Dominica - Foreign policy



One of the critical elements of the LDP's successful campaign that led to Rosie Douglas's election as prime minister was criticism of the country's Economic Citizenship Program. For much of the 1990s, Dominica provided foreigners with passports in exchange for investments totaling millions of dollars. At the end of 1999, there were an estimated 1,000 such citizens, largely from Russia, China, Europe, and the United States, with most residing outside Dominica. In April 2000, Dominica reviewed and "fundamentally changed" the program to eliminate abuses, but continued to sell passports to foreigners; in addition, the Dominican Parliament approved measures that would allow the government-owned National Commercial Bank to become involved in offshore banking. However, after being named to a list of 19 uncooperative countries in the fight against money-laundering by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, in late 2001 the legislature passed the Exchange of Information Act, a new law that would allow foreign authorities access to offshore banking information.

Douglas had also sought new investments from Libya and other old allies, but also worked for closer economic relations with Europe, Canada, Japan, and the United States. In September 2000, just prior to his death, he met with Japanese representatives to discuss ways the two countries might work together. In July 2001, Charles continued to pursue Dominica's close relations with Japan, meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other officials. Issues relating to tourism, fisheries, and information technologies were discussed, and the two countries pledged mutual cooperation on a variety of topics.

Prime Minister Douglas also had negotiated with the French government, which gave a commitment to improve the Melville Hall and Canefield airports to increase air traffic. Charles hoped to build on these international alliances. The airport improvement projects were not without controversy, however. In 2002 Dominica sued Citibank, the bank that handled the island's bond issue for the airport project, charging that Citibank unfairly exaggerated fees and interest charges levied against the Dominican government.

Upon Douglas's death, Prime Minister Charles pledged to attract more foreign investment, create jobs, and diversify the country's economy away from its prime reliance upon tourism and the export of bananas. In February 2001, in an address to the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Charles stressed the importance of integration for the Caribbean region, for unhampered travel between the CARICOM states, and for setting an agenda for achieving a single market and economy. Two years later, Dominica's economy was weaker than ever, with prospects for progress on any of Charles's goals appearing dim.

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