Ramiro Espino is Executive Vice-President, with the role of Secretary of State, of the Consejo Nacional para las Comunidades Dominicanas en el Exterior (CONDEX), a state body developing policies aimed at Dominican communities abroad. Since December 2017 he is a member of the Board of Directors of FAO Alliance for the Mountains.
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InvestorVisa.it: Mr. Vice-President, when was CONDEX established and what are its objectives?
Espino:The Consejo Nacional para las Comunidades Dominicanas en el Exterior (CONDEX), was born with 1-08 Law, enacted by the Government on January 4, 2008. This law is the first legislative initiative that lets Dominicans living abroad be part of the development of their country of birth. The objectives of the law are to provide services, guidance, and information to a large number of Dominican citizens residing outside the country, both to facilitate their residence abroad and to promote links with their country of birth. It also aims to:
– Develop and present, within the Council itself, national policies on the subject, periodically informing of the progress Dominican citizens and communities abroad;
– Promote the implementation of measures to raise the level and quality of life of the Dominican communities residing outside the country, through proposals on the communities’ organization, education, culture, health, housing, sport, and the promotion of investments with, and in, the Dominican Republic;
– Suggest policies aimed at promoting the strengthening of ties between citizens and communities abroad and national public institutions and individuals, also facilitating the realization of common projects and activities;
– Stipulate technical and inter-institutional cooperation agreements.
The Dominican community in Italy includes over sixty thousand people and about half of them also have Italian citizenship. Overall, what are your thoughts on their integration and which are the main difficulties that your fellow citizens encounter in Italy?
I think that the integration process of Dominicans in Italy is positive. They are hardworking people who are able to adapt quickly to the new system. Obviously, they are no strangers to difficulties, mainly work-related ones connected to the current economic crisis which Italy and Europe are facing, so some families find themselves in distress.
The Italian community, when counting also Italians’ descendants with a double passport, in the Dominican Republic is equally numerous: estimates put it around three hundred thousand people. According to you, which are your country’s most attractive aspects for Italians?
There is a large Italian community in the Dominican Republic, it is perfectly integrated into the country’s social fabric and actively contributes to its economy. Surely the sustained growth of our economy and the good investment climate here in the Dominican Republic meant that Italians and Italian companies were able to invest in different areas: tourism, food and livestock production, gastronomy and textiles, for example.
How are Italy and Italians perceived in the Dominican Republic?
Italians love the Dominican Republic and feel at home and at ease, and is one of the reasons why they are not reluctant to make large investments.
In spite of the geographical distance separating them, and thanks to the respective expatriate communities, the relations between the two countries are positive. When looking at the economy, in which sectors are Italian-Dominican cooperation and commercial exchanges more developed?
Economic relations with Italy are of great importance to the Dominican Republic, and it is important to continue strengthening these trade relations. Dominican products with a potential market in Italy are cocoa beans (also organic ones), bananas, coffee beans, rums and various agricultural products typical of the country, which for purely climatic reasons it is not possible to grow in areas that do not enjoy a tropical climate. The sectors which see more importation of products/materials from Italy and cooperation with it are the tourist, gastronomic, manufacturing, petrochemical, industrial and construction ones.
If Italians are investing in the Dominican Republic, Dominicans in which countries tend to invest? Is Italy considered a country in which to invest and, if so, in which areas?
There is a strong tendency to invest in the United States and in Europe. Italy is certainly a country to in which to invest, in areas such as industry and logistic, in tourism, in the commercial and gastronomic sectors.
You are probably aware that since December 2017 Italy has been issuing an entry visa for investors, but only to foreigners who make investments in Italian companies, starting from a minimum of 500,000 euros. Can this visa also represent an incentive for Dominicans to invest in Italy?
It can certainly be an incentive for investments in Italy.
The presence of an already large Dominican community could represent a further channel to promote awareness of these measures among the business community of their country of birth?
Yes, it is a strong promotion channel.
Aside from the visa, investors intending to transfer their fiscal residence in Italy can benefit from a flat tax of 100,000 euros per year on income produced abroad. It is certainly a measure reserved for those with very high incomes. Do you think that some rich Dominican could take advantage of it, or the tax regime of the Dominican Republic is in itself very favourable and moving to Italy would not be convenient for an investor?
The attraction of foreign investments is an indispensable factor for the economic and social development of a country. Dominicans can invest and start businesses not only within industrial and logistic districts, in tourism and gastronomy, but with many other ones. In regard to the flat tax, I believe that Italy can certainly be a viable investment choice.
You also have a role as a member of the FAO’s Alliance for Mountains Council. Which are its main activities?
When we talk about the environment, as it is based on a very subtle balance, any action must always have a holistic approach. In particular, our goals and initiatives aim to preserve the mountain regions and populations living in these areas, aspiring to strengthen environmental, social and economic sustainability. Threats to ecosystems are many and certainly improving the quality of life of these people, which if trained and informed can be their areas’ guardians, ensures that these environments are preserved and that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the beauty of nature and ecosystems.
In conclusion, what is your relationship with Italy and with Italians?
The Dominican Republic and Italy are very similar in their way of being and acting, and that’s why we can define the integration as “very fast.” I have excellent relations with Italy and I know many Italians and with some of whom I am bound by deep friendship.