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Daily News - Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Elections on schedule
With exactly one month to go before the 16 May presidential election, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) says it has completed its timetable of administrative and legal details completely, and in some cases, is ahead of schedule. The core issues and logistics are complete, with just the ballots themselves and the plastic coverings for the tally sheets pending for delivery to JCE officials. The ballots went to press late last week, and are due to be received by the JCE this week, possibly today or tomorrow, according to chief magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman.
Election director Joel Lantigua told reporters from Hoy newspaper that the basic supplies needed at the 13,500 polling stations are packed and ready for shipment. The ballots, voting registration lists, the vote tally sheets and other documents will be ready on the 23rd of this month and will go out under guard to each of the 301 polling places overseas and on the 27th, they will be distributed to the national polling stations under seal. According to Lantigua, the process is so well oiled that three of the most populous voting areas, Santiago, the National District and Santo Domingo East, have already received their voting booths, ballot boxes and podiums.

Campaign closings
It's now or never. The three leading political parties have just a month to go for the 16 May election. Diario Libre reports that tshe PRD announced the launch of a new advertising campaign, with one month to go for the 16 May presidential election. The PRSC announces its candidate Amable Aristy Castro would concentrate on motivating voters in southern and eastern provinces, while his running mate, Jose Enrique Sued, who is the mayor of Santiago, would concentrate on the Cibao provinces. Aristy would have four simultaneous closing events in Santiago, San Pedro de Macoris, Santo Domingo and the National District (Santo Domingo city).
The PLD announces more show business stars would join the campaign. And President Fernandez would be on tour of Samana, Mao, Pedernales and La Vega.
The PRSC will have its final closing on Sunday, 11 in front of the former home of the late President Joaquin Balaguer. On Monday, 12 May, the PLD will have its closing. And on Wednesday 14, the PRD will have their closing ceremony. Diario Libre reports, the 13th was skipped because of the superstitious belief that the day brings bad luck.

Poultry farmers start getting paid
The Ministry of Agriculture has begun paying RD$81 million to Dominican poultry farmers as part of a program to stabilize production since the Haitian embargo began at the beginning of the year. The money is being distributed through the Banco de Reservas, which is notifying farmers who are eligible for the payments. The Unipollo company was one of the first to be notified. Because of the embargo, the government purchased 2.5 million processed chickens and 900,000 laying hens in order to keep the sector from collapsing.

Commission to look at prices
In keeping with an age-old political tradition, President Leonel Fernandez has set up a commission to look into the issues surrounding the latest spate of price increases in most consumer items, especially those in the basic family food basket. He asked the commission to seek alternatives, according to the Minister of Hacienda, Vicente Bengoa. The commission is composed of the ministers of Commerce and Industry, Agriculture, Hacienda and the Presidential Chief of Staff, Luis Manuel Bonetti. According to Bengoa, the commission met with the President to discuss a range of issues and even discussed the possibility of new subsidies to some sectors. The price increases were blamed on external factors, according to Hoy.

Cost of living and jobs are main issues
The high cost of living and the lack of jobs were the two salient points coming out of the most recent poll carried out by CID-Latinoamerica during the last week of March and the first week of April. In response to the question: "What is the biggest problem we have in the Dominican Republic?" 30% answered "the cost of living" and 18% answered "the lack of jobs". During February, the cost of living was mentioned only 25% of the time, and job shortages were cited by 15% of those interviewed.
Yet another issue raised by the survey is violence, which was mentioned in 19% of the interviews, but this was, perhaps, good news, since the February survey reported violence as an issue for 25% of those interviewed.
According to the CID-Latinoamerica pollsters, the cost of living and job issues were singled out as important by people on medium and low incomes, who lived outside Santo Domingo or who had seen their own situations deteriorate over the past year. Crime and violence was cited by one in five interviewed, tending to come from people who have been able to handle the increase in the cost of living, generally from a higher income bracket.

ANJE looks at government spending
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) issued a press release expressing concern about the increase in government spending during the first quarter of 2008. ANJE president Pablo Piantini said that current expenditure for the quarter has increased by 32.2%, or RD$12.12 billion. The increase in spending is centered mostly on salaries, where, excluding Social Security deductions, an additional RD$2.07 billion was spent, an increase of 21%. As is evident, the expenditures on non-personal services such as propaganda and travel expenses, has increased by 41%, up RD$1.079 billion for the quarter. Piantini said it is unfortunate these budget items continue to increase, utilizing funds that otherwise could be allotted to education, health, payment of the foreign debt. He urged the government to instead implement austerity to seek efficiency in public spending.
ANJE also criticized that this was the first time this year that the government published the budget funds allotment. In previous years, the statement was published monthly. Piantini commented on what he called a lack of transparency, especially in an electoral year. ANJE had been monitoring government spending up until the publication was suspended.

Banreservas: RD$9.5 billion earnings
Banreservas, the government commercial bank, has reported earnings of over RD$9.5 billion over the past 14 quarters. The bank also increased its assets by RD$2.2 billion. Daniel Toribio, the administrator of the government's banking institution, also mentioned a 113% increase in dollar accounts in the bank. During the first quarter of 2008, the bank earned RD$777.6 million.

Cardinal calls for aid for Haiti
The head of the Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic, Nicolas de Jesus Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez, has called on the international community to help Haiti to resolve its food shortage problems. He said that the international community, which spends so much time accusing the Dominican Republic of discrimination, needed to step up and help that poorest of nations now. Speaking after attending a ceremony honoring outstanding students at the Saint Peter House in Santo Domingo, the Cardinal said that Haiti, as the poorest nation in the hemisphere, with all kinds of needs, is capable of all kinds of violence.

ER doctors call for bike lanes
Trauma doctors, orthopedic surgeons and emergency room doctors from the Dario Contreras Hospital in Santo Domingo are suggesting the creation of special traffic lanes for motorcycles as a way of stopping the carnage that they have to deal with on an hourly basis. According to the report in Listin Diario, most people who are wounded in motorcycle accidents suffer compound fractures that need different types of hardware or external fixtures, costing as much as US$3,000. Hospital director Dr. Hector Quezada told reporters that his facility treats 60,000 cases and performs 7,000 major surgeries each year. Of these, 73% are people involved in motorcycle accidents, many with head injuries or serious injuries to the lower extremities. Because of the enormous cost involved in these cases, doctors are suggesting that the Ministry of Public Works establish special lanes for the exclusive use of motorcycles and bicycles.

Teachers march today
The Dominican Teachers Association (ADP) will hold simultaneous marches throughout the country today, heading towards the Ministry of Education or the Regional Offices. Yesterday the ADP executive committee reviewed a document containing all the proposals that will be submitted to the ministry as part of the action plan launched by the union, which is aimed at forcing the government to assign 4% of the GDP to its education budget. Maria Teresa Cabrera, president of the ADP, and a Vice-Presidential candidate for the MIUCA party, told Diario Libre reporters that the march would begin at 9am, setting out from Independence Park towards the Ministry of Education building. Education Minister Alejandrina German has designated Luis de Leon to receive the ADP proposals.

Doctors reject government proposal
Waldo Ariel Suero, the president of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD), was indignant as he rejected proposals made by President Leonel Fernandez, aimed at improving the situation of doctors who work in public hospitals, clinics and social security facilities. The government was proposing that each doctor should work at just one medical facility but earning a better salary. Dr. Suero said that the government intended to begin firing doctors who work at more than one public facility, and that this is a major concern for the CMD. Without mentioning names, Dr. Suero said that the government's Movement to Integrate the Health Sector (MISESA) was aimed at dividing the CMD through special deals and other perks for former CMD leaders. Dr. Suero added that the CMD was going to fight to get retired doctors a living pension of at least RD$30,000.

Armed Forces on alert on frontier
The Minister of the Armed Forces, Lt. General Ramon Antonio Aquino Garcia, said that "everything is under control" along the border with Haiti. He said that patrols have been reinforced in order to prevent a massive wave of immigrants from crossing the border. Speaking after a Mass celebrating the 164th anniversary of the Dominican navy's foundation, Aquino Garcia said that both the specialized border security corps (Cesfront) and the army units stationed along the frontier are reporting normal conditions, but remain on alert.

Goal: zero corruption at DNCD
The director of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), Radhames Ramirez Ferreira said that during his term 4,000 agents have been fired. He said that only in the past week 30 were sent home for violating the department's rulings. He said they have the practice of firing any agent that is suspect of complicity with drug dealers. "We are working to have zero corruption in the DNCD," he said.

Rain on the way
The Weather Department (ONAMET) is forecasting plenty of rainfall for the rest of the week, due to a frontal system to the southeast of the Dominican Republic. As the media is reporting diminishing water supplies in the two largest Dominican cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, this is good news, indeed. Forecasters said that the system would cause rainfall over the east and south of the island. Satellite images and forecasting models are also predicting rain. Another system from eastern Cuba will also bring rain to the whole island as of tonight. Local forecasts are saying that there will be increasing cloud cover and rain showers over most of the Dominican Republic, especially La Altagracia, Hato Mayor, La Romana, Samana, San Pedro de Macoris, Monte Plata and El Seibo provinces. Showers will continue throughout the day with increasing intensity in the north. Thunderstorms are expected all over the island, and will continue until the weekend, as the two systems join together. Yesterday Santiago experienced an intense thunderstorm with some local flooding of streets and low-lying areas.

Wednesday sales
La Cadena advertises red onions for RD$7.95lb, Madame Frances mangos for RD$19.95ea, squash for RD$8.95lb, frozen chicken for RD$28.95lb, Cubanela red peppers for RD$17.95lb.
Nacional supermarkets are advertising 40% off on lettuce, 20% off other fruits and vegetables, fresh chicken for RD$33.95lb, Crisol soya oil for RD$219.95/128oz, Induveca Super Especial salami for RD$44.95lb, Lider select rice for RD$152.95/10lbs.
Pola supermarkets is advertising 35% off fruits and vegetables.
Bravo is advertising cantaloupe for RD$39.95ea, Hatuey soda crackers for RD$69.95/24oz box, Salami Venice Genoa for RD$159.95lb.
La Isla in Naco is promoting 50% off on a selection of upholstery materials, and discounts on decoration items.
 
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