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Battered by decades of anemic growth made worse by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Dominica's economy in 2018 was knocked to the canvas with a sucker punch that was the departure of Ross University School of Medicine.

"It will be very devastating," a dejected and deflated Dian John, an apartment owner, told The Sun.

Two days after Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) announced it had pulled out of Dominica after 40 years, and would instead shift its operations to Barbados, John was still in shock.

"You're talking about 1200 to 1400 students paying US$500 in accommodation every month, you're talking about laundry, you're talking about food and beverage, you're talking about electricity, so without Ross that is going to be a serious blow to DOMLEC, and the people of Dominica will be affected, because DOMLEC will have to raise rates. So the people of Grand Bay who had no connection with Ross, their rates will rise," said former mayor of Portsmouth Washway Douglas.

Undoubtedly, the departure of Ross University will affect Dominica but as significant, is the hemorrhage of the labour force after Maria. But if Government knows how many people left it is not saying.

"They don't even know who is on the ground, they don't know who has left, whether the people are coming back," one person close to the administration told The Sun recently while speaking in a different context.

But the Dominican economy surely received a boom in 2018 because of the number of houses that had to be repaired. Government launched its own post-Maria housing programme with back-to-back public meetings in Delices and Riviere Cyrique and elsewhere there were unmistakable signs that Dominica was recovering from Hurricane Maria. Nevertheless the number of blown roofs, the fragments of shattered home, the dry taps, the patches of darkness, the dead spots, were all painful reminders that recovery was still a work in progress.

But it was the restoration of housing that was of most concern to Severin McKenzie, an experienced architect who observed the rebuilding effort after another devastating storm, Hurricane David, nearly forty years ago.

"We still have a shortage of skilled labour on the island and I am not happy about that," he said.

Meanwhile, Dominica took one step closer to the legalization of marijuana with the holding of the first national consultation on marijuana at the Goodwill Parish Hall where there was an urgent call to decriminalize the herb.

"I am personally committed and quite clear in my mind that the law needs to change," said Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, the chairperson of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana. "What we need to decide is in what ways the law will change."

One of the major post-Maria donations for 2018 was the signing on May 10, of an agreement between the Government of Dominica and the World Bank for assistance to Dominica in the amount of US$65 million. An amount of US$40 million would go towards housing and US$25 million to re-developing the agriculture sector.


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