DRAFT DOMINICA - DIASPORA POLICY PAPER
(A Working Blueprint)

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PART ONE: INTRODUCTION, OBJECTIVE, PROCESS

1.1. Authorization
    By letter dated June 28th, 2004 the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica endorsed the preparation of a Policy Paper on Dominica - Diaspora Relations. This endorsement authorized the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS) to undertake this work as a matter of some urgency.(Appendix
A). This initiative , under the direct sponsorship of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, obviously straddles the administrative and policy concerns of most, if not all, of the national ministries and agencies, and was intended to address a leading-edge policy of concern to several national governments around the world.

1.2. The Structure of this Paper
    This paper speaks to several issue pertaining to the relationship which currently exists between Dominica and its nationals resident abroad (Diaspora) and how that relationship might be improved to the benefit of all Dominicans. These are addressed as follows:

  1. PART 1 identifies approaches and characteristics to co-opting Diasporas in the task of national development. It describes the approach adopted in this exercise to examine the Dominican situation and outlines some of the difficulties encountered, with suggestions for correction in the future. It challenges the Dominica policy-makers to adopt a proactive, positive approach to Diaspora relationships, and reminds nationals at home and abroad that success depends on mutual cooperation, compromise and commitment to the future of the nation.
  2. PART 2 presents some of the salient issues confronting Dominica today, with reasons for reaching out to its nationals abroad for their resolution. It raises the concerns of nationals abroad and of returned nationals (returnees). It illustrates that even without a comprehensive approach to interacting with its Diaspora, Dominicans abroad and those who have returned are making significant contributions to the economic life of the country. It highlights some incentives available to returnees, with suggestions for improvements, and emphasizes that returnee contributions of time, knowledge, skills etc are also major contributions to the development process. The present structure and function of Dominica's overseas missions are assessed and where gaps/shortcomings exist, suggestions are made for better delivery of more effective services to and with the aid of nationals abroad.
  3. In PART 3, the paper develops a more detailed assessment of specific subject areas and offers particular recommendations appropriate to each. These focus attention on a range of issues deserving action according to urgency. They seek to elicit response from the mandated ministry/agency responsible for their administration.
  4. PART 4 provides an in-depth discussion on the potential role of the Diaspora as an agent of direct investment. It also considers how and under what conditions the Diaspora might act effectively to complement the formal role of an energized foreign service in promoting development among the Diaspora and non-nationals alike.
  5. PART 5 concludes the paper with over-arching recommendations for the entire paper, complementing those presented in the body of PART 3. These are set within a time frame for adoption and implementation by the country as a whole. For ease of reference, the specific recommendations in PART 3 are again repeated in Section 5, PART 5. As such, they focus on clear-cut subject areas, and are so drafted as to require the attention and action of the appropriately mandated ministry or agency.
1.3. The Policy Issue
    A nation's Diaspora is that part of its population that has emigrated overseas and is permanently resident in foreign countries. These emigrants may or may not hold citizenship in their respective host countries. Whether or not they do, they often seek the services of their home country, directly or through its representatives abroad (embassies, high commissions, consulates etc) in respect to their own needs and those of relatives and friends. Many of these emigrants may eventually form households involving persons from within or outside their national group, and create families of second and subsequent generation members who by extension become nationals of the "ancestral homeland".

    Some of these emigrants may return home eventually while still in their "working years", and some may do so on retirement. However, the significance of this national resource cannot be ignored as for many countries, Dominica included, the numbers of its nationals resident abroad (Diaspora) far exceed the population resident at home. How national governments and resident citizens regard their compatriots resident abroad and vice-versa, and what kind of framework for their mutual benefit can be developed, is the theme of this Policy Paper.

1.4. Related Experiences
    Addressing this issue is neither new in the international context nor even ground-breaking within the Caribbean Region. Many countries which are subject to development constraints of one type or another have looked to their nationals resident abroad as an effective means of overcoming their financial, investment, technological and human resource deficiencies. The most well-known case is that of the State of Israel, whose Diaspora is a source of population replenishment, national revenue, intellectual sourcing and political lobbying and activism in the metropolitan capitals where they reside. Other countries like India, the Phillipines and Mexico see their nationals abroad as a resource to supplement their national efforts through investment, family remittances, trade and institutional networking. Ireland, for example, has called on her nationals abroad to spearhead the national economic transformatioin through a rapidly paced technological sector. There are examples that demonstrate the power of a Diaspora to significantly influence U.S. policy towards its homeland. Political activism of this sort offers a lesson to other Diasporas in the Caribbean if they would only come together on issues in common and affect metropolitan decisions favorably towards the region.

    Within the Caribbean, the Government of Jamaica is already underway with a broadly-based approach to harnessing its Diaspora in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Canada as part of a planned, overall development program. This has not been an effort to scout around for low-cost capital to fund national infra-structural projects or to prop financial institutions or to finance speculative private-sector schemes. It is perceived as intrinsic to the total national development effort and in that context (political support, administrative provisions, adequate funding and public support), this initiative is already showing remarkable success. Similar efforts, though not as far advanced, are underway in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

    While the nature of these initiatives may have elements in common, and may even eventually lead to some programs of cooperation among Caribbean nation states, the nature of relationship between "homelands" and their individual Diasporas will be as different as each is different. The pace of progress, the over-arching issues, the guiding priorities affecting each experience will be peculiar to each setting and individual relationship.

1.5. The Study Process
    This draft Policy Paper is the result of an extensive and intensive study process as outlined in the Terms of Reference and Work Program developed by the Study Committee. (Appendix B and C). It required the following steps:

  1. Compilation of background information on the present status of policies and regulations affecting Dominicans abroad and returning nationals.
  2. Collection of background data on the structure and operation of Dominica's overseas representation, vis--vis other Caribbean states, as they impact their nationals and as their nationals might impact them.
  3. Review of the literature on the nature, significance and potentials of Diasporas in general, and how they might be engaged in national development efforts.
  4. Examination of the programs of foreign governments in mobilizing their Diasporas for mutual benefit.
  5. Evaluation of the operations of foreign missions in their services of national representation overseas (diplomatic, consular, trade, investment, tourism, information services, cultural/educational/scientific functions).
  6. Interviews with selected foreign consular representatives to discuss specific issues raised in their documentation.
  7. Reviewed U.S., Canadian and British regulations pertaining to persons desiring to retire overseas or persons intending to invest overseas with particular reference to Dominica nationals.
  8. Circulated three questionnaires as follows: Survey of Dominica Nationals Abroad; Survey of Returned Nationals; Survey of Overseas Missions. (Appendices D, E. F)
  9. Proposed a public forum in Dominica to elicit resident nationals' opinions on Foreign (non-resident) nationals and returned nationals.
    The Policy Paper incorporates the results of this exercise which was undertaken by a committee of four persons on a voluntary basis during the three months of July to September. Some observations are necessary. Because of a lack of funding, emphasis was placed on distribution of and reply to the Survey of Nationals Abroad by e-mail. This appears to have sidelined a number of persons who do not have internet access. In several areas, hard copies were distributed with a mail-in option. This option was not utilized. Whether due to the summer vacation season or simply apathy, the returns were not as heavy as anticipated. The forum proposed for Dominica did not occur. The Survey of Returned Nationals in Dominica yielded some useful results in giving actual experiences around which there is so much speculation. The request made to Dominica's consular representatives overseas up to the time of writing has gone without response.

    In an exercise such as this, the process and results to questionnaires yield their own message, with implications for how these issues are addressed in the future.

  1. More extensive preparation needs to be done at home and abroad before proceeding with this initiative.
  2. There must be clearer and more pronounced political support for the effort, with mandatory cooperation by all government agencies at home and abroad.
  3. The next steps require proper administrative arrangements (a Secretariat, with assigned political responsibility, administrative capacity and proper funding, as a minimum).
  4. The Diaspora communities need to be sensitized to the importance of the program and any suspicion as to motives for this work at this time should be addressed.
  5. There are significantly large, but less organized communities of Dominicans resident throughout the Caribbean who are important to a Diaspora effort (USVI, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica among others). An effective way must be found to engage them in the process.
    Notwithstanding these difficulties, this Policy Paper offers a useful baseline resource document which is able to advise the process forward. The Recommendations map out a strategy which can be adopted for future action, and there are a number of specific proposals which government should act on immediately. (PARTS 3 and 5).

1.6. The Dominica Context
    The situation of Dominica is well-known, and does not require a lengthy recitation. However, some essential and relevant defining characteristics may be useful in setting an appropriate context for this paper. Dominica is a small, independent island state with limited natural resources which through exploitation and cultivation is incapable of providing the foundation for accelerated economic growth. Due to a combination of factors, including falling world prices and disappearing foreign markets for its exported agricultural staples, the slow emergence of production alternatives, the effect of natural disasters which have redirected production assets and energies to infrastructural renovation, rising expectations of an increasingly younger population and a record of economic mismanagement, the economy is in disarray. The present reality is that of an over-powering public debt estimated to be in excess of 110% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), high unemployment, high levels of taxation and a constant out-migration of the most productive and skilled members of the working population. In its pre-occupation with the task of stemming the tide towards increasing indebtedness, under a stringent International Monetary Fund (IMF) regime of slimmer administration, greater public efficiencies and austerity, there has to date been minimal efforts towards the necessity of an economic transformation based on articulated objectives, strategies, programs, priorities and projects. There is an urgent need to develop a new development framework appropriate to the island's capabilities, within regional and international arrangements of trade and commerce, embracing and taking advantage of twenty-first century technology and lifestyles and respectful of local aspirations. Failing this, the island will continue to feel the negative effects of global exposure without an ability to anticipate and respond to it. It will become the playground for adventurists wishing to take advantage of its desperate situation. It will increasingly feel the effects of social instability and a decline in availability and quality of public services.

    Dominica should not try to catch up with the other islands of the region as with eyes on the ground it tries merely to follow in their tracks. It must learn from their successes and their failures; it must strike out in new directions and chart it's own course, as it deems necessary. It must seize the new tools and technologies that are able to level the international playing field and use them to its advantage. It must leverage its international image to good advantage, using its influence to good effect. It must design a framework for action, involving both the private and public sector in a demanding requirement for private responsibility and public accountability. It must promote a culture of political differences without engaging in political divisiveness.

1.7. Diaspora Potentials
    Most of these perceptions are not new. Now, we no longer have the benefit of time for endless delay, debate and postponement. While distance may lend enchantment to the Diaspora, it also allows some detachment and clarity of vision. Strong intervention by the Diaspora in the nation's economic life is unlikely to occur unless and until there are signs that the nation is serious in addressing these issues. (Appendix I, Summary of Diaspora Comments). The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) attempted to address some of these crucial issues, including that of institutional strengthening in the public and private sectors. It also proposed guidelines for social and economic development. To date, government has not adopted that document.

    Few of these efforts have until now directly incorporated the Diaspora as a factor in the national effort of economic transformation and national development. The Diaspora has never been a lost branch of the Dominica family tree, despite the sometimes ambivalent relationship that might exist. On the one hand, the Diaspora has been viewed as "deserters" who were not around to share the burden and grief of the home society in times of economic difficulty or natural calamity. On the other hand, it is regarded as a welcome source of public and private contributions of material and funds in both good times and bad. Visits by family and friends from overseas are always celebrated, participation in national events are always welcomed. Yet, those of the Diaspora who have returned home and have settled too comfortably on their hard-earned savings and pensions are too often regarded with resentment.

    Whatever the changing circumstances and attitudes of residents at home, emigration and an increasing Diaspora will be a fact of life for some time to come. We would do well to examine how this part of our national family can be fashioned, moulded and influenced to the advantage of the nation as a whole. There are four policy options:

  1. We can ignore the Diaspora, but turning a blind eye to it won't make it go away. Even with a policy of "business as usual", the Diaspora will continue to have some effect by giving an impression, however false, of a good life overseas and continue to lure the young, educated, impressionable and ambitious, to the continuing detriment of Dominica.
  2. Public policy may seek to actively discourage emigration by putting up obstacles of one kind or another. This is a short-sighted policy and may well be administratively difficult and cost-ineffective.
  3. Adopt a policy of encouraging emigration of workers needed overseas under varying arrangements of a time-limited stay overseas; bounty-type payments by the overseas employers to the home government reflecting at least the real cost of training the employee. These payments as well as remittances may contribute greatly to development at home. To be effective, these charges must be such that "the market can bear" and be competitive with other potential employee sources. These arrangements, common in some countries such as the Phillipines and India, are disruptive to and onerous on family relationships.
  4. Develop an enlightened policy whereby national residents abroad are given an opportunity to promote the national agenda in a coherent way through representations abroad, investment funding and contributing their expertise. Secondly, on their return home, they are enabled to contribute to the national development effort whether as paid employees or voluntarily.
    The evidence from our surveys is clear. Dominicans abroad would rush without reservation to assist locally with their knowledge, training, technical skills, networks forged overseas and connections, if the opportunity were given. There are instances of competent persons volunteering such services in the past, with not even an acknowledgement of the offer being received! This option also allows young and technologically savvy second and third generation Diaspora to get involved in short term assignments, and to continue the tradition and relationship with their "ancestral home".

    This Policy Paper, the result of collaboration among some of the Diaspora, is focussed on the last of these possible policy responses.

1.8. Building Bridges
    It has been conservatively estimated that there are between 150,000 to 160,000 adult Dominicans who have migrated from the island since the 1940's. Initially enticed to meet labour shortages in the metropolitan centres of the United States, Canada and Britain, more recently (post 1980), most Diasporans possess a variety of higher education and achievement including professional status, and have settled comfortably in their various hostlands. As they now are starting to enter their retirement years and with still many productive years remaining, many are well-disposed to share their skills, experience, some disposable income and energy in furthering the development of their homeland.

    Dominica, with a population of about 72,000 persons, most of whom are concentrated in the dependent age cohorts (under 16 years and over 65 years) may in some respects have benefitted from the release valve of emigration. Unfortunately, it has often been the better skilled, the more ambitious, the most progressive who have left. Now, with a struggling economy and floundering production system, with management vacuums and technical shortages, with a burdensome public service and social systems under pressure, there is a premium on imaginative approaches, bold initiatives, knowledge of the international market place, access to research institutions and foreign decision-making networks. Without access to these resources, Dominica must remain in the backwaters of the development stream. Dominica must look outwards and enter a mutually beneficial relationship with its Diaspora.

    This symbiotic relationship is overdue and cannot long be delayed. But it must be one built on respect, dignity, understanding, cooperation and a staged approach within an agreed framework as to what is doable in the short, medium, and long term. It must be a relationship built on a trust that straddles political partisanship and engages the public in a respectful consultation towards attainable results to be shared among all segments of society. It is to be a long term relationship and not a "one shot deal" or addressed to a particular project. It must persist whether or not things get better or worse so long as the framework continues to be honored by Dominicans at home and abroad. It is an arrangement for the long haul, and mechanisms must be put in place to engage in a continuing link of emotional attachment, nation building and promotion of national interests among future generations of Dominicans, at home and abroad.


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