Focus: Haiti Relations

Strength in Solidarity

Strength in Solidarity

Apr. 28, 2013

The Dominican Republic and Haiti will continue strengthening ties in 2013, as private investors look to both sides of the border to bolster their economies.

The Dominican Republic has long sought to balance its relationship with its neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, Haiti. In a move to respond positively to the growing number of Haitians immigrating to the Dominican Republic, consular officials validated over 700 working visas to migrants from the neighboring country in early February 2013. New regulations also state that Dominican employers must issue contracts to all employees and obtain temporary visas for migrant workers. As a result, many of the previously undocumented workers contributing to the local economy will be legally employed for at least one year, a situation that is expected boost the relationship between both countries. Meanwhile, the Dominican government is also seeking ways to improve the socioeconomic situation of the Haitian people by focusing on education and energy integration.

The Dominican economy has long been supported by affordable labor sourced from Haiti, with more than 30% of Haitians leaving their home country to seek employment elsewhere since 2010. The development of free trades zones (FTZs) has led to greater employment opportunities on both sides of the border. For example, textile maker M Group employs 8,000 Haitians through the COTAVI FTZ on the Dominican side of the border in Dajabón. According to some analysts, the COTAVI FTZ could offer up to 12,000 job opportunities over the next three years. However, immigrants can find work in a variety of Dominican cities and tourist centers, where there is demand for construction, manufacturing, and domestic human capital.

Efforts to support reconstruction in Haiti in the wake of natural disaster has improved the lives of citizens and created new opportunities on both sides of Hispaniola. For example, in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the Dominican Republic's GDP rose by 7.7%, of which 2% was attributed to relief response efforts. Dominican construction firm Estrella opened a main highway in Haiti to connect Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien in 2012, as well as rebuilt many roads damaged in the catastrophe. In addition, new air links were opened between the capital cities to spark economic growth and cooperation.

An increase in cross-border trade and investment over the past decade has resulted in each country becoming the second most important trading partner of the other. Since former Dominican President Balaguer opened up the border markets in 1993, businessmen have engaged in a constant flow of export goods, mainly agricultural products, fertilizers, and construction material. In 2011, official figures valued Dominican exports to Haiti at $1 billion, compared to the $802 million exchanged in 2010 and $71.9 million recorded in 2001.

As an example of political and economic success in a region open to regional and global integration, the Dominican Republic has proposed connecting its power grid to that of its Western neighbor. To this end, both countries signed a pact in February 2013 to carry out coordinated energy projects under bilateral and international organizations. This cooperation is expected to expand gradually as cooperation strengthens, serving a market of approximately 20 million people, significantly reducing the cost of energy, and improving electricity security for years to come.