Dominica, officially called the Commonwealth of Dominica, was discovered by the Spanish then colonized by the French and British and gained its independence from Britain in 1978. It is an island nation located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea having its capital, Roseau, located on the leeward side of the island. It has a total land size of 290 square miles with its highest point being Morne Diablotins, having an elevation of 4,747 ft. There are two primary population centers, Roseau and Portsmouth; however, the island’s capital city is Roseau.
Dominica is largely covered by tropical rainforest and has many waterfalls, springs and rivers. The island has a tropical climate and experiences high annual rainfall. Dominica is distinct in its volcanic physique, and actually houses Boiling Lake, the second-largest thermally active lake in the world. Also located within the island is the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean.
Dominica is a member state of CARICOM, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
Similar to some of its fellow eastern Caribbean islands, Dominica does not have direct flights from the USA, Canada, Europe or South America. International flights from the US and Europe are connected to the island through hubs in Antigua, Barbados, ST. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Flights are serviced through two airports: Melville Hall and Canefield Airports. Visitors to the island arrive through Melville Hall as it is the larger of the two airports and accommodates commercial airlines. Melville Hall is located in the north-eastern side of the island and is approximately one hour from the city.
Visitors to Dominica can enjoy keeping in touch with the rest of the world via the island’s telephone system, which includes both mobile and fixed lines, as well as via the internet, including WiFi.
According to the 2014 Census, Dominica has an approximate population of 73,449 inhabitants. The island’s city, Roseau, accommodates about 15,000 people with about 5,000 inhabitants located in the second primary population center, Portsmouth. The population consists of about 86.8% of African descent, 8.9% mixed ethnicity, 2.9% Carib Amerindian, 0.8% of European descent and 0.7% of other minor ethnicities.
Due to its mixed ethnical background, the island’s official language is English, spoken with a melodic French lilt, but a large portion of the population speaks Creole with a few northern villages speaking Kokoy.
Dominica is the only Caribbean island with a remaining population of pre-Columbian Carib Indians. These remaining Caribs, properly known as the Kalinago, inhabit a 3,700 acre territory on the northwestern side of the island.
Government and Legal System
Dominica has a parliamentary democracy with a common law legal system based on the English model.
The Executive Branch of the Government consists of the President as Chief of State, elected by the House of Assembly for a five-year term; a Prime Minister appointed by the President; and the Cabinet appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
A unicameral House of Assembly makes up the Legislative Branch and consists of 32 seats with 9 appointed Senators and 21 elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms, 1 speaker elected from among persons not members of the House and one ex-officio Clerk of the House.
The Judicial Branch of Dominica consists of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), the Court of Summary Jurisdiction and the Magistrate’s Court. As a member of the 9-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the BVI’s highest court is the ECSC. The ECSC is headquartered on St. Lucia, is headed by the Chief Justice and is comprised of the Court of Appeal, having 3 justices, and the High Court, having 16 judges. Sittings of the Court of Appeal and High Court are rotated among the 9 member states. The Chief Justice is appointed by the Queen while the other justices and judges are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. Subordinate courts include the Magistrates’ Courts. Dominica is also a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
International Financial Services Industry
The inception of the International Financial Services Industry in Dominica was in 1996 with the enactment of the International Business Companies Act No. 10 of 1996. Since then, the Act has seen various amendments: twice in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2008.
The IBC Act allows for the establishment of international business companies in Dominica having exemption from all taxes for a minimum of 20 years. A company under this Act may be formed by one person and there are no requirements for local shareholders or directors. A Dominican IBC also enjoys exemption from filing annual records, and there are no annual meeting or auditing requirements. Confidentiality is important and the names of directors and shareholders are not public record.
The Financial Services Unit (FSU) is the authoritative body responsible for the regulation of the financial sector in Dominica. With the creation of this unit in 2008, supervision of the non-bank financial sector was significantly strengthened. Further in 2011, the FSU under section 7 of the Money Laundering Prevention Act No. 8 became the Money Laundering Supervisory Authority.