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Dominican Republic

Economy

The economy of the Dominican Republic was traditionally based on agriculture, especially sugar. However, today only 16 percent of the workforce is still employed in farming or raising livestock, and services employ 63 percent of the working population.

The Dominican government began to diversify the economy in the 1970s and 1980s and to place more emphasis on mining, tourism, and manufacturing. Today, industry and tourism surpass agriculture in economic importance. However, these efforts have not lessened the wide gap between rich and poor or alleviated poverty in the Dominican Republican. In addition, the economy remains vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes and to sharp fluctuations in the prices paid for its primary exports, sugar and other agricultural products. The Dominican economy also is highly dependent on the economy of its leading trade partner, the United States, for export purchases and tourist revenue. Money sent back by Dominicans living abroad also contributes to the nationís income. There is a large Dominican community in New York City.

In 2006 the countryís gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $31.8 billion, or $3,312.20 per person. GDP is a measure of the value of all the goods and services a country produces. In 2006 the national budget included $5.7 billion in revenues and $5.2 billion in expenditures.

Agriculture

The principal cash crops of the Dominican Republic are raised on large plantations. Sugarcane is the main cash crop; the largest plantations are in the southeast. Most Dominican farmers, however, engage in subsistence cultivation, growing barely enough for their own needs. In 2006 some 5.2 million metric tons of sugarcane were produced. Other important crops (with 2006 production in metric tons) were fruits and berries, especially bananas (1,479,685); rice (700,000); coffee (43,525); cacao (31,361); and tobacco (12,000). Cattle, hogs, and poultry are raised primarily for local consumption. The main crops for local consumption are rice, beans, cassava, and plantains, the mainstays of the Dominican diet.

Forestry and Fishing

Some 28 percent of the land of the Dominican Republic is forested. The government fosters conservation and has regulated the forest industry since the early 1960s, but serious deforestation continues. The main woods cut are mahogany, satinwood, pine, and cedar.

The fishing industry is underdeveloped, mainly because of a lack of deep-sea fishing equipment and refrigeration facilities. The catch, which typically includes mackerel, tuna, bonito, and snapper, totaled 12,086 metric tons in 2005.

Mining

Ferronickel, mined in the central part of the Dominican Republic, dominates the countryís mineral production. Production of bauxite, formerly the Dominican Republicís dominant mineral export, virtually ended in the early 1980s. Mineral products in 2000 included nickel (40,000 metric tons), gold (650 kg/1,400 lbs), and silver (4 metric tons).

Manufacturing

Sugar refining is a leading industrial activity in the Dominican Republic, accounting for about half the countryís manufacturing income. Annual output of refined sugar in 2006 was 463,856 metric tons. Other manufactured products include textiles, cement, clothing and footwear, leather goods, paper, glassware, food, and drinks.

Tourism

The Dominican Republic has gained popularity as a tourist destination since the 1990s as a result of its extensive beaches, varied scenery, and low-priced resorts. Beach resorts are located along both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts. The country draws large numbers of tourists from Europe as well as from the United States. In addition to enjoying the white-sand beaches, visitors to the island engage in windsurfing, surfboarding, scuba diving, and snorkeling. In winter, whale-watching is a popular activity. Santo Domingo has interesting buildings from the colonial period and a number of museums. The impressive national aquarium, national zoo, and national botanic garden are all in Santo Domingo. Mountain biking and hiking are two ways of seeing the scenery in the countryís interior. Excursions by jeep to the mountains of the interior are also available. The national parks are places to enjoy the countryís birdlife and tropical vegetation.

Energy

Some 89 percent of the Dominican Republicís electricity is produced in thermal plants; hydroelectric installations generated the remainder. In 2003 the country produced 12.6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Interruptions in the electricity supply seriously disrupted the countryís economy, starting in the 1990s. Electricity blackouts lasted up to 20 hours a day. The governmentís failure to solve the energy crisis led to widespread protests. Hurricanes also damaged electricity transmission and distribution networks.

Currency and Banking

The unit of currency in the Dominican Republic is the peso (33.40 pesos equal U.S.$1; 2006 average). The republic has several commercial banks; one, the Banco de Reservas, is government controlled. The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic is the sole bank of issue. Bank fraud involving embezzlement during the late 1990s and early 2000s contributed to the countryís economic woes. The second-largest Dominican bank collapsed in 2003, and the national debt soared as the Central Bank reimbursed depositors and covered the failed bankís liabilities.

Foreign Trade

The principal exports of the Dominican Republic typically are sugar and sugar products, ferronickel, coffee, cocoa, and tobacco. Sugar and sugar products usually make up a considerable part of all export earnings. Machinery, iron and steel, foodstuffs, petroleum and petroleum products, and chemicals are leading imports. In 2001 the total value of exports was $814 million and of imports $5.5 billion. Tourism revenues help make up the foreign trade deficit. The United States is the leading trade partner of the Dominican Republic. In 1995 the Dominican Republic joined the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), a free trade group. The ACS is composed of the members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and 12 nations bordering the Caribbean.

Transportation

The road system of the Dominican Republic totaled 12,600 km (7,829 mi) in 1999. Almost all travel in the country is by road. Most of the 1,650 km (1,025 mi) of railroad in use is privately owned and serves the sugar plantations. Aside from the Santo Domingo port, other large ports are located at Puerto Plata in the north and Barahona in the southwest. The country is served by international and domestic airlines. International airports are located at Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Barahona, La Romana, Samana, and Santiago.

Communications

The Dominican Republic had 130 commercial radio stations and 10 television networks in the year 2000. The country has an average 178 radio receivers for every 1,000 inhabitants and 99 television sets per 1,000 inhabitants. In 2004 there were 11 daily newspapers, with a combined daily circulation of 230,000; El Caribe and Listin Diario, both issued in Santo Domingo, are influential. There are 101 telephone mainlines in use for every 1,000 inhabitants. The government regulates the media in the Dominican Republic, although it rarely interferes with television and radio programs.

Labor

The labor force of the Dominican Republic included 4.1 million workers in 2006. An estimated 63 percent of all Dominican workers hold jobs in services, and another 21 percent work in industry. The Confederacion de Trabajadores Dominicanos, and the Union General de Trabajadores Dominicanos, two of the nationís leading labor unions, merged in 1988.

 
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