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Daily News - Wednesday, 09 April 2008

IDB to invest US$100 million in DR
The Inter-American Development Bank has announced a US$100 million package to assist with the Dominican Republic's educational needs and to strengthen what they call "institutional infrastructures." The new IDB representative in the Dominican Republic, Manuel Labrado, talked about the program during a visit to the Chamber of Deputies. Labrado said that the program would be carried out in partnership with the government and after assessing the people's priorities. Mr. Labrado is making a series of visits to government offices to present his credentials as the new IDB official in the country.

The IDB and the Caribbean
The Inter-American Development Bank has announced that it intends to ease the impact of the higher oil prices and food stocks on the international markets. IDB governor Luis Alberto Moreno announced the bank's plans during his closing speech at the 49th Annual Assembly of Governors in Miami, Florida. During the sessions, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic highlighted the difficulties facing Central America, Panama, Belize and most of the Caribbean islands due to the increasing costs of oil and basic foodstuffs such as wheat and corn. The Dominican delegation suggested that the bank take a close look "at the negative impact (on the area) due to the high oil prices, the catastrophic events associated with climate change and the slowing down of the US economy."

Legal advisor questions Indetur
The legal advisor of the Chamber of Deputies, Rafael Gonzalez Tirado, concurs with Economy Minister Temistocles Montas that the proposed new National Institute for Tourism Development, Indetur, has several articles and items that conflict with existing institutions, laws and the Constitution itself, and also lacks mechanisms of control and accountability. Yesterday the chamber voted to give the special commission studying the bill another 30 days. Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin proposed the extra time so a consensus could be reached. Diario Libre reports that Gonzalez Tirado also indicates there is a clash in regards to the essentially non-profit nature of the new body, established early on in the bill. This contrasts with article 3 of the bill that establishes that Indetur will be able to market tourism projects by itself or in partnership, and article 7 that enables the organization to participate in for-profit companies or carry out business and deals.
For a copy of the bill, see http://dr1.com/news/2008/040908_indetur.pdf

ANJE supports bankers on law
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) has announced its support for the Banking Association's proposals to change the Monetary Laws. ANJE president Pablo Piantini told El Caribe reporters that Congress needed to take a very close look at the proposals. Piantini said that the legislature should hold public hearings in order for the banking and business sector to express their points of view. He continued by saying that the object of the changes should be to increase the Dominican business sector's capacity to compete on the international and local levels by reducing the costs of regulations within the system and facilitating credit at competitive prices. One step he suggested was the elimination of the 0.015% tax on checks.

World Bank report on remittances
The World Bank is concerned about the size of remittance flows being compromised by the US economic slowdown. The World Bank is recommending a series of actions to be taken to facilitate remittance flows and maximize their development impact. A new World Bank report entitled "Remittances and Development: Lessons from Latin America" recommends increasing competition and transparency among service providers in order to reduce the costs of remittance transfers, and increasing access to banking services among migrants and recipients to enhance the development impact of remittances. Humberto Lopez, World Bank lead economist for Central America, and co-editor of the publication considers that linking remittances to financial services is "crucial for improving the long-term impact of remittances on development."
In Latin America, most remittances are sent through money transfer operators, with banks maintaining a relatively small share of the market.
The report recommends that governments and remittance service providers facilitate transparency through the collection and publication of comparative prices and conditions of service among different providers. The authors pointed to the example of the Mexican Government, which introduced a website where people can compare costs, levels of security and location of money transfer points to send money from the United States to Mexico: www.condusef.gob.mx. These efforts can be complemented by providing basic financial literacy training for users.
The Bank also suggests that authorities in recipient countries enable the participation of a greater number of financial institutions in the remittances market by ensuring that there are no excessively burdensome regulatory constraints to their participation. In particular, savings and loans, credit unions, and microfinance companies may be well positioned to act as disbursing agents, as their networks may be closer to the usual recipients of remittances than those of large commercial banks.

Koreans win bidding on Customs job
A Korean company, Auto Evert System Corp-Interdev, has been awarded a US$23 million contract via the Exim Bank of Korea to apply modern technology to the Dominican Customs Agency (DGA). Miguel Cocco Guerero, the feisty director general of the Customs Office, was present at the signing of the contract. According to Diario Libre, the bidding process took more than a year. The US$23 million loan will be subject to 1.72% interest and carries a seven-year grace period.

Santiago landfill is now open
The new sanitary landfill site, constructed to replace the open-air garbage dump in Rafey, Santiago de los Caballeros, is now in operation. The project, which involved a RD$300 million investment, is expected to reduce local pollution by 98%. It has taken six months of work to bring the project on line, and is one of a series of projects suggested by ecological and conservationist groups with a view to improving the lives of local residents. Part of the area occupied by the old dump will be turned into a forest. With the arrival of new heavy equipment from the United States, problems with bad odors and smoke in the area have diminished by about 90%, according to locals. The project was partly funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. It is expected that the recycling process will lead to the creation of several hundred jobs. A methane gas plant is also expected to begin installation.

Forum maintains its strike call
The Alternative Social Forum (FSA) has ratified its call for a 24-hour national strike today, despite growing opposition. Meanwhile, the government is saying that it has always been open to dialogue. Last night, President Fernandez met with his chief military and police officials as well as his intelligence officials, who briefed him on the situation. FSA spokesman Fidel Santana told reporters from El Nuevo Diario that the only thing that would put a halt to the strike is a Presidential Decree announcing an increase in the minimum wage for government employees, on the one hand, and the presentation to Congress of a proposal to change the Hydrocarbon Law on the other. He reaffirmed that the strike leaders have not been contacted by any government officials. Santana said that an unnamed government official had told him that the government would not seek a dialogue with the strikers since it would affect President Fernandez's re-election efforts.
The strike affected traffic, and most private schools did close for the day. Elsewise, it was a slow day for most shops that remained open in the central parts of the city of Santo Domingo.

Haina bridge repairs get funding
The Ministry of Public Works has awarded the repair contract for the Haina Bridge to CODEMON, a company that specializes in heavy lifting. Victor Diaz Rua, the minister, told Listin Diario reporters that the Presidente Manuel Troncoso Bridge would be repaired at a cost of RD$17 million. The bridge, which dates back to the times of the Trujillo dictatorship, was damaged by floodwaters in last year's tropical storms.

Food prices go up
The small food stalls that supply many Dominicans with their meals during the day and night are raising their prices. According to Listin Diario, this price increase is directly related to the increase in the cost of basic foodstuffs such as wheat, corn and other grains. Minister of Agriculture Salvador Jimenez, together with the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Melanio Paredes are working to avoid speculation with the prices of the typical food basket. The Agriculture Ministry is opening 875 farmers' markets to try and halt the increasing pressure to raise prices. Minister Jimenez attributed much of the new price increases to political maneuvering by the opposition in an attempt to de-rail President Fernandez's re-election efforts. Despite these efforts, the "dish of the day", as offered by many food stalls is now costing between RD$90 and RD$120 a serving. This same dish cost RD$80 just a few weeks ago. Local vendors interviewed by Listin reporters said that cooking oil and flour are two of the essential items that have gone way up in price. At the Chinese fast food outlets that specialize in fried chicken, the basic five piece serving with plantains that cost RD$90 a month ago is now RD$120. At the major franchise operations, KFC, Victorina or Pollos Rey, a serving of just two chicken pieces now costs between RD$100 and RD$150.

Haiti is buying poultry
Despite the ban on Dominican poultry products, Haitians are now smuggling poultry and eggs into the country. In public protests currently sweeping through the country, Haitians are calling on their government to lift the ban. The president of the Poultry Sellers Association of Dajabon told Listin Diario reporters that despite the ban, sales are continuing, at perhaps 50% of the former volume. After five weeks of very low sales, Freddy Morillo reports that sales started to pick up and Haitians continued to demand Dominican chickens and eggs.

Bank robbers hit Popular
Four men, armed with pistols have robbed the Banco Popular branch office at the Carmina Centro Comercial at the corner of Independence Avenue and Pasteur Street in Gazcue, an upscale sector of Santo Domingo. The heist took an estimated one million pesos and US$25,000 in cash. Police sources told Hoy reporters that the four men disarmed the guard and entered the bank. The Police Crime Scene Unit is investigating the scene. The branch is located in a small commercial center that re-opened recently.

Biodiesel plant in Azua
After long years of planning and waiting on government approvals, the Globasol company has announced the start of a program to produce biodiesel fuel in the south western province of Azua. The source of the fuel will be castor beans and a variety of pine nuts called pinon de leche. The investment is expected to reach US$65 or US$75 million. The project involves the construction of six eco-villages that will operate as cooperatives for workers and their families to live. It is expected that 12,000 jobs will be created. The plant is designed to produce 18 million gallons of diesel fuel per year without destroying local eco-systems. It will be located near the wharf at Pueblo Viejo in Azua.

DR occupies third place in TB
The Dominican Republic is currently the country with the third greatest prevalence of tuberculosis in Latin America, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Only Brazil and Haiti have a higher rate of TB among their citizens. This information came to light during the First Regional Symposium on Tuberculosis, which was recently held in Santiago. Experts from the Dominican Republic and from overseas contributed to the work sessions.

Wednesday sales
Bravo supermarket is advertising Omo detergent for RD$89.95/1,000grs, Millex powdered milk for RD$599.95/2,722grs, ground beef for RD$39.95lb for their membership cardmembers.
Super Pola is advertising 35% off fruits and vegetables.
Supermercado Nacional has 40% off onions, and 20% off all other fruits and vegetables.
La Cadena supermarket has red onions for RD$11.95, bell peppers for RD$16.95, potatoes for RD$12.95lb, golden apples for RD$36.95lb, seedless green grapes for RD$64.95lb, salad tomatoes for RD$6.95.
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