Feb. 4, 2015

Salvador J. Demallistre B.

Dominican Republic

Salvador J. Demallistre B.

Executive Director, ASIEX


Salvador Jose Demallistre B. has been Executive Director of ASIEX (Foreign Investment Association of the Dominican Republic) since 2010. Before that he was CEO of Grupo Bon from 2000 to 2006, and Country Manager for DHL Worldwide Express from 1989 to 1998. He is a certified public accountant with a Master’s degree in Marketing.

According to the Central Bank, FDI in the Dominican Republic has increased by 245.5% over the past decade. What factors drove that expansion and what sectors of the economy hold the greatest potential for growth?

For the last 35-40 years, the Dominican Republic has seen political stability. And while as a developing nation we still have numerous issues that need addressing, we enjoy liberty and democracy, which is conducive to investment. Also, in the Dominican Republic there is no restriction on the movement of currency, which is an issue in certain other countries. Furthermore, as a country we are strategically well located, close to the US as well as Central and Latin America. Moreover, the Dominican Republic has advantageous trade agreements with the European Union, Central America, and the US. These factors combined make the Dominican Republic a choice investment address.

Have the free trade agreements (FTAs) allowed the Dominican Republic to fully exploit its potential as an investment destination?

I would say yes, but even though we have had that possibility for many years, we have yet to take full advantage. The country would be better positioned if we had a greater focus on the potential benefits of FTAs.

What are the major advantages of investing in the Dominican Republic and what would be your message to potential international investors seeking opportunities in the region?

Most importantly, we have a country with laws protecting foreign corporations. Also, even though we still have the opportunity to improve our education system, the country has really addressed the issue by increasing the expenditure for education, and there are a lot of entrepreneurs getting involved in education. That means we are addressing the issue, which eventually is going to increase productivity. Also, there is a major discussion between labor unions and business on the potential revision of the labor code to foster greater competitiveness.

What is the role of public-private partnerships (PPP) in the development of the economy, and what initiatives has the Dominican Foreign Investment Companies Association (ASIEX) taken to strengthen the investment climate and promote the country as an FDI destination?

One of the major challenges faced by the country is the need to broaden public-private relations. I would say that this could be a true instrument of progress, which somehow our country has been reluctant to utilize. I have seen PPPs that eventually benefit the country because of the synergy between the knowledge and capacity of the private corporates and the balance that the government or public brings into that relationship. ASIEX as an organization doesn't have this as its vision or mission. Basically, we work with companies that have already been established in this country. One promise we made to the President was that since many corporates and institutions that belong to ASIEX have offices around the world, we could work together to develop a solid strategy for the international promotion of the Dominican Republic. This is a work-in-progress. We have a firm relationship with the Export and Investments Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) and will eventually revise the law for foreign investment in the Dominican Republic together. We work with over 35 lawyers in our legal community and have already assigned four of them to work directly with CEI-RD in revising the law on foreign investment. I believe that doing this will bring numerous benefits for both the private and public sectors, in combining their unique international experience.

How would you rate the regulatory efficiency in the Dominican Republic in terms of incorporating a business?

I would say that we are making progress, although there is still ground to cover. Indeed, we are working with the CEI-RD on revising the foreign investment law. We still believe there will be great opportunities for the country to develop if we expedite the process, which the President appears keen to do.

The Dominican Republic ranked 117 out of 189 countries in the Doing Business 2014 survey, declining five places since 2013. What factors led to that drop and what initiatives have to be taken to strengthen the Dominican Republic's position in the rankings?

There are many areas of the survey in which we lag significantly. My perception, again, is that if we continue to strengthen the relationship between the public and private spheres, we can advance up the rankings.

What goals has ASIEX set for 2015?

We are set to focus on several areas, including mining, foreign investment law, and the strengthening of our international competitiveness to do business. We also intend to work with the government on a means of reducing the tax level.