What are the Opportunities for Investment in our Land? (Part III)
In the last two articles we considered the two obvious broad areas – agriculture and tourism, where we believe our natural environment gives us the opportunity to supply goods and services to the rest of the world. These are areas in which we are not adequately exploiting export opportunities and can greatly enhance our international competitiveness.
But there are other opportunities based on our natural environment that can be exploited, but in which the country has not yet moved in any significant way if at all. For instance, the Roosevelt Skerrit – led government has not been able to deliver on geothermal energy production after many years of promise! But Dominica does have significant geothermal energy potential that greatly exceeds its current domestic energy needs. Geothermal energy potential is estimated at 500MW which greatly exceeds the peak electricity demand of 17.2 MW (2017) from the island's sole producer and distributor of electricity. There is also potential to produce energy from renewable energy sources including solar, wind and the ocean. Though, due largely to the lethargic economy, there has been low energy demand on the island; with better governance under a new capable political regime of integrity, there would be much potential for significant growth in energy demand spurred by overall economic growth, growth in tourist arrivals, improvements in automobile battery technology and the planning and implementation of opportunities to utilize potential excess energy production.
One such opportunity to utilize potential excess geothermal energy production, one that was much talked about by the Roosevelt Skerrit Administration, relates to the export of electricity to neighbouring countries including the French departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique. We understand that the French backed out of a potential deal with the Skerrit-led government on this matter! There has been no satisfactory explanation, if any at all was given to the public, of why the French backed out! Was it a rebuff of the ruling regime's attempt to get kickbacks? I rather suspect so! That's why we have been emphasizing that integrity in public office is a key requirement for our country to move forward.
Moreover, any serious foray into geothermal energy production must consider the opportunity to promote other investments that can utilize the potential excess energy especially given the uncertainty with regards to exporting energy. Producing geothermal energy based on the current domestic demand is not going to significantly reduce the cost of electricity! The significant competitiveness advantage that our country can get from geothermal energy production will result if production is done at a sufficiently large scale to cause the cost to be lower than our current cost of production! So, don't let the Skerrit-led government fool anyone into thinking that their planned small-scale plant will result in lower electricity bills!
But the DFP also recognises that technology is changing and over time it will become cheaper to produce energy from renewable sources of energy. Dominica should not miss out on those opportunities which will contribute to improving the health of our environment in line with the healthy living image that we want. But beyond that, there are job and entrepreneurial opportunities for our people that we must tap into in that area.
Another potential investment area is related to fresh water - both bottled and for bulk sales. Prior to the passage of Hurricane Maria, one company in Dominica engaged in production of bottled spring water. This sort of activity is in line with our natural advantage and our image as the Nature Island of the Caribbean. Further, there have been discussions in the past of the potential to supply bulk water to water-scarce countries. The feasibility of this needs to be further investigated. Notably, Dominica has underground water resources that could be purer than the surface water and very suitable as a premium water export.
How about the rocks and river stones found on our island? Can our rivers stones and other suitable rocks be cut and exported for sale as construction or building decoration material? There is already one domestic entrepreneur doing some of this for local sales. This is one area that a new government of integrity should encourage further investigation and investment.
There are other areas for investments that could become feasible based on linkages with the areas in which we have a natural predisposition to supply goods to the rest of the world. Further, there are potential investment areas where we can use the local market as a base on which to become more productive as a prelude to entering regional and international markets. In some cases, technology may increasingly allow us to compete with the rest of the world in some areas of activity. We will discuss these in the next article. We will also ask - what skills do we have or can develop to supply goods and services to the rest of the world?
Dominica Freedom Party.