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Daily News - 6 August 2002

Business unites to oppose new taxes
Business groups met yesterday with Santo Domingo senator Jose Antonio Najri to express their opposition to the government proposal for increased taxation. Listin Diario quotes Ignacio Mendez, president of the Federation of Dominican Industries (FAI) describing the new proposals as the epitaph for the productive sector, and a mortal wound to the competitiveness of the Dominican business vis-a-vis Central American competitors. Mendez, speaking for eight industrial associations, urged that the discussion of the new tax bill go to public hearings. He complained that the industry sector, the most affected, has not been part of the discussions. He said the measures contradict the much-touted Ministry of Industry & Commerce National Competitiveness Plan. 

Spending more for state payroll
El Caribe newspaper points out that at the same time the government has presented Congress with the paquetito or “little tax package” increasing the tax burden on businesses and industries, it has increased its spending, and hired new employees.
According to National Budget data, the government payroll has increased 12% in the first half of the year; with fixed employee payroll going from RD$1.03 billion in June 2001 to RD$1.22 billion in June 2002. Likewise, the government total payroll was up from RD$1.5 in June to RD$1.7 billion. The government employs more than 345,000 people, while studies show that it could accomplish the same with a third of the personnel. Listin Diario reports that the government added an additional RD$800 million to the cost of its payroll during the first half of the year.

More cash for the government
Listin Diario reports today on the increased revenues the government is receiving as a result of the upward fluctuations of the flexible petroleum tax law, and the unexpected doubling and tripling of highway tolls that went into effect as of 1 August 2002. 
The toll increases are expected to generate RD$750 million, up from the originally estimated RD$273 million. Collections increased from RD$259 million in 2000 to RD$266 million in 2001. For the first six months of 2002, tolls had already generated RD$136.4 million. 
The government’s new cash cow will only multiply once the state builds the 11 additional tolls stations planned nationwide. Furthermore, President Hipolito Mejia told Dominicans to get accustomed to paying continuously increasing tolls. The recent agreements with contractors (only one of which was chosen with a tender being held) oblige the state to guarantee the profitability of the highway and train concessions. 
Listin Diario says that the tax on petroleum product sales produced RD$2.9 billion in 2000. This money was used to pay foreign debt. The passing of the more flexible petroleum tax law, effective January 2001, increased the windfall to RD$7.1 billion in 2001. Petroleum tax revenues constituted 14% of the total tax revenues the state received last year.

Money for maintenance?
An El Caribe editorial today disputes a statement by President Hipolito Mejia that the money collected at the tollbooths would be used for maintaining Dominican highways. Recently Mejia justified the doubling and tripling of the tolls as a way to pay for the upkeep of the national highway network. But El Caribe newspaper points out that the decree indicates the money would be used to pay an old Ministry of Public Works debt with the Banco de Reservas. Only when that debt is cleared will the funds become available for highway maintenance.
Likewise, the editorial establishes that the highways to San Cristobal, Bani, San Pedro and La Romana have already been granted to private companies and that the tolls will become part of the revenues of those companies that will be building the highways. The editorial explains that the government has gone so far as to guarantee the profitability of the concessions. The concession contracts authorize these companies to increase the tolls when necessary.

Food prices go up with tolls
As passenger transporters have increased consumer prices, so have cargo transporters. More noteworthy is that in both cases the increase is greater than the toll expenses themselves. Clearly the toll increase is being used to pad the profit margins of the truck owners and even that of the food vendors, that have also raised prices. A pound of rice went up from RD$5 to RD$6, plantain units from RD$1.50 to RD$2.50, potatoes from RD$5 to RD$7, and garlic up from RD$25 to RD$28.

First Lady scam
In a paid advertisement in the press today, Secretary of the Presidency Sergio Grullon says that some unscrupulous persons are using the name of First Lady Rosa Gomez de Mejia to solicit donations for charity works. Grullon notes that those making the donations would not receive any tax exemptions from the government.

Government licenses for all professions
The Ministry of Superior Education says that licenses to practice are now required of all professions. The license, or exequatur, had been a government requirement only for physicians, pharmacists, accountants, engineers and lawyers. 
Minister Andres Reyes Rodriguez said that journalists, educators, business administrators, psychologists, nurses, information system analysts, marketing professionals, and graduates in other areas will now need to be licensed by the state.
To apply for the license, professionals need to request grades transcripts and diplomas from their respective universities. 
Reyes says that the Ministry of Public Health issues the exequatur for physicians, the Ministry of Finance for accountants, the Attorney General for lawyers, the Ministry of Education for teachers, and the Dominican College of Journalists for journalists. Press circles in the past have rejected that journalists need a license to practice their profession, arguing that this would be in violation to freedom of speech established in the Dominican constitution.

Windfall for power distributors
The Superintendent of Power Julio Cross says that power distributors have received RD$450 million in additional profits because of an irregular application of a formula that adjusts power rates. He said that in the past authorities have allowed them exaggerated concessions. He was referring to Resolution 237 - issued by his department - that shows it was overly complaisant with power distributors in detriment to Dominican consumers.

More on the son of Balaguer
Rafael Emilio Castillo Nuñez registered Alexis Joaquin Castillo Cabrera when the latter was 16 years old. He needed the birth certificate to get a cedula (the local ID card) and to graduate from high school. Alexis Joaquin would have just been one of thousands of late registrations, had it not been that there is proof that he is the natural son of none other than the seven-time President of the Dominican Republic, the late Joaquin Balaguer. 
Later, to become a lawyer and politician in his own right, Alexis Joaquin Castillo is in the limelight now that the ban on discussing Balaguer’s private life has been lifted with his death. The legendary politician was firm that his private life was his own, and throughout his 60+ years in politics, no one dared publish any revelations. 
Diario Libre now reveals that public records show that Rafael Emilio Castillo Nuñez registered the birth of Alexis Joaquin on 31 July 1972 before the Oficial del Estado Civil de la Tercera Circunscripcion del Distrito Nacional. At the time, 37-year old Castillo Nuñez said that the child was his son and that of Mercedes Laura Cabrera. According to the document, Alexis Joaquin was born 11 February 1956. 
Former statesman Balaguer, who died at 95/96 years, never recognized any of his supposed offspring. 
Yesterday, the Listin Diario showed a baptismal record where Alexis Joaquin Castillo is registered in 1962 as the son of Joaquin Balaguer and Mercedes Laura Cabrera.

Candid camera sex hotel films
Hoy newspaper page two reports on a little known but apparently old time practice — that of sex hotel management filming what goes on in their rented rooms. The hotels specialize in short stay guests, and charge for periods of six hours or less. Now the newspaper reveals that government security forces, in complicity with the owners of the establishments, frequently film their patrons. The column mentions that the Police were able to solve a difficult case thanks to the existence of one of these videos. But it also mentions that many of these videos are later resold to Asian pornography businesses. Incredibly, the columnist says that a frequent user of the sex hotels - who told him about the practice - complained that no one has ever called him to pay him for his intellectual property rights.
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