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Editors note:This article was published in the Feb 27 issue of The Chronicle Newspaper

In the midst of a global economic downturn, cottage industries in Dominica ought to play a very important role in the economy of the country, and the government needs to do more to facilitate their development and sustainability.

Cottage industries exist where families produce marketable items with simple tools, through the work of family members only. They do not rely on expensive machinery, technical inputs or hired labor. Dominica has enormous potential to expand existing cottage industries – in pottery, leatherwork, woodwork, and various types of handicraft – and develop new ones.

In both rural and urban areas, thriving cottage industries would yield enormous benefits. In country areas, they would help farmers to supplement their main earnings from agriculture. In urban areas, they would provide full-time employment to persons who cannot find jobs, as well as offer part-time employment for those with jobs who want to increase their earnings.

It is not certain whether any accurate data exists regarding the contribution existing cottage industries make to Dominica’s economy, but there is no question that the revenues they generate are vital to the sustenance of many families and are essential to the country’s economic well-being. Moreover, they promote the attainment of marketable skills and create sources of income where none would otherwise exist.
The Roosevelt Skerrit administration has been very resourceful when it comes to raising funds for large capital investment projects like the Windsor Park Stadium, the Melville Hall airport and the “housing revolution”. It is time for government to show equal inventiveness with regard to sourcing funds for setting up cottage industries, as well as ensuring that Dominicans have access to sound advice on how to run small businesses.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the economic power of local cottage industries. Some of the products that these small industries produce have the potential to be world class. The government needs to direct more funds and technical expertise towards the expansion of these cottage industries and help develop the quality and marketing of the products so that there is increasing demand for them within the country and abroad.

It is clear that many of Dominica’s cottage industries need fiscal and tax incentives in order to get off the ground. The government has a responsibility to come up with practical development strategies and appropriate incentives to help them. With correct policy interventions and incentives, there is every reason to expect local cottage industries to develop exponentially, with all the attendant benefits to the economy.
Government has to take up the challenge of revitalising existing cottage industries and creating new ones across the island. To create an enabling environment for cottage industries, Government has to make distinct and affirmative moves. Any restrictions or taxation on cottage industries in Dominica must be reasonable and relevant; and any bureaucratic registration processes must be streamlined or eliminated.

Government can do much more to support this economic sector. Unless Government sends a clear signal of support, cottage industries would tend to shy away from any interaction with officialdom in the fear that this would lead to restrictions, increased taxation and other disincentives.

Government’s role is to create the right business climate for cottage industries by providing a wide range of incentives, and by pro-actively implementing appropriate policies, systems and legislation.

What some other ways you believe government can create the right business climate for the cottage industry in Dominica. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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