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Daily News - Tuesday, 29 April 2008

FTZ get renovated
A total of RD$20 billion was invested in new free trade zone industrial parks during the Fernandez administration. These parks have generated US$366 million in revenue for the DR. According to Luisa Fernandez, executive director of the National Free Trade Zones for Exports Association, these FTZs have generated 47,388 new jobs for Dominicans. The breakdown is 116 new businesses in the North (17,550 jobs), 37 in the east (4,597 jobs), 77 new companies in the National District and province of Santo Domingo (6,000 jobs) and 36 new companies were started in the south of the DR (2,500 jobs).

ILO says DR doing better
The International Labor Organization (ILO) says that the DR has been taking measures to ensure that gender based discrimination at work is minimized, child labor is eradicated and workers are educated about their rights. Agustin Munoz, regional director for the Americas of the ILO presented the finding during the presentation of the "Implementation of the White Book Recommendations". The White Book Recommendations are a set of labor-oriented guidelines on the application of labor rights as well as a guide on how to strengthen labor institutions. The sections of the White Book include freedom of associations, unions, Work Ministries, labor courts, gender and discrimination, child labor, cultural promotion and political obligation.

Paredes defends subsidies
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes has continued his defense of the government's subsidies programs, saying that spending RD$2 billion or RD$3 billion on subsidies is nothing as long as it is benefiting the consumer. Diario Libre reports that neither Paredes or Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas or Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa have responded to their inquiries on the value of the government food subsidies.

Taiwan donates more
Taiwan has donated US$100,000 to the DR so that the country can continue its fight against bird flu. The donation was made by Taiwanese ambassador to the DR Isaac Tsai, and Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez received the funds on behalf of the Dominican government. The money will also be used to help towards the detection of other outbreaks. Tsai said that Taiwan hopes to continue strengthening its ties with the DR. The Taiwanese donation comes at a time when health officials have yet to certify that the disease is no longer present in the DR, as reported in Diario Libre.

Derek Walcott here
Nobel Prize-winning author Derek Walcott has arrived in the DR. The famed writer is the guest of honor at the XI International Book Fair in Santo Domingo, the main cultural event held annually in the DR, organized by the Ministry of Culture. Walcott, born in St. Lucia, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and currently teaches at Boston University.

Current accounts deficit balloons
Former Central Bank director Carlos Despradel estimates that the DR's current account deficit will equal US$4 billion in 2008, US$2 billion more than in 2007, as reported in Hoy. He says that last year's deficit was covered by the flow of direct foreign investment. Despradel says that his forecast is conservative and depends on petroleum prices and consumption remaining at the current levels. Adding to concerns, Despradel said that in 2007 the trade deficit was US$9.4 billion, but when other dollar expenditures, such as repatriation of foreign investment dividends and the payment of foreign debt interests are added, this adds up to US$11.6 billion. Last year he said the deficit was covered by tourism receipts (US$4 billion) and free zone receipts (another US$2 billion). "The true deficit was US$5.6 billion, the difference between what we Dominicans produced and what we consumed," he said on the Uno + Uno Telesistema TV program. According to Despradel, the continued flow of remittances has been the nation's escape valve.
Despradel mentioned that the country would have to pay US$2 billion more on petroleum imports, providing that fuel consumption remains the same. Furthermore, he said the country has increased its overall imports by US$1.2 billion.

Central American advantage
Central American imports are flooding the Dominican market. The lower cost of electricity and government incentives have given Central American manufacturers an advantage over Dominican manufacturers now that there are no tariffs as a result of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. El Caribe newspaper focuses on Central American imports in a feature and editorial today, highlighting the way in which local manufacturers are losing market share to the regional imports. The newspaper reports: "The competitive differences that favor Central America are large, as is the case of Guatemala where the country exempts companies that export from paying income tax, which converts them into truly free zones. The newspaper warns that the DR has to take measures to ensure that "we are no longer a country where it is expensive to live and to produce," echoing a warning from the president of the National Council Private Business (CONEP), Lisandro Macarrulla.
Furthermore, the former president of the Association of Industries, Celso Marranzini, in an op ed feature in El Caribe, pointed to the competitive advantages that Guatemala has over Dominican manufacturers. He mentioned that they negotiated the better hand of the free trade agreements, have cheaper electricity costs, lower interest rates, and the support of their governments in the way of incentives for freight, fewer tariffs and a value-added tax that does not affect them at the start of the productive cycle. Furthermore, he said that when Dominicans were paying 36% on capital goods, the Central Americans had no taxes on capital goods. He mentions that in addition to a decree that exempts exporting companies from paying income taxes, the Guatemalan government reimburses companies 6% of what they have reported as exports. As a result, he points out that Guatemala exported US$57.4 million to the DR, while Dominican exports to Guatemala totaled a mere US$10.4 million last year.

Life after the election
The president of the National Council for Private Business (CONEP), Lisandro Macarrulla believes that the country should sign a new agreement with the IMF after the presidential election. In an interview with El Caribe, he said that after the election the focus should be on eliminating the distortions that have impeded the country from achieving development that is more in line with its growth indexes. "If the country does not make the necessary changes, such as greater social inclusion, reduction of poverty and more opportunities for Dominicans, we will not have a sustainable climate of peace, nor will we be able to maintain the flow of investments to create the wealth the country requires," he stated.
He commented that with the previous IMF agreement, all objectives were accomplished with the exception of the electricity sector. Regarding the increasing food prices, Macarulla says that the government should improve the structure of costs within farming.
Macarrulla says that the country has to become competitive, not just sectors. "Here the electricity problem is serious, so is education and infrastructure. We have to better educate our workforce so it can make more important contributions to production. That takes time, and cannot be postponed. We cannot invest barely 2% of GDP in education," he told the newspaper.
Jesus Moreno of the Herrera Association of Industries also calls for a national political agenda to seek ways to increase local production, strengthen exports, and redouble efforts to secure systemic competitiveness and rationalize government spending. "Once the elections are behind us, when the real costs of electricity and food products become clear, society will come before the harsh reality and to confront this we will need unity, which means leaving to a side the political cannibalism," he said, as reported in El Caribe.
"We have to start thinking more about the country, and less about private interests, to promote a development agenda and the strengthening of institutions, so that we do not regret it tomorrow," said Moreno.

Energy subsidy not sustainable
It may come as no surprise, with rising energy and petroleum costs and all, but the government's energy subsidies are not sustainable, according to Manuel Diaz Cabral, president of the Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD). Cabral asks the rhetorical question, "What is the outlook when, during the first four months of the year, the RD$31 billion allocated in the budget towards the energy subsidy have already been spent?" Cabral continues by asking, "Will we spend RD$90 billion, or 20% of the GDP on this energy and GLP subsidy?" Cabral says that the energy sector should be strengthened and politics removed. Cabral says that it is not beneficial for the country or its stability to continue increasing the energy subsidy. Cabral called for a national strategy to phase out the subsidies as well as simultaneously developing a more efficient system for collecting payments for the energy provided.

PLD challenges colleges
The PLD has challenged the validity of 123 voting stations in Santo Domingo East, arguing that the presidents of those colleges are PRD loyalists. The PLD's claim is sure to be one of many political challenges from all sides as the elections draw nearer. The PLD bases its claim on Electoral Law 275-97 that states that in the case of a polling station president having a political affiliation, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) must monitor that station to guarantee impartiality and political balance. JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said that members of all the political parties head all the voting stations, but the JCE would take suggestions into account.

Pepe Goico acquitted
Former military colonel Pedro Julio (Pepe) Goico Guerrero has been acquitted of money laundering charges related to the Quirino Paulino narcotics trafficking case. Hoy reports that the National District Third Tribunal Court has found that there was not enough evidence to charge Goico and Ernesto Guevara Diaz. Goico had been charged with covering up the ownership of a Colibri helicopter, which was actually owned by Paulino while Guevara had been charged with coordinating the transfer of more than 1,300 kilos of pure cocaine in 2004. In related news, the same court found Paulino's wife, Belkis Elizabeth Ubri, guilty of money laundering. Hoy writes that the court felt that Ubri's businesses, which she owned with her husband, were moving unjustifiably large sums of money. The Courts sentenced her to five years in jail and a fine of 50 minimum salary payments and has ordered all her assets to be seized.

Zayayines back in the fold
Although their leader Vladimir Pujols is in jail serving a 30-year sentence, the Zayayines gang is continuing to cause havoc, and one reporter is feeling the brunt of that terror. Diario Libre reports that Jorge Luis Sencion, a key witness in the murder case of journalist Juan Andujar, is being threatened by Zayayin member Maikel Bienvenido Agramonte, who was a minor when Andujar was murdered. Sencion tells Diario Libre that he fears for his life and rightly so, considering that Agramonte is currently free in Azua. Fellow Zayayin members Pujols and Juan Ricardo Munoz have been sentenced to jail for their involvement in the murder that resulted in Andjujar's death, while Sencion lost an arm. Sencion was a key witness in the case against Pujols and Munoz and will be a key witness against Agramonte. Despite calls for Agramonte to be kept in custody, the petition was denied. Andujar was murdered in 2004 after reporting on the illicit acts of the Zayayines street gangs.

Weather report
The Center for Emergency Operations has put 15 provinces as well as the National District on yellow weather alert due to a storm front forming in southeastern parts of the DR. Santo Domingo, the Nacional District, Puerto Plata, Santiago, Samana, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Espaillat, Duarte, Hato Mayor, El Seibo, San Pedro de Macoris, Monsenor Nouel, Salcedo, Sanchez Ramirez and La Vega are among the provinces on alert. Residents in certain areas of these provinces are being warned of possible mudslides and flooding, as well as problems with the drinking water supply.

Horford, Hawks even series
Hell hasn't frozen over, but sightings of flying pigs were reported over the city of Atlanta late last night after the Atlanta Hawks beat the once mighty Boston Celtics for the second straight game, tying their best of seven series, 2-2. The series started off shaky for the Hawks as they went down two games to none. Then on Saturday the unexpected happened as the young Hawks beat up on the Celts in a 102-93 spanking. Dominican rookie Al Horford had a solid game with 17 points, 6 assists, 14 rebounds and 1 assist in that game and has been solid in the Hawks' playoff run. With the wind behind their backs, the Hawks were flying high for their Game 4 match-up. Things got tense early as unknown and perennial benchwarmer Zaza Pachulia bumped all-star and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. The scuffle did little to unnerve the Hawks. Led by the 35- point performance of Joe Johnson, the Hawks beat the Celts 97-92. Horford had four points and 13 rebounds. The series now moves back to the Hub on Wednesdays at the Cs look to regain their championship swagger.

Tuesday sales
La Sirena is advertising rice for RD$149.50/$14.95lb, red and black beans for RD$24.95/1lb, eggs for RD$39.95/30, and Milano pasta for RD$15.95/400g.
Plaza Lama is selling lettuce for RD$4.95/lb, plantains for RD$7.95ea, red onions for RD$7.95lb, eggplants for RD$6.95lb, salad tomatoes for RD$6.95lb, cantaloupe for RD$28.95ea, pineapples for RD$21.95ea, rice for RD$14.95lb, mangos for RD$8.95ea, broccoli for RD$8.95lb, potatoes for RD$8.95lb, and carrots for RD$5.50lb.
Bravo is advertising 30% off on fruits and vegetables for their cardholders.
Jumbo has red onions for RD$6.95lb, cabbage for RD$14.95ea, red cabbage for RD$7.95ea, potatoes for RD$8.95lb, pears for RD$24.95lb, cantaloupe for RD$29.95ea, garlic for RD$19.95package, and lemons for RD$15.95lb.
Carrefour has a sale in its meat and seafood department with ground meat for RD$39.95lb, leg of lamb for RD$124.95lb, lamb chops for RD$144.95lb, imported T-bone steak for RD$174.95lb, chicken for RD$35.95, and Black Tiger shrimps for RD$249.95lb.
Cuesta Hardware store is advertising 20% off the entire stock on 2 - 3 May from 9am to 9pm.
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