Exploitation, Remittances and the Dominicans Diaspora in the Exterior

deelt

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An article was published on April 5, 2004 by the Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) on the role of remittances in developing countries. It highlights the concerns of Dominican Americans. In the states people must go without in order to provide for families in the Dominican Republic.

For example, post-9/11 New York City took a very strong economic hit. This is where 600,000 of the 1 million Dominicans live in the US. Many people lost jobs, housing, etc. and struggled to make ends meet. Yet, remittances to the Dominican Republic (2 billion out of the 38 billion cited below) remained unaffected regardless of the state of affairs in the US. This is reflective of an inelastic demand that pulls people within the states to do for Dominicans (vis a vis their family members) what the DR government continually fails to do: provide for its citizenry at the cost of exploitation -- sacrifice with no return investment and no evidence of improvement.

The question is how can we effect change so that this exploitation can cease? What is needed and required to make effective, stable and responsive government that addresses the needs to Dominicans in DR.
Look forward to reading your ideas. Constructive criticism is always welcome...as long as it is provided in a constructive manner. :)

Best.

FYI: Article Citiation
Garcia, Michelle. "For Some Immigrants, a Balancing Act Funds Sent to Needy Families Back Home Exact a Price." Washington Post, April 5, 2004; Page A03, Washington, DC. Link: www.washingtonpost.com
Article is available for free for approximately the next 30 days.

To Robert: My apologies for inappropriately posting the article, trust it will not occur again. I was unaware that this was a copyright issue. Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.
 
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NALs

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well, the Dominican Republic is a country in its own dimension. There were many dominican related things that were unaffected by 9/11. The best example would be American Airlines. It just so happens that American Airlines most profitable route is the JFK-SDQ (New York - Santo Domingo) route. No surprise there, since just about every plane bounded for Santo Domingo from New York is always chock full every time with out fail. Then September 11th came, and that was the only route that American Airlines was making money of from, for a very long time after the attacks. To further show how inelastic the dominican transnational portion of its economy is, the American Airlines plane that crashed in Queens two months after the attacks, this plane was chock full of dominicans headed to Santo Domingo and the Airline DID NOT LOSE MONEY on the days that followed.

I understand that American Airlines does have a sort of monopoly when it comes to travel from NY to SDQ, but there are still other airlines that dominicans could've taken and yet, American remain on top, simply because the planes carry the word American I might add. The only thing that would make dominicans stop sending money back to their relatives is when their relatives living standards become higher than the expats in NY. Of course, remittances will cease to exist because every dominican will be back on the island living the life that most of them dream every night. It's like I said, the Dominican Republic is a country of a league of its own.
 

deelt

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Hi Nal

Yes, I lost 11 family and friends on that flight. You are correct on the inelasticty of this route. Your latter point on remittances is also well taken and is precisely my concern. Where is the line between needs and wants drawn and at the financial expense of whom is my question.

Dominican-Americans cannot afford to continue stablizing DR. When this income stream ceases to exist (and it will with the years) the country will not be able to handle the loss of income if things continue as is.

Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

Best.

Nal0whs said:
To further show how inelastic the dominican transnational portion of its economy is, the American Airlines plane that crashed in Queens two months after the attacks, this plane was chock full of dominicans headed to Santo Domingo and the Airline DID NOT LOSE MONEY on the days that followed.

The only thing that would make dominicans stop sending money back to their relatives is when their relatives living standards become higher than the expats in NY. Of course, remittances will cease to exist because every dominican will be back on the island living the life that most of them dream every night. It's like I said, the Dominican Republic is a country of a league of its own.
 

Chris_NJ

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Some thoughts...

I am not an economist but am interested in this topic.

You mentioned that Dominican Americans will soon no longer be able to maintain stability in DR with their remittances. Could it be possible that the remittances could slow down but many educated selfmade Dominicans in the US could return to DR for early retirments after having amassed substantial fortunes. These people would have money to spend and invest to aid the economy and could possibly change the country by getting involved politically.

Also, many of the children of expatriates in the DR could become educated and effect changes politically and economically.

And how about the present generation of Dominican baseball players. In a few years there could be quite a few multimillionaires returning to DR.

It would be ideal if the DR could attract these people back to the DR and the result could be the creation of more jobs so that that people could support themselves working without the heavy need for so remittances.
 

Narcosis

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Deelt:

I admire your lust for economic and social justice for the DR, but once you start to move beyond your idealistic moment in life (I'm assuming you are a college student), you will realize things are not as easy as they seem.

The only thing that will improve life on the island is economic growth.

Forget about politics and ideals, it is money that will cause change here nothing else.

What we must strive to do is create a circle of power where the market will decide the political agenda of the country and not the other way around.

Politics is a game and there are people that live off this game and will continue to do so because it is part of democracy. It is real easy for a party to have a populist message especially in the third-world, but that is the biggest fiasco, and we must overcome this mirage.

To think you can make a change politically is nice but you must realize Dominicans abroad are helping their family not the country, that is the reason for the inelasticity of this phenomenon. This is no more than a stop-gap measure to solve the day to day needs of loved ones on the island. The political clout behind Dominicans abroad is limited because of this.

We need Dominicans abroad to not look towards politics but more towards economy. For example Dominicans can consume more products from the island. Ask local supermarkets in their area to import Dominican produce, coffee and other consumer goods.

A pro-active way to help is to promote the DR as a tourist destination to fellow Americans. Inform them of all the positive aspects of the country and encourage them to visit and leave the AI resort and explore and learn about our history which is the history of Americans as well.

My point is Dominicans abroad need to forget about terms such as "exploitation" "fault" etc and be more pro-active and cause change economically without the need for direct political intervention.
 

deelt

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Thanks Chris for your contribution, but what you say is hopeful thinking.

Current emigration trends are very, very low (estimated at 2,800 Dominicans/year are said to return to DR but many come back to the US). I think we are kidding ourselves if we keep thinking that Dominican-Americans will want to return to DR permanently for a few reasons. 1) women hold a lower social class status in DR (over 50% of Dominicans in the US are female); 2) the family structure by default will become more ingrained in the US with time (e.g. you want to see your grandchildren grow, etc.) (I think a great indicator of this is how many deceased people of Dominican descent are being buried in DR vs the states); 3) US Dominicans are viewed and treated negatively in the island (explointing us for money, kind of how expats feel when they are taken for a ride); 4) US Dominicans are becoming more accustomed to norms/ammenities found in the states; and 5) there is only limited space/capacity and resources in the island.

The percentage of expat children and baseball players I would be willing to say is negligible in the scope of things. There are many millionaires in DR now that can and over time could have improve(d) things but they don't. Many of the activities they participate are in self-preservation of their fortunes. There is nothing to suggest that this will change. The social cultural difference is manifested through the practice of social exclusion. This is how the elite class is preserved. When the fortunes of those millionaires is affected through the devaluation of their peso it is then you hear that the economic state of the "country" must be improved.

I do think that for Dominicans in the states to want to invest in DR there must be a stable economy, dependable infrastructure, legitimate rule of law and respect for intellectual property that does not currently exists. At the end of the day, I think that government must be held accountable and corruption must be dimished so that funds are allocated more equitably and be appropriately invested, not going to the pockets of political affiliates. I am not an economist, but this is what makes sense from a rational perspective.

Best.

Chris_NJ said:
I am not an economist but am interested in this topic.

You mentioned that Dominican Americans will soon no longer be able to maintain stability in DR with their remittances. Could it be possible that the remittances could slow down but many educated selfmade Dominicans in the US could return to DR for early retirments after having amassed substantial fortunes. These people would have money to spend and invest to aid the economy and could possibly change the country by getting involved politically.

Also, many of the children of expatriates in the DR could become educated and effect changes politically and economically.

And how about the present generation of Dominican baseball players. In a few years there could be quite a few multimillionaires returning to DR.

It would be ideal if the DR could attract these people back to the DR and the result could be the creation of more jobs so that that people could support themselves working without the heavy need for so remittances.
 
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deelt

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Hi Narcosis

Glad you could join us today. While I would love to return to my youthful days as a college student, I treasure more the work I do now as a full grown adult. Thanks for the compliment I'll put it right up there with my being asked for id at a bar. I assumed you were in B-school/college, as well.

You refer to political populist theories. No, I am not partisan. I will support progressive thinkers if and when they are actually doing good work to improve the economic growth of the country as a whole and ensure equitable distribution of resources.

On the inelasticity issue...precisely my point. I think you are wrong on the potential of the Dominican-Am clout. I think the tide is changing. My point is that this will tamper off because Dominican-Americans (who happen to live on average on $11,000 per capita-year) will want to develop a stable life environment in the US for their families. They want to be able to have the house, the car, invest to save, pay to send their kids to college, etc., esp. as the generational gap widens. The Dominican government can't think that Dominican-Americans will continue to serve as their constant backbone.

On investing in DR goods, point taken and yes, I agree as long as it is in fact benefiting Dominicans. Look at all the expats here who are benefitting from DR. I am pro-dominicans on profits, labor conditions, environmental preservation, etc. Tourism is not as beneficial as you think. This is not the catch all. Sorry. Look at Jamaica. People who go to resorts tend to stay in resorts and not mix with the locals. It mainly benefits the owners of these resorts. The other benefits are really marginal and often come at the cost of unsustainable development and environmental degradation. Learning about Dominican culture is a beautiful idea, but it does not pay the electric bill, so to speak, on behalf of a country.

Not calling exploitation by it's name is trying to euphemistically covering up reality. I don't know about you, but I am very grounded.

Good ideas though keep them rolling. :)


Narcosis said:
Deelt:

I admire your lust for economic and social justice for the DR, but once you start to move beyond your idealistic moment in life (I'm assuming you are a college student),

To think you can make a change politically is nice but you must realize
Dominicans abroad are helping their family not the country, that is the reason for the inelasticity of this phenomenon. This is no more than a stop-gap measure to solve the day to day needs of loved ones on the island. The political clout behind Dominicans abroad is limited because of this.

We need Dominicans abroad to not look towards politics but more towards economy. For example Dominicans can consume more products from the island. Ask local supermarkets in their area to import Dominican produce, coffee and other consumer goods.

A pro-active way to help is to promote the DR as a tourist destination to fellow Americans. Inform them of all the positive aspects of the country and encourage them to visit and leave the AI resort and explore and learn about our history which is the history of Americans as well.

My point is Dominicans abroad need to forget about terms such as "exploitation" "fault" etc and be more pro-active and cause change economically without the need for direct political intervention.
 

NALs

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There's one more thing people are not saying...

I'm sorry for the American Airlines incident, if it brought bad memories to you. It was a dark chapter in Dominican aviation history. I do see your point, but I felt that I had to give those reasons to show the people that are not familiar with dominican economic way of doing things.

There is one thing that people are not saying as a possible factor in the Dominican Republic failing to attract it's sons and daughters that it has lost via migration, and that is the Haitian immigration. I don't mean this in a racist context, but the influx of impoverished (in skills, money, and hispanic values- which is something that is very important in the Dominican Republic) haitians into the DR does have a negative effect on the economy of the country. Of course, the country doesn't need more unskilled laborers, but that is not the real problem. The problem is that in the sector of the economy where Haitians qualify for labor (sugar cane cutting, house cleaning, etc.) the wages are falling rapidly. Haitians will do the same job a dominican does for much less, thus that brings down the living standards. Many dominicans refuse to do certain jobs primarily because of the lousy pay which in some cases is due to the cheaper Haitian labor. Those dominicans that won't work for such jobs, further limit their economic outlook and constantly tell their relatives abroad how things have gotten worse with no jobs, however, there are lots of jobs in the very unskilled sector, but it's all taken by low wage Haitians. Unless the dominican government either takes more control of the border region or educate the Haitians into accepting better pay, this problem will be a major factor in the decision of foreign dominicans to move back home, especially if they are planning to come home to start a business or work for a while.
 

Chris_NJ

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Nal0whs said:
this problem will be a major factor in the decision of foreign dominicans to move back home, especially if they are planning to come home to start a business or work for a while.
I agree that the reduction of wages is a serious problem for unskilled workers in DR, but I think most Dominicans returning home would not be affected as they would have their sights on something higher than unskilled labor. If they were to start their own businesses, wouldn't cheaper wages lower their costs and increase the profitability?
 

deelt

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The pride of Dominicans is their own downfall. They would rather not do the work it take and earn the money they need to survive is their choice. However, they put pressure on the backs of Dominican-Americans making minimum wage (or less) to do the same type of labor here in the US and have us send the money back. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Either you need the money or you don't.

If Dominicans were to take the jobs, Haitians would find other avenues to make money, mainly leaving the country or selling goods. Haitians are not taking anything that is not freely being given. This is the same issue in the states. Without immigration, the US would not be where it is financially. That is a fact. A report by the Federal Bank assessed that the economic growth observed in New York City was directly caused by and correlated with the influx of immigration. Similarly, I would venture to say that the Dominican Republic has grown economically on the backs of Haitians and have continuously used them as an scapegoat to cover up for their own political deficiencies, poor planning, and corruptive practices/impacts.

Best.

Nal0whs said:
The problem is that in the sector of the economy where Haitians qualify for labor (sugar cane cutting, house cleaning, etc.) the wages are falling rapidly. Haitians will do the same job a dominican does for much less, thus that brings down the living standards. Many dominicans refuse to do certain jobs primarily because of the lousy pay which in some cases is due to the cheaper Haitian labor. Those dominicans that won't work for such jobs, further limit their economic outlook and constantly tell their relatives abroad how things have gotten worse with no jobs, however, there are lots of jobs in the very unskilled sector, but it's all taken by low wage Haitians. Unless the dominican government either takes more control of the border region or educate the Haitians into accepting better pay, this problem will be a major factor in the decision of foreign dominicans to move back home, especially if they are planning to come home to start a business or work for a while.
 

deelt

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Good point. The concern with educated Dominican-Americans returning is that if they were to work in DR for American or Dominican companies they would be displacing positions that would commonly be held for less educated or even equally-educated Dominican elite. This could potentially be why the elite hold Dominican-Americans in such low esteem, it's a self-preservation issue, outside of the more obvious things typically people mention. Just from observation people would rather hire an expat than a Dominican-American. Just a thought.

To truly try to build a substantial business it would be cost-prohibitive. I know a friend that did that and after a while he just got fed up with the way Dominicans did business. He also felt discouraged that people were not as driven to learn and improve their station in life. This was just his experience, of course.

Best.

Chris_NJ said:
I agree that the reduction of wages is a serious problem for unskilled workers in DR, but I think most Dominicans returning home would not be affected as they would have their sights on something higher than unskilled labor. If they were to start their own businesses, wouldn't cheaper wages lower their costs and increase the profitability?
 

NALs

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Maybe I didn't made my point clear enough, so here it is...

I'm not saying that Haitians are taking anything that belongs to dominicans. All job positions and types are available for whomever wants to take them. However, due to the falling wages in the job positions that many dominicans that have family abroad could give the Dominican-Americans more negative feedback about life in the DR. Most Dominican-Americans contact their family members in the DR to hear how things are in the DR. If a Dominican says that things are bad because the pay is lousy or because there are no good jobs, such problem could had been prevented if the migrating Haitians were tough to only accept working conditions at higher pay, that would also keep many dominicans working in places they would not have thought of working before. And thus, when their Tio or Compadre calls from New York to hear how things are, the newly employeed dominican in the cane fields for about $50 a week is going to be much happier and say nicer things about life in the DR. Thus, the Dominican-American gets excited to the point of moving and actually trying to make their dominican lifestyle in the DR a reality. Apparently some people think that I was being racist or saying that the doom of Dominicana lies on the backs of Haitians, in the contrary, the Haitians could be a plus for the Dominicans in general, IF THEY WORK FOR MORE MONEY THUS INCREASING THE WAGE LEVELS FOR REALLY HARD JOBS LIKE CUTTING CANE, that would attract more Dominicans to that sector of the economy. I agree that Dominicans should try to help the Haitians out, but we can only do so much, the rest is up to them and the same applies for Dominicans helping themselves as well. Maybe this clarifies things a bit more.
 

deelt

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Clarification

Hi Nal

I never thought or stated that you were racist, that is not my style.
However, your argument is not a foreign one and does have seeds on manipulative politics and racist ideology left behind from the Trujillo and Balaguere eras. It has permeated the culture and used as an excuse. This is not about what you said, rather how politically this idea is used as a tool to cover up the incompetency of government. It's not personal, just business.

An influx of people into a job market lowers job wages, that's economics 101. The fact that Dominicas choose to not work for these same positions is a choice of pride. That's the problem. As Juan Luis Guerra puts it it is the custom of cojiendo en mango bajito (pick the lowest fruit on the tree). Which is something we both obviously agree with. However, Dominicans that are in the US and do the low-class work are expected to this and more to support families on the island.

Best.

Nal0whs said:
Apparently some people think that I was being racist or saying that the doom of Dominicana lies on the backs of Haitians, in the contrary, the Haitians could be a plus for the Dominicans in general, IF THEY WORK FOR MORE MONEY THUS INCREASING THE WAGE LEVELS FOR REALLY HARD JOBS LIKE CUTTING CANE, that would attract more Dominicans to that sector of the economy. I agree that Dominicans should try to help the Haitians out, but we can only do so much, the rest is up to them and the same applies for Dominicans helping themselves as well. Maybe this clarifies things a bit more.
 

NALs

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Oh, I see what you mean.

And I agree with most of what you said. However, I do believe that most dominicans don't try to do menial jobs because of their pride. But, the pride is easier shown when you got nothing or very little to lose. Why work in the fields for a mere 25 cents a day when you can get more doing something else, right! But, once the same menial jobs pay a bit more, like $5 per day or maybe $8 per day or high enough so people can scrap out a living, then the pride takes a second seat while the drive for more money takes the first. I agree that many Dominicans don't do many types of job because of their pride, but that pride is simply supported by the dismal pay in many of those jobs. If the pay rises, then the pride begins to be swallowed in and people will get back to work. And yes, we all know that when their is an influx of human capital in a particular sector of the economy, the wages tend to drop there. However, wages don't drop like a rock, they gradually fall. In the sectors of the economy where there are people that accept to work for cents on the dollar per day, then their the wages have dropped quite rapidly. Thus, many Dominicans decided to let their pride be shown since they got very little to lose in such situation and in return, the employers in that sector would want more Haitians to work the field simply because Haitians would work for much less and not complain or are unaware of their rights. That's why I say that if Haitians were tought their rights and to not take a job for less than it's worth, then Dominican employers would have to increase their pay if they want to survive. I'm not saying that Haitians should be deported or anything, just educated enough to help everybody. It's a fact of Dominican life that Haitians do have an impact in Dominican economics, now let's make that impact as positive as possible for all. But, I must emphasize that I do get your point.
 

deelt

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I get your point too...

Hi Nal,

Thus, I would assume you would support the unionization of these labor forces. Correct? If so, I think this is an excellent point! This would be equivalent to sponsoring a livable-wage campaign. But I don't think that to do this on behalf of Haitains (who are often not even treated as humans in DR) would sell. Items like this should be included within all Trade Agreements regardless of who is the recipient of the wages.

Another point: the Haitian government (a whole other thread) is also very responsible for setting the cost of labor so cheap when negotiating with the Dominican Sector institutions/gov't. The other issue is the Dominicans who cheap the Haitains when they are about to be paid for their work in cane field and other things. Thus, many Haitains have been forced to live on less than they deserve. This is also something that also needs auto-assessment by Dominicans. A problem created by greed and corruption of individuals.

Thanks again!

Nal0whs said:
That's why I say that if Haitians were tought their rights and to not take a job for less than it's worth, then Dominican employers would have to increase their pay if they want to survive.
 
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