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Daily News - Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Fernandez at Feria del Libro
The 11th International Book Fair opened in Santo Domingo last night and is expected to draw the attention of city residents for the next two weeks. President Leonel Fernandez, who established the annual fair during his first term (1996-2000), cut the opening ribbon together with First Lady Margarita Cedeno.
During the opening ceremony at the National Theater, Culture Minister Jose Rafael Lantigua spoke of the need to encourage a passion for books and better reading habits among children and young people. This year's theme is "Be seduced by books."
The fair will feature 656 exhibits, including 252 international displays and 404 from the DR. A record 106 foreign writers are taking part. There are 32 pavilions and the program of events includes 2,432 activities, 203 conferences, 90 book-launches, 107 workshops, 84 debates, 11 symposiums and panel discussions, 1,158 artistic performances and a theater festival with 64 performances.
The fair is open every day from 9am to 10pm through 4 May at Plaza de la Cultura.
During the launch, Fernandez also presented special awards to Jose Leon Asencio from Grupo Leon, Lilian Russo from Puerto Plata and Jose Rafael Vargas from the Dominican Technological Institute (INDOTEL). The government also honored poets Soledad Alvarez, Mateo Morrison, Alexis Gomez and Enrique Eusebio.
You can download the program from www.ferilibro.com/2k7/images/programa.pdf

Money laundering common
Customs Department (DGA) director Miguel Cocco says that money laundering is very common in the DR, and added that five businesses are currently under investigation. He made the comments after signing a cooperation agreement with the Attorney General's Office. Cocco said that so far this year, the DGA has already seized US$60 million in illegal assets compared to US$120 million seized in 2007. Cocco commented that in addition to detecting undeclared paper money, laundering operations also take the form of electronic transfer transactions. Cocco said the DGA is working closely with the AG's office to trace money transactions to ascertain the origins of the money and to curtail laundering operations.

Central Bank injects US$100M
The Central Bank has announced that it will inject US$100 million of international reserves into the market to compensate for the rising costs of imported foods. The Central Bank says that the move is intended to mitigate some of the effects of record fuel prices on the cost of consumer goods and transport. El Caribe reports that the Central Bank is continuing with its 2008 monetary policy and that the move will allow adjustments to the aggregate demand, which tends to rise in pre-election periods, creating inflationary pressures. National Business and Traders Federation (FENACERD) president Antonio Cruz Rojas said that his organization welcomed the injection of the money into the market.

Why imports don't cost less
According to statistics from the Customs Department (DGA), the import of duty free goods under the DR-CAFTA free trade scheme means that the government has given up RD$2.3 billion in taxes. Most of these imports were from mainland US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Diario Libre focuses on how the promise of goods costing less on the local market with the elimination of the tariffs under DR-CAFTA hasn't been fulfilled. A study by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reveals that one of the reasons is that 14 mass consumption products are produced domestically, and thus are under gradual tariff removal schedules of 10, 15 or 20 years. Another explanation is that many imported appliances, despite being US branded, are not sourced from the US, but from Asia.
Meanwhile, traders say that prices haven't declined because of increases in their operational costs.

New business magazine
It's been a year since the implementation of DR-CAFTA and public and private citizens are still trying to understand the complexities of the agreement and how it is affecting the nation's competitiveness. With this goal in mind, this month Medios Especializados S.A launched a new magazine called "Gestion & Competitividad". The first issue of the monthly magazine focuses on DR-CAFTA. According to G&C it is still too early to gauge DR-CAFTA's influence on the Dominican economy, beyond the fact that it opens a new door for trade with the US. The magazine also features an interview with Rene Villareal, a Mexican expert on competitiveness, who comments that the DR could become the Caribbean version of Ireland in ten years, if it develops properly. Other features include interviews with economist David Diaz Benavides, Andres van der Horst Alvarez, Juan Garrigo, Maria Victoria Abreu, Guillermina Ramirez and Alvin Martinez Llibre.

UASD students get funds
The government has given ten thousand UASD state university students Special Education Incentive Cards (IES) with RD$500 monthly cash deposits to be used for their educational costs. The RD$5 million program seeks to assist 50,000 low-income students, according to Higher Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo.

Car buyers prefer pre-owned
According to the Association of Vehicle Makers Concessionaires (ACOFAVE), consumers seem to prefer to buy pre-owned vehicles instead of new ones. During a press conference, ACOFAVE President Enrique Fernandez said that during the first three months of the year, 7,355 new vehicles were sold, which is the same amount sold during the first three months of 2007. Fernandez attributed the stagnated growth rates to the 17% charge for initial vehicle registration and rising international costs.

Veganos begin rebuilding
Residents of La Vega are rebuilding after a tornado struck that area on Sunday. According to the Civil Defense, in all 160 houses were affected with damages reported at 50 business establishments. Yesterday the National Housing Institute (INVI) and volunteers started to rebuild in the affected areas. The Armed Forces and their special brigades aided those affected. Diario Libre reports rebuilding units removed 100 tons of debris from around the affected sectors. Adding to the damage is the loss of crops, including plantains, vegetables, and rice, as well as the loss of four energy towers and 34 electric posts. EdeNorte representative Felix Tavarez said that power should be restored in La Vega by the middle of this week.

Tornados are not so rare
The recent tornado that primarily affected the Central Cibao region reminds Dominicans that tornados are not so rare. A news report in El Caribe newspaper indicates that there have been 22 tornados over the past five years. This is broken down in four in 2007, two in 2006, six in 2005, two in 2004 and seven in 2003.
The tornados mainly affected the central Cibao provinces, but their effects have been felt all the way to the east and the southwest.
This time around, Sunday's tornado caused damage in Mao in the northwest and San Pedro de Macoris in the southeast, in addition to most of the damage that was felt in the central Cibao region. Some 115 dwellings were affected by the weather phenomenon.
Meteorologists say that warm air clouds meeting cold air from an upper level trough (vaguada) had caused the tornado.

Hillary loves the DR
In a interview in the Spanish language magazine 'Tras la Verdad', Democrat presidential pre-candidate Hillary Clinton says that she loves vacationing in the DR. Clinton is quoted as saying that she has seen many interesting places, but highlighted her affection for the DR. Clinton also commented on her admiration for Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta, whose designs she often wears. The Clintons have vacationed in the DR on numerous occasions, staying at de la Renta's exclusive home. She first visited the country in 1999.
See www.traslaverdad.net/article.cfm?articleID=45391

Call centers catch on
The DR is tapping into its returning immigrant population to become the Caribbean's leader in the call center industry, as reported in the Miami Herald. The country is making the most of Dominicans who have their American English accent down pat, and can give callers seeking customer service the impression that they are being assisted by someone in the US.
"The government in Santo Domingo is offering incentives, sending thousands of young people to English immersion school and clearing out failed textile factories to make room for one of the biggest trends in telecommunications: the Caribbean", reports the Florida newspaper. Business in the DR has increased in recent years, from 11 call centers four years ago to 56 and nearly 25,000 employees of an estimated 60,000 in the entire Caribbean.
With more and more companies looking to expand in Spanish-speaking markets, Eddy Martinez of the Center for Export and Investment told the newspaper that he expects to see 100,000 call center jobs in the next four years. The government hopes to fill the posts with the thousands of students who have benefited from scholarships for nine-month English immersion courses.
See www.miamiherald.com/457/story/503466.html

Florida is Presidente territory
Presidente has caught on with South Florida beer lovers. The Sun Sentinel newspaper recently reported that the Dominican beer ranks among the area's top four best-selling imports, after old favorites such as Heineken, Corona and Beck. Presidente was introduced to Florida in 1991. Franklin Leon, vice president of the brewery, told the newspaper that they plan to double export revenues by 2012, building on their base in Florida, their strongest market abroad. Interestingly, while Latin Americans were their first target market, Presidente beer sales boomed when the company decided to expand beyond Hispanics. Last year, Presidente sold about one million cases in Florida. In the DR, sales exceed 41 million cases, several million of which are consumed by foreign tourists staying in the country's hotels.
See www.sun-sentinel.com/business/...

Papi woke up
Did he leave his bat at immigration? Was he just on an extended vacation? We don't know, but what we do know is that opposing pitchers should be worried as slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz has finally awoken from an early season slump and is nearing his explosive mid-season form. Ortiz batted in three runs on two doubles yesterday as he helped the heavily favored Boston Red Sox sweep the Texas Rangers in a four-game series. Superstitious fans believe that after the Yankee stadium jersey fiasco Ortiz has finally regained his strength at the plate.

Horford does well in debut
Power forward Al Horford has continued his ascent into the corps of elite players in the league by carrying his in-season performance into the post-season, though Atlanta Hawks fans wish the same could be said about their team. The rookie forward, who is a favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors, scored 20 points on 7-10 shooting in the Hawks 104-81 drubbing at the hands of the favored Boston Celtics. The eighth-seeded Hawks are facing the Celtics, who look to reclaim that lore of Green teams from the past. Horford's efforts were to be admired as he also grabbed 10 rebounds, had two assists and brought the Hawks within two at one point, but his efforts were in vain. Sports fans will wait to see if Horford is a magician, because it will take a miracle for the Hawks to beat the mighty Boston Celtics.

Tuesday sales
El Nacional advertises 89.95 large eggs carton for RD$89.95.
Plaza Lama supermarket has green bananas for RD$2.95ea, egg plant for RD$7.95lb, plantains for RD$7.50ea, potatoes for RD$13.95lb, cucumbers for RD$6.95lb, broccoli for RD$13.95lb, cauliflower for RD$13.95lb, Cubanela red peppers for RD$14.95, eggs for RD$89.95/30 eggs, Pepsi 2.5liters for RD$39.95, white rice for RD$149.95/10lbs.
Bravo is advertising its 30% off for fruit and vegetable items.
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