Dajabon, Dominican Republic, May 10 (EFE).- In the cramped alleyways at Dajabon market on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, plans by the Dominican government to put up a fence are being met with suspicion by merchants and traders who play a vital role in the supply of goods to northern Haiti.
The plans, announced by president Luis Abinader, clash with the aspirations of communities on both sides of the main border crossing, who want more development and fewer fences.
The government revealed that the barrier, whose construction will begin in this year, will not cover the entire 380-km border but focus instead on areas dealing with spiraling irregular migration.
“Trade is what keeps the border calm and peaceful,” head of Dajabón’s Merchants Federation Freddy Morillo tells Efe on the bridge that connects his city with Haiti’s Ouanaminthe.
“What is required at the border is a wall, but a wall of factories, a wall of free zones, to generate employment; a wall that takes into account the survival of both peoples,” he says.
Dajabon major Santiago Riverón echoes those wishes: “I have always advocated for a wall, but a wall of companies in border towns”.
He singled out the Codevi industrial park built by Dominican businessmen in Haiti that is helping develop the city of Ouanaminthe, home to 170,000 inhabitants.
In Codevi’s 28 industrial warehouses over 14,000 Haitians sew clothes non-stop, in an organized work environment that contrasts with the disturbance and chaos that reign in Ouanaminthe’s streets.
The industrial park’s 12 factories are mainly textile manufacturers, but there is also room for companies that make medical equipment, solar panels and electrical appliances.
These sectors can export duty-free to the United States thanks to the Hope and Help trade agreement.
Haiti offers a “tremendous opportunity” for the companies to benefit from the so-called nearshoring, a commercial practice promoted by the United States for suppliers in countries close to its coasts, Codev’s commercial manager Anibal Capellan said.
The industrial park is looking to expand and double its number of employees within a few years, which would create indirect jobs and boost the flow of cross-border trade.
The Dominican government has also launched other development plans for the border, including a 30-year renewal of tax incentives for companies that invest in border trade and infrastructure.
Although the law, already in place for 20 years, resulted in nearly 80 factories being established in the area, it did not live up to expectations in terms of job creation and attracting investment to the area, the poorest in the country.
In that region, one of President Abinader’s leading projects, a hotel complex near Pedernales, is in the early stages of development. The hotel will generate 14,000 direct jobs in an area that has been untouched by the tourism industry. EFE