If the Roman Catholic Church had been gradually losing political strength, the power of the economic elites had been steadily growing. Most Dominicans considered a strong economy essential to the successful development efforts of any government in power; only the country's economic entrepreneurs had the wherewithal and the expertise to promote economic growth. Therefore, economic importance also implied political importance.
By the 1980s, the Dominican Republic's economy was no longer almost exclusively agrarian. Trade, tourism, commerce, industry, banking, real estate, and services had also become important sectors of the economy. These economic changes also meant that the Association of Landowners and Agriculturists (Asociación de Hacendados y Agricultores), once the preeminent political interest group, had relinquished some of its influence to the Chamber of Commerce, the associations of industry and of exporters, various professional associations, and other economic groups. The enormous economic power of these groups allowed them to wield political power as well.
Although many observers considered the armed forces to be the ultimate arbiter of Dominican national affairs, on an everyday basis the economic elites wielded far more power. They constituted the primary source of cabinet and other high-level government appointees--regardless of which government was in power. They often enjoyed direct access to government decision making and decision makers. They were the people who knew how to get things done at home and abroad for the country, and the government depended on them for advice and often for financing. Under these circumstances, the economic elites were indispensable to the effective functioning, not just of the economy, but of the country.
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