Dominica remembers Hurricane Maria

Six years ago, on 18 September, Dominica bore witness to the catastrophic onslaught of Hurricane Maria, a formidable Category Five hurricane. 

Dominica remembers Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria was indiscriminate in its fury, affecting the entire island, but it struck hardest at the villages of Pointe Michel and Loubiere, where the human toll was most severe. It’s devastating impact left a trail of destruction, with over thirty lives lost, thirty-three individuals missing, and thousands of homes in ruins.

Among the casualties were a family of nine from the Green Valley area in Pointe Michel, tragically swept away by the swollen Siboulie Ravine.

Dominica suffered staggering losses amounting to US$1.37 billion (EC$ 3,7 billion), equivalent to a staggering 226 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Rapid Intensification and Impact of Hurricane Maria

Meteorologists attributed the hurricane’s rapid intensification to elevated sea temperatures and favourable atmospheric conditions. With maximum sustained winds exceeding 160 miles (257 kilometres) per hour, the island’s Prime Minister, Honourable Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit provided a harrowing firsthand account via Facebook as the storm raged outside.

His updates chronicled the terrifying experience of Dominicans hunkered down amid Hurricane Maria’s fury, culminating in the loss of his own roof. 

Plea for Assistance

Prime Minister Skerrit’s poignant plea for assistance underscored the extent of the devastation, with roofs torn away from countless homes. He expressed grave concerns about landslides and the need for rescue operations.  

Honourable Dr. Skerrit also highlighted the urgent requirement for medical aid and sought support from friendly nations and organisations, including helicopter services to assess the damage and rescue those in need. 

Citizenship by Investment Programme’s Role in Recovery

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Dominica turned to its CBI Programme as a lifeline for economic recovery.  This Programme allows foreign investors to obtain citizenship in exchange for direct foreign investment (FDI) in the country. Funds generated through the Economic Development Fund (EDF) are crucial in rebuilding infrastructure, homes, and essential services.  

The influx of investment also created jobs and bolstered economic stability, helping Dominica gradually recover from the catastrophe. 

Dominica Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme played a pivotal role in the country’s journey to economic recovery in the aftermath of this devastating natural disaster. The Programme also continues to play a role in ensuring Dominica becomes the world’s first climate resistant country. 

Building Back Better

In Dominica, they’re not just rebuilding; they’re building back better with a focus on climate resilience. This is largely thanks to the ingenious CBI Programme. The ‘Nature Isle’ of the Caribbean intends to use sustainable investments to developing tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and human resources.  

That’s the vision that the CBI Programme is turning into a reality. 

The CBI inflows contributes around thirty per cent of Dominica’s GDP. One standout area of development is the construction sector, which is buzzing with activity.  The island is not only welcoming internationally renowned hotels but also constructing over 5,000 hurricane-resistant homes. 

To make this economic boom sustainable, Dominica is diversifying its workforce and upskilling its people. They are even tapping into neighbouring islands for specialist labour while ensuring locals are equipped with the skills needed to operate the new resorts.  

This harmonious partnership with CBI real estate developers is pivotal in creating lasting prosperity. 

Additionally, in the realm of healthcare, Dominica is taking bold steps. They are fortifying their health sector to withstand the challenges posed by climate change. World-class, climate-resilient hospitals, healthcare centres, and community facilities are springing up, all thanks to private sector investments through EDF funds. 

CBI funds more initiatives

Dominica is also championing sports and culture through its CBI Programme. The National Sports Trust Fund is set to boost athletic initiatives, funded by CBI revenues. Over EC$ 18.5 million is earmarked for community infrastructure, sports, recreation, and youth development, positioning the country as a prime destination for top-notch sporting events. 

However, it is not just about infrastructure; Dominica’s CBI Programme is also enhancing community interactions, culture, and disaster resilience. Modern, resilient community buildings are emerging, serving as hubs for various activities and safe havens during natural disasters. 

Extensive road rehabilitation and river protection projects are underway, funded by CBI resources.  

Essentially, Dominica is not just fixing what was damaged; they’re strategising for the long term. Watershed management, planning, and flood risk management are part of their resilience strategy to ensure they’re prepared for whatever challenges nature throws their way. 

Insights into press conference

On 18 September 2023, Honourable Dr. Skerrit addressed the public nation on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastating passage.  

The Prime Minister used this moment of reflection to discuss the remarkable progress made in rebuilding the nation after the unprecedented destruction caused by the hurricane.  

Furthermore, he emphasized the urgent need for global action on climate change and expressed frustration with the developed world’s failure to fulfil their climate-related promises. 

Recovery and Resilience

The Prime Minister began his address by acknowledging the somber significance of the day. He praised the resilience of the Dominican people, who faced unimaginable challenges in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  

Many believed that recovery would take over two decades, but the nation managed to rebuild swiftly.  

This reconstruction came at a considerable cost. Significant funds were allocated to repair homes, clear roads, dredge rivers, and reconstruct essential infrastructure such as schools and health clinics. One remarkable aspect of Dominica’s response was the government’s commitment to ensuring that its citizens did not suffer financially during this period.  

The Prime Minister highlighted that the government even supported private sector employees to maintain their livelihoods.  This was seen as crucial to preserving human dignity. 

Financial Preparedness

The Prime Minister revealed that at the time of Hurricane Maria, Dominica had substantial financial reserves, totalling approximately EC$600 million. These funds were initially earmarked for paying off national debt and investing in the construction of an international airport. However, when disaster struck, these reserves were instrumental in quickly financing recovery efforts. They aided in providing immediate aid to affected families and communities. 

Climate Change and Global Responsibility

Addressing a broader issue, the Prime Minister emphasised the pressing need for action on climate change. He noted that scientific evidence suggests hurricanes will become more frequent and more ferocious. 

Dominica’s leader expressed his frustration with the developed world’s failure to fulfil their promises made under the Paris Agreement and other climate initiatives. Over the years, promises had shifted from grants for mitigation and resilience to loans, green bonds, and even private sector investments. 

Further, The Prime Minister questioned the feasibility of private companies building essential infrastructure like seawalls or hospitals for governments.  He stressed that the developed world had not lived up to their agreed-upon promises. This leaves vulnerable nations like Dominica to bear the brunt of climate change impacts. 

Future Challenges and COP28

As the world prepared for the upcoming COP28 conference in December, the Prime Honourable Dr. Skerrit admitted to grappling with the question of whether attending such conferences was worthwhile. However, he argued that giving up on fighting against climate injustice was not an option.

He drew a parallel with the struggles for emancipation. He reminded listeners that previous generations had not given up in the face of adversity. Dominica’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and progress, all driven by the power of the CBI Programme.  

It is not just rebuilding – it is building a resilient future.