Santo Domingo, DR
Think Economics 2020, an annual meeting organized by the Dominican-Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, focused this year on the global impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and its prospects, an activity in which most of its local and international participants agreed that the Dominican economy would recover from the first half of 2021, but recognized that its growth would depend mainly on the behavior of the U.S. economy in the face of the health crisis.
In the online forum, the following topics were discussed: A global approach to the economy, with the health sector as a priority, a geopolitical view of the region, with a clear focus on the Dominican Republic. How will economic recovery be through tourism, attracting foreign investment, reactivating production, and public-private partnerships?
Among the experts participating in Think Economics 2020 were Ricardo Castillo, Director, Head of Investments for Latin America, Credit Suisse; Gustavo A. Flores-Macias, Associate Provost for International Affairs, Cornell University; Steven Puig, President of the BHD Leó n Bank; Víctor Ito Bisonó, Minister of Industry and Commerce (MICM); Jaqueline Mora, Vice Minister of Tourism; Gaetan Bucher, CEO Caelum Capital and president of the Dominican-Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Tourism; Raul Ovalles, Managing Partner of Analytica; Hugo Rivera, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs of MIREX; and Sigmund Freund, Director of Public-Private Partnerships in the country.
Flores- Macías, from Cornell University, explained the pandemic’s impact on a global scale and in the region. He said that in the Dominican Republic, remittances, which represent 8% of GDP, had fallen 33% due to the pandemic’s impact. The 4% drop in Dominican GDP is its “first recession in almost 25 years. He also indicated that poverty and inequality would increase in the region. It is estimated that the region will grow from 30% to 37%, which is already the most unequal. That percentage implies that 45 million people would be added to poverty and inequality. He suggests that countries, including the Dominican Republic, continue to implement “counter-cyclical policies” because they have been shown to help in previous crises. He said that the counter-cyclical policies applied in DR have helped, especially tourism.
Sigmund Freund talked about the Pedernales plan. He said that in the first half of 2021, the first phase would begin with an initial investment of US$1 billion, with an investment fund through a trust that will allow the construction of 3,000 new rooms, a new airport in Cabo Rojo, and new investments in electric energy, an aqueduct, and houses for the workers. He said that the Pedernales Development Plan would impact the border area and Barahona and incorporate a new tourist destination. Freund also agreed that economic activity would be reactivated in 2021 and stated that there are three transcendental projects of the mandate of President Luis Abinader Corona: The Development Plan of Pedernales, the Development Plan of Puerto Plata, and the Amber Highway. He cited, among other projects, the Port of Manzanillo and the shipyards.
Vice Minister Hugo Rivera Fernández highlighted that they are working together with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Mipymes, with ProDominicana, with the Ministry of Tourism, and other entities. “We will work like a symphony orchestra for all investors to come to the Dominican Republic,” he said. He recalled that the missions abroad’ objective is trading, attracting investment, including more tourism investment.
He detailed the three axes of Commercial Diplomacy for 2021, prioritizing the attraction of foreign investment. He spoke of the high average growth of the economy before Covid-19. He assured that it is the most diversified in the region. It is not only of Sun and Beach but also that the Dominican economy is one of tourism, real estate, free zones, mining, financial sector, and commercial activities. He revealed that between January and July of this year, FDI has been accumulating to reach US$1,202 million, which is the average for ten years, despite the pandemic. He assures that DR exceeds investments from Central American countries, including Costa Rica.
The Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hugo Rivera Fernández, highlighted the growth achieved in exports and the work carried out in Commercial Diplomacy, as well as the new commercial sections with which it works and the help of Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez to attract new investments. He also spoke about the scope of trade agreements such as the DRCafta with the United States and Central America, and the EPA with Europe. He said he was optimistic.
Other participants in the forum were Jacqueline Mora, Vice Minister of Tourism; Steven Puig, President of the BHDLeón Bank; Minister Víctor- Ito- Bisonó, who spoke about industrialization, among others who discussed health, Novartis Y, investment funds; and the Swiss Ambassador, Urs Schnider and Gaetan Bucher, President of the CCTDS.