominicans have to travel to Roseau for most medical attention. Primary schools are distributed throughout the island, but most higher education takes place in and around the capital. According to UNESCO, there were a total of 152 schools in 1995, with 12,627 pupils attending 64 primary schools. Primary school education is free and compulsory, but families normally have to pay for schoolbooks and uniforms. Basic health care is widely available, but there are fees for doctors, for medicines, and for some hospital treatment. There is little state-organized social security, but church groups and other voluntary agencies are active in supporting homes and nurseries for the elderly.

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