With few natural resources and a fledgling tourist industry, Dominica is attempting to reduce its reliance on bananas, traditionally its main export earner.
The trade has faced stiffer competition since the European Union was forced by the World Trade Organisation to phase out preferential treatment for producers from former colonies.
A mountainous, forested island with a year-round tropical climate, national parks, rare indigenous birds and the second-largest boiling lake in the world, Dominica is potentially a great tourist attraction.
Forest-clad slopes rise over Soufriere Bay
But poor infrastructure and the absence of a large airport has impeded the industry's growth. The country is also vulnerable to hurricanes.
Plans to build an airport capable of taking large jet aircraft have raised concerns that an increase in visitor numbers and the rise of eco-tourism would damage the finely-balanced environment.
Offshore finance has had its problems too. For a time, Dominica was included on a list of countries deemed to be non-cooperative in the fight against money-laundering. The government tightened up banking rules and set up a financial intelligence unit.
Dominica has a relatively low crime rate for the Caribbean. Although it is among the poorest countries in the region, its differences in wealth distribution are not as marked as in the larger Caribbean islands.
- Full name: Commonwealth of Dominica
- Population: 70,400 (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Roseau
- Area: 751 sq km (290 sq miles)
- Major languages: English (official), French patois
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: n/a
- Monetary unit: 1 East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Bananas, soap, bay oil, vegetables, grapefruit, oranges
- GNI per capita: US$6,760 (World Bank, 2010)
- Internet domain: .dm
- International dialling code: +1767
President: Dr Nicholas Liverpool
Dominica's parliament, the House of Assembly, appoints the president - the ceremonial head of state. The prime minister and cabinet exercise legislative power.
Prime minister: Roosevelt Skerrit
Roosevelt Skerrit's governing Dominica Labour Party won general elections in May 2005.
Roosevelt Skerrit grappled with economic challenges
Campaigning on a pledge to increase the minimum wage and attract foreign investment, Mr Skerrit and the DLP were re-elected by a landslide in December 2009.
A former education minister, Mr Skerrit took office as Dominica's youngest prime minister two days after the sudden death of his predecessor, Pierre Charles, in January 2004. He was chosen by his party to succeed the late leader.
He inherited the challenge of boosting Dominica's sluggish economy, which relies heavily on tourism and banana exports.
In 2004 Mr Skerrit's government cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of ties with mainland China. The prime minister said Beijing had agreed to give more than $100 million in aid - equivalent to $1,500 for each Dominican.
He has also sought close ties with left-wing President Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. In January 2008, Dominica joined ALBA, a Central and South American trade group, which was proposed by Venezuela and opposes neoliberal economic policies.
Roosevelt Skerrit - who was 31 when he took office - studied English and psychology in the US before becoming a teacher and a lecturer on the island. He entered parliament in 2000.
Dominica has no daily newspapers; its press consists of weeklies.
There is no national TV, but cable TV covers part of the island.
The radio scene comprises public and private stations.
All media are free from government interference and carry a range of sometimes critical views.
There were 27,500 internet users by September 2009.
- The Chronicle - weekly
- The Times - weekly
- The Sun - weekly
- The Tropical Star - weekly
- Marpin Telecom and Broadcasting - cable TV provider