A brief history
The DR was explored and claimed by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492.
The island of Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland.
In 1697 Spain recognized French rule over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821 but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years.
It finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.
It has experienced many years since of unsettled, mostly unrepresentative rule, a period which was brought to an end in 1966 when Joaquin Balaguer became president. He maintained a tight grip on power for most of the next 30 years. A dispute over the organization of the elections then forced him to end his term in 1996. Since then, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency.
The Dominican economy has had one of the fastest growth rates in the hemisphere over the past decade.
The Dominican Republic's economy experienced dramatic growth over the last decade, even though the economy was hit hard by Hurricane Georges in 1998. Although the country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer, due to growth in tourism and free trade zones.
The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoy nearly 40% of national income. Growth probably will slow in 2003 with reduced tourism and expected low growth in the US economy, the source of 87% of export revenues.
(statistics courtesy of CIAfactbook www.cia.gov )