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Daily News - Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Thousands flock to Book Fair
The silhouette of a longhaired beauty with red lips and a rose inside a book has seduced thousands of people to the XI International Book Fair in the Plaza de la Cultura. Students from both public and private schools flocked to the fair, which features 1,158 artistic displays, 64 theatrical performances, 10 art exhibits and 34 book-launches. Visitors to the fair may purchase books at reasonable prices, ranging from RD$25.00 to RD$500 for well-bound classics. The National Lottery contributed RD$300 coupons to students for use in the purchase of a book of their choice. One of the new attractions is the recreation of the house used by Dominican Founding Father Juan Pablo Duarte during his exile in Caracas, Venezuela. The life-sized exhibit was organized by the Duarte Institute, and features paintings of Duarte's various journeys and a smaller replica of the good ship "Leonor".

Metro: major attraction at Book Fair
The free rides on the new Metro system are, apparently, one of the principal attractions drawing visitors to the Book Fair. According to Diario Libre, neither bargains for books or the cultural attractions on offer can rival the Metro rides. Long lines of people have waited to get on the train at all the stations, which are named after important historical persons or events (Hermanas Mirabal, Caonabo, Casandra Damiron and Feria). Most groups were composed of entire families waiting to enjoy the experience together. Security and information were two important facets of the new experience, with tickets and a brochure distributed at several tents set up for this purpose, and Metro Police officers offering good advice: "Hold onto the handrails as you use the escalators." "Please hold on to your children", "Do not run" and "Please stand behind the yellow line."

Government sends foods to small shops
Faced with strong criticism over high food prices, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has begun to implement a program to ship low-priced foods to local grocery shops known as "colmados". According to El Nuevo Diario, there are 100,000 of these small, neighborhood stores in the DR. They are due to receive rice, beans and eggs at reduced prices. Rice is supposed to sell for RD$12 a pound, and red beans and pinto beans at RD$21 and RD$23 per pound. The price of bread and eggs is meant to be kept down to RD$3 per unit. According to the ministry, it will take some time to supply all the 'colmados', but the process has been initiated with agreements with 30 commercial associations that distribute foodstuffs to these establishments. Ministry of Agriculture trucks will begin to supply barrios with products from the farmer's markets at the same reduced prices.

Heliport under construction
Santo Domingo is getting a heliport for public use. The Airport Department and the City of Santo Domingo are in charge of the construction of the city's first public heliport on the grounds of the Malecon by the Caribbean Sea, near the Metaldom factory on the intersection with Ave. Nunez de Caceres. Andres Vanderhorst of the Airport Department said that the heliport is costing RD$400,000. He described the installation as "ecological", and that no cement or other usual construction material would be used. He said that grass covering would be planted to achieve harmony with nature. Vanderhorst said that the city receives about 20 helicopter operations per day, primarily from tourist areas. The heliport will have water, electricity and fuel service facilities. It will have two 20 x 20 platforms with two inches of caliche paving for stability, several layers of dark earth and a grass covering with an irrigation system. The heliport offices will be located in a mobile container unit. The heliport is expected to be finished in May.

Small business DR-CAFTA workshop
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce and its Foreign Trade Department (Dicoex) are holding a workshop on "Opportunities and Challenges for Small and Medium-sized Companies (PYMES) within the framework of DR-CAFTA". International trade consultant Vilma Arbaje will be discussing the DR and its international trade agreements, access for goods under DR-CAFTA, opportunities and challenges for small companies under DR-CAFTA, the US Embassy's business assistance programs, and competitiveness projects for PYMES. The event will take place on Wednesday, 30 April from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
For reservations, call 809 567-7192 exts. 1092 and 1061, or write to [email protected]

Penalties for collecting without working
An obscure law establishes that people on government payrolls who do not actually work in a job in the department that pays them can be fined and sent to jail. El Nacional newspaper has dug up Law 2429 of 5 July 1950, dating back to the Trujillo regime. The law comes at a time when there is an increasing trend in the Fernandez administration to add people to the government payroll for reasons of party political affiliation.
The law establishes fines of RD$100 to RD$1,000, and prison terms of one month to a year. The law establishes that wages should only be paid for services provided, and that being appointed does not give a person the right to a wage.
Recently, TV journalist Nuria Piera exposed the burden taxpayers have to bear in order to pay for PLD appointees who are on the payroll but do not render services. On her program, "Nuria en el 9," she showed checks issued by the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI), the Santo Domingo Water Corporation (CAASD) and the Ministry of Public Works to PLD and PRSC activists who have joined the re-election campaign, costing taxpayers millions.
See: www.elnacional.com.do/article.aspx?id=44662

Privatization = jobs for politicians
Writing in today's El Caribe, electricity expert Luis Arthur comments on the burden of political patronage on the power situation. He mentions that the CDEEE, the body left after the government privatized electricity distribution, could run on 30 employees or less, and certainly does not need the 1,317 people on its payroll. According to Arthur, the CDEEE has a Board with seven members who each receive between RD$150,000 and RD$200,000 plus other benefits. Furthermore, to make matters worse, he comments that the board members are not technically qualified.
"If we add up the employees of the CDEEE and the Empresa de Electrificacion Rural and the PRA with 2,129, the 5,407 of the three distributors, the 810 and 812 of the Hydroelectric and Transmission operations, and we take into account the seven boards and the seven administrators and their support system, plus the capitalized generating companies, the coordinating organization, and the Superintendence with its respective boards, and we compare it to what there was before privatization, a single board, a single administrator and 3,000 employees, we come to the conclusion that 'e pa lante que vamos', and that capitalization has only been a good deal for political party members, for generator and distributor companies that now do what they feel like, without the Superintendence doing its duty".
Arthur comments that service has not improved to justify the increases. On the contrary, he mentions that while the payroll and number of employees and spending is much higher, the deficits have increased, prices are much higher and blackouts are increasing.
To read more of his analysis of the power hypertrophy situation, see www.luis.arthur.net

Paying for luggage
Flying to the DR anytime soon? When packing for your trip, only take the essentials. El Caribe, quoting an article in the New York Times, writes that five of the six major airline carriers will begin charging passengers US$25 extra for a second suitcase as of 1 May. El Caribe says that this extra charge is a way for the airlines to make up for skyrocketing fuel costs and a way to increase profits. US Airways and United began the practice in February and Continental, Delta and Northwestern have all followed suit. El Caribe also reports that the airlines will charge US$50 for a third item, and could charge more for a fourth checked bag.
A source at Delta Airlines told El Caribe that the policy would not be applied in the Dominican Republic right away. It is well known that local travelers take rum, local fudge, salami and some other foods to the United States and return with their suitcases full of clothes, shoes and other items that are usually much more expensive in local stores. American Airlines, the DR's leading carrier, has yet to announce if it will follow the trend.
See www.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/business/22bags.html?ex=...

Loto money divides family
An 88-year old woman was said to have won the RD$18 million Loto prize last 28 March. The lucky event has apparently touched off a family dispute with one branch accusing the other of kidnapping the lucky winner. Other family members denied the accusation, telling El Caribe reporters that the dispute was between the lucky winner's sons, who want to share out the winnings even before the prize is collected. Yesterday the grandchildren and children of the winner, Sara Morillo de Tavarez, denounced the kidnapping. However, another son, Jose, told the reporters that the poor woman was exhausted by people asking for help and who kept the apartment in Villa Olimpica in Santiago under constant vigil. Jose Tavarez said that he had bought the winning ticket at the El Olimpico Supermarket in Villas Noa, but that he preferred that his mother claim the prize. He remarked that he never thought that this would lead to charges of kidnapping the old woman. El Caribe reporters spoke to his brother by telephone, and he denied that their mother had been kidnapped. Rodolfo Tavarez pointed out that the elderly woman lived in his apartment in New York City and that he took care of her. Every motoconcho driver in the area can point out the lucky winner's apartment.

His freedom lasted seven hours
Aneudy Polo Jose was freed by a magistrate of the Court of Instruction in La Romana at 7:30 in the evening and was dead by 3:30 the following morning. The 22-year old man was shot as he and an accomplice tried to rob a money exchange establishment. Polo Jose, a.k.a. Timaca, was released on bail by magistrate Kenia de Oleo together with five others accused of breaking and entering a local beauty salon last weekend. Local prosecutor Jose Polanco Ramirez told reporters that "greater care must be taken" when sending accused criminals before the courts in order for the charges to hold up. Polo Jose and Melvin Corporan, 21, were killed by police as they attempted to rob the de la Rosa Exchange House.

Bomb factory in Bonao
The police found eight homemade bombs, a pistol and two pounds of fencing staples in a partially built house in Bonao. The house, located on Cayo Baez Street in the city, was searched and the police found ten homemade devices, as well as an M-16 assault rifle, an Uzi assault rifle, several pistols and other equipment. The police has been tight-lipped about the number of people who have been held for questioning in the case. All that Colonel Cepeda Urena would tell reporters is that the investigation was "making good progress".

Stealing plantains!
Thievery has become a very serious issue in the plantain fields of the Dominican Republic. According to Hoy newspaper, as much as 50% of the plantain harvest has been stolen in some areas. One leading farmer, Santiago Espaillat, says that plantains are easy to steal since they are visible and often isolated from watchful eyes. Currently this most appreciated part of the Dominican diet is selling for prices ranging between RD$7 and RD$15 per unit, and thus, a stem of plantains with 40 units is worth a lot of money. Mr. Espaillat called for increased government assistance in reducing the incidence of crop stealing. A farmer for more than 35 years, Mr. Espaillat told reporter Aleida Plasencia that the next full crop, barring unusual weather conditions, would begin to be harvested in the early part of 2009, which means that Dominicans will have to pay high prices for this staple for the next eight months.

COE issues red and green alerts
A low-pressure zone located to the northeast of the country has forced the Emergency Operations Committee (COE) to issue red and green alerts for the northern and eastern regions. This comes just two days after a series of tornadoes caused damage in La Vega, San Pedro de Macoris, San Francisco de Macoris and areas near Santiago de los Caballeros. According to El Nuevo Diario, the province of La Vega is on red alert due to the effects of the tornadoes that caused one death and injured four in the city. The green alert applies to the provinces of Puerto Plata, Santiago, Espaillat (Moca), Samana and Maria Trinidad Sanchez in the northeast, and Hato Mayor, El Seibo and San Pedro de Macoris in the east. According to the COE, 3,625 people were displaced by the tornadoes. The COE press release goes on to say that 30% of electricity and phone lines have been repaired in La Vega and 100% of the lines have been repaired in San Pedro de Macoris.
According to the COE, a green alert is "when the forecasts predict a dangerous event." A red alert is defined as "one which is declared when a (atmospheric) phenomenon impacts a specific area, causing adverse effects to persons, property, vital lines (of communications) or the ecology".

Wednesday sales
La Cadena is advertising carrots for RD$5.95lb, broccoli for RD$9.95lb, sweet potatoes for RD$11.95lb, carrots, cucumbers RD$6.95lb, and cantaloupe RD$35.95ea.
Nacional supermarket is advertising 40% off first of the season mangos, plus 20% off other fruits and vegetables. Fresh pork chops for RD$68.95lb, red beans for RD$57/2lbs., Milex powdered milk RD$574.95/2500gr can, and Sosua butter for RD$94.95/16oz.
La Sirena/Super Pola is advertising 35% off fruits and vegetables, and potatoes for RD$9.95lb, plantains for RD$7.50ea, salad tomatoes for RD$6.95lb, cantaloupe for RD$15.95ea, broccoli for RD$10.95lb, white rice for RD$14.95lb, Victorina tomato paste for RD$44.95/1kilo, and Milano pasta for RD$14.95/400g.
Bravo has potatoes for RD$9.95lb, red and yellow onions for RD$9.95lb, select ground beef for RD$44.95lb, fresh pork chops for RD$79.95, and Welch's juice for RD$99.95/64oz.
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