DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Diplomacy
President, Dominican Republic
A graduate of Economics from the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology (INTEC), Danilo Medina Sánchez revealed an early interest in politics, establishing the San Juan de la Maguana branch of the Frente Revolucionario Estudiantil Nacionalista at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). He has been a member of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) since its inauguration in 1973. Having sat on the Central Committee since 1983 he entered Congress as a deputy in 1986. Danilo Medina has held the presidency of the Dominican Republic since the August 16, 2012 presidential elections.
The Dominican Republic is achieving new and transcendental conquests. We have taken great strides that help our citizens to achieve new levels of independence. We are making efforts to ensure that their rights are recognized, so that the same access to opportunities and progress may be achieved for all of our citizens. We are progressing continuously so that all Dominicans can enjoy true freedom; the sort of freedom that only comes about when a nation lives without fear, without poverty, and without ignorance. With the fulfillment of the commitments and goals that Dominicans demand and deserve, we have strengthened the most important link that can unite a government with the people: trust. In this way, we have seen growth and development, as we had promised, and the greatest transformation of the Dominican Republic in its recent history.
Our greatest task has been to open doors and eliminate the barriers to building a country for all—a nation where no one is left behind. And we have accomplished this because of that inner unstoppable force that is only possible when the government and the people advance hand in hand in the same direction. We are, together, creating a greater Dominican Republic, because our nation will be stronger with our people more united, and more involved in building the country’s future. The projects and works that this government has launched have been many, and we will initiate many more for the duration of the present term. Along this road, we have kept a cool head to take the best decisions, even amidst strong pressures. But we have also placed our heart into forcefully defending our national sovereignty and the interests of the Dominican people when it has been necessary. The government is fully dedicated to setting the base for a new phase in our country’s history, and in building a Dominican Republic for all. This is the most important message that I want to communicate today. We are committed to a development model where people, families, and communities are at the center of all policies. We have committed ourselves to placing the economy at the service of the people and never the other way around, and to create an economic fabric that is less vulnerable and more capable of producing goods and services. As I said earlier, overcoming social exclusion and progressing toward equality is the social revolution that is needed and possible in today’s Dominican Republic. It is the battle for true independence that we need to wage in the 21st century. The time has come for universal access to progress and guaranteed rights for the vast majority of those who have been excluded, but who live in harmony with responsibility and respect for the law.
In the Dominican Republic we are experiencing an authentic educational revolution. For a long time quality education has been a privilege that only those with purchasing power could afford. And so, the hopes of millions of poor families for the future of their children were relegated to oblivion. But we all know that quality public education is the most powerful tool we have in our hands to ensure that all children, regardless of their social origin, have access to the same opportunities. We needed to break down these barriers, and after we first met the promise to allocate 4% of GDP to education, we called on society as a whole to participate in a broad Education Pact, to make everyone a stakeholder in ensuring that the budget allocation, penny by penny, funds the kind of quality education we want. This process, with the participation of thousands of contributions from organizations, professionals, students, and citizens, has shown us that Dominicans are determined to raise the flag of education to the highest point in the Republic. In parallel, we decided to undertake what has been the greatest expansion of school infrastructure in the country’s history. To achieve this, we have made progress in the construction of more than 10,000 classrooms, dining rooms and their corresponding kitchens. In addition, to ensure that all students are well fed with nutritious food, we have doubled the budget for the procurement of these foods from local producers.
In 2014, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and Technology has awarded more than 20,000 scholarships for higher learning. Among these, more than 18,000 disadvantaged youths received scholarships to study at local universities. But we could not talk about the education revolution without mentioning our teachers. I assure you that we will always be at the side of teachers, who are the soul of this educational revolution. We are committed to promoting authentic recognition of the dignity of their work, and we have already taken significant steps in this direction. The first of these steps was to provide for the greatest wage increase that has been assigned to this group in the past 15 years, and that, on average, involves a raise of 40%. This means the days of poverty wages in our schools are over. We have provided a historic raise in the pensions of retired teachers, in appreciation of their years of dedication to education. As far as teacher training concerns, we have been aware that a considerable effort was needed for this to meet international quality standards. All Dominicans are uniting around this education revolution. This is especially evident when considering the success the literacy plan “Quisqueya Learns With You” has already had. We are getting closer to overcoming illiteracy in our country for ever. What a year ago seemed like a dream is now a reality with thousands of men and women now able to read and write, a scheme we continue to pursue.
Another area that is also essential in breaking the barriers of inequality and exclusion is public health. For too long we have accepted that families with fewer resources remain at the mercy of their fate or charity when an illness or accident brings tragedy home. To ensure free and universal access to health services, as an inalienable right for all Dominicans, we are committed to developing a single network of Public Health Services, to extending social security services to all, and to improving facilities and services under the subsidized health regime. Our target is to provide 100% medical care coverage of the population under the subsidized scheme. Another great barrier we have taken down that impeded access to health for poor people is the recovery quota at public hospitals. A government fund of 352 million pesos has ensured that worrying about payment for services rendered will no longer be an issue when seeking care at a public hospital. We have also worked to reach out to groups of patients that traditionally had difficulty in accessing the care they needed. To this end, we have allocated 2 billion pesos for a Catastrophic Illness Fund, as pledged. This has meant that 8,900 patients have not had to face the high cost of their specific drugs alone. The same has been the case with HIV-AIDS patients, who are now guaranteed free treatment, for which an investment of over RD$79 million in anti-retrovirals has been made. Vaccination coverage exceeds 95%, and our country can be regarded as free of illnesses such as diphtheria, neonatal tetanus, wild poliovirus, measles, rubella syndrome, and congenital rubella. In terms of new health infrastructure, we are taking great strides to bring it closer to the people, with 34 new primary care units scattered nationwide.
While all of these indicators are important, perhaps the most profound change we are making in the area of health is the least visible, namely the transformation of the care model. The creation of the Single Network Health Services and the decentralization it will bring will mean that in the near future it will not be the patient who approaches the healthcare system, but the healthcare system that reaches out to our people. Human capital is a central element in this process, as we know that the essence of a successful health system lies in the people.
As part of this initiative to bring health to our people, to date, an investment of more than Pe57 million has been made to hire 1,500 health promoters, who are leading prevention and education campaigns to bring information on healthy habits to all corners of our country. We have made significant progress in one of our main objectives for the government and the country. Improvements in obstetrics emergency services have seen a reduction in child mortality of 18%, and maternal mortality of 4%. In addition, we have other positive indicators for mothers and children, including the steady decline in child malnutrition that has enabled us to meet the Millennium Development Goal for this area, and the inclusion of rotavirus and pneumococcus vaccines in the national vaccination plan—both of vital importance to the protection of children.
We are proud that our country has been chosen by the Ibero-American Youth Organization as the Ibero-American Youth Capital, in recognition of the projects underway by the country’s youth, as in the case of Young Community, a struggle against illiteracy, and pursuant of job placement, widespread participation, and public policy processes. In 2014, the Ministry of Youth has made significant progress in the formation of the National Youth System, which already brings together 25,000 young people in 70 municipalities nationwide.
The government has proposed that no-one be left behind. This is the government by all, with all, and for all. The best part of this project has yet to come. We will continue to build together, and will continue meeting goals, transforming the Dominican Republic, and showing the world that we can do what has never been done before.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Finance
Business Development Director, Latin America Region JMMB
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Health & Education
Director & President, Clinica Corazones Unidos