The Dominican Republic has embarked on the preparation of its first National Systemic Competitiveness Plan, which seeks to generate guidelines to help raise the DR's level to that of a world-class country in 15 to 20 years. Mexican competitiveness expert, Rene Villarreal said that the country is already a world-class player in cigar exports, and he envisages that more areas could be added. Villareal, who has been entrusted with drawing up the plan, says that it will be ready in eight months time and will set the strategies to increase the country's capacity to compete. The program is one of local empowerment, with the strength coming from clusters. It brings government and the private sector together, focuses on logistics, innovation, an institutional framework and the rule of the law. Locally, the counterpart for the program that will cover all economic areas - energy, agriculture, industry and manufacturing, and tourism - is the National Competitiveness Council (CNC). The CNC works through clusters that bring together all players in a community, and seeks to empower these with the strategy so that when the government changes, the local communities ensure that the program, that has been agreed upon by all, may continue. Villareal stresses that what is needed is a change in business, labor, and government culture. In President Fernandez's own words, he said that Dominicans have to understand that competition should not be between ourselves, but with the outside. "That is a fundamental aspect of the work philosophy among us Latin Americans, that needs to be changed for one of working as a team," he stressed. He said that all groups need to be competitive in their area - business, sectors, government, country, teachers and unions - and that is why the plan is called "systemic." What is necessary is to integrate a chain of trust among all. Furthermore, Andres Van Der Horst of the National Competitiveness Council explained that Dominicans have to come together within their business associations to make statements that may be beneficial to the community. He said a paradigm change is necessary both in the public and private sector. "The private sector has to understand that the way to solve competitiveness problems is not by having breakfast with the minister. That is not sustainable."
As reported in Hoy, Villareal explained the plan will\nalso propose a change in the education system to a focus on learning how to learn and be creative. He says the country has the natural resources and entrepreneurial and business capacity. He said that there is still time to make changes that will benefit the population. He commented that in his native Mexico, changes were not made on time, and now the poor resent the rich, and are aggressive and not the "contented poor" of the 1970s. He says that in the DR the poor do not have that resentment, or hate that leads them to think, "Why don't I have what you have." He said that changes needed to be made before the country gets to the point where Mexico is where the poor were marginalized for too many years, and today the population must suffer the consequences in\nthe shape of violent crime and all its effects.
Villareal is making a diagnosis of the weaknesses and strengths of the country as far as competitiveness is concerned. But he stresses that a game plan and team strategy, together with passion and commitment is needed to move ahead. "But also, if we do not believe we can become champions, we wont make it. Then we have to believe we can be world-class," he says. The program began on 29 March with a meeting between the President and his cabinet.