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Dominicans Discuss How to Boost Growth and Create Jobs

November 1, 2012

Banco Mundial

  • Dominican Republic is one of the best economic performers in the region but there are still high levels of inequality and poverty
  • Improving business climate and access to internet are key priorities for the country
  • Another challenge is to create stable jobs for young people

Dominican Republic, unlike its Caribbean neighbors, has been one of the best economic performers in the region in the last decade. As the 7th largest economy in Latin America and the Caribbean, the country’s growth rate in the last 50 years has been 5.9%, well above the regional average.

However, high levels of poverty and inequality prevail. The goal is to achieve growth for everyone.

To overcome this great challenge, Dominican Republic celebrates its first meeting of the Caribbean Growth Forum, where over 150 participants will discuss ways to unlock the country’s growth potential.

A joint venture by the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) brings together key private sector, the youth, civil society, as well as the wider Caribbean diaspora, with the aim of inspiring an open and realistic discussion about the future of the region and its potential for growth.

“Growth goes beyond GDP, it is also about building an inclusive society,” explains Andrea Gallina, World Bank Civil Society Specialist and CGF Coordinator. “It’s a forum to give voice to those groups less represented in any debate, such as small and medium businesses, youth and the diaspora,” he added.

Where to start?

In order to bring real growth, experts agree that the focus should be on greater investment and productivity. Human capital, more jobs, telecommunications, innovation and quality of infrastructure are all very necessary areas for growth. But, where to start?

Marialisa Motta, World Bank director for Finance and Private Sector Development in the Latin American and Caribbean Region and co-director for the Investment Climate Global Practice, explains the need to help countries in the region achieve growth in line with their potential.

According to Motta, despite of continued growth, Dominican Republic is way below the regional average when it comes to promote entrepreneurship.

This is mainly caused by red tape and institutional bottlenecks. In addition, high transportation costs negatively affect exports, manufacturing and tourism.

“Though ample and complex, the CGF agenda does provide the opportunity to develop action plans for results in the next six months,” said Motta.

" Growth goes beyond GDP, it is also about building an inclusive society "

Andrea Gallina

World Bank Civil Society Specialist and CGF Coordinator

For Mite Nisho, Telecommunications professional and ICT consultant, in the Dominican Republic there is a huge disconnection between public and private initiatives, which at the same time not always benefit the poorer.

Nisho mentioned that although the country has had major accomplishments regarding land line telephones, internet connection has not followed suit. 

“The public and private sectors need to invest to bring fiber optic lines to poor rural areas of the island. Then small companies in the area could thrive through Internet and Wi-Fi business,” he says.

Entrepreneur Wadi Cano describes a long list of challenges faced by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), including high electricity and food prices, a lack of skilled workers, and limited access to finance.

In the Dominican Republic, MSMEs contribute approximately 23% of the GDP and employ over 36% of the labor force. Nonetheless, only one out of every ten MSMEs has access to formal financial services in the country.

Giving voice to the youth

Four out of ten young people in the Dominican Republic do not have a job. In rural areas, the unemployment rate among young women is as high as 28%. These figures place the Dominican Republic well above the regional average of 14.4% and the world average of 12.6%, according to data from the International Labor Organization. 

According the 2011 Enhogar Survey, urban youth with secondary education recorded higher unemployment rates than their less educated (or sometimes illiterate) counterparts.   It is clear the CGF discussion will be challenged by these realities.

According to Rolando Guzman, President of INTEC University and CGF’s Advisory Board Member, the Forum “is a space to ponder but also to act. It is aimed at strengthening our abilities for inclusive growth by joining public and private sector efforts,” he said.

Wether the focus is on the quality of public expenditure, manufacturing, tourism, education for better jobs or helping small enterprises, a careful analysis and action plan will be key for poverty reduction, inclusive growth and opportunities for all.