The sweeping recommendations to revamp the Dominican political and democratic institutions made by Rafael Blanco Canto, president of the National Business Council (Conep) were rejected by the secretary general of the ruling PLD party senator Reinaldo Pared Perez but have received the support of leading Dominican business organizations, including the American Chamber of Commerce, the National Commercial Enterprises (ONEC), and Participacion Ciudadana civic group among others.
The secretary general of the ruling PLD party, Reinaldo Pared Perez had described the speech as alarmist and extremist, calling the statements exaggerated and out of place for the role of Blanco as president of the National Business Council. He argued the remarks were coming from a person apparently displeased because his candidate did not win the election. Otherwise, the Medina government has not commented.
Editorialists were prompt to back Blanco’s remarks. Rafael Molina Morillo of El Dia said the speech marked a before and after in the relations between the business sector and the government. Molina observed the speech focused on topics that have been taboo for business spokespeople, such as the lack of trust of the population in public institutions, absence of clear rules, citizen insecurity, impunity and lack of authority of the government regarding transporters, and lack of implementation of judicial rulings.
In the talk of 29 June 2016 during the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Blanco called for the passing of the Political Parties Bill, changes to the Electoral Law, the passing of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, and the independence of government institutions in charge of monitoring government spending and accountability. The remarks come at a time when key officers in the Medina government have been pressing for the passing of a fiscal reform bill, expected to increase taxes and resolve the rising government deficit.
Overall, in the speech Blanco focused on the topics that dominate the discourse in Dominican society, including public safety, the energy sector, investments in public transport, services and finances and the modernization of real estate jurisdiction, city governments and juridical security. Blanco called on the government to implement legal and institutional reforms to steer the country towards sustainable development while restoring the public trust in Dominican government institutions.
“In our society there is a malaise of mistrust in the institutions due to the lack of order and an adequate system of accountability that can assure that the populace can enjoy the benefits of a rule of law, in which all are bound to obey the law and in which those who violate the law must face consequences,” alerted Blanco.
Blanco made reference to the serious crisis within the political party system, noting that most of the candidates in this year’s elections were chosen outside of the political primary process. Blanco again called for Congress to pass the much-demanded Political Parties Bill and Electoral Law changes to bring new order to politics in the country.
He alerted the crumbling of political parties is having an impact on all sectors of the country. Blanco said this weakening of the political party system was demonstrated in the past election as the public’s trust in the chaotic process of backroom negotiations between political parties eroded during this election cycle.
He acknowledged that for many years political parties the political majority would take control and distribute its members in the constitutional bodies in charge of upholding trust and serving as arbiter of the elections, or to ensure compliance of the law in the management of public funds for politics that are the Central Electoral Board, the Chamber of Accounts and the Superior Electoral Court. These transgressions were accepted by the opposition as representatives of the opposition party were also named to key government posts. Blanco explained it is clear that in the past election, the independent political party system collapsed and the election process was marred by constant criticisms of the increased lack of impartiality of the electoral body. “Today it can be said that confidence in electoral institutions is broken,” observed Blanco.
He warned that actions need to be taken to restore trust in government institutions and to prevent the country from taking leaps to populism that would put at risk all gains achieved in a evolving open society that the country which is the Dominican Republic.
In addition to strengthening of the political parties system, Blanco called for the passing of the bill for fiscal responsibility that was approved as part of the National Development Strategy (END). The bill calls for increased oversight in the use of public funds and compliance with budget ceilings, deficits and public debt.
He called for proper regulation of the use of state funds and public institutions in electoral campaigns. “This is a basic concern for the private sector, since the sharp increase in public spending during election periods has been a major cause of tax reforms or patches in recent years,” he observed.
In his remarks, Blanco also called for full independence and strengthening of institutions in charge of regulating all matters related to the electoral process and to ensure compliance with the laws. He urged that all public servants should be chosen based on merit and possess experience and are independent. He called for new transparent and pluralistic mechanisms, and a truly open electoral process so that the public is able to choose the best candidates.