Free Economic Zones (FZEs) have turned out to be the biggest drivers of economic growth in the Dominican Republic.
In fact, these FZEs have been creating a record number of jobs, reaching 403,318 so far. A study conducted by the country’s Ministry of Commerce in partnership with various government agencies has revealed that the export revenue generated by FZEs is on course to exceed US$10 billion this year.
There are as many as 79 FZEs in the country, representing 13 per cent of all its formal jobs. In some provinces, economic zones account for one-in-four formal jobs.
While these tax-free zones are favourites of foreign business process outsourcing (BPO) providers, the major dollar earners are cigar makers and textile companies. The United States is the biggest buyer of cigars manufactured in the Dominican Republic.
Every FZE has seen an upsurge in revenue year after year. In 2019, for example, the zones collectively exported goods and services worth US$7.8 billion. The revenue increased by 22 per cent in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dom Rep’s Minister of Commerce and SMEs, Ito Bisonó reports that, “the performance of the sector during 2021 evidences why our free zones are zones of opportunities for all Dominicans, and the prospects for the close of 2022 allow us to affirm that we will continue to break records.”
Under the free zone programme, the government also provides skill training to its young graduates. Since 1992, as many as 770,914 workers have been trained in various jobs.