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Dominican Republic

Basic Information

Area: 48,730 km²

Calling code: +1spec. 1-809 and +1-829

Population: 9,904,000

Official Language: Spanish

Time zone: Atlantic (UTC-4), Local time: 14:50

Overview

The Dominican Republic is located on the second largest island in the Caribbean, Hispaniola. The island is located almost at the centre of the Caribbean chain, with Cuba to the west, the Turks and Caicos Islands to the north and Puerto Rico to the east. The Dominican Republic is bordered by Haiti, from which it suffers illegal immigration. Europeans first saw the island in 1492, during Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, and the capital Santo Domingo, located approximately halfway along the Dominican Republic’s southern coastline, was officially founded in 1498. The modern Dominican Republic occupies around two thirds of Hispaniola with a population of 9,183,984 (July 2006 est.) according the CIA World Fact book. The republic comprises 31 provinces, although within Santo Domingo is a subdivision known as the Distrito Nacional.

The history of the Dominican Republic has seen much strife and unrest, and although full independence was gained in 1865, it was not until the 1980s that democracy started to gain a foothold, albeit with civil unrest.

Economy

Since the turn of the millennium, the Republic’s economy has seen dramatic changes; up to 2003 GDP increase had been reasonably healthy, however a massive bank fraud, a slump in tourist arrivals and a lack of appreciable growth in the U.S. economy made 2003 a near disastrous year. Since 2003 and the implementation of stringent financial policies, improvements are slowly filtering through.

Traditionally, the economy has been dependant on agricultural and mineral exports, but in recent times tourism and the service sectors have started to become increasingly import to the country’s economy. An area common with other developing nations economies is remittances; Dominicans living abroad, according to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), a UK based Government funded research organisation, inject USD$1.5 billion per year into the Dominican Republic’s economy. The economy of Santo Domingo, as the country’s administrative centre, is based largely around services. The country has a high number of Free Trade Zone Parks, with the highest numbers being in the provinces of Santo Domingo and Santiago to the north. Santo Domingo is also the home to the Dominican Republic’s first technology free zone, Cyberpark.

Standard Of Living

The quality of life within the Dominican Republic is highly variable: for those living in the capital and the larger cities, the lifestyle can be similar to that of more developed countries. For Haitian immigrant workers, on the other hand, the quality of living can be very poor. In general, most foreign tourists and business travellers only stay in the cities or tourist resorts and areas; if they do travel further, then usually it is on organised excursions or with known business contacts and as such they only see the safer places. In recent years considerable investment has gone into the tourist sector, including a specially trained tourist police force the Politur. Getting around the country is probably best done with taxis or public transport as the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of State, in a report published in March 2006 stated, ‘Dominican drivers are extremely reckless and traffic laws are rarely enforced’.

A report published in July 2006 by the World Bank placed the Dominican Republic, in 2005 based on GNI per capita in 121st place out of 208 countries at USD$2,370, which is almost the lowest in the Caribbean. By way of comparison Luxembourg was in first place with a GNI per capita of USD$65,630 and Haiti in 176th place at USD$450.

Infrastructure

The country has seven airports designated as international, which take advantage of the Republic’s central Caribbean location and 13 seaports. According to figures published by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the total arrivals at the airports for the period January to December 2006 was 4,383,765. Las Americas International Airport, which serves Santo Domingo, saw a total of 1,279,327 arrivals. The airports connect the country to most of North and South America as well as Europe. The seaports of the republic, apart from cargo usage, are becoming popular cruise destinations. The first metro line in the country is due to be opened in early 2008 in Santo Domingo, with two more lines planned.

In late February 2007, a proclamation was issued by the city council of the Distrito Nacional to turn Santo Domingo into a tourist city, which would involve the restoration of monuments and old colonial buildings. Over the last decade or so, a lot of investment has been made available for the tourist infrastructure, which not only includes resorts and hotels but also water treatment and sanitation. A common topic of independent tourist reviews is ‘do not drink the tap water’; the water treatment and sanitation will be of benefit to more than just tourists.

Workforce

In 2006 the CIA World Factbook estimated the workforce to be 3.896 million and unemployment at 16%. Within the country, there are a high number of institutes of higher education, including the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, which was founded in 1538 and is the oldest university in the Caribbean and Americas.
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