What are the Social, Economic and Environmental reasons why the Dominican Republic is underdeveloped?

The Dominican Republic has a population of 8 million (1998 figures) and occupies half of an island in the Caribbean called Hispaniola. The other half of this island belongs to another country called Haiti. Looking at the standards of the world’s least developed countries we can see that the Dominican Republic is not doing too badly. Compared to the economically developed world it can only be described as poor. There are three main reasons why this country is underdeveloped. These are because social, economic and environmental factors are affecting the country’s development. I will now attempt to explain these factors.

Social reasons can stop a country such as the Dominican Republic from developing in many different ways. One of these is the low literacy rates. Many children have never been into a primary school in their lives. This lack of education reduces the chances of employment, increasing development and escaping poverty altogether. In the past religion has discouraged the education of women and girls. Also parents were reluctant to pay for the education of their daughters as they would only leave home when they married.

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With half of the countries workforce made up of females, the country can no longer afford to ignore them. Women being less educated than men are also rarely in control of their own lives. Where they have greater independence, social development is often more advanced. Another of these factors is population. In the Dominican Republic population growth is greater than economic growth. This means that while there are more people to feed, more jobs to provide, more demands of education and healthcare there is less money per person to pay for them. This means that the people get even poorer.

As well as this there are economic reasons which are hindering development. One of these is a shortage in capital as lack of money is a major barrier. It is essential if the country is to exploit its natural resources, improve its agriculture, develop new industries and pay for roads, airports, schools and hospitals. Another factor is that although foreign investments are creating jobs, many of the financial benefits leak overseas to the foreign companies which invest in the country. Shortages of skilled workers in the Dominican Republic mean that overseas workers get the better paid jobs as they are more skilled. Many experts agree that these Trans National Companies are holding back development. As well as this a huge debt caused by the borrowing of money from economically developed countries has meant development cannot continue or even begin.

This is due to the interest rates put on the loans being too high for the Dominican Republic to pay back. Due to this an ever increasing debt has been formed. All money that could have been used to pay for schools, education and housing is used to pay off loans instead. The country also has difficulty in trade. It exports mainly primary goods and imports manufactured goods. The problem is that the exported goods do not keep up with prices of imported goods creating money problems. Finding markets for these products is also difficult as trade blocs such as the EU restrict the influx of foreign goods using tariffs and quotas so that their industries are protected from rivalry. Finally it is difficult for the Dominican Republic to compete with more economically developed in making manufactured goods as it lacks technology and skills. Without skilled workers such as scientists, technicians and managers development has little chance of success.

There are also environmental reasons arising in the Dominican Republic which are influencing the rate of development. The huge misuse of the countries natural resources is one of these. Recent deforestation caused by sugar cane plantations which has replaced much of the tropical rainforest has devastated the country. When the prices of world sugar prices dramatically reduced a state of disaster was created. To make this even worse the biggest market for this sugar, the USA, introduced tariffs and quotas on imports of sugar.

This meant the country could not sell as much sugar as it needed to meet its loan repayments. Another problem is tourism. The government moved away from the dependence on sugar and the development for tourism has been very bad for the environment. Beaches and coral reefs have been eroded and large areas of mangroves (habitats for mosquitoes) have been cleared to make the country more attractive to tourists. Hundreds of native species have become extinct as well.

Golf courses have been built to accommodate tourists as well which has been built on prime agricultural land. The benefits from the tourism have been few and it has just widened the gap in living standards between the rich and the poor. Agribusiness (high-tech farming based on chemical fertilisers and pesticides) was also introduced to recoup money lost in the sugar industry. Many peasant farmers have lost their land to this and have been forced to work for the huge agribusiness enterprises. The resulting intensive farming of cattle and rice has polluted rivers and soils. Contaminated drinking water has damaged people’s health and agro-chemicals have made much farmland useless and infertile. Deforestation has also led to soil erosion and has interrupted the water cycle. This has changed local climates and made important water sources dry up. Shortages of fuel wood are also a problem due to deforestation meaning people must search further and for longer for their only source of fuel.

I can conclude that there are many factors which are preventing the Dominican Republic from developing. They are:

* Education

* Population growth

* Shortages in capital

* Profits leaking overseas

* Loan debt

* Trade barriers

* Skills shortages

* Misuse of natural resources

* Tourism

All of these are preventing the country from developing properly and is why the Dominican Republic is underdeveloped.

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