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Daily News - Friday, 18 April 2008

Fernandez reaches deal
President Leonel Fernandez, after individual meetings, says he has reached a deal with the nation's supermarket owners and wholesalers in order to keep food prices down. The specific deals were not disclosed, but price cuts are expected in the next few days.
According to the Listin Diario, the government would pick up the difference between the market prices for foods and the sales price to consumers. Representatives from El Nacional, El Pola, La Cadena, El Bravo, Plaza Lama, Amigo, Ole, Placita and Carrefour supermarkets participated in the meeting with the governmental committee appointed to keep a cap on food prices with only a month to go before the 16 May election. Attending for the government were Administrative Secretary of the Presidency Luis Manuel Bonetti, Industry & Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes, Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, Customs Department head Miguel Cocco, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu, government Social Plan director Emigdio Sosa among others.
Diario Libre reports the interesting detail of how the key executives of the supermarkets were bused to the Presidential Palace in a Customs Department vehicle.

Chinatown opens
After much delay, Santo Domingo's Barrio Chino was inaugurated at a special ceremony last night, which was led by President Leonel Fernandez and his wife Margarita Cedeno. According to estimates, the project cost the government RD$267 million. The ceremony also included the participation of members of the Chinese-Dominican community as well as local business owners. Hoy writes that spectators were wowed by displays of dragons, lions and traditional Chinese dances, as well as other cultural highlights. The public works project was blessed by Monsignor Ramon Benito Angeles. Flor Para Todos Foundation President Rosa Ng spoke during the event and thanked the state for making the Barrio Chino a reality. Adding to the festivities was a fireworks display. For more information on the Barrio Chino and the DR's Chinese community please see: www.dr1.com/articles/chinese.shtml

DR should be OK
The food price phenomenon is global with price increases felt in developed and lesser developed nations. But World Food Program (WFP) country representative Pavel Isa Contreras says that the DR is one of the least vulnerable countries in terms of food price increases. He explained that Dominicans still produce 80% of the foods consumed locally. He said that some basic food products like corn and oil are imported. These have seen significant price increases, and have impacted the local cost of producing chickens, for example.

Anyone can be general
The indiscriminate promotion of military to the rank of generals has brought instability to the organization and lead to a model of inefficiency and unconstitutionality. Random ascension of military personnel in the DR has become common that a low ranking officer can be on the career track to general in just a few years. According to Hoy, in the Armed Forces there are 200 more generals today than there were in 1966, when there were only 7. At the end of the Hipolito Mejia administration in August 2004 there were 150 generals. President Fernandez has promoted 26 more military to the rank in August 2007, and reinstated five other generals.

Strike IV and do it again
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) held its fourth strike in as many months and has promised that it will strike once again next Friday. The strike affects the poor that use public hospital services. The striking physicians only attended emergency cases.
CMD president Waldo Ariel Suero called the strike was a success.
The doctors have been continually fighting for better benefits as well as the increase of monthly wages to RD$58,000 per month. Currently doctor salaries range between RD$14,000 per month and RD$26,400 per month depending on the experience of the doctor.
But the government's position is that wages need to correspond with productivity. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said he will not pay a doctor who carries out one surgery a month in the public health service the same as one who performs 60. Many doctors only work sporadically in public hospitals, while dedicating most of their time to private practice. Rojas says if physicians are paid taking into consideration the patients they see or operate, this would result in some doctors making around RD$100,000+ a month.
Listin Diario reports that if the government were to cede to the CMD's requests that would mean a payout of RD$6 billion per year.
According to Fulgencio Severino, cardiologist and public health expert, doctors in the DR should not be a paid a set salary, instead a "commission" based salary based on productivity. He said it would be a mistake for the government to do otherwise.

Customs getting stronger
USAID and the Dominican Customs Department (DGA) have signed a cooperation agreement that will allow for an increase transparency at Customs offices. USAID director Richard Goughnour said that the pilot program has been in place since February at the Puerto Multimodal Caucedo. He explained that the DR was chosen for this program because the DGA has become a model in public administration and transparency. DGA director Miguel Cocco says that the program would be extended to other Dominican ports. He explained that there is a special interest in East Haina that produces 75% of Customs revenues.

Workers raises
51% of Dominican businesses gave their workers wage increases between November 2007 and March 2008. On average the increases were about 12%. There were some increases as high as 95% and as low as 1.5%. In comparison to the 2006-2007 period this increase is 6% lower when 57.9% of companies gave their workers raises. Reasons for the increases include, but not limited to, longevity, merit, inflation wage readjustments and quality of work. Also, 73% of businesses say they plan to give workers wage increases while 27% say they have no plans of increases wages. The findings are including in the Ros Consultants annual study.

Animal Welfare Conference
The 2008 Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference will take place between April 21 and 24 April for expert and peer-to-peer training. The conference, at the Hotel Melia, will cover critical issues in animal welfare, such as disaster preparedness, organizational development, animal welfare education and marine species protection. More than 140 individuals from 70 organizations and governments will travel from 29 islands or countries to attend the conference. Sosua Friends of the Animals Association, Inc., Dominican Marine Studies Foundation (FUNDEMAR), Animal Protection Foundation (FUPRODAN), Dominican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SODOPRECA) and the Animal Friends Trust (PADELA) are among the sponsoring organiozations.
Additional details about the 2008 Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference are available online: http://www.caribbeananimalwelfare.org/ConferenceHome.html

Appeal denied Figueroa to jail
The Third Chamber of the Penal Chamber at the National District Appeals Court upheld the 10-year prison sentences for former Baninter president Ramon Baez Figueroa and bank advisor Luis Alvarez Renta. Baez was also charged with money laundering for his involvement in the 2003 banking scandal that bankrupt that financial institution and sent the Dominican economy into a tailspin. Previously, only Alvarez Renta had been charged with money laundering. Baez and Alvarez Renta must also pay civil fines equivalent to 100 minimum salaries. Former Baninter vice president Marcos Baez Cocco was also sentenced to 10 years in jail while Vivian Lubrano de Castillo was sentenced to 5 years in prison. In the previous judgement, she had not been charged. The Appeals Court also determined Lubrano should pay RD$1.5 billion in civil fines and will not be allowed to leave the country. Judges felt that Lubrano had inside knowledge of the Baninter dealings. As part of the court's decision the Central Bank will be ordered to pay RD$50 billion in civil fines while Baninter must pay RD$18 billion as well as hand over all assets to the Baninter Liquidation Committee. These assets include La Intercontinental de Medios, RNN (Canal 27), Radio Supra, Radio Cielo, Radio Mil, Circuito Comercial, Isla Vision (Canales 53 y 57), Aster Comunicaciones, Medcon SA, Telecentro, Reliance Watchman SA. Baez's lawyers say they will appeal the ruling. The case would next be heard by the Supreme Court.

On his way to 500
On his way to 500 career homeruns, Dominican slugger Manny Ramirez is passing some exclusive company. The Washington Heights raised player hit his 494th and 495th career dingers of Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina and led the BoSox to the 7-5 drubbing of the hated NY Yankees. With his massive bombs Ramirez passed Fred McGriff and Hall of Fame legend Lou Gehrig and took sole possession of 24th on the MLB all time homerun list. Ramirez has been on a tear lately and we could see his 500th homerun within the next few weeks. To start the season Ramirez has 5 homeruns, 13 hits in his last 26 at bats with 11 R.B.I.

"I'm thirty uh..."
News regarding Miguel Tejada's involvement with illegal steroids had died down for a bit and then this shocker hit newsstands yesterday. The former All-Star and MVP actually lied about his age to team officials and has been hiding this little secret since he was a 19-year old prospect in Bani. Tejada has admitted that he is fact 33 years old and not 31, as he is listed in the Houston Astros Media Guide. Known for being one of the DR's most beloved baseball players, Tejada said he wanted to clear the air and get that off his chest. Tejada explains that he told the fib when he was 19 and looking to sign a professional contract. He said fudging his age to 17 could get him the contract and said that a coach had urged him to lie. Tejada says that his legal documents, including birth certificate, green card and passport, all have the correct info. No word on what legal repercussions this could have for the baseball player.
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