Qatar, May 2016
–Abdallah Salem Al-Badri, Secretary General of the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC)
–Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, former Minister of Industry and Energy of Qatar
–Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, Secretary of Energy of Mexico
-Representatives of countries and governments present here
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Prior to expressing my brief words in this forum, I would like first of all, to thank the State of Qatar, and His Majesty Tam Bin Hamad Al Thani, as well as the organizing committee of the Doha Forum, an influential space for debates in favor of the development of countries in all areas, for the invitation.
I come from the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean Island described back in the 40’s by our national poet, Pedro Mir, as “a country situated right in the path of the sun, native of the night, situated in an implausible archipelago of sugar and alcohol… Simply sad and oppressed. Sincerely wild and uninhabited.”
This aesthetic portrayal by the poet has suffered major and positive transformations. The economy of the Dominican Republic on the last decade has grown at an annual average of 6.5%, achieving a 7% increase of its GDP over the last year, which represents the highest relative growth of Gross Domestic Product in Latin America.
It is not the case anymore of “a wild and uninhabited country”, but of the economy within the Caribbean region with the greatest urban development, road infrastructure and major diversification of the economic activity. Today, more than 70% of the population lives in the urban centers. From 1961 to 2013, the budget of the nation increased to 65 times its original amount. In 1961, the spending of the State was 61 dollars per annum per citizen, but today that spending is 1,200 dollars, that is, a twenty-fold increase.
The issue is that in the course of those years such growth took place amid high levels of inequity, which has compelled our government, led by President Danilo Medina, to implement a sustainable development model in which the human being, its present, future, quality of life and habitat, become the focus of public policies.
Precisely one of the avenues to achieve this purpose is the access to stable and secure energy at reasonable prices, as well as the elimination of the deficits generated by the deficiencies in the electric power sector, which have subsisted for more than 40 years adversely affecting the living conditions of people and our competitiveness.
Sustained growth in recent years has been based on the exponential consumption of oil, a commodity we are net importers of, thus representing a high burden for public finances, with all of the attendant risks that the constant fluctuations of hydrocarbon prices entail.
In times of high prices, oil imports and their byproducts have absorbed close to 8% of our country’s GDP, and more foreign currency than that generated by the overall national exports of goods (excluding free zones and services).
The weight of this burden has been reflected in our balance of payments, that accrues recurrent deficits and has forced the Government to subsidize part of the energy costs for poor households. This has also brought about fiscal constraints that have limited social capital investments in areas of vital importance such as health and social security.
What are we doing to address this situation?
Before giving a breakdown of the agenda of our government in this respect, it is necessary to highlight that, despite the sustained low price of oil -which has enabled us to accrue important foreign currency savings- the Dominican Republic has decided to break away from its excessive dependence on that energy source.
This is the avenue that net fuel-importing countries must follow, but also that of those countries which produce and export crude oil, some of which have not diversified their economies enough and fundamentally have predicated their development on the crude oil market.
Putting all the eggs in a single basket, and not diversifying the economy means -in these times- a high risk in the face of the volatilities and unforeseen incidentals of the market. And that affects us all, small and large.
In Dominican Republic, the government of President Danilo Medina has taken the following decisions to cut loose of this dependence:
-Diversification of the electric power generation matrix to make generation less dependent on a single type of fuel.
-Introduction of coal in plants with cutting-edge technology, and natural gas in the basket electric power generation fuels with a view to reducing our vulnerability to oil swings.
– And extraordinary efforts are being made to increase the share of renewable sources such as wind, photovoltaic, biomass and hydroelectric power.
– And more recently, it has begun to promote and foster the development of a hydrocarbon exploration and production industry.
Regarding this last aspect, the Ministry under my guidance, a recently created entity, has organized a National Hydrocarbon Database, available at www.bndh.gob.do, consisting of a set of relevant geophysical data.
The effort towards recovering and analysing all of the information produced over decades and kept dispersed and unused in the various national and foreign institutions that conducted such information gathering campaigns, has enabled us to recover and incorporate to the database:
-more than 19,000 kilometers of 2D seismic lines.
-more than 1,400 maps and drawings
-more than 800 seismic profiles
-More than 200 well logs and other valuable information.
It is important to point out that we are a small country of slightly more than 48,000 square kilometers, and thus this information has a relatively big weight for us. Currently, there are absolutely no concessions in force. Our territory is virgin in this respect. And at the beginning of this year, for the first time ever, a hydrocarbon exploration and production regulation was issued. In other words, we have valuable information and a legal framework that is well envisaged and opens doors to investments in this area.
Reliant upon these optimal conditions, we expect shortly to call an international bidding process for the exploration blocks that, according to experts, are more attractive. There will be no lump-sum concessions or negotiations without bidding procedures and there will be rules limiting the discretion of officials who -in our neck of the woods- become important breeding ground for corruption and larceny. We will work transparently with absolute adherence to the rules of the game.
We are building a promising future for the Dominican Republic. We are changing and opening a world of opportunities to investments in an economy which leading in growth in its region; one that has social and political stability, and the guarantee of a democratic government and a friendly and down-to-earth population, wishing to find people like them to help them advance.
Believe me when I say to you that the Dominican Republic is undoubtedly well on its way towards progress.