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Dominican Republic a Failing State

On my way home to my adopted country, after a rather long sojourn in New York, I was thinking about the fact that The Dominican Republic was recently named a Failing State by Foreign Policy magazine. After the Cold War the issue of failing states has become a major preoccupation of foreign policy analysts. This is from the article:

"How many states are at serious risk of state failure? The World Bank has identified about 30 low-income countries under stress, whereas Britain’s Department for International Development has named 46 fragile states of concern. A report commissioned by the CIA has put the number of failing states at about 20. FOREIGN POLICY have conducted a global ranking of weak and failing states. Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, we ranked 60 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict. The 10 most at-risk countries in the index have already shown clear signs of state failure. Ivory Coast, a country cut in half by civil war, is the most vulnerable to disintegration; it would probably collapse completely if U.N. peacekeeping forces pulled out. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia, and Haiti.  What are the clearest early warning signs of a failing state? Among the 12 indicators we use, two consistently rank near the top. Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states and not merely poverty increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal, or ineffective, also figured prominently."

 The DR scores high on both counts: despite a growing middle class and a fair infrastructure, which sets the country apart from Haiti, the disparity between the rich and the poor is huge, and the new middle class, due to the current economic crisis and failure of the government to provide a good environment for business (high tariffs, lack of electric power, etc), is gradually slipping back into the ranks of the poor. Here are the rankings: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3100. You may or may not be able to access this material, as the site requires that you sign up as a member (which is free). The Dominican Republic is ranked 19 in between Burundi and the Central African Republic, Haiti is 10, Afghanistan is 11 and North Korea comes in at 13. The DR ranked high (9 out of 10) on Demographic Pressures, Uneven Development (9), Public Services (9.6), Human Rights (9.2), and Factionalized Elites (9.2), which means we have lots of powerful groups tearing each others throats out. And to top it off, the DR now has one of the highest murder rates in the area, and is, in terms of daily life, more dangerous than Haiti, despite the political violence that is escalating there due to the upcoming elections. In July the National Police reported that: during the first five months of the year there were 1,259 homicides, of a population of approximately nine million people. This is an average of 252 murders per month, or nine per day. I compared this to statistics for New York City, which has a comparable overall population (roughly 8 million give or take), all of whom are squeezed into an urban environment. Between 1990 and 1993, the murder rate in the city averaged 2,000 a year. So that comes to about five and a half homicides a day, almost half the daily rate of the DR in only the first five months of this year. That makes you sit up and take notice. Of particular concern is the rise in homicide related to robbery, which was never a factor before. Almost twenty percent of homicides were the consequence of theft or assault, and about 23 percent were due to quarrels, with another 3 percent occurring in bars and other places where alcohol is served: so don’t get into arguments with Dominicans, especially if they have been drinking! Now we have armed youth gangs patrolling the barrios calientes ready to pick off any straggler they come upon. The neighborhoods are setting up vigilante patrols in tandem with the police, which is helping somewhat to control things, but the resources to combat crime just arent there, since corruption is so great, narcotrafficking has thoroughly compromised all the official institutions, and these poor barrios are so profoundly immersed in misery that theonly way out is by dealing drugs. Working within the system is hardly an option since the system hardly exists in these areas. I may post more news about the drug trafficking down here, which is getting to be more and more like what you see in Colombia, with the same potential for social and political instability.

Meantime, a sus ordenes, here in the Caribbean.

by Jon Anderson at 2005-08-01 14:08:56 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) St Domingo , Dominican Republic | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Grim reading indeed.

by Paul Treacy | 01 Aug 2005 20:08 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Grim yes, but ironically I make my living from this disorder and misery.  That too gives me pause.  On the other hand, the island also possesses its undeniable beauty and the traditional way of life here, though very hard, defined as it is more by scarcity than by plenitude (in contrast to the US), has much to recommend it.  Most Dominicans however wouldnt see it that way, and the moment they can fix an escape north, they are out of here like bats out of hell.  And once assimilated, they find it very hard to adapt again to the way of life here, they get too accustomed to the luxuries of constant electricity, water, honest govt, cheap appliances, and so on.

by Jon Anderson | 02 Aug 2005 06:08 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Hi Jon:

Hopefully CAFTA ,which the president signed yesterday, will be of some help. It did seem as though it was mostly textile. It’s a hope. Now if the Sugar Industry could find it in their heart to gorge on dollars as the steel industry did last year up through June this year and the oil industry is doing now, it would help further.

I don’t understand why the tourism folks aren’t promoting more heavily. It is a georgous Island with great hard working people and a step back in time to when everyone comes out at night to socalize as a neighborhood, family or community.

If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend going. It’s a wonderful place.

by Ken Murray | 02 Aug 2005 08:08 | Broomfield, Colorado, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Ken, good to hear from a fellow DR traveller.  As to CAFTA, you may know about the wrangling over that piece of legislation, which involved arrangements over sugar and corn syrup disadvantageous to the sugar industry here, but very advantageous to American producers of corn syrup, which they are going to force down our throats. In addition, the sugar industry here is now in total disarray, with many of the ingenios completely out of commission.  we import sugar here now, have been doing so for several years.  Imagine!   There are plans to revive the industry and fix up the ingenios,but things are slow, because everyone is focussed on tourism. While north Americans dont often think of DR as a vacation spot, because they can go to Puerto Rico for less and still have a thoroughly Americanized envronment with just the right touch of foreignness so as not to discomfit the tourist, or they can go to any number of Anglophone islands, which are nice and clean, we do have many many Europeans here who just love the place; consequently alot of the promotion is done in Europe rather than in the US. But the recent instability here has injured the tourist sector as well, so we are hurtin for certain.  Course, the lack of dependable electricity hurts the big resorts too, even though they generally operate with their own power sources, but our complete dependence on foreign oil, and the lack of enthusiasm for other forms of energy such as wind and solar, keeps us in thrall to the big oil corps and since we dont pay our bills we dont have oil for our electric plants.  There is a plan to set up modern windmills in the East of the island that would provide something like a quarter of all the electricity we need, but development has been stalled for, I imagine, political reasons.

by Jon Anderson | 02 Aug 2005 08:08 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
hi jon, there’s a lot of resonance in your writing to what i have been covering in kenya over the years.  example, sugar: kenya’s land produces tons of it, although rarely do individuals see any benifit.  internal politics play a role here, mismanagement, and ht eglobal economny dump sugar at cheaper prices than kenya can produce on its own land.  a very complex issue, indeed.  as far as the desire for citizens to work, amongst kenyns, this desire is undoubtedly there and really hindered by poor and inept governance.  example: 2 years ago the govt. forced all mattatus (private vans that serve as cheap public transport) to install useless lab belts.  since the govt wanted to back their tough talkin with tough actions overnight they forced the mattatus off the roads and public transportation ceased.  this lasted for about 2 months.  during that time nairobi (where i was staying) residents would wake at four in the morning in order to get to work ontime, sometimes walking for hours to reach tieth offices.  they made the same journey back in the evenings to their homes.  so certainly there is the desire of people to work and, like the bst of societies, they are good at what they do.  that they are so poorly and cynicaly mismanaged by their governments is criminal.  (by siting africa i don;t mean to exclude the west from corruption and awful policies.  the us under bush is stikingly similar ot many failed policies that have hurt so many africans. two striking examples which bear much similarity to africa under bush are a reluctance to invest in schooling—kenya is dramatically changing this around at persent— and health care for the nation’s citizens.)   there are a million more examples out there (i recent;y did a pice and put it on my site so if you want to read first hand stories take a look: pricephotos.net) by key is   the local leadership who so often cuddle up to the international community and buisnesses, take what they want and redistribute little or nothing.  like the sugar cane issue it’s extremely complicated on so many levels.  even when leaders do want to make an effort they are often stopped by institutions like the world bank who forbids them to see their ambitions and treats them like children who, to use an analogy, have larger eyes than their stomachs can handle.  perhaps a good model of a country sticking with its ambitions is brazil in relation to aids.  they have an effective program in fighting the disease in and have sucessfully dealt with issues such as condoms, reproductive health and prostitutes.  however this did not go over well with bush’s faith based and nonscientific ideals so washington said either you handle these issues the way we want you to or you get no money.  brazil decided to decline the money and stick with what was working.  brazil is certainly not paradise when it comes to issues of poverty, however recognizing that something was working they stuck to their ways and are better off for it.

by [former member] | 04 Aug 2005 03:08 (ed. Aug 4 2005) | rome, Italy | | Report spam→
Seems we are working and thinking along the same lines Jake, right down to the AIDS program you mention, as I am involved here in a similar effort.  DR and Haiti together form something like 85 percent of the AIDS cases in the Caribbean, and despite the faith based efforts of yore, we — a group of affiliated NGOs — are vigorously pursuing a more pragmatic agenda to deal with the exorbitant rates of transmission, despite political obstacles.  Once I get up to speed I plan to be working on a longish essay on the cycle of poverty and disease here and the need for the world to take notice so that new resistant strains of the various predatory diseases like TB that follow in the wake of AIDS infection dont get out of control and spread globally.  But the recipe for disaster that you describe above is exactly the same here: corrupt and inept govt, self-interested and sometimes ignorant interference from outside, imposition of policies that dont make sense for the specific context, too much meddling and muddle.  I am sure that, were you to visit here, you would feel right at home and everything would seem all too familiar, right down to the African mores, which, though the people on the Spanish speaking side of this island refuse to acknowledge, for lack of ever having had a negritude movement as did other Caribbean islands, are all pervasive.  Which is one reason I love this crazy island.

by Jon Anderson | 04 Aug 2005 08:08 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→

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Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
London , United Kingdom ( LGW )
Ken Murray, Freelance Photographer Ken Murray
Freelance Photographer
Broomfield, Colorado , United States ( DAA )


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