March 30, 2004

Canada sends economic aid to Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) -- Canada has sent about Canadian $820,000 (US$625,000) in aid to agencies in Dominica, supporting a range of programs aimed at developing tourism and the island's economy.

In delivering the checks Monday, Canadian acting High Commissioner to the Eastern Caribbean Joanne Goulet said the funds will "support a wide cross-section of projects focused on improving the lives and livelihoods of people in Dominica."

The funds from the Canadian International Development Agency will go toward 11 projects.

Some Canadian $332,000 (US$253,000) will go to the National Development Corp. for boosting the island's competitiveness in tourism, officials said.

About Canadian $138,000 (US$105,000) is being set aside for the Dominica-based Export Development Unit of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. That money is to go toward a project to help companies in conducting international trade.

An additional Canadian $181,000 (US$138,000) goes to the National Development Foundation, while about Canadian $50,000 (US$38,000) is for the construction of a community health center.

Smaller grants are to provide computers for community training centers.

In giving the aid, Goulet said her country recognized that people in Dominica are facing "huge economic challenges."

Dominica, among the poorest nations of the Caribbean, has been struggling with an economic crisis marked by chronic budget deficits and a national debt that is 116 percent of gross domestic product.

The former British colony of 71,000 has an economy based on fading agriculture and small numbers of tourists.

Over the past year the government has passed harsh austerity measures, including cutting public spending by more than 15 percent and introducing new taxes.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.