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Daily News - Monday, 28 April 2008

National debt hits US$14 billion
The Dominican national debt has reached record heights, according to documents from the National Congress. Listin Diario has published a breakdown of the debt that lists US$7.56 billion as foreign debt and US$6.48 as internal debt, and both figures are all-time highs. Of course the internal debt includes US$5.48 billion worth of quasi-fiscal debt run up by the Central Bank in its efforts to stem inflation and devaluation resulting from the 2003-2004 banking scandals. Between 1997 and 2007 the foreign debt rose from US$3.99 billion to the current US$7.56 billion. The information released by Congress also mentions the fact that the Ministry of Hacienda has excluded the Central Bank's certificates of deposit from its calculations of the public debt. In addition, the newspaper reports that a further US$336.14 million have not been included in the above figures and that another US$80 million is awaiting approval by Congress.

CODETEL guarantees transmissions
The head of the Administrative Chamber of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Roberto Rosario, told reporters that the president of CODETEL (formerly Verizon, formerly Codetel), Oscar Pena, together with some of his senior managers, guaranteed that the transmission of the election results would be safe and accurate. During a meeting at CODETEL's Operations Center, Pena spoke to most of the members of the JCE's Administrative Chamber and told them that the company has taken all necessary preventive measures to guarantee the safe transmission of the results from across the country. Pena added that the company has carried out several tests of its equipment and networks.

Metro trials extended
The Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET), the fiefdom of Diandino Pena, has announced that it will be extending the trial period of the Metro from 10 to 20 days. In addition, there will be increased use of the trains and tours are being organized from all over the country so that schoolchildren can ride the most modern transportation system in the Caribbean for free. According to Ricardo Jacobo, the coordinator of the second phase of testing, the visitors should not have to wait for more than 10 minutes for a train. Originally, the trials were scheduled to conclude on 1 May, but they have now been extended until 11 May. This will allow an additional 100,000 people to ride the subway. The Metro will operate from 9:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon for the visitors. From 3:00 in the afternoon onwards the Metro will be reserved for use by people attending the XI International Book Fair in the Plaza de la Cultura.

Wheat subsidy triples
The subsidy that the government has decided to grant the nation's bakers in order to keep bread prices down has risen three-fold over the past two months. At first, in February, the subsidy was for RD$350 per 125 pound bag of wheat flour, which has now risen to RD$1,100 per bag. This represents a monthly payout of RD$60 million. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has said that it is paying out the subsidy on time, the bakers' association keeps saying that it is not enough. Delays caused by a lack of prompt, up-to-date paperwork have stalled some payments, according to the association.
In a related story, Hoy newspaper reports that the government will disburse RD$35 million in subsidies to 1,500 bakeries that have filed the paperwork needed to access the government largesse. This is in addition to the RD$35 million given to the Bakers' Association for their members.

Rice wholesalers cry foul
The National Traders and Business Federation (Fenacer), together with the Wholesalers' Association, are accusing the rice mill owners of breaking the pact that opens the way for the sale of low-cost rice to the public. Augustin Penalo and Ricardo Rosario, spokesmen for Fenacer, told Hoy reporters that the agreement was for the rice mill owners to deliver the rice within 24 hours after payment, but according to the sources, "this is not happening". The spokespersons suggested that perhaps the millers did not have sufficient rice on hand to supply the demand created by the new government policies.

UP up up
Once more fuel prices rose over the weekend, and now the hackneyed phrase of "historic highs" is no longer useful. Prices rose by between RD$1.40 and RD$0.70 on most fuels, from premium gasoline to kerosene. Regular diesel is now selling at RD$156.10 a gallon and regular gasoline is at RD$175.70. However, in these pre-election months the price of propane gas, the most popular fuel for homes and vehicles, has not passed the RD$59.95 price tag.

A.M. A time of lean cows
Today's page two editorial in Diario Libre looks at post-election government policy. In the eyes and pen of Diario Libre editor Adrian Miguel Tejada, no matter who wins the May elections there are some painful decisions ahead that will affect our way of life. Mr. Tejada says that everyone knows that too many people are living without paying anything. These people, who receive money from the state with no merit to deserve it, pay no taxes, no electricity or other services. Tejada says that this will have to change. The drive to build public works, often without proper planning, will have to be put aside for truly essential projects that will be well supervised and properly built in order to last longer. And since everything will be more expensive, we will have to plan our spending better.
All this is well and good, according to the editor, but in order for this to work, the first thing that has to be done is for the government to apply the new planning to itself, since it is the gold medal winner when it comes to wasteful spending. Everyone who switched parties hoping to get some special treats will be very unhappy, because if "we really want to survive the crisis, these cushy jobs will have to be curtailed a lot in the years to come". The editor goes on to say that the government will have to apply a sort of "wartime economy", the time of the lean cows, because we cannot continue to accumulate debt in exchange for smoke and mirrors, nor continue living in this vortex of large, gas-guzzling, vehicles. The Europeans live very well with their small cars. Could it be that the large car is not synonymous with civilization, but, rather, the reverse? No matter who wins, the time of the lean cows is approaching.

Bani suffers water shortage
In the Taino language, "Bani" means 'abundance of water' but these days the town is suffering from a severe water shortage. Much of the problem is due to the after-effects of Tropical Storm Noel, which destroyed most of the city's water supply system. The treatment plant, the water mains and the pumping station were all severely damaged by the flooding that followed the storm. Currently, most people are forced to purchase water from tanker trucks, or wait for free water supplied by INAPA, the National Potable Water Institute or the local city council. Even before the storm, the city's residents were clamoring for a new water supply system because the growth of the city meant that demand was outstripping the Trujillo-era water system.

Forty-eight hours without crime
Although it did not last, last Saturday the National Police was happy to report that the previous 48 hours were basically crime free. There were no reported cases of violence or other major criminal activity. According to the police this is the result of reinforced police patrols throughout the residential and commercial areas of the city of Santo Domingo. The police reported that they had searched more than one thousand vehicles and over 1,500 motorcycles during patrols and that a total of 28 vehicles and 338 motorcycles were seized for investigation because the drivers did not have any sort of registration papers. Several firearms were also seized, along with 40 large knives, machetes and dangerous instruments. Several stolen cars were also recovered, as were several fugitives from justice.

Aid mission to Haiti attacked
An aid mission that was trying to take clothing and food to the needy in Haiti was ambushed and robbed just after it crossed the frontier, according to the governor of Elias Pina province, Miguel Mateo. The supplies were being carried by evangelical missionaries, led by the Reverend Domingo Nova. The governor said that after the attack, the missionaries were briefly jailed in Belladere, and local immigration officials had to intervene and secure their release.

Accidents cause blackouts
Once again the topic of prolonged blackouts has made the news. This time the failure of a transmission tower that collapsed in the Timbeque energy facility and the shutdown of Itabo II were the causes of the increased darkness. According to Electricity Superintendent Francisco Mendez, these incidents were quickly resolved and service was restored in a timely fashion. No reason was given as to why Itabo II, which produces 120 megawatts, was shut down. According to Mr. Mendez, "normal service was restored". In another part of the country Ede-Este reported that recent rain had caused several breakdowns and blackouts in Santo Domingo North and Santo Domingo East.

Assailants get thirty years
The men, who kidnapped, tortured and shot Miguel Subero and left him for dead in a cane field, have been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Miguel Subero was attacked in his house by his driver and three former members of the armed forces and the Police. The prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence and the judges' panel agreed.

South wins student games
The southern region of the country surprised all and won the IV National Scholastic Sports Games that took place at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo last week. The competitors from the southern region won 68 medals (35 gold, 12 silver, 21 bronze). Instead of a trophy, the Ministry of Sports made available RD$1 million to be distributed among the regional teams so these could organize events to commemorate their participation in the competitions. The southern region team received RD$300,000 of the prize money. The eastern region came in second place with 78 medals (25 gold, 21 silver, 32 bronze), and Santo Domingo was third, with 76 medals (24 gold, 24 silver, 28 bronze). The northwest followed with 66 medals (18 gold, 28 silver, 20 bronze), and the northeast placed last with 39 medals (7 gold, 20 silver and 12 bronze). Competitions were held in track & field, softball, baseball, volleyball, and basketball.

More rains today
The Weather Office (Onamet) has announced that the rains will continue throughout the eastern and northern parts of the country today. As usual, residents of low-lying areas are warned to be cautious, especially in the provinces of Duarte, Maria Trinidad Sanchez (particularly the Lower Yuna Basin), Monsenor Nouel, La Vega, Salcedo, Sanchez Ramirez and Santo Domingo. Rains are expected today in La Romana, La Altagracia, San Pedro de Macoris, El Seibo and Hato Mayor provinces. All of this is due to a slow moving low-pressure ridge over the northern Dominican Republic.

Monday sales
Radiocentro (Paseo de los Periodistas 50, Miraflores) is advertising its outdoor tents with considerable discounts on slightly damaged appliances.
Telas Etcetera is advertising 50% off on all its inventory of upholstery materials at their Max Henriquez Urena No. 61 location.
D'Arquin is advertising 20-50% off on its furniture and accessories at its Roberto Pastoriza 50 location.
Optica Felix has a sale on eyeglasses and lens valid through 15 May.
Viva.com.do is advertising Samsung F250 for RD$3,990 plus taxes on any of their telecom plans.
Plaza Lama has a major appliances sale.
Autocamiones is advertising Isuzu picks ups for US$29,900-US$34,900.
Delta Comercial is advertising their Hilux pick ups for US$26,500-US$39,900.
Avelino Abreu is advertising US$24,900 for their SsangYong Actyon vehicle.
Santo Domingo Motors is advertising Nissan Patrol from US$53,900, the Nissan Murano from US$42,900 and the Nissan Sentra from US$20,000 (2007 models).
Carabela has ceramics from RD$275m2 at their Santo Domingo, Santiago, La Romana and Bavaro locations.
Ilumel is advertising their up to 70% off sale on their furniture items at their Abraham Lincoln location.
Prodacom is advertising a sale on their computers and supplies from 6 to 12 midnight on 2 May.
Pilar clothing store is advertising up to 80% off on their inventory.
Anthony continues with its 50% off sale.
Ricardo Beauty Salon (Max Henriquez Urena 71) has 25% off on haircuts on Tuesday, 25% manicure and pedicure on Thursday and 25% off dyes on Friday.
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