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Daily News - Friday, 09 May 2008

Fernandez in Puerto Plata
President Leonel Fernandez was in Puerto Plata to inaugurate a number of new venues estimated to have cost half a billion pesos. The works included the completion of the remodeling of the San Felipe Cathedral and Central Park, as well as water supply systems in 23 neighborhoods.

US$10 million for protected areas
The Ministry of Environment has signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the German Construction Bank (KFW) to create a US$10 million fund, which will be administered by the National Protected Areas System (SINAP). The organizations will provide US$6.5 million for the fund, while the Dominican government will provide the remaining US$3.5 million. Environment Minister Omar Ramirez said that this represents an improvement in the sustainability of the nation's ecosystem and development. TNC representative William Welter said that the agreement shows the reach of inter-organizational and international cooperation. The SINAP includes 86 sites and covers 11,500 kilometers, or 24% of Dominican territory.

Bautista welcomes doctors' decision
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez has welcomed the decision by public hospital doctors to hold off from taking any further strike action between now and the 16 May presidential elections. Rojas Gomez says that he is sure that both sides would be able to sit down and have a sincere discussion on the issues after the election. The minister acknowledged that the government is aware that doctors need higher wages.

The JCE scanners are here
Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge Robert Rosario says that all the Taiwanese-manufactured scanners that will be used to expedite the vote count in the 16 May election arrived yesterday. The scanners will transmit the voting tally sheets and will be located in 103 municipalities, as reported in El Caribe. Rosario was responding to concerns voiced by the PRD that the scanners would primarily be installed in voting precincts in the National District and Santo Domingo, where the ruling PLD party is strongest. He said that a test run of 742 scanners would be carried out on Sunday, 11 May, and that the equipment had been designed specifically for the JCE. Meanwhile, Rosario has also met with the executive vice president of the state electricity corporation (CDEEE), Radhames Segura who guaranteed power service over the election. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has guaranteed that the JCE would have all the funding it needed to cover the process, including funding for a run-off election, if necessary, according to Rosario.
Today's Diario Libre reports that the staging of the 16 May election will cost RD$2.4 billion. If a run-off election is needed on 30 June, the JCE will need an additional RD$400 million. The JCE was allocated a budget of RD$3.55 billion for this year.

After the elections
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (Anje) and the National Business Council (Conep) are warning that once the election is over, the government will have to concentrate on being more efficient and controlling public spending to adjust to the US economic slowdown and the increasing price of fuel.
As reported in Hoy, Anje warned that the government has increased current spending by 30% in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year, which is totally divorced from the reality of the world today. They mentioned that the government has spent RD$1.08 billion more, or 41.4% more on the non-personal services chapter alone, which includes advertising and travel expenses. Subsidies were up by RD$7.43 billion, or 48% more. Anje president Pablo Piantini said that this is the opposite of what should be happening: the government should be building up reserves to handle the international crisis.
Conep president Lisandro Macarrulla criticized the fact that all the presidential candidate proposals are similar, and do not put forward any realistic solutions to the current problems. He said that once the passions generated by the election are behind us, national leaders would have to face great challenges when the population comes back to reality and understands that many structural problems need to be corrected in the Dominican development model.

Time to foster exports
The Association of Industries of the DR (AIRD), the Agribusiness Board (JAD) and the Dominican Association of Free Zones (ADOZONA) have decided to act on a common agenda to foster local manufacturing and promote exports and contribute to the maintaining of macroeconomic stability. Only by strengthening local production can we confront the international pressures and improve local competitiveness, say Manuel Diez, president of AIRD; Jose Ramon Peralta, president of JAD; and Fernando Capellan, president of ADOZONA upon announcing their decision to work towards the common goals. According to the business leaders, free zone exports declined 11.3% in 2007, while farming and local manufacture grew only 2.8 and 1.9% respectively last year. In a written statement, the businessmen point out that these sectors account for 25% of the total labor force. "To foster exports is the best way to consolidate jobs and social welfare," they explained.
They stress the need for government policies that foster competitiveness. "To back manufacturing is more efficient than to back consumption," they point out. They criticize that financing for production is scarce, contrary to the widespread availability of consumer loans.

Edes feel fuel pinch
The country's power distribution companies are feeling the pinch of the continual increase in international fuel prices. According to the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) administrator Radhames Segura, fuel price increases added US$103.79 million to distribution costs during the first five months of the year. The average price for a kWh of energy at the beginning of 2008 was US$.012, but this has risen to 15.41 cents, a 26.2% increase. Segura says that despite the problems caused by fuel prices, the distributors have been able to reduce their deficits by US$12.08 million. EdeEste felt the biggest pinch recently after the price per kilowatt jumped from 11.5 US cents in 2007 to 15.72 US cents in 2008. This represented a 36.3% increase and US$51.12 million in additional costs. EdeNorte has incurred US$39.43 in additional costs after their rate for kilowatt per hour jumped from 12.06 US cents to 15.89 US cents. EdeEste had the lowest cost increase since their kilowatt rate only went from 13.15 US cents to 14.53 US cents for an increased cost of US$13.63 million.

More policemen to jail
The prosecutor's office for Santo Domingo province has sent three more police officers to jail in connection with the deaths of three minors during an incident on Charles de Gaulle Avenue in Santo Domingo East last week. The officers Major Domingo Diaz Rodriguez, First Lieutenant Nicolas Martinez Martinez and Second Lieutenant Lorenzo Rodriguez Marte will be sent to preventive custody at Najayo jail. El Caribe reports that the officers' cases will be reviewed every three months. Santo Domingo province Attorney General Perfecto Acosta said that the officers were sent to jail for their part in the "execution" of the three teenagers.

Bank robbed
Four men have carried out a raid on the Banco del Progreso located at Plaza Monet on the Mella highway in Santo Domingo East, taking an estimated RD$4 million. Listin Diario reports that the robbery took place at around 2pm yesterday, when two young men entered the bank with weapons drawn and demanded cash while two accomplices waited in a vehicle parked outside. No injuries were reported. According to initial reports, the robbers disarmed several bank customers, and made away with four more guns. This is the second armed bank robbery in the last month. Earlier this month, robbers stole RD$1.2 million in cash from a branch of the Banco Popular in Gazcue. No leads have been reported in that case.

Friday sales
Bravo advertises Red Globe grapes for RD$49.95lb, apples for RD$26.95lb, Motts apple juice for RD$179.95/128oz, black grapes for RD$69.96, Jaja guandules RD$27.95/16oz, beef filet RD$169.95lb, Rib eye for RD$299.95lb,
Jumbo has a mother's day sale its clothing department.
Pep Casual Men's Wear advertises 50% off on men's shirts at their Plaza Central and Plaza Naco locations.
La Sirena is advertising a Bianco dishware promotion with purchases, pork spare ribs for RD$94.95, Angus churrasco for RD$179.95lb, Milex milk powder for RD$569.95/2722g, Brugal Extra Viejo rum for RD$299.95/0.75lt + bbq utensil, and sales in its seafood department.
La Nacional furniture store is advertising its bedroom sets for RD$39.995.
Ilumel furniture store is promoting up to 70% off its furniture.
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