The Cost of Living in Dominica

Dominica’s cost of living is low to average when compared to other countries with like demographics. The cost of living depends heavily on lifestyle of individuals and their location. It is possible to live comfortably if one chooses the right areas to sustain both their needs and their wants. Living standards are generally good, and the economy is stable and growing. Compared to other countries like Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, commodity, housing and leisure is priced significantly lower.

Primary services, electricity, water, health, education and communication services are accessible to the entire population. Education cost is satisfactory considering the country maintains a 94% literacy rate, and public schools are government subsidized. Communications cost are reasonable within a very competitive environment, community health services are free, private health services are regulated and much cheaper than US counterpart, though limited in specialized services. Though the health sector experiences shortages of health professionals, the standard of health is not affected, and is actually very good across the islands. Facilities are modern and up-to-date, and for critical care and specialized services which are not available on the island, there are provisions in place for patients to receive the necessary heath care in neighboring island facilities. The life expectancy rate in Dominica is74 years, and overall the people enjoy a good quality of life. Dominica is home to over 22 centenarians. In 2006, Dominica was ranked 4th happiest Country in the world by the Happy People Index conducted through the British think tank New Economic Foundation.

Local transportation is privatized, and the cost is minimal as compared to other countries. The services across the island are good and well maintained. The cost to own a new vehicle is questionably high, as most are bank financed, but the number of privately owned vehicles has almost tripled in the last 10 years, more out of want than necessity.

The cost of utilities, and goods and services are rising in proportion to the cost of bio-fuels. The sudden increase in commodities is an incentive for the people to adopt lifestyle changes, prioritize their spending in order to ensure they maintain a reasonable and satisfactory standard of living. The country relies heavily on its imports, but with the increasing cost of products from outside the region, the country is gainfully pushing for sustainable production and development. Despite rising cost of luxury goods, and services, the products are accessible and available to those who demand them.

Dominica’s unique advantage over many countries worldwide is its abundance of hydro and geothermal resources. Currently expansion of cheaper electricity production, utilizing geothermal and hydro power, is underway, and this should further offset the global rising cost of such commodities. At present there is capacity to produce up to 40% of the country’s total electrical consumption through hydro-power, with much potential for increase. And although solar-energy is not largely used for electricity production, it is used widely (privately and commercially) for water heating, which directly reduces costs to consumer. Generous incentives are in place to encourage the utilization of solar power to produce electricity, under this plan; excess electricity produced can then be sold back to the local grid for profit earnings. Cable television and communications services (internet, cellular, fixed line) are available island-wide. The outfits are modern, up-to-date in technology and of excellent quality in both product and service. Currently, with the opening up of market from a monopoly in fixed line, cellular and internet services held by C&W for over 25 years, more companies have invested in these services here, which forces competitive pricing structures. Services are reasonably priced and there are many packages available meeting individual and Dominica companies needs. Water and Sewer cost are inexpensive. In fact, in many rural areas, water is provided and is not metered, therefore free. In most other residential areas, water is privately metered, and the cost of water is inexpensive. Additionally, in almost every community there is always at least one public water source and public convenience in which the product and service is free of charge and everyone has access to clean flowing water and sanitary services.

Sewer services are not available in rural areas, as underground septic systems are used. In poorer farming communities, some families still use the traditional pit-latrines. But, in urban and sub-urban areas, main line sewer disposal is available at reasonably low cost. Our water resources are seemingly endless, and many large cruise ships capitalize on the low cost of this resource by purchasing water when they dock on island. Dominica’s water quality is exceptionally good, and some public lines are fed directly off purified under water springs. Our bottled water from such springs is a large export product known for its pure and natural tastes.

Imported epicurean food is priced much higher than the basic foods and food products. But alternatively, the cost of local meats, fruits and vegetables including chicken, beef, pork, fish products are lower and in many cases healthier as they are organic. If purchased directly from the producers, it is even cheaper than if bought in supermarkets. Food and Beverage products imported from Caricom countries are cheaper than those from North America and other continents. Yet the influx of Chinese nationals has opened up a market for the low –income household to be able to afford cheaper price products which they would not have been able to otherwise afford. The disadvantage in this practice is that quality is sacrificed for cost.

Labor costs are low when compared to many other countries in the Caribbean, and this positively impacts the end-cost of goods manufactured and produced in Dominica. This means an opportunity for larger profits for investors.

The human resource sector was once deficient in skilled and professional workers, but with improved educational facilities, the introduction of specific courses and curriculum, community based skills programs, better access to tertiary education (offered on island) the pool is beginning to regain the needed personnel. Distance learning is reasonably priced and available. Local universities and the locally based American Ross University School of Medicine (Devry) offer medicine and veterinary and programs free or subsidized cost to nationals. The governments of USA, Canada, Cuba and China in collaboration with local government is engaged in a scholarship program whereby thousands of Dominicans are being educated free of charge in courses that are offered at any major institution. Our nurses are so well qualified locally, that there is a huge high end demand for them in the UK and US.

The price of land in rural areas is much cheaper than land in the more developed urban areas where infrastructure for utilities and other services are readily available. However, land in Dominica is still much lower than any other country in the Caribbean. Land for development and agricultural purposes are readily available at reasonable cost. Economists foresee that price of land will be driven up as investment and development of the country brings in more value. As an investment initiative, prime government owned land is available at reasonable prices to foreign investors who will engage in agribusiness or manufacturing which is complementary to our sustainable programs.

Rents are variable from place to place, and are based on the type and style of accommodation as well as location. Overall it is affordable. It is cheaper to build in Dominica than it is to build in any other Caribbean country. The cost is positively impacted by the low labor cost. The finished cost of any construction is determined by the size, style and location of construction and the number of imported elements. A locally produced wooden prefab house is much cheaper to build than one of imported lumber. The country relies completely on imports of galvanized product, cements and steel and as such these prices change with global prices. Fortunately for the country, Dominica has the physical, social and geographic advantage of being able to produce its own foods- vegetables, root products, herbs and species, fruits, animal bi-products, eggs, milk, and hence engage successfully in sustainable living. One will find in rural areas, some families are totally self sufficient, utilizing solar energy. Notably, there are a few ecotourist lodges that produce their own electricity, all the food is locally grown, an even the fuel for its transportation is a bi-product of vegetable oils.

Simply put: In the event of a complete cut off from the outside world, the people of this beautiful country would not go without food, water or shelter. The forest are thick and dense with lush vegetation, the land is rich and arable, the climate is conducive to year round agricultural production, there is year round rainfall, water resources that are endless, and year round sunshine and warm weather.

The practice of self suffeciency is not as popular as sustainable living and is generally a stricter one, but none the less an option some find comfortable. There are many families who rely on public transportation, cook with wood-burning stoves, and live off locally produced foods. The people are proud of their ancestral history and live by a culture which embraces its traditional ways of life. Of course modernization is required for the country to compete globally, and the absolute changes simply ensure the country is more efficient and resourceful.

Modernization and the adoption of western influences is most evident is areas of communication, transportation, recreation and education. The degree of this evolution varies greatly between rural and urban settlements.