Economy April 21, 2015 | 7:52 am

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Dominican Republic free zones boom spurs talk of better wages

Santo Domingo.- The free zones boom has been possible with investment, has created jobs and has even spurred talk of raising the sector’s minimum wage.

The National Free Zones Council (CNZFE) and the Dominican Free Zones Association (Adozona) released figures Monday that show investment in the sector grew 10.22% in 2014 and created 6.6% more jobs than in 2013.

Nonetheless the free zones’ growth and good performance contrast with the RD$7,220 (US$160) monthly salary paid to most workers.

Although the CNZFE and Adozona figures show the sector’s sustained performance for the fifth consecutive year and spends RD$60.0 billion locally, their workers’ salary can cover barely 57.5% of the cost of a household’s basic staples.

In a joint press conference to render their annual report, CNZFE executive director Luisa Fernandez and Adozona president Jose Tomas Contreras said the sector boasted significant progress in 2014, including new projects and diversified production.

"As we can see, the free zones in our country have been evolving, growing and diversifying. Our contributions to the economy continue to rise. Last year, just for social security payments and services, free zone companies disbursed 9,447 million pesos," Contreras said.

But when Contreras was asked if the free zones’ positive figures could lead to higher wages for workers, he said "that’s right, as you well know the minimum wage of the zones of 7,220 pesos is now under discussion, and we in the Dominican Free Zones Association are very confident that negotiations in the National Salaries Committee conclude, will result in improved wages of our employees."

He added however that better wage free zone workers should be in the measure in which entrepreneurs don’t lose competitiveness.

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