This is my first post to my Tax and Income Planning Blog. The title to this entry is “Hello World”, as this was the title of the mock entry in my Word Press template. Moreover, the “Hello World” title is fitting for a good introductory entry to my blog that can be viewed by the world. I’d like this post to focus on the entrepreneurial spirit I witness in the Dominican Republic each time I visit there.
I just returned back from the Dominican on October 18th 2013. I visit there frequently and I’m always impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit of the residence of the island. This trip, like many others, I was with my sister-in-law Belkis Arias. Belkis is a lawyer in the Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican, where she practices criminal law. I frequently go to work with her and because of this I am known by some as her “Assistant”. With my tenure as Belkis’s assistant spanning almost a decade I have visited places in the Dominican that most tourists do not see. Places such as major prisons, local criminal holding facilities, and court rooms just to mention a few. Because Belkis is a criminal lawyer her clientele always make for interesting storylines as I ride shotgun with her.
Having said all that, I have always found it interesting how Dominicans make their money. There is no real safety net there, at least not one that Canadians would recognize. In simple terms, if you don’t work you starve. Necessity is the mother of invention there. Industrious people that live on the island have to have the sensory acuity to see a need and try to satisfy it before others can. For example, if there is a long lineup to access something, something like a busy government building, you can pay someone a few pesos to wait in line for you. In fact there are Dominicans that position themselves outside of busy government offices and act as professional “line waiters”. You can even pay someone to write your driver’s test for you. The list goes on and on as to what services people have come up with to satisfy whatever need others may have.
While I was there this time, we were in the need for a photocopier. Because of my North American ways I was on the lookout for companies that do this. I was looking for a building, a sign, something or anything I was familiar with. I simply forgot where I was, I was in the Dominican… As we approached the place we needed to be someone overheard Belkis and I talking. He said… “Do you need photocopies?” Whereby we replied, “yes…” He then motioned us to follow him. I was expecting to go to some sort of building, but instead he took us to his car. He proceeded to open the trunk of that car; inside the trunk was a photocopier and stacks of paper. There was an electrical cord that ran out of the car, across the ground and continued up a tree where the final destination was lost because the dense vegetation. One can only imagine where cord was getting its power source from.
The older I get the more I’m starting to sound like the old guys I use to hear when I was younger. They would opine about the good old days and go on about how, as a nation, we are headed in the wrong direction. I have seen major shifts in North American thinking as we move away from self-reliance to government-reliance. It’s a breath of fresh air to see people working hard to feed their families and try to advance themselves in life. Unlike the old guys of my time, I see that not all is lost, there is still hope.
My admiration for the Dominican entrepreneurial spirit is tempered with the fact that the unemployment rate is staggeringly high there. I do not know what that rate may be, nor do I think the Dominican government even knows. From my observations I think it must be an extremely high rate. This must be hard on the residence of the island. Dominicans are like most of us in North America and attach a lot of meaning to their ability to support themselves and their families.
The next time you go to the Dominican and lie on the beach, and breathe in all the wonders the islands offers, support the locals, drink a Presidente or Brugal. Smoke a Dominican cigar; just don’t inhale, because that would be stupid. If there is a long lineup at a night club, pay someone to wait for you. And for the love of god if you need some photocopying done I know a good guy who’ll help you out.