Gaining its independence as the Dominican Republic on the twenty-seventh of February in 1844 the Dominican Republic is a Spanish speaking country with more than ninety-five percent of Dominicans professing to be Roman Catholics. Practicing a representative democracy the Dominican Republic’s capital is Santo Domingo with Chief of State and Head of government being President Rafael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez.
Located in the Caribbean Basin the Dominican Republic takes up two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is shaped in the form of an irregular triangle, bordered by Haiti, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Mona Passage. Divided into the northern, central and the southwestern regions by mountains and valleys the Dominican Republic total area is approximately 48,442 square kilometers. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean the northern region, consists of the Atlantic coastal plain, the Cordillera Septentrional, the Valle del Cibao, and the Saman Peninsula. Running eastward from the Haitian border and ending in the Caribbean Sea the Cordillera Central dominates the central region which also contains the Caribbean coastal plain, which lies south of the foothills of the Sierra de Yamas. South of the Valle de San Juan the southwestern region encompasses the Sierra de Neiba. Running 296 kilometers from the Cordillera Centralto to the Bahнa de Manzanillo on the northwest coast is the Yaque Del Norte, the most significant river in the country. Covering an area of more than 3,000 square kilometers Lago Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Dominican Republic located in the southwestern part of the nation. Its drainage basin includes ten minor river systems.
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Primarily a tropical climate the Dominican Republic has more local changes in temperature than seasonal ones but a seasonal predictability in rainfall. The average annual temperature ranges from 25° C to 18° C. Rainy season lasts from May through November with May being the wettest month and the dry season lasts from November through April with March being the driest month. The average annual rainfall for the country on a whole is 150 centimeters. The season for tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes which occur on average every two years in the Dominican Republic, with over sixty-five percent of the storms striking the southern part of the country, lasts from the beginning of June to the end of November.
Historically the country has primarily been an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco with its agriculture community producing sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas, cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, and eggs. An estimated fifty-seven percent of the Dominican Republic’s total territory is devoted to agriculture-related activities with forty-three percent being moderately if not well-suited for cultivation. Containing the republic’s richest agricultural lands and producing most of the nation’s food and cash crops, with the exception of sugar, are the Cibao and the Vega Real regions, with sugarcane cultivation centered on the coastal plains of the south and the east. Employing only seventeen percent of a 2.3 million – 2.6 million labor force agriculture accounts for eleven percent of GDP with industry accounting for thirty-four percent and services fifty-five percent and generates approximately half of all the exports. However poor distribution of the country’s generally adequate rainfall results in less than fifteen percent of arable land benefiting from irrigation. Also the average farmer has fewer resources such as fertilizers, and tractors than counterparts in many other Latin American countries. This, along with a growth in tourism and free trade zones, has accounted for the service sector in recent years overtaking agriculture as the economy’s largest employer, employing fifty-five percent. With twenty-five percent of the country lying below the poverty line and a fifteen percent unemployment rate the country suffers from noticeable income inequality with the poorest half of the population receiving less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest ten percent enjoy nearly forty percent of national income.
The main causes of death in the country as a whole are pulmonary circulatory diseases and intestinal diseases with enteritis with diarrheal diseases and protein energy malnutrition being the major causes of death in those under four. The country has 516 dentists with a ratio of physicians to inhabitants of 1:2,600. Life expectancy at birth for the entire population is 67.9 years, 66.4 years for males and 69.5 for females. The infant mortality rate is 34.9 per 1,000 live births. Toxemia, hemorrhages and sepsis associated with birth or abortion caused a maternal mortality rate of 1.66 deaths per 1,000 live births. The Dominican Republic has reported 130,000 cases, almost three percent of its population of 8,715,602, of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and of these, 7,800 have died.
Social welfare in the Dominican Republic is well established. Formal education includes primary, secondary, and higher education levels with a six-year primary cycle being compulsory. Three years of preschool are offered in some areas but are not compulsory. There were several types of secondary schools but the majority, ninety percent, attends the six year liceo, which awards the bachillerato certificate upon completion and is geared toward university admission. Other secondary programs included teacher training schools, polytechnics, and vocational schools. All primary and secondary schools are under the formal jurisdiction of the Secretariat of State for Education and Culture and results in a total population literacy rate of almost eighty-five percent. Social security coverage includes old-age pensions, disability pensions, survivors and maternity benefits, and compensation for work injuries. General tax revenues supplement employer and employee contributions. Wage earners, government employees and domestic and agricultural workers are eligible, although the benefits that most domestic and farm workers received are limited. Most of those enrolled are in manufacturing, commerce, and construction.
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