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Dominican Republic Table of Contents

Dominican Republic



Figure 4. Transportation System, 1989

The Dominican Republic's relatively advanced transportation infrastructure had experienced sustained expansion since the 1950s. Transportation, along with communications, accounted for approximately 6 percent of GDP in 1988, and that share was growing because of the booming tourist industry. Roads were the most common medium of travel. The national road network, which totaled more than 17,000 kilometers in 1989, was extensive by Caribbean standards. One-quarter of all roads were highways (see fig. 4). Seventy percent of the highways were paved, and they received some maintenance. Poor conditions were extremely common, and 80 percent of all feeder roads were badly deteriorated by the mid-1980s. Moreover, most roadways were narrow and flooded easily. The Directorate for Highway Maintenance of the Secretariat of State for Public Works and Communications provided poor upkeep services, largely because of an insufficient budget. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) financed programs in the late 1980s that would upgrade roads and develop better maintenance systems. An estimated 60,000 registered freight vehicles and 10,000 unregulated, inter-urban jitneys constituted the republic's commercial transportation fleet.

The country's 325-kilometer railroad system was one of the longest in the Caribbean. The CEA owned 60 percent of the railroad, which primarily served the sugar industry. Over half of all sugarcane traveled from the fields to the mills by rail. Central Romana also operated a railroad for its private sugar interests. The other owners of railroads included the stateoperated salt mining and bauxite companies, Dominican Agrarian Institute (Instituto Agrario Dominican--IAD) and Falconbridge. Falconbridge also operated nearly all of the country's pipelines, seventy-four kilometers of which supplied oil to the Canadian firm's ferronickel smelting plant in Bonao.

Fifteen seaports were in operation in the late 1980s. Nine were engaged in international commerce, while six were limited to commerce among Dominican ports; however, only four were considered major ports. Shipping was the leading form of international commerce. The country's major seaport was Haina, located on the Caribbean coast just west of Santo Domingo. New container equipment that it received during the 1980s made Haina one of the most modern ports in the Caribbean. As a consequence, Haina replaced Santo Domingo and Boca Chica as the Dominican Republic's central shipping facility. The government funded renovation of the port of Santo Domingo in the late 1980s, however, converting it into one the region's major berths for cruise ships. Most other seaports were specialized as well: Boca Chica handled sugar exports; Cabo Rojo and Barahona shipped minerals; and Puerto Plata also catered to cruise ships. The Dominican Port Authority regulated only the capital's ports in the late 1980s, but by law it was given responsibility for the eventual administration of all the country's wharves. Foreign lines dominated shipping, despite a Dominican law that required 40 percent of all vessels to fly Dominican flags. Domestic undercapacity, however, rendered that law unenforceable. Many rivers traversed the island, but few were commercially navigable.

Four international airports accommodated the nation's growing numbers of travelers. The two major airports were Las Américas, near Santo Domingo, and the newer La Unión, near Puerto Plata, both of which handled wide-bodied jets. Las Américas traditionally received more than two-thirds of all air passengers and most air cargo, but La Unión's share of air passengers grew steadily after its completion in the 1970s as a result of the burgeoning tourist industry on the north coast. A French construction company renovated the Las Américas airport in 1989, so that it could more effectively manage the growing influx of passengers. The smaller international airports at La Romana and Santiago accommodated mainly chartered flights. Fourteen carriers scheduled regular flights within the Dominican Republic in 1989. Four of these carriers also offered direct daily flights to the United States. Dominican Airlines (Compañía Dominicana de Aviación--CDA, also known as Dominicana) was the country's national airline; traditionally, it had served 35 percent of all passengers. The parastatal's heavy financial losses in the 1980s forced it to cancel many flights, however, which reduced its market share. By 1989 the government had decided to sell 49 percent of CDA's stock to a foreign airline in a bid to bolster its finances. A local company, Alas del Caribe, flew domestic flights.

The Dominican side of Hispaniola also contained an estimated 120 clandestine airstrips. Many of these were used by international drug traffickers during the 1980s to transit the island en route to the United States (see Crime , ch. 5).

Data as of December 1989

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