The Dominican Republic has managed to stage an economic recovery while COVID-19 is still proving to be a health, financial and social crisis around the world.
Our Today sat down with Dominican Republic Ambassador to Jamaica Angie Martinez for an extensive interview in which she talked about how her country managed to fire up its economy, while at the same time putting protocols in place to get its people vaccinated.
Between 2015 and 2019, the Dominican Republic’s GDP grew by 6.1 per cent annually, making it a star performer in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Then came COVID-19, practically closing down the world and decimating economies -particularly developing ones.
According to the IMF, the Dominican Republic’s GDP contracted by 6.7 per cent in 2020 with the country having to shut down its most productive sector, tourism.
But the economy has rebounded in a little over a year and is set for a promising 2022.
“Economies all over the world have contracted due to the pandemic, but we have been able, thanks to the measures put in place by the government, to protect the productive and service sectors. This has allowed us to recover faster. Many forecasters say we will grow by 10 per cent this year.
“I think this is due to multiple factors. We have had good governments and a very capable Central Bank. We have also proven to be an attractive country for foreign direct investment (FDI). The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) ranked the Dominican Republic amongst the most attractive countries in the region for FDI. We also have a good legal and regulatory framework which investors are always looking for.
“Another key element has been our ability to diversify the economy. We have invested in communications, energy, mining, infrastructure and not solely relied on tourism which has meant that we have recovered faster,” said Martinez, speaking from the Embassy located on Hope Road in St Andrew.
The facts support her observations. This year, Dominican Republic will net US$3 billion in FDI. According to the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, remittances received up to October 2021 are 40 per cent higher than those received in October 2019 and 31 per cent higher than in October 2020.
Between January to October, remittances inflows into Dominican Republic came to US$9 billion, helping to support consumption.
Total employment fell in 2020 but fully recovered in manufacturing in 2021.
Between January to August of this year, 2.5 million visitors came to the country, an increase on the previous year with Dominican Republic hailed as being the lowest-risk tourism destination for contracting COVID.
The Melia Hotel Group and Falcon’s Beyond Global will be investing over US$400 million into the construction of hotel projects in the Caribbean country.
President Luis Abinader is looking to consolidate the economy and also ensure taxes are curtailed. Only last month he announced: “We are not going to increase taxes. I want to announce that we will not submit any tax reform. Now our only priority is to consolidate the economic recovery.”
The IMF has also noted the Dominican Republic’s progress with Mariana Sans and Pamela Madrid writing: “The country’s response has adjusted to the needs created by the pandemic. Initially with the economy in lockdown, the response prioritised health spending and broad transfers to low-income families and the unemployed, targeting tax relief. The Central Bank reacted decisively through interest rate cuts and ample liquidity provision that supported credit and activity. As the economy began to recover, policies became more targeted. Support to the unemployed focused on the most affected sectors, notably tourism.”
Martinez drew attention to the fact that, underpinning this economic turnaround has been the country’s vaccination policy and efforts to fight COVID-19 and keep its citizens safe.
She continued: “We have high levels of vaccination, not only in Punta Cana but across the country. We moved quickly to inoculate tourism works so that the sector could be restarted. We are among the best countries not just in the region but in the world in protecting its people against the coronavirus. Our death rate is about one per cent, which is one of the lowest in the world as highlighted by Johns Hopkins University. We now need to get 500,000 more doses administered in order to reach our target goal of 70 per cent of the country fully vaccinated. We are now at about 63 per cent and should get there before the end of this year. We have begun to give doses to children aged between five and 12 years old. They will receive a half-strength dosage of the Sinovac vaccine.”
Vice President Raquel Pena has won plaudits for her efforts in mobilising the country and implementing the National Vaccination Plan.
The Dominican Republic’s positivity rate is now less than five per cent with the number of deaths (cases per million) placed at 82 per cent lower than the average Latin American country.
“The government moved very quickly to try to get ahead of the situation, buying up vaccines before they were approved. It was a risk that paid off. The people on the front line got top priority then tourism workers because as you know, tourism is a very important sector of our economy. Punta Cana is now COVID-free having its workers all get the jab.
“We are now looking to administer the third dose as an extra layer of protection for all people in the Dominican Republic.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking at first because the government allocated a large sum of funds for tourism workers who lost jobs because of COVID. It felt a social responsibility to keep them going,” explained Martinez.