Dominican Republic leader announces big plans, but still skirts the press
Invites the privatesector for infrastructure projects
Speaks at the American Chamberof Commerce
Santo Domingo.-President Danilo Medina on Wednesday announced an ambitious effort to attract theprivate sector into government-led initiatives aimed at building infrastructureprojects in mass transit and energy, among other major investments.
He said DominicanRepublic´s energy deficit is so pronounced that even international organizationslist it as a major hurdle in the country´s development, and also what promptedhis administration to build the two coal-fired plants at Punta Catalina (south).
As invited speaker forthe American Chamber of Commerce´s (Amcham-DR) yearend luncheon, Medina invitedthe business leaders not be afraid and take risks by investing in the country’senergy system, affirming that “I´m the Dominican who´s most convinced that inorder to progress, the electricity problem must first be solved.”
“It is urgent to changethe fuel sources to lower costs. We were called upon to act so we proceeded,the State could not stand idly by withstanding high oil prices,” the chiefexecutive said, reiterating that in the endeavor, his administration wantspartners from the private sector.
Medina mentioned twomajor natural gas projects in the offing: A gas pipe to supply the easternregion using the AES Dominicana terminal in Andres Boca Chica, and an unspecifiedfacility in the Northwest.
He said he wants toopen up the infrastructure to investment in natural gas infrastructure, althougha US company was unable to materialize a similar project during the last fiveyears on hurdles by the government.
“It’s a crime to delaydevelopment,” he said, and toward that goal also announced government fundingto provide titles to “tens of thousands of properties in the entire nation,”opening the doors to loans “so the citizens can work to get out of poverty.”
“We are working towardpublic-private alliances to open new fields of cooperation especially in masstransport. Owning a car is not a sign of progress; progress is when the richand poor prefer public transport,” Medina said, assuring that mass transit is aprofitable investment.
Out of poverty
Medina affirmed thatthe country has increased its middle class from 20% in 2002 to 29% last year,figures which he says “other countries in Latin America want to emulate.”
“This is the occasion we´vebeen waiting for. We know of the bad practices in Dominican society. We want tobuild a country whose citizen’s walk with their heads high and happiness intheir hearts.”
Although Medinascurried away when Dominican Today sought to ask him to comment on the country´sjudicial and corruption crises, Dominican Industries Association executive vicepresident Circe Almánzar after the vent noted that the head of state´s manyplans and promises must be tempered with “wait and see” attitude. “There weremany projects, we are thrilled that he has called on the private sector tomaterialize them, we´ll wait a see.”
On the fight against corruption, Almanzar noted that as head of the prosecutors, Medina has to improve transparency from the Executive Branch.