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Daily News - Friday, 11 April 2008

Clave-Noxa poll: Fernandez 54%
Clave newspaper, in association with Noxa-Cies of Spain, published its 8 April election poll yesterday, showing that President Leonel Fernandez would get 54% of the vote, Miguel Vargas (PRD) would receive 30% and Amable Aristy (PRSC) would get 8% of the vote. This improves President Fernandez's chances of winning in the first round. In the previous poll held on 8 February, he achieved 45% of the vote. His leading contender Miguel Vargas Maldonado's support has hardly fluctuated, showing 30% in the 7 Oct poll, 31% in the 8 Feb poll and 30% in the 8 April poll, thus appearing to have failed to capture the independent voter. Third place candidate Amable Aristy of the PRSC has been losing support, having fluctuated from a high 17% in the 7 October poll to 13% in the 8 February poll and 8% in the 8 April poll. The poll was conducted between 25-30 March, and 1,600 eligible voters were surveyed.
See www.clavedigital.com

Fernandez the Pharaoh
President Fernandez might have had a valid point when he said yesterday that there is a "crisis of thought" in the DR, which doesn't allow for political debates. Or it could have been just more political mudslinging? Either way presidential contender Miguel Vargas Maldonado reacted to Fernandez's comments by saying that the President has a "pharaonic complex." Vargas saying that the President is arrogant and feels he is above everyone else. Vargas added that it was Fernandez who didn't want to debate. He said that the crisis in the DR, is a moral and ethical one, caused mainly arising from the corruption that has grown under this administration. He concluded by saying that Fernandez's current campaign has been about deifying the re-election candidate and his personality, which is being achieved by using public funds and the old-school political mentality.

Amable says Fernandez insults all
PRSC candidate Amable Aristy Castro said that President Leonel Fernandez insulted the Dominican public when he commented that he wouldn't take part in debates because of the lack of a intellectual elite in the DR, during his participation in the National Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) encounter with political andidates. Amable, quoted in Hoy, said that not only did he insult the members of ANJE who invited him to speak, but he also insulted professors, students and professionals, the whole middle class, as well as poor people, by saying that Dominicans don't think.

Moreno proposals at ANJE
During his speech at the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) meeting with 2008 presidential candidates, former Attorney General Guillermo Moreno, a newcomer to politics, spoke out in favor of a government that makes production a priority, reducing taxes on production, and increasing taxes on the highest earners, as reported in Hoy. He favored a reduction in the 16% ITBIS tax and in the tax on fuels. He said that the present economic model is sustained by the consumption of imported goods. For instance, he said that commercial banks have allotted only 6% of their loan portfolio for local manufacturing, while endless loans are available for purchasing vehicles. He supported changing the composition of the Monetary Board, which oversees monetary and economic policies in the country, to incorporate more members from the productive sector. He said it is currently dominated by the financial sector.
He also favored banning presidential re-election and said he would change the system for selecting judges, as reported in Hoy. He said that the Judicial Branch is highly politicized, and thus is not independent from the Executive Branch. He explained that the country is not prepared for re-election because it lacks solid institutions that can prevent Presidents from using state resources for their campaign, and limits the potential to fight corruption.
He would also demand transparency from politicians, especially those in public office, and said he would review the energy contracts.
In his opinion, the DR has become a paradise for impunity. He proposed the creation of a civic power that can impeach a President if he violates the Constitution.
Moreno advocated allocating 4% of the National Budget to education as established by law. He said he would extend the school day until 4pm, and would include lunch. He also would allocate more funding to early education.
Moreno is running for the MIUCA, and is probably the least known of the candidates.

Metro costs
Spending on the Santo Domingo Metro has exceeded the RD$20 billion mark, according to Diandino Pena, director of the Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET). Pena tried his best to allay fears about ballooning costs, saying that the total budget would not come to more than RD$25 billion. Pena also assured the public that the Metro would be ready by May, adding that the project's final details would be dealt with during President Leonel Fernandez's second presidential term. He said that some questions left unanswered include recruiting and training employees, creating a model of operation and determining whether that model would be private, mixed, or public sector. He also explained that 'Metro' legislation has to be drawn up.

DR behind in DR-CAFTA
The DR is behind the other DR-CAFTA countries when it comes to applying policies that strengthen economic freedom and local competitiveness, as presented during an American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) workshop yesterday. According to Ignacio de Leon, the DR has the worst Index of Economic Freedom among the DR-CAFTA countries, and the lowest competitiveness index published by The Heritage Foundation. The DR is ranked 87th, behind El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Economic freedom is defined as where individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, and that freedom is both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. The index measures business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labor freedom.
See http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/countries.cfm

CMD back at it
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) has ended its truce, announcing another public hospital work stoppage on 17 April. CMD president Waldo Ariel Suero held a press conference yesterday to announce the strike. Suero declared that initially the strike would last 24 hours but could be extended for a longer period, depending on the circumstances. Suero also said that there would be a march by doctors in Santiago on 16 April.

US funds OAS mission
The US has decided to fund the Organization of American States (OAS) mission that will be here on 16 May to observe the Dominican presidential elections. The US is giving the OAS US$150,000 for this purpose. The announcement was made by the PLD Strategic Commission director, Temistocles Montas, who received the news from US ambassador in the DR, Robert Fannin. Fannin told Montas that the OAS funds had come from the US State Department and were part of an application for funds made by a PLD mission during a visit to Washington in March this year.

Remittances are convenient
70% of remittances to Dominicans are home delivered, while 25% are delivered through national banks. Dominicans have one of the highest remittances rates in Latin America, sending close to US$1,250,000 per month, as reported in Diario Libre. In 2007 Dominicans sent over US$3 billion back home. Estimates predict that this amount could increase by 5% in 2008. According to statistics, about 30% of remittances go to families in rural areas. Seventy five percent of all remittances entering the DR originate in the US. Since 1997 remittances to the DR have grown sharply with US$1 billion being sent during that year. In 1998 US$1.3 billion were sent and in 1999 US$1.5 billion were sent to families in the DR. In 2000 Dominicans in the US sent back US$1.7 billion and in 2001 sent back US$1.8 billion. By 2002 Dominicans were sending back US$1.9 and in 2003 remittances hit the US$2 billion mark for the first time. In 2004 figures kept rising as Dominicans sent back US$2.23 billion, in 2005 Dominicans sent back US$2.4 billion, in 2006 they sent back US$2.7 billion and by 2007 Dominicans reached the US$3 billion mark. The figures indicate that there has been a proportionate increase in the number of Dominican immigrants to the United States and also show that the average wage of Dominican workers has increased over the 10-year period. These figures don't include non-monetary remittances like clothing or supplies, or informal remittances like money given directly to family members when visiting the DR.

Americana announces new mall
Ferreteria Americana, one of the leading local department stores, announces that it will turn its JF Kennedy location into Santo Domingo's leading shopping mall, with a US$70 million investment in the next three years. President Leonel Fernandez was there for the groundbreaking ceremony. The mall will be built on a 62,000 square meter area. It will include a supermarket, movie theaters, a food court and a shopping area spread over 43,000 square meters on two floors. It will have 1,800 underground parking spaces and will be located in the current parking area and on the site where their wood and plumbing warehouses are now located.
Next door to Americana is Ikea, the Swedish furniture megastore that is scheduled to open early next year, making the location one of the most attractive for shoppers in Santo Domingo.

Haitian conflict affects DR
For over a week tensions have been running high in Haiti, which is experiencing a bout of civil unrest as a result of increases in basic food prices. The situation has become volatile, forcing the Dominican armed forces to increase surveillance and patrols on the Haitian-Dominican border in anticipation of any repercussions from Haiti. Although no extreme measures have been taken, three infantry brigades and the Specialized Border Security Corps (CESFRONT) are all on high alert in case of any incidents. Hoy reports that the average Haitian makes US$2 per day and that the indiscriminate increase in food prices triggered angry sentiments among many sectors of the population, forcing them on to the streets to protest. Unrest broke out in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, as well as in some of Haiti's most affluent areas, like Petionville. Fearing a full revolt and with his job at stake, Haitian President Rene Preval promised citizens that taxes on imported foods would be lowered. Adding to efforts to calm unrest is a call from the Haitian Senate for Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis to resign from his post. According to reports, the situation is so bad that some Haitians are reduced to eating mud cookies. In addition to the increase in food prices, many have forgotten that Dominican chicken and egg products are still banned from entering Haiti because of bird flu fears. No word on whether the ban will be lifted.

Guerra wraps up Latin Billboards
They might start naming award shows after Dominican singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra at the rate he is going. Once again Guerra cleaned house after he was awarded three Latin Billboards during last night's ceremony in Florida. Guerra and his group 4-40 won tropical album of the year, producer of the year and Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year. Guerra was joined in the winners' circle by fellow Dominican musicians Aventura and Kat de Luna. Aventura won Hot Latin Song of the Year for their hit "Mi Corazoncito," while de Luna won Latin Dance Club Play Track Of The Year for her song "Whine Up". Aventura was also awarded Tropical Airplay Song Of The Year, Duo Or Group for the same song. Both Guerra and Aventura have had tremendous success during this year's award season, collecting prizes at the Premios Lo Nuestro, Casandras and the Latin Grammys, among others.

Beach basketball
The FIBA Tri-Basketball Tournament is taking place in Boca Chica this weekend. There will be RD$140,000 in prize money. The top Dominican basketball players will be competing in the event that is part of the Pan-American Beach Basketball Circuit. Matches begin at 3pm. The president of the International Basketball Federation, Bob Elphinston and the secretary general of FIBA, Patrick Baumann, are here for the international event. A modern court has been built for the tournament. On Saturday and Sunday, matches start at 10am.

Friday sales
Super Pola is advertising J&B Whisky for RD$399.95/0.75lt, Sosua Danes cheese for RD$109.95lb, Genoa salami RD$179.95lb, V8 Splash RD$31.95/16 oz, Langers Cranberry juice, RD$79.95/64oz, Vodka Smirnoff Red RD$399.95/0.75lt. and sales in its seafood department.
Jumbo is advertising melons for RD$19.95ea, potatoes for RD$12.95ea, Haier Flat Screen TV 29" RD$11,495, Milex 2722 grs for RD$569.95, Fab detergent 2000grs RD$139.95
Bravo supermarket, for its cardholders, is advertising beef fillet for RD$169.95lb, Choice Churrasco Angus Beef for RD$199.95lb, Red globe grapes for RD$49.95lb, plantains for RD$7.95ea, red and yellow onions for RD$9.95 (sales apply to Saturday, also).
Attias is holding a furniture fair at the Hotel Dominican Fiesta.
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