Attempting to nurture a fledgling manufacturing sector – DMA

Severin McKenzie

The state of manufacturing in Dominica has been described as an industry that is “barely existent”.

The assessment’s coming from the revamped Dominica Manufacturers’ Association which is now celebrating its first anniversary.

Spokesman Severin McKenzie told Dominica News Online that Dominican manufacturing was at the moment “like a little baby, just born”.

According to the Association’s Public Relations Officer, manufacturing is clearly not on the front burner today.

McKenzie contends that neither government nor private sector are giving the sector priority at the moment.

“You find that quite a number of manufacturers are doing their little thing here and there,” the association spokesman said.

His association wants to highlight “the importance that manufacturing has to the economy”.

The association at its annual general meeting on Wednesday shone the spotlight on three pioneering manufacturing firms – PH Williams and Company, Belfast Estates and Dominica Coconut Products, and Bello Products.

Leading officials of those companies were honored.

McKenzie says focusing on those who have achieved can help encourage budding manufacturers to help move the sector forward.

Seventy-two small, medium and “relatively large” manufacturing companies are listed on the association’s membership roll.

However McKenzie laments that “you hardly hear anything about them – in fact Dominicans do not even know what they produce”.

Advertising and promotional costs are being blamed for that state of affairs.

McKenzie who is himself a manufacturer of toilet paper through his Nature Island Paper Products company, says local manufacturers face huge hurdles.

“There are very few incentives for manufacturing that can give them the competitive edge over the imported products,” he told DNO.

The Dominica Manufacturers Association continues to make a case for government to “transfer the VAT (15 per cent Value Added Tax) that we pay at the port when our raw materials and packaging materials come in, transfer it to when we sell”.

According to the businessman government has put in place fiscal incentives that provide for the waiving of import duty.

However he says the manufacturers have to cough up the necessary duty funds “if you are bringing the stuff from CARICOM (member states) – and most of our raw materials have to come from CARICOM anyway”.

He explained that the small volume being purchased makes it uneconomical to try to access raw material from outside of the region which the incentives cater for.

Several manufacturing companies have folded here over the past few years, including Candle Industries, Paul’s Pasta, Blows (Herbal Tea), Paul’s Plastic and Benja Shoe.

McKenzie says one of the problems faced is because penetrating the local market is an uphill struggle.

According to the businessman, many local outlets won’t sell locally manufactured products.

He wants to find out from the DAIC (Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce) “ and some of those businesses why they have so much difficulty in putting local products side by side with what they are importing”.

“There are no systems in place to give you any kind of priority or advantage over what is imported,” McKenzie told DNO.

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29 Comments

  1. invisible being
    May 25, 2012

    And without the manufacturing sector in high speed – folks can say that is development! What is out there in the world for us to write about and say: This product is made in Dominica? When productivity is low and importation is very high well that is development! One doesnot have to be a rocket scientist to understand the basic fact that without productivity employment will be on a downward spiral. Imagine being asked to go back to agriculture only to find that the crops would stay on the fields and spoil: and we say that is development? By the way: whats up with the cane field industrial estate? I guess its being developed! One would like to agree that a promise is a comfort to a fool! Instead of making boast about achievements and making a mockery of the assistance rendered to Dominica by countries we were bed fellows with, start to rebuild the country’s beauty and national pride! Make Dominica a better place for everyone! Raise Dominica to a level beyond compare. Its time to build the country! Remember the world is watching and intelligent mortals are also taking careful notes
    !Imagine in 2012, when Dominica has been blessed with so many natural resources, one is hearing about the manufacturing under pressure!Dominica should be producing its own meat, dairy products, fresh juices- instead of buying the same on the shelves from foreign, and the list goes on and on and on! Take the country to a higher level!

  2. Tiger
    May 25, 2012

    Why doesn’t the government ASK the manufacturers association what they need in order to thrive? Why is it always the government making the rules for them to follow. Give McKenzie and his guys a blank sheet of paper and tell them to write down everything they need. Unless it is grossly unreasonable, give it to them and let them go make money and employ people.

  3. Interested
    May 25, 2012

    I congratulate the Manufacturers’ Association and expect a plan of action for submission to the Government, the DAIC and the membership.
    There is no need to fight or wash dirty linen in public when the manufacturing sector can benefit from positive action.

  4. Eggleston
    May 25, 2012

    There is no manufacturing in Dominica because the government is too dependant on communist China, we have become spoiled. Dependency on others can become a problem. We need to start doing more for ourselves.

  5. patriot
    May 25, 2012

    I hear what you are saying however at the end of the day it boils down to my pocket.

    • drake
      May 25, 2012

      Your pocket????. What is wrong with your pocket not enough money flowing in the country? I wonder why is that so. Is it because of maladministration?. Is it because the red clinic only feed you for one day?
      Patriot keep defending the miserable performance of this DLP and your pocket will always be a problem.

    • Tiger
      May 25, 2012

      You are an idiot. If the economy does well through local production, you too will benefit from the increased activity. It’s a win win, but of course you are too narrow minded to see that.

      • Anonymous
        May 26, 2012

        why are people so quick to bash someone else understand what the individual is saying before you comment. moreover the economy has jobs which are being done by chinese imported workers, who do not participate in the local economy, repatriating their funds resulting in no economic impact by these large scale projects which are implemented to stimulate the economy thus increasing the spending power of the locals but this is not happening.money is still needed to consume the local production!

  6. Anonymous
    May 25, 2012

    Here we go again, assassinating agriculture. What are we manufacturing, for whom, does the country benefit from non-agricultural expeditions? We have or should have a very vibrant agricultural identity that we should be proud of but no, we want to adventure where we can’t sustain our investments and toss the tax payers’ monies into the incinerators of foreign banks. Work what we already have instead of attempting to spend and buy foreign [email protected] to poison future generations. AGRICULTURE IS THE ONLY SAFE and PROVEN WAY TO SUSTAIN LIFE!

  7. Nassief
    May 25, 2012

    Severin McKenzie deserves the Sisserou award for manufacturing in Dominica. He is a brave man.

  8. Interested
    May 24, 2012

    Let us not fight about everything. Manufacturing is critical to our development and I expect the Manufacturers’ Association to put proposals to the Government, the DAIC and its members.

    Washing dirty linen in public will not help manufacturing. A well thought of plan that will draw all the interested parties together should be the starting point.

  9. ROSEAU VALLEY
    May 24, 2012

    The initiative by McKenzie et al is commendable and should be supported, recognizing the herculean task before the association based on the relatively poor record of the manufacturing sector in small island developing states.

    It is sad but true. In spite of the tremendous potential contribution of a thriving manufacturing sector to our developing economy neither our government nor the private sector is devoting resources to the development of that sector in Dominica. The Freedom Party of the 1980s, for instance, developed the Canfield Industrial Site, and our commercial and development banks and institutions like NDFD and SPAT were assisting in developing our manufacturing potentials.

    Developing our tourism industry together with our agricultural sector remains paramount. However, our national economic developing thrust cannot simply depend on a vulnerable tourism industry, the resurgence of a rapidly dying agricultural sector, increased remittances from abroad or hand-outs from China, Venezuela and wherever. There is room for investing in a thriving manufacturing sector, which requires the lifting of the sector at the top of our national priority in our National Strategic Economic Plan, if one exists. Our government may wish to re-engineer the economic citizenship programme to lure businessmen interested in establishing manufacturing enterprises on Island and consider establishing a Export/Manufacturing Processing Zone.
    The above approach requires proactive action and out-of-the box thinking above the gutter political attitude that we currently evince. Government MUST focus on encouraging employment creating foreign investment projects by providing tax holidays, tax-free dividends, and mechanisms for duty-free import of inputs (raw materials, packaging materials, lower advertising rates for local manufactured products etc. and put our productive minds and those with experience in developing the manufacturing sector like Lennox Linton to work. Dominica would be better off than continuing to beg the international community for pittance.

    • Peter Carbon
      May 25, 2012

      A Government was elected to lead a people to prosperity. They must be given the opportunity to be better off than the generation before them. The government economic policy is to TAX those who work and distribute to supporters for consumption.

  10. May 24, 2012

    Being a foreigner in Dominica for about 15 years, I know I would never try to manufacture something here.
    I really love my workers, I’m not complaining but no big company could come if every carnival or every feast in the village, people don’t come to work. I have good guys by me in stonedge but when it’s time to work because créole festival, they just don’t come and really I’m sometimes alone to work with overload of customers and it doesn’t happen only once a year.

    • resident
      May 25, 2012

      To Dupuis Didier:
      You made very good point. Similar situation with the calling centre when after a carnival etc 40% of employees don’t come to office..Its just to confirm that no big company ever open a manufacturing here: 1) high labor cost 2) high taxes 3) workers’ laid back attitudes etc

    • Tiger
      May 25, 2012

      This is the downside of our work ethic. I remember being in Dominica for a creole festival. A friend and I went to lunch on the Monday. We were being served by a woman who was obviously too tired to work. She apologized because she had stayed up until 8 a.m. that morning. If you know you have to go to work, why wouldn’t you leave at a reasonable time so that you are fresh for work?

      Now people do not tell me it happens everywhere else. We do not have to stoop to the lowest standard.

  11. LapTe
    May 24, 2012

    Please inform us of what areas in manufacturing are lacking …I am willing to invest in an area I think will be beneficial to me and Dominicans as a whole? The motive seems to tax the crap out of the little we do and yet foreigners even criminals get things easier than we do in our own country.

  12. drake
    May 24, 2012

    If you destroy the very foundation of manufacturing which is agriculture how do we expect manufacturing to grow. Back in the 80’s to mid 90’smay our manufacturing sector was growing. Now we have become beggars and red clinicites

  13. joanbacktoblack
    May 24, 2012

    please make sure the manufacturers do not pollute
    the environment!

  14. Giggla
    May 24, 2012

    a very dormant sector just like agriculture no one cares everything we eat mostly comes from the soil even some of our processed foods, but we prefer to buy imported foods over local or locally made foods. Government is of the view that Tourism is more viable than agriculture so we sell our land to buy buses eat fast food get high blood pressure and diabetes and no problem we like it so. Banks will not lend money to would be manufactures they frustrate your efforts to make sure you don’t succeed who cares drug money run things anyway

  15. May 24, 2012

    Why not sell your product on DAgrocer(.) com so local and diaspora can purchase them?

  16. Kalinago
    May 24, 2012

    If we look at the rise of china, South korea and other Asian emerging economies, we will find that manufacturing and trade are the driving force behind their economic growth.It is time that the government remove the barriers that are stifleing manufacturing and the private sector. I know that there are so many Dominicans with great ideas.PM remove all trade barriers encourage entrepreneurship to move the economy foward.

  17. Wake up Dominica
    May 24, 2012

    What have I just read recently… almost no exports… oh and high unemployment. So YES, manufacturing has to be a priority. This island needs an economy. Agriculture and tourism are in trouble, so manufacturing needs to be our third string. A little investment to encourage our entrepeneurs will bring employment and exports – so YES, import taxes and duty on raw materials is insane! Wake up Dominica…

  18. May 24, 2012

    that’s intresting indeed, somthing that must be abress if we are to forward.
    Government must step up the plate.

  19. Third Wheel Fan
    May 24, 2012

    Soon to be on TOP of that list is “THIRD WHEEL BEVERAGE COMPANY”!!!!!

  20. resident
    May 24, 2012

    what manufacturing are you talking about, huh? The tariffs in the port are just ridiculous and can kill any business regardless of size etc… Let me bring you example. I buy supplies (packaging materials which I can’t get in Dominica) for 200 EC. I pay for courier services 55 USD and after I get the item in the port the custom officer calculates additional 155 EC of taxes…are you crazy people? I haven’t seen such idiotic anti-enterpreunal rules and attitude in my entire life. Based on current situation with the business environment in dominica you can make only illegal business (drugs, prostitution etc) because any legitimate normal business will go bust in very short period of time based: on low domestic consumption, huge bureaucracy and absolutely non-sense taxation rules

  21. Gee
    May 24, 2012

    WE THINK FOREIGN GOODS ARE BETTER!!
    …WRONG!!

    Buy what we make!!
    Buy what we grow!!
    Support our manufacturers!!
    Let’s stop being just a nation of “consumers”.

    If we are not building,if we are not creating or making and producing things……..then what good are we to ourselves?????

    Our export bills are on the rise. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign products products NOT made by caricom countries].

    • Gee
      May 24, 2012

      **CORRECTION**

      Let me quickly correct myself…… ;-) ;-)

      I meant to say our “IMPORT” bill is on the rise!!

    • Roz
      May 24, 2012

      Our IMPORT bill that killing us. We hardly exporting

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