The Dominican Republic Country Report

Linked with Sonia Pierre – Dominican Republic, with the Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Decent MUDHA, and with the International Women’s Rights Action Watch irwaw.

Published by the International Women’s Rights Action Watch iwraw.

Excerpts: … Tourism: Tourism has expanded considerably in recent years, bringing over two million visitors to the country’s coastal resorts in 1995 alone. Assessments vary, but tourism is said to generate as much money for the government as the Free Trade Zones and double the hard currency generated by other exports. It has also created a boom in sex tourism and has helped to increase the rate of AIDS infection, currently the country’s most serious health problem. Culturally, tourism has been yet another source of free-floating and spatially divided families. A tourism promotion fund run by the government and the National Hotel & Restaurants Association has recently been established. Since the State has officially launched itself into the tourism business, it can no longer remain disengaged from the human and ecological issues generated by this kind of development. For one, it cannot continue to ignore the boom in sex-tourism in the resort areas multiplying along the coasts. Non-governmental groups hope that the CESCR Committee will question the Dominican Government delegation concerning what precisely the State intends to do to discourage some of the negative effects of the country’s increasing dependence on tourism.

Gatt and the World Trade Organisation: In January 1995, the Dominican Congress approved the ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was the prerequisite to becoming incorporated into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Congress is adopting a new foreign investment law to meet the regulations set forth by the WTO. In general, the law grants equal treatment to all investors, foreign and domestic. It also opens previously restricted areas of the economy to foreign investment. A new financial and monetary code is also being approved by Congress.7 The WTO has praised the efforts of the Dominican Government to integrate its economy with world markets. However, the WTO has itself warned that this further opening of the Dominican economy will mean “longer-term, difficult adjustments, especially for those parts of agriculture which compete with imports.”8 Informed Dominicans agree that the country cannot avoid integration with the world economy, but those who are democratically-minded feel that this integration must be more innovative and socially redemptive than it has been in the past. Much of the export-led growth in the country has been accomplished by bringing unskilled women into the workforce at minimal wages, without any corresponding growth in State investments in human resource development, specifically education and vocational training.

It is widely agreed that the State is in an administrative crisis and urgently needs restructuring, but there is no consensus about exactly what this should mean. Not uncommonly, there are clashes between Dominican police and residents demanding improvements in water, electricity or health services. Congress has approved legal reforms which now make it possible to privatise most public services, but there is great hostility and suspicion among the poorer classes that the crises in electricity and other state-owned utilities are being manufactured by those who will profit enormously from privatisation, and are not, in themselves, proof that properly managed public services cannot be cost effective.

Development reform: The legacy of the Trujillo regime has been the continued predominance of the State and its corrupt enterprises. As elsewhere in the world, the primary casualties of the economic and monetary reforms prescribed to cure these ills are the poorer classes. Concerned experts warn that the regulations of the World Trade Organisation will aggravate the hardships brought on with structural adjustment and will discriminate specifically against workers and domestic producers. The effect on rural agricultural producers, for example, will increase an already existing threat to food security in the country.”

Women and “invisible adjustment’: Although men still make up the majority of the economically active population (EAP), it is estimated that since 1960 the number of economically active women has grown at four times the rate for men. UNICEF’s concept of “invisible adjustment” is a particularly appropriate description of the entry of large numbers of unskilled women onto the labour market in recent years in the Dominican Republic. While employment opportunities for men have been shrinking, the new “growth” in the Free Trade Zones and tourism have offered unprecedented opportunities for unskilled women, who have taken on increasing responsibility for supporting their families.

The “social debt”: Oxfam – UK is conducting a world-wide campaign to increase public concern for the basic human right to work “in a dignified environment.” Oxfam and its campaign collaborator in the Dominican Republic, the Centro de Investigaciones para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF), have brought renewed currency in their campaign to the notion of an ‘unpaid social debt.’ The campaign in the Dominican Republic focuses specifically on women’s employment in the Free Trade Zones. Rather than minimise or ignore the complex relationship between economics and the claims of human rights, Oxfam describes how the legacy of authoritarian and self-serving leadership, corruption and the constraints of an economy excessively dependent on US and other outside economic interests, continues to express itself in the Dominican Republic as an “endless, massive flood of migrants – more accurately described as economic refugees,” who remain “the best indicator of the magnitude of this unpaid social debt.” …

Read the whole long article on International Women’s Rights Action Watch irwaw.

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