Dominica leader offers investment opportunities on rare Asia trip (interview)

Roosevelt Skerrit Prime Minister Dominica_Arno Maierbrugger
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica © Arno Maierbrugger

Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island state of Dominica, is currently touring East Asia in a quest to raise funds for rebuilding and reconstructing the island’s infrastructure after tropical storm Erika hit in August this year. Apart from two charity diners in Bangkok and Hanoi, Skerrit is also seeking to promote his government’s “Citizenship by Investment” programme at the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Summit on November 9.

The programme, which grants individuals a Dominican passport in exchange for funding government development initiatives or buying real estate on the island, has been – although sometimes in the focus of controversial debates – in place since 1993 and targets mainly high-net worth individuals from countries whose passports are subject to stricter visa requirements to obtain Dominican residence status and travel visa-free to more than 100 countries worldwide, including the UK.

As former Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), he also looks at promoting Dominica and the wider region for other investments and establishing closer ties with ASEAN.

Investvine met Skerrit during his visit in Bangkok for an interview.

On your first visit to Thailand, where do you see a starting point for establishing closer economic relations between Dominica/the CARICOM region and Thailand/ASEAN? I believe that a wider cooperation between both regions would have reciprocal benefits. Diplomatic relations between the 15-member bloc of CARICOM – whose main purposes is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members and share a common foreign policy – and ASEAN are good and economic and social relations are complementing each other. This is a good basis for two-way investment for which I see potential in the fields of manufacturing, tourism and services, as well as for bilateral trade and exports. And with ASEAN establishing the ASEAN Economic Community from next year, the potential is growing further.

What familiarities do you see between ASEAN and CARICOM in terms of economic and political goals? The two blocs are comparable in the sense as they have been evolving under similar circumstances and with similar goals, focusing on common issues and common solutions, also comparable to the European Union. We can share experiences as both groups have been a union for more than 40 years, and as groups of nations both can vote as a bloc, for example within the United Nations to address issues such as unemployment and social challenges.

Mentioning the European Union, doesn’t it show right now that the manageability of such a bloc has its limitations – given the current refugee crisis that causes more political and social chaos then there are viable solutions by the EU? What we are witnessing now in Europe is a migration never seen before in recent history and as such a challenge of unprecedented proportions. We face migration issues in the Caribbean too but what happens in Europe needs a global response, not just by the EU alone. The global community needs to improve conditions in the source countries of the refugees. I just recently met some European diplomats, and they are of exactly the same opinion.

How are the recovery and reconstruction efforts going in Dominica after this year’s tropical storm? When tropical storm Erika hit our island on August 27, 2015, the result were more than 30 fatalities, 1,032 destroyed or badly damaged houses and a total damage of $484 million. However, Dominicans are very resilient people, and reconstruction is making considerable progress. We have already rebuilt 574 homes and we are grateful for international donors and aid supply. In total, 49 countries, including from Asia, supported us, as well as non-governmental and charity organisations and corporations. The charity diners on my current trip are also aiming at facilitating more resources. So far, we spent $10 million in emergency funds for reconstruction. However, to cover the entire damage of $484 million, it is still a long way to go.

Within Southeast Asia, the Philippines has experience with reconstruction after tropical storms that are hitting the country regularly every year. Yes, and I believe we could share best practices for disaster situations and also join forces to address the problems of climate change, namely at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December, which will provide a historic opportunity to achieve a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change, from all nations of the world. Dominica is suffering from climate change as the sea level is rising and land mass is receding. In fact, our country will be shrinking further if nothing is done against climate change.

DominicaWhat is the background of the “Citizenship by Investment” programme and what have been the effects on Dominica’s economy so far? The programme is designed to grant investors a second citizenship and a Dominican passport in exchange for foreign investment. This can be done either by investing directly into a government development initiative or by purchasing property on the island, be it a holiday home or a fractional ownership of a hotel or resort development. There are different title deeds offered for such investments. The government is setting annual budget targets for the programme. This year, we aim at proceeds of $30 million from less than 200 citizenships granted.

Citizenship through investment has developed into a lucrative global industry, but has also been in the focus of controversial discussions. How does Dominica rule out granting citizenship to people who – for a variety of reasons – might not be qualified for it? Our screening of applicants is very transparent, and we are undertaking a robust due diligence in any case, as well as do comprehensive background checks.

But applicants do not need to show up in Dominica in person? No. This can be arranged through brokers. Harvey Law Group, organizer of this trip, is one of them.

Southeast and East Asia is certainly a good market to sell second citizenships, for example for high-net worth individuals from China, Vietnam or Myanmar whose passports restrict them from entering a number of countries without a visa. But how would Dominica handle applicants from, let’s say, high-profile tycoons from Myanmar who are on a Western sanctions list for being involved in illicit activities? If someone is on a sanctions list, then I’d say it would be difficult to receive a Dominican passport.

Or, if someone is stripped off his original passport because he is wanted in his own country for alleged wrongdoing, in Thailand’s case former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra? He wouldn’t have got a Dominican passport.

But he got one from your CARICOM neighbour St. Kitts and Nevis. Yes, but that’s St. Kitts and Nevis and not us. Our second citizenship is used by people who need to travel a lot and can do that with a Dominican passport easier than with their home passport.

Where is Dominica on its roadmap to becoming a major offshore financial center? We have started to develop Dominica’s financial service industry as part of a diversification of our economy, based on robust legislation. There might be a misconception towards offshore financial centers of being tax havens, but it’s a highly regulated industry. In fact, we have been advised by the World Bank to develop the sector in order to diversify the economy. We are now focusing on International Business Corporations and other offshore companies and offshore banks. In the region, offshore financial centers are focusing on different services. While the Cayman Islands have the largest number of offshore funds, the Bahamas have the largest number of offshore shipping companies. Our offshore financial services are comparable to the British Virgin Islands. As long as these services exist, international corporations and wealthy people will go for it.

Roosevelt Skerrit (43), the youngest head of government in the western hemisphere, was born in the northern Dominican farming village of Vielle-Case and received higher education in the US. He was elected to the Dominican House of Assembly in 2000, later appointed Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and then Minister of Education. In January 2004, aged 31, he became Prime Minister and since also serves as Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs and as the political leader of the Dominica Labour Party.

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[caption id="attachment_26970" align="alignleft" width="300"] Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica © Arno Maierbrugger[/caption] Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island state of Dominica, is currently touring East Asia in a quest to raise funds for rebuilding and reconstructing the island’s infrastructure after tropical storm Erika hit in August this year. Apart from two charity diners in Bangkok and Hanoi, Skerrit is also seeking to promote his government’s “Citizenship by Investment” programme at the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Summit on November 9. The programme, which grants individuals a Dominican passport in exchange for funding government development initiatives or buying real...

Roosevelt Skerrit Prime Minister Dominica_Arno Maierbrugger
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica © Arno Maierbrugger

Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island state of Dominica, is currently touring East Asia in a quest to raise funds for rebuilding and reconstructing the island’s infrastructure after tropical storm Erika hit in August this year. Apart from two charity diners in Bangkok and Hanoi, Skerrit is also seeking to promote his government’s “Citizenship by Investment” programme at the Hong Kong Investment Immigration Summit on November 9.

The programme, which grants individuals a Dominican passport in exchange for funding government development initiatives or buying real estate on the island, has been – although sometimes in the focus of controversial debates – in place since 1993 and targets mainly high-net worth individuals from countries whose passports are subject to stricter visa requirements to obtain Dominican residence status and travel visa-free to more than 100 countries worldwide, including the UK.

As former Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), he also looks at promoting Dominica and the wider region for other investments and establishing closer ties with ASEAN.

Investvine met Skerrit during his visit in Bangkok for an interview.

On your first visit to Thailand, where do you see a starting point for establishing closer economic relations between Dominica/the CARICOM region and Thailand/ASEAN? I believe that a wider cooperation between both regions would have reciprocal benefits. Diplomatic relations between the 15-member bloc of CARICOM – whose main purposes is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members and share a common foreign policy – and ASEAN are good and economic and social relations are complementing each other. This is a good basis for two-way investment for which I see potential in the fields of manufacturing, tourism and services, as well as for bilateral trade and exports. And with ASEAN establishing the ASEAN Economic Community from next year, the potential is growing further.

What familiarities do you see between ASEAN and CARICOM in terms of economic and political goals? The two blocs are comparable in the sense as they have been evolving under similar circumstances and with similar goals, focusing on common issues and common solutions, also comparable to the European Union. We can share experiences as both groups have been a union for more than 40 years, and as groups of nations both can vote as a bloc, for example within the United Nations to address issues such as unemployment and social challenges.

Mentioning the European Union, doesn’t it show right now that the manageability of such a bloc has its limitations – given the current refugee crisis that causes more political and social chaos then there are viable solutions by the EU? What we are witnessing now in Europe is a migration never seen before in recent history and as such a challenge of unprecedented proportions. We face migration issues in the Caribbean too but what happens in Europe needs a global response, not just by the EU alone. The global community needs to improve conditions in the source countries of the refugees. I just recently met some European diplomats, and they are of exactly the same opinion.

How are the recovery and reconstruction efforts going in Dominica after this year’s tropical storm? When tropical storm Erika hit our island on August 27, 2015, the result were more than 30 fatalities, 1,032 destroyed or badly damaged houses and a total damage of $484 million. However, Dominicans are very resilient people, and reconstruction is making considerable progress. We have already rebuilt 574 homes and we are grateful for international donors and aid supply. In total, 49 countries, including from Asia, supported us, as well as non-governmental and charity organisations and corporations. The charity diners on my current trip are also aiming at facilitating more resources. So far, we spent $10 million in emergency funds for reconstruction. However, to cover the entire damage of $484 million, it is still a long way to go.

Within Southeast Asia, the Philippines has experience with reconstruction after tropical storms that are hitting the country regularly every year. Yes, and I believe we could share best practices for disaster situations and also join forces to address the problems of climate change, namely at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December, which will provide a historic opportunity to achieve a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change, from all nations of the world. Dominica is suffering from climate change as the sea level is rising and land mass is receding. In fact, our country will be shrinking further if nothing is done against climate change.

DominicaWhat is the background of the “Citizenship by Investment” programme and what have been the effects on Dominica’s economy so far? The programme is designed to grant investors a second citizenship and a Dominican passport in exchange for foreign investment. This can be done either by investing directly into a government development initiative or by purchasing property on the island, be it a holiday home or a fractional ownership of a hotel or resort development. There are different title deeds offered for such investments. The government is setting annual budget targets for the programme. This year, we aim at proceeds of $30 million from less than 200 citizenships granted.

Citizenship through investment has developed into a lucrative global industry, but has also been in the focus of controversial discussions. How does Dominica rule out granting citizenship to people who – for a variety of reasons – might not be qualified for it? Our screening of applicants is very transparent, and we are undertaking a robust due diligence in any case, as well as do comprehensive background checks.

But applicants do not need to show up in Dominica in person? No. This can be arranged through brokers. Harvey Law Group, organizer of this trip, is one of them.

Southeast and East Asia is certainly a good market to sell second citizenships, for example for high-net worth individuals from China, Vietnam or Myanmar whose passports restrict them from entering a number of countries without a visa. But how would Dominica handle applicants from, let’s say, high-profile tycoons from Myanmar who are on a Western sanctions list for being involved in illicit activities? If someone is on a sanctions list, then I’d say it would be difficult to receive a Dominican passport.

Or, if someone is stripped off his original passport because he is wanted in his own country for alleged wrongdoing, in Thailand’s case former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra? He wouldn’t have got a Dominican passport.

But he got one from your CARICOM neighbour St. Kitts and Nevis. Yes, but that’s St. Kitts and Nevis and not us. Our second citizenship is used by people who need to travel a lot and can do that with a Dominican passport easier than with their home passport.

Where is Dominica on its roadmap to becoming a major offshore financial center? We have started to develop Dominica’s financial service industry as part of a diversification of our economy, based on robust legislation. There might be a misconception towards offshore financial centers of being tax havens, but it’s a highly regulated industry. In fact, we have been advised by the World Bank to develop the sector in order to diversify the economy. We are now focusing on International Business Corporations and other offshore companies and offshore banks. In the region, offshore financial centers are focusing on different services. While the Cayman Islands have the largest number of offshore funds, the Bahamas have the largest number of offshore shipping companies. Our offshore financial services are comparable to the British Virgin Islands. As long as these services exist, international corporations and wealthy people will go for it.

Roosevelt Skerrit (43), the youngest head of government in the western hemisphere, was born in the northern Dominican farming village of Vielle-Case and received higher education in the US. He was elected to the Dominican House of Assembly in 2000, later appointed Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and then Minister of Education. In January 2004, aged 31, he became Prime Minister and since also serves as Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs and as the political leader of the Dominica Labour Party.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. There is no recording of the interview. But the link has been sent to them immediately after publishing and there was no request to change or correct anything.

  2. I would like to ask the author of this article to make it clear to us Dominicans whether or not he has a recording of the interview with our PM which we can have posted publicly in order to refute his suggestions in an interview in Dominica last week, that you sir, the author, have misrepresented his utterances during his interview with you. He claimed that it was impossible that he would have made such utterances. Can you please assist us sir in posting this verbal exchange, if you do have one, so as to clarify this matter for us. Thank you kindly! Continue your good work for the world at large! I post the link of local interview for your attention https://youtu.be/WabRg8SO7PQ

  3. we Dominicans (most of us) are truly tired of the lies of this man. Please note that most who spoke against Skerrit are speaking the truth. Yes there are some loyal ostrichs who have buried their head in the sand because of party loyalty. These are the people who are willing to seeing our country go to hell in a basket. They are very ignorant of the fact of what is happening, they are ok with just hand outs

  4. 574 houses?! Where are they RS? Where are the houses that you’re over there lying about! My goodness this man is the worst PM we have ever had, just lies for no good reason! Mr Skerrit please step down and leave our little island in peace, you’re only making it worst. That man is so corrupt! Corrupt spell on his face!! One day skerrit you gonna fall, you will fall very hard and Dcans will not be feeling sorry for you!#Dirtyliar

  5. @forreal
    You need to try harder. Read through the comments and the links posted . Now that you have done due diligence do you still think we are opportunists? Have you read the stats? What have Skerrit done with all the money he got from the Economic Citizenship Program since?
    Answer these or shut the hell up!!!!

  6. Roosevelt Skerrit is by far the most corrupt leader is West. Chairmanship of OECS and CARICOM are rotated by country and not individual.
    Skerrit is a regular visitor to Asia, especially Macau to meet his friend for over 10 years who is now in US custody for bribery and corruption. Skerrit was in Macau up to August 26, 2015.
    Ask him what happened to “My Dominica Trade House” that was based in Malaysia.

  7. This man Roosevelt M. Skerrit, he is the most corrupt Prime Minister The Commonwealth of Dominica and the Caribbean region have ever experienced. The country is last in all indicators of economic growth, high unemployment, massive nepotism and cronyism are all part of his corrupt governance. He and his high powered lawyers are known to find ways and means to pervert the judicial system, as crime and unsolved murders are all part and parcel of the rogue state in the name of “No law, no constitution can stop him…… And he acts on that principal.

  8. all the comments I have read are from people who either supported failed past governments on the island of dominica or are presently part of a covert operation to destabilize the progress of the country,and I say so based on the direction that the country has taken in befriending countries like china,Venezuela and cuba which are regional countries beside china,countries which have actually helped not only dominica but the entire western hemisphere move forward,as for past govenments such as the DFP,they had the opportunity to gain significant grounds for the islands development when they assisted the American government to invade the sister island of grenada,what did they accomplished from that effort zilch,this man is and has put in a much greater effort than anyone in dominicas past political history for the development of dominica,it’s there in black and white, the chinese and the friends dominica have adopted,have done much more for the island than America and Europe has done combined,if these socalled commentors had dominicas interest at heart,they would have been on the ground at home helping to rebuild,but they are not home,they are on the outside feeding on negative information from their cronies,if he is telling a lie,then go to dominica investvine and expose him,isn’t karma a bitch,dominica helped invade a country that was keen on a socialist path,now dominica is friends with these socalled socialist countries and ideals,it’s a hurt right?,dominicas plight is more than meets the eye,these commentors here are just opportunist,they and their UWP cronies can not and will not do better for dominica.

  9. Rare Asia trip?
    This man is always in Asia
    He was in Macau when Erika hit Dominica as always no one knew where he was other ministers could not give a straight answer on his whereabouts
    What happened to My Dominica Trade House deal from Malaysia which stated they had medical facilities, taxi and limousine service etc. with addresses and numbers that do not really exist in Dominica no one knew about these deals until months later pictures showed up on the website of big fancy dinners, fancy cars, papers being signed but no answers as to what was signed.
    When it got exposed all of a sudden the site disappeared
    This man is the king of secret and shady deals

  10. Citizenship through investment has developed into a lucrative global industry, but has also been in the focus of controversial discussions. How does Dominica rule out granting citizenship to people who – for a “variety of reasons – might not be qualified for it? Our screening of applicants is very transparent, and we are undertaking a robust due diligence in any case, as well as do comprehensive background checks.” Lie lie lie…. This is so not true. They are hustling selling passports to whosever has the money to pay.

    “But applicants do not need to show up in Dominica in person? No. This can be arranged through brokers. Harvey Law Group, organizer of this trip, is one of them.” This means that they do not know who is receiving the citizenship. Anyone can pay loads of money to any law group to get the passports, so how can he say there is transparency.

    “We have already rebuilt 574 homes and we are grateful for international donors and aid supply.” clearly Prime Minister Skerrit is either dreaming or wishing because this is far from the truth. No such houses were built. Please question Skerrit further on these houses. Please ask for the location or village where these houses were built and who built them. Families were placed in guesthouses and schools and with family members. It appears that Mr. Skerrit is losing his mind in addition to his credibility he has already lost. He is a pathetic liar and the world needs to know. By saying that he has built 574 he is depriving the homeless of assistance they would have otherwise received from outside donors. He said that Venezuela will be providing 300 petro casas, to date we have not seen those.

  11. Prime minister skerrit is nothing but a pathological liar. The people of petite savanne who have been severely affected are living at springfield guest house while waiting on government to choose site for relocation. Those 574 homes were built in his imagination but not in Dominica. Roosevelt skerrit tells too much lies!

  12. Can Roosevelt Skerrit as the Prime Minister of Dominica please tell the citizens of his country EXACTLY how many passports have been sold through this program, how much income has been generated by said program (to date), and toward what projects (if any) have the proceeds gone? And while we’re asking, has anyone verified the scholastic credentials of this man? He has NOT constructed 574 houses on island since the passage of tropical storm Erika. It’s time to stop the LIES Mr. Skerrit.

  13. Reading from this interview i have reasons to believe this Prime Minister is trying to miss-lead the public.

    First, how can he say to the interviewer that they have already rebuilt 574 homes? It is far from the truth.

    Secondly. When asked “how would Dominica handle applicants from, let’s say, high-profile tycoons from Myanmar who are on a Western sanctions list for being involved in illicit activities?”
    He replied “If someone is on a sanctions list, then I’d say it would be difficult to receive a Dominican passport.”
    This is also misleading because records show that NG Lap seng who is now in the custody of the FBI for fraud and also the questionable Zampolli both among others hold diplomatic passports of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
    Skerrit is the only one who is not yet arrested of a group of five of which NG Lap seng is the main target.

  14. Please do not take anything that comes from this mans mouth as truth
    There have not even built 50 homes much less 500 + post TS Erika the majority of the people affected are staying in schools, with family, kind strangers and even homeless and some are still missing

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