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Daily News - Thursday, 01 May 2008

Fernandez makes promises
Speaking during his turn at the 'meet the candidates' luncheon organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, President Leonel Fernandez said that upon his re-election on 16 May he would turn the current international crisis into opportunities for producers in the DR. He stressed that despite the adversities, the IMF is forecasting that the Dominican economy will grow by 5% in 2008. Fernandez said that he would promote a social contract and maintain the country's dynamism, economic growth and stability. Fernandez promised to continue working to reduce poverty and social inequalities as well as investing in improving the quality of health and education sectors.
Fernandez added that in the same way as he helped lead the DR out of the crisis created by the Hipolito Mejia administration, he can lead the DR out of the present international commodity crisis. Fernandez said that he would continue focusing on developing technology and innovation, while at the same time protecting the environment. The President defended the government's subsidy program and assured the audience that this would not result in a fiscal deficit. This year alone subsidies have reached RD$35 billion. Nevertheless, the President promised that there would be no new taxes, but that the system will just become more efficient at collecting those already on the books. He expressed optimism about foreign investment, saying that he was sure these would continue to flow in to offset the deficit in the trade balance.
During his speech, the President said that during his next administration he would reduce unemployment by an additional 4%. He said that 470,542 new jobs have been created during his government. "We are better off today than we were four years ago," said the President.
In his talk, President Fernandez advocated for less ambivalence in US policies towards Latin America. "I feel that with the world fuel and food crisis, perhaps the US could think of how to increase aid to Latin American countries", said the President. He also called on the US to release oil from its strategic petroleum reserves to curtail escalating oil prices.

Subsidy for chicken
With barely two weeks to go before the 16 May election, the government has announced subsidies worth RD$110 million per month for the poultry sector. Angel Faxas, director of the Livestock Department, said that this was the equivalent of paying poultry farms RD$2 for each pound of chicken produced. Faxas made the announcement as he handed dairy producers RD$74 million in subsidies, equal to RD$3 per liter of milk produced. Since December dairy producers have received RD$262 million in subsidies from the government. The hope is that chicken prices will level out at RD$20 per pound of chicken.

Pakistan investing in the DR
DR Honorary Consul in Lahore Doris Montero and Dominican Ambassador to India Hans Dannenberg Castellanos have addressed the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), encouraging Pakistanis to look into opportunities in tourism, apparel, farming and technology. Dannenberg also highlighted the possibilities of increased opportunities for pharmaceutical importers and exporters. KCCI senior vice president Iftikhar Ahmad Sheikh invited the Dominican business community to visit Pakistan and to take part in the KCCI International exhibition being held in June. See www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1474438/

Germany/Spain will donate
Germany and Spain have signed agreements with the ministries of Education and Environment resulting in donations worth EUR10 million (RD$508.7 million). German Ambassador Christian Germann signed a EUR5.5 million (RD$272 million) agreement for Artibonite River basin program. On behalf of the Spanish International Cooperation Agency, Miguel Angel Encinas signed an agreement worth EUR4.5 million (RD$236.7 million) with the Ministry of Education.

Education Plan criticized
Dominican Public School Teachers Association (ADP) president Maria Teresa Cabrera has criticized the 10-Year Education Plan (2008-2018) recently announced by the government for not increasing state funding to the sector. Cabrera, who is vice presidential candidate for the minority MIUCA party, alongside Guillermo Moreno, says it is difficult to understand how a plan could be launched that violates General Law of Education 66-97 and ignores the role that government funding plays in implementing public policies. The plan postpones the implementation of General Law of Education 66-97 until 2013. This is the law that establishes that the government must invest 4% of the Gross Domestic Product in the education sector. In the plan, the government proposes to increase this to 4.5% in 2018.
The plan proposes that by 2012, 50% of elementary school students will receive five hours of instruction, up from the present 2.5 hours per day. By 2018, 100% of all students would receive five hours of instruction in the public schools.

Health Minster talks tough
Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez has answered Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero's claim that 3,000 public hospital doctors who went on the picket lines might be fired, by saying that as many as 5,000 doctors could be fired if they do not get back to work. He added that this should be made very clear to the doctors and said that the government will not tolerate work stoppages on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May. A total of 11,200 doctors are currently on the government payroll, but Bautista says they could easily take care of business with just 7,000.

DR's beef with Guatemala
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes has voiced his concerns to the Guatemalan government about the apparent blocking of imports of certain Dominican products. Paredes says that this is a violation of the DR-CAFTA agreement, and that he called Guatemalan Minister of Commerce Erasmo Velasquez last night to voice local manufacturers' concerns. Riovinyl Interamericana, Industrias de Suelas y Tacones Paar, Tecniplast, Tecnicalsa, Italmoda and Tojin Hermanos have reported experiencing irregularities with Guatemalan customs.

Minier of the Congos honored
Sixto Minier, leader of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the Congos of Villa Mella, died of prostate cancer and kidney failures at his home in Mata los Indios, Villa Mella on Tuesday. He was buried yesterday. The Brotherhood was declared a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001 for its unique drum ensemble music. Members of the voluntary community attended services in Minier's honor during which the Kalunga musical piece was played. Santo Domingo North Mayor Jesus Feliz said that a street would be named after him and a museum would be built in his honor. Minier, who was 88, served as Captain of the community since he was 14, when his mother passed on the tradition to him. The search is now on to see who will replace Minier and continue the tradition.

Junot Diaz speaks at CMS
Carol Morgan School hosted Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz for a day student workshop and afternoon "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" reading and question and answer session yesterday. The event is part of the English language school's Artists in Residence program, and the school's 75th anniversary celebrations. Also participating in the Artists in Residence program this year is visual artist Guillermo Delgado from Chicago.
During his presentation, Diaz highlighted the fact that he spends his time trying to convince young people about the merit of the arts at a time when culture is not pro-artists. For him, art is one of the few places where humans can meet others in their truly human form, which is being vulnerable, fragile and often wrong.
When asked about his book, which includes such disparate themes as science fiction and Dominican issues that only readers proficient in those topics can understand, he lectured on what makes literature universal. "Universal doesn't mean easy to be understood or for everyone," he explained. "It means particular." He illustrated this point with the example of 'Moby Dick', a book that is regarded as universal and is a US classic, but which goes into great detail about whaling, a topic foreign to most people. "What is most human is found in our strange individuality," he stressed.
He explained that his use of profanity, and repeated mentions of the term "nigger" was because he sees his role as an artist as "to jump on shit that people pretend doesn't exist", referring to racism in the US and the DR. He coined the term "negative hallucination", which he describes as "when a people forces itself not to see a situation". He said his experience of growing up as an immigrant gave him the privileged position of being able to compare one society with another.
He was also critical of Dominican society, "where there is not a culture of honesty or political accountability". But he said this would not prevent him from a utopian focus, in the hope that the time would come for there to be a place for us all.
He responded to a question asking how he, as an immigrant, was able to compete in the very competitive book publishing US market, and responded: "Nothing prepares you better for competition than immigration. One does not have the safety of language, safety of culture, or people who will take your word for what it is."
He explained that he worked as hard as he could in his writing, but that he "got a lucky break" when winning the Pulitzer Prize. He said that success is arbitrary and the line between who gets in and out is shadier and cloudier. "In a just world, the person who should be here would be my mother!"
Diaz will be speaking this afternoon at 5:30pm at the Cinemateca of the Plaza de la Cultura as part of National Book Fair activities. Admission is free, but those interested should get there early.
For more on the CMS event, see http://www.dr1.com/blogs/entry.php?u=Chiri&e_id=3905

Padres inaugurate complex
Feeling they were losing the race to find and sign baseball talent in Latin America, the San Diego Padres have invested US$8 million in a new academy built on six hectares of land in Najayo, San Cristobal province. The new baseball complex is the most luxurious and modern of all the MLB baseball academies in the DR. It has the capacity to house 60 players in training. Team chairman John Moores said that the completed facility went beyond expectations. Moores visited with Padres executives Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers and Dave Winfield. Major League Baseball vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. also flew in for the opening. Sports Minister Felipe Jay Payano and US Ambassador Robert Fannin were also at the ceremony.
The complex includes two baseball fields, a half field for infielder practice, batting tunnels, clubhouse, gymnasium, dining room, conference rooms and classrooms, dorms and a hotel for players with 33 bedrooms. The Padres are one of the few MLB teams that don't have a single Dominican player on their roster. Only one Latin American player is on their team. The plan is for the new academy to change this within the next four years.

DR boxers qualify for Beijing
Six Dominican boxers have qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Four qualified during the final qualifier held in Guatemala. Winston Mendez (48 kg), Roberto Navarro (57 kg), Felix Diaz (64) and Gilber Lenin Castillo (69) will join Juan Carlos Payano (51 kg) and Argenis Nunez (75 kg). The DR, US (8) and Cuba (9) are the countries from the Americas with the largest number of boxers registered for Beijing. Russia is taking its entire 11-man roster.

Horford doubles; Hawks lose
Al Horford continues to show why he was worthy of the third pick in last spring's NBA draft. The Dominican-born rookie notched his third double-double of the series yesterday with 14 points and 10 rebounds adding 1 steal and 5 assists. Horford didn't get much help from his Atlanta teammates as the Boston Celtics came back and put the young Hawks in their place, taking game five in a 110-85 squashing. The series now moves back to Atlanta for game six where the Celtics seek to exact revenge on the Hawks and move into the second round of the 2008 NBA playoffs. Horford looks to give the Hawks game six and add to his series best averages of 12.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.

Thursday sales
Bravo is advertising 20% off in its meat department. Also ground beef for RD$44.95lb, bacon for RD$89.95lb, smoked pork chops for RD$79.95lb
Jumbo has sales in its meat and seafood departments. Minute beef steak goes for RD$59.95lb, pork squares RD$69.95lb, fresh herring is RD$19.95lb.
La Sirena has 20% off frozen chicken parts, fresh pork chops for RD$62.95, smoked pork chops for RD$72.95lb, frozen chicken for RD$19.95lb, Cesar Extra Virgin Olive Oil for RD$199.95/0.75lt.
Carrefour is selling Kellogg's Corn Flakes for RD$109.95/500g, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for RD$44.95/7.25 oz and a second one for RD$22.48, Milex milk powder for RD$279.95/1,000g + 2nd bag for RD$139.98, 2 pint Bon Ice Cream for RD$165 + 2nd one for RD$82.50, Tropicana Pure Premium juice/64 oz for RD$132.95 + 2nd one for RD$61.98, Yogurt Yoplait/250g for RD$27.95 + 2nd for RD$13.98, Fab detergent for RD$99.95/1,000g + 2nd for RD$49.98.
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