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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 48,730 sq km (18,704 sq miles)
Population: 9,378,818 (2011 est.)
Capital City: Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Distrito Nacional (but referred to as Santo Domingo or Distrito Nacional) (pop. 2.359.327-2011). Second largest city: Santiago de los Caballeros (pop. 942,509).
People: Mixed 73%, European 16%, African origin 11%
Language(s): Spanish
Religion(s): Christian (Mostly Roman Catholic) 95% Other 5% (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu)
Major political parties: Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) and several other minor parties.
Government: Representative Democracy
Head of State and Government: Dr Leonel Fernandez Reyna
Prime Minister/Premier: Not applicable
Foreign Minister: Carlos Morales Troncoso

People

About 67% of Dominicans live in urban areas; Haitians form the largest foreign minority group. Although freedom of religion is constitutionally recognised Roman Catholicism has wide reaching influence.

Nationality: Noun and adjective - Dominican(s)
Annual Population Growth Rate: 1.33% (2011 est.)
Education: Compulsory years - 6-17/18. Attendance – 6.9 Years%. Literacy - 88%.
Work Force: Services and Government - 31% (includes paraestatal corporations); Agriculture - 28%; Industry - 12%; Unemployment – 14.9%

The Military

The Ministry of Armed Forces is commanded by the President, Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces and National Police, whilst operating under the mandate of the Minister of Armed Forces. The Armed Forces is formed of three distinct institutions: National Army, Marines and the Air Force with 45,000 active duty personnel. The Dominican Republic's military is one of the top three in size in the Caribbean. Their roles include participating fully in counter-narcotics efforts, and in efforts to control contraband and illegal immigration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and from the Dominican Republic to the United States.

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HEALTH

Infant Mortality rate: 23.1/1000
Life expectancy: 71 years men and 75 women

HIV/AIDS

Adult Prevalence Rate: 1.1% (2010 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 57,000(2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS deaths: 4,100 (2010 est.)

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ECONOMY

GDP: $US 50.98 Billion (2010 est)
Per Capita GDP: $US 5,231.60 (2010 est)
Annual Growth: 7.8% (2010 est)
Major Industries: Tourism, free trade zones (textiles and assembly operations), energy, agriculture (the sugar cane industry and organic products are the biggest exports), telecommunications, cement and mining,
Mining Products: Nickel, Bauxite, Copper, Gold and Silver
Agricultural Products: Sugar, coffee, cocoa, bananas, tobacco, rice, plantains, fruits, beef, cotton, beans, potatoes, corn, pigs, dairy products, eggs and flowers
Trade: Exports ($6,598.1 million 2010 est.): commodities - ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, cement, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats and fruits Imports ($10,959.9 million, 2010 est.): foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily dependent on tourism (which is the largest earner of foreign exchange), agriculture, trade and services. Although the service sector has taken over from agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism and the Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $4,300 million in annual earnings. Tourism, export of organic products and telecommunications are the fastest growing export sectors. Remittances from Dominicans living abroad are estimated to be about $3.4 million per year.

On 9 November 2009, The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a new 28-month Stand-By Arrangement for the Dominican Republic in the amount of SDR 1,094.5 million (about US$1.7 billion) to support the country’s strategy to cope with the adverse effects of the global economic environment. The Stand-By Arrangement is designed to bolster confidence in the policy framework and catalyze additional financing from other multilateral sources.

In April 2010, the IMF completed the first review of the Dominican Republic’s economic performance under a programme supported by a 28-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The completion of the review enabled the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 79.27 million (about US$119.9 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to an amount equivalent to SDR 279.27 million (about US$422.3 million).

In December 2010 the IMF approved the fourth review of the standby agreement and
US$839.8 million will be disbursed between February 2011 and February 2012.

As of January 2009, all exports in goods and services originating from within the Cariforum countries (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic) receive duty-free and quota-free access in Europe. Eighty percent of the goods produced in Europe will receive duty free access to the Caribbean markets within the next 15 years. The Dominican Republic is a major recipient of aid from international organisations such as the World Bank, Inter American Development Bank and the EU through Cotonou Agreement funds.

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HISTORY

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic (DR) forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by the Tainos, an Arawak speaking people. The Tainos welcomed Colombus in his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonisers were brutal, reducing the Taino population from about one million to a few thousand in 50 years and ultimately to extinction. To ensure adequate labour for plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves to the island beginning in 1503.

In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697. In 1804, forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican Independence, drove out the settlers and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state. Britain was the first country formally to recognise the Dominican Republic in 1844. In 1861, following a period of economic uncertainty, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored.

Economic difficulties, mainly financial/debts, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a US occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican government. In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army commander, established a dictatorship with absolute political control. In August 1960, The Organisation of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in an attempt to assassinate President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela. These sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's death by assassination in May 1961. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile.

In January 1962, a council of state that included moderate opposition elements with legislative and executive powers was formed. OAS sanctions were lifted on 4 January and, after the resignation of President Joaquin Balaguer on 16 January, the council under President Rafael E. Bonnelly headed the Dominican Government. In 1963, Juan Bosch was inaugurated President. Bosch was overthrown in a military coup in September 1963.

From 1988 the country suffered a 2-year economic depression, characterised by high inflation and currency devaluation. Economic difficulties, coupled with problems in the delivery of basic services generated popular discontent that resulted in frequent, occasionally violent, protests, including a paralysing nation-wide strike in June 1989.

In 1990 after concluding an IMF agreement, balancing the budget, and curtailing inflation, the Dominican Republic experienced a period of economic growth marked by moderate inflation, a balance in external accounts, and a steadily increasing GDP. The voting process in 1986 and 1990 was generally seen as fair, but allegations of election board fraud tainted both victories. The elections of 1994 were judged by the international community to have been flawed. Following a compromise calling for constitutional and electoral reform, President Balaguer assumed office for an abbreviated term. In June 1996, Leonel Fernandez Reyna was elected to a 4-year term as President. In May 2000 Hipolito Mejía was elected to a 4-year term as President, and then in May 2004, Leonel Fernandez was again elected as President. Fernandez went on to win re-election as President in May 2008.

BBC News Country Timeline: Dominican Republic (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1217000/1217771.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

The Dominican Republic has a close relationship with the United States and with other states of the Inter-American system. It has accredited diplomatic missions in most Western Hemisphere countries, Europe and Asia. The Dominican Republic and Cuba have established Consular relations, and there is contact in fields such as commerce, culture, and sports. The Dominican Republic also maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan and a Commercial Development Office in the People’s Republic of China.

Although relations with its closest neighbour, the Republic of Haiti, have never been extensive, this has begun to change under President Fernandez's administration. Growing immigration from and political instability in Haiti have forced the Dominican Republic to take a closer look at relations with its neighbour, both bilaterally and in international fora. There is a sizeable Haitian migrant community in the Dominican Republic and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti increased the flow of Haitians to the Dominican Republic.

Relations with the International Community

During his previous term in office, President Leonel Fernandez brought the Dominican Republic back to the international stage, thus ending almost 30 years of self-imposed isolation which the country endured under previous, semi-autocratic regimes. Fernandez attended the inauguration of President Chávez of Venezuela during his previous term, and their friendship continues. Chávez visited Santo Domingo on 6 November 2004, and signed an oil purchasing agreement offering the Dominican Republic $150m of oil on very favourable terms, to help the country cope with its power sector crisis. The Venezuelan and Dominican Republic leaders signed another agreement offering the Dominican Republic beneficial oil-purchasing terms at the beginning of September 2005. At a CARIFORUM summit in the Dominican Republic in July 2005, the Dominican Republic publicly asked to be made full members of CARICOM and has repeated the request since, but has yet to be accepted.

Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (http://www.acpsec.org)

Relations with the UK

After extensive lobbying from the British business community and in recognition of the great potential of the market, plus growing numbers of UK tourists, the UK re-opened its Embassy in the Dominican Republic (DR) in November 1995, after a gap of over 10 years. In 1998, the Embassy was boosted by a second UK-based member of staff as Deputy Head of Mission in support of our developing relations. In May 2003 Baroness Amos paid an official visit to the Dominican Republic as FCO Minister for the Caribbean. This was the first Ministerial visit since the British Embassy reopened in Santo Domingo in 1995.

President Fernandez visited the UK in March 2006. This was the first ever official visit by a President of the Dominican Republic. He undertook a successful programme of meetings including the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. The President also spoke at several functions and met representatives of business, tourism and academic groups interested in the Dominican Republic. During the visit, the DR Foreign Minister, Carlos Morales Troncoso and the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, signed a UK-DR Air Services Agreement.

There has been a number of further high level visits from senior figures in the Dominican Republic to the United Kingdom between 2009 and the present day including the President and the foreign Minister.

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GEOGRAPHY

Location: Caribbean, eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Haiti occupies the western third.
Geographical co-ordinates: 19 00 N, 70 40 W.
Terrain: Mountainous with fertile valleys and reduced lowlands.
Climate: Maritime tropical. Little seasonal temperature variation; seasonal variation in rainfall.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

and represents a small but significant growth market for the UK. The value of exports to the Dominican Republic in 2010 was £108.4 million, and imports from the Dominican Republic totalled £98.6 million.

Principal UK exports are beverages, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, road vehicles, specialised industrial machinery, electrical machinery and miscellaneous manufactured articles. Principal imports from the Dominican Republic are: organic fruits, coffee, tobacco, sugar, clothing and footwear (from free zones), furniture, gold and silver alloy, ferro-nickel. Whisky is becoming an increasingly popular choice among Dominican drinkers. The rise in whisky consumption has attracted a host of overseas suppliers to satisfy the increased demand, and with their product portfolio and new campaigns they are attracting new customers every day. International and local companies import a wide variety of well-known brands that go from single malt to blended. In 2010, the Dominican Republic imported approximately 600,000 cases of whisky.

The main trading partners with the Dominican Republic are the USA, Haiti, Canada, the European Community and Venezuela, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom. In addition to promoting industrial investment opportunities in the Industrial Free Zones (IFZs), the government also offers substantial incentives for investment in the tourism sector and most recently the film industry (In February 2011 construction for a Pinewood Shepperton studio commenced). There are significant opportunities for UK companies to invest in the tourism industry either individually or on a joint venture basis with local private sector hotel operators.


Agriculture

The traditional export crops were sugar, coffee, cocoa and tobacco, but the country's agricultural sector has moved away from such crops, with increased production and exports of organic bananas, pineapples, citrus, melons, and mangoes. The government is committed to attracting new investment to this sector.


Tourism

Tourism became a strong growth industry in the 1980s and is playing a major role in the country's development and it is the largest foreign exchange earner. The major development areas are in the eastern coast with Punta Cana and Bavaro, and in the southeast at Bayahibe, and Puerto Plata and Samana in the north. Almost 4 million tourists arrived to the country in 2010. During 2010, the Dominican Republic received 264 cruise ships/vessels, totalling over 352,539 visitors. Approximately 172,307,000 British tourists visited the country last year.

Mining

The mining sector continues significantly to contribute to GDP.

The strong performance of the mining sector is a result of increases in nickel production marble and plaster (60.4%), other factors contributing to the sector's growth in foreign demand are the increase in the gold, silver and nickel international prices and a higher use of the productive capacity.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector comprises two separate subsectors: industries producing for the domestic market, notably sugar and rice milling and production of construction materials. Light manufacturing is contributing an ever more important share of national output, exports and employment. The second subsector is organised around the Free Trade Zones, the majority for export. The products are mostly textiles, clothing and related goods, medicines and chemical products, and foodstuffs.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Dominican Republic (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/dominican_republic)

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POLITICS

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The President appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The President and Vice-President run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms.

Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral congress - the senate (32 members) and the chamber of deputies (120 members). A Presidentially appointed governor heads each of the 31 provinces. Elected mayors and municipal councils administer the National District (Santo Domingo) and the 103 municipal districts.

Following an intense period of political activity and a 1994 election pronounced flawed by the international community, the competing political parties signed a Pact for Democracy on 10 August 1994, reducing President Balaguer's term of office from 4 to 2 years, setting early elections, and reforming the constitution. The most significant of these reforms prohibited the President from standing for a second consecutive term.

A new Constitution was enacted on 26 January 2010. As opposed to the previous one, substantial changes were introduced thus a new Constitutional era began in the country. One of the most important changes was the elimination of the prohibition to stand for President in the future if the incumbent was re-elected. This overturned the 2002 disposition and enabled former President Hipolito Mejía to re-enter the political scene.

The ruling PLD party also obtained majority in Congress in the 2010 elections. As a result of changes introduced in the Constitution, the elected members of Congress will serve for 6 years and then stand with the Presidential elections of 2016.

Government

Administrative Divisions: 31 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and the National District (distrito); Azua, Baoruco, Barahona, Dajabon, Distrito Nacional*, Duarte, Elias Pina, El Seibo, Espaillat, Hato Mayor, Independencia, La Altagracia, La Romana, La Vega, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Monsenor Nouel, Monte Cristi, Monte Plata, Pedernales, Peravia, Puerto Plata, Salcedo, Samana, Sanchez Ramirez, San Cristobal, San Jose de Ocoa, San Juan, San Pedro de Macoris, Santiago, Santiago Rodriguez, Santo Domingo, Valverde.
Independence: 27 February, 1844 (the UK was the first country officially to recognise the Dominican Republic's independence)
Constitution: 26 January 2010.
Branches: Executive - President (Chief of State and Head of Government), Vice President, Cabinet, Legislative - Bicameral Congress (Senate and Chamber of Deputies) Judicial - Supreme Court of Justice and a Constitutional Tribunal.

Elections

Following the enactment of a new Constitution on 26 January 2010 Presidential and legislative elections will be held every four years. The latest congressional elections were in 2010 and a transitional article in the new Constitution indicated that the elected members of Congress in 2010 will serve for six years to join in the 2016 elections. The next Presidential election will be in 2012. Suffrage: 18 years of age and compulsory (members of the armed forces and police cannot vote).

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Last Updated: June 2011

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