By Ivan G. Marte
I want my first words to be this: We’ll accomplish, without fear and without taking a moment to rest, what we dreamed not too long ago!
We’ll overcome whatever challenges and difficulties will come along in our path. We’ll build the biggest and most respected Dominican Republic in the world.
With these promises, the Dominican Republic’s (DR) new president Danilo Medina Sanchez addressed that nation in his presidential inauguration speech leaving an expectation that his new administration will be different than the past one of Leonel Fernandez Reyna, or at least more transparent.
Danilo Medina, a founding member of the Dominican Liberation Party, as was the previous DR president, Leonel Fernandez, has raised hopes that imply his administration will not tolerate dishonest acts, corruption or illicit behavior from any government employee. As he outlined in his inauguration address to the nation, Danilo Medina said that his government will strengthen the institutional instruments for “the prevention, correction and sanctions” of any government employee caught in a scheme to defraud the government.
With these words in mind, the people of the DR are eager to see how Danilo Medina will approach the financial crisis that is sweeping the country with a national deficit equivalent to 6.5 percent of gross domestic product.
There is no doubt that Danilo Medina needs to do his homework to find the reasons that contributed to this major deficit. In the meantime, the new president is busy laying out his vision for the future of the country.
Medina’s economic plan includes the creation of 400,000 jobs before the expiration of his term. He’s also striving to have a 4.9 percent annual economic growth, attend to the plight of 2 million people who live in poverty and distribute 4 percent of his Gross Domestic Product total to education.
Lofty promises that may not mix well with reality. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, they expect the Dominican currency (DOP) to depreciate from the current DOP39: US$1 to DOP42:US$1 by 2015. Such a depreciation makes one wonder what the impact will be on an already financially distressed national economy.
At this time, the Dominican people are not too convinced that the new changes are about to happen after living with an array of challenges that range from: a 14.5 percent unemployment rate, health and medical issues that stem from not having medical insurance to being unable to afford prescriptions, a shortage of doctors in most of the public hospitals, rampant corruption within every major government institution, an outdated public transportation system that could seriously put passengers’ lives at risk; and a police department that has lost the trust of its public.
As the new president continues scheduling meetings with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to showcase his commitment to uncover the real state of the DR economy, the burning question remains what will Mr. Medina actually do once the problem is identified?
Will he be determined to find a solution and have the courage and wisdom to change the country’s economic policies to prevent the Dominican Republic from finding itself in bankruptcy and on the same path of budget troubles as some European countries?
Whatever his decision, Mr. Medina can’t afford to take his time to correct what has gone wrong with the DR. The people of the Dominican Republic are at a breaking point in their lives as their trust in those government institutions, entrusted with improving the quality of their lives, is shattered time and time again as a new crop of officials are found to be misappropriating funds or abusing their public offices.
These very officials should be considered the true threats against the DR economy since their actions contributed to destabilizing the national security of the country and will make Mr. Medina’s heart-felt promises harder to keep — and the Dominican people skeptical that true change can happen.
Latina Lista contributor Dominican American, Ivan G Marte, is president/chief executive for The Center for the Defense of Civil Rights & Equality in Rhode Island.