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Daily News - Wednesday, 04 June 2008

Fernandez on ethanol in Rome
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez spoke about the Dominican Republic's plans to focus on sugar cane production and ethanol as a way of relieving the impact of record oil prices during his presentation at the World Food Summit in Rome. During his speech to the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) assembly, the President said that the DR was hoping that bio-fuels would help tackle the challenge of increasing food production costs. The President said that the DR was launching a national ethanol production program using sugar cane and that "such a plan is compatible with a strategy of a guaranteed food supply, which will also reduce dependency on oil."
President Fernandez also pointed out that a national program of home grown foods that would make the Dominican Republic, in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the "Breadbasket of the Caribbean." While this is a great opportunity for the country, the President warned that its success was threatened by the "protectionist policies and generalized subsidies for production and export of farm goods by the industrialized nations." With that comment the President said that he hoped that the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization discussions on trade barriers would put an end to such policies.

Government to meet on IMF issue
According to the Minister of Economy, Planning and Development, Temistocles Montas, renewed discussions that could lead to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund are on the agenda of the economic team. The team will meet with President Leonel Fernandez as soon as he returns. Montas says that other topics include the use of funds of the supplementary budget for the rest of 2008. The government has a surplus in fiscal funds, and these need to be allotted.

Frontier Corps gets new chief
The Minister of the Armed Forces, Lt. General Ramon Aquino Garcia, has replaced the commanding officer of the Specialized Frontier Corps (Cesfront), Major General Adriano Silverio Rodriguez. General Silverio Rodriguez was given command of the Second Battalion in Santiago. The new commanding officer of Cesfront will be Major General Jorge Garcia. Sources close to the ministry described the move as "routine". However, the word along the frontier was that the very strict control that Silverio Rodriguez enforced brought him into conflict with officials, legislators, traders and other local figures. After just a week on the job, Cesfront put a halt to many of the illegal operations that were considered normal in the area, especially around Dajabon. Undocumented persons, stolen vehicles and cattle, drugs, and guns used to cross the frontier as a matter of routine, and apparently, Cesfront stemmed the flow to a considerable degree. This action apparently miffed local, informal traders who wanted Cesfront to be more "relaxed."

Las Placetas dam loan approved
The Senate has approved the US$71 million loan that will be used to build the dam and hydroelectric facility at Las Placetas. The loan was negotiated through the Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) of Brazil. The original documents were signed in December 2007 and January 2008. The Dominican Corporation of State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) will execute the project.
See http://www.bndes.gov.br/english/news/not044_06.asp

ECLAC to meet in Santo Domingo
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean will meet at the Hilton Hotel in Santo Domingo next Monday and Tuesday. The agenda will center on the theme of "Productive Transformation 20 Years Later: Old problems, new opportunities." President Leonel Fernandez and ECLAC executive secretary Jose Luis Machinea will attend the meeting. Proposals for medium and long-term strategies aimed at enhancing the development potential of Latin America through diversification and innovation will be the focus point of the sessions.

Bigger government
The Dominican government has done an about-face in its privatization strategies, and now prefers to buy back, at a high cost to taxpayers, major ventures that had private partners or were privatized in the 1990s, as reported by Listin Diario. The trend is thought to have began when the Hipolito Mejia administration bought back the bankrupt Union Fenosa EdeSur and EdeNorte operations in 2003, despite much criticism. The Fernandez government has expressed an interest in purchasing EdeEste, which is currently suing the government for failing to meet contractual obligations. The government is a 50% partner in the deal.
The government has announced that it will be buying the 50% share in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery at a cost of US$110 million. The government also recently announced that it is a 30% shareholder in Air Dominicana, a new airline in partnership with Air Europa, the majority shareholder in the venture.
In 1999, the government leased 10 state-owned sugar mills to the private sector. Of those, seven were in operation. Today, only one is operating under private management, another is in the hands of the former operator, the State Sugar Council, and the others are closed, but back in the hands of the government.
Following the Baninter banking crisis, the government took over the operation of the Aster cable TV company, the RNN radio station, and several other media owned by the collapsed bank.
The president of the National Council for Private Business (CONEP, Lisandro Macarrulla has been clear in expressing his association's belief that the government should stick to its role as regulator and facilitator of business.

Proposal to cut financing to politics
The National Council for the Reform of the State (Conare) proposes to reduce taxpayer funding for political parties from 0.50% to 0.25% in presidential election years, and from 0.25% to 0.125% in congressional election years. Of the funds, 70% would be distributed in proportion to valid votes received in the previous election. Of the remaining 30%, 20% would be distributed to political parties that received less than 5% of the vote, and 10% in proportion to the valid votes obtained by the parties receiving less than 5%.

Drivers put fare hikes on hold
At least two transport unions have put a halt to the announced increases in passenger and freight costs. Ramon Perez Figuereo, the head of the National Central of Unified Transportation (CNTU) and Juan Hubieres, the head of the Fenatrano group announced their decision to heed Vice-President Rafael Alburquerque's call for patience. According to El Nuevo Diario, Perez Figuereo said that he would present the government with his proposals for tackling the challenges presented by the high price of oil. Perez Figuereo said that after a meeting with Alburquerque during which they talked about the operational costs of passenger and freight haulage, his union decided this was not the right time to increase fares. The union leader said that he was going to present the government with a proposal that set out the real costs of operating a minivan or car. Perez Figuereo also showed reporters a car that had been switched from LPG (Propane) to natural gas. He also outlined the projected conversion of 1,000 vehicles to the use of natural gas. Juan Hubieres said that the Fenatrano union would give the government at least a ten-day window to come up with some sort of solution to the record price of fuel.

Sediment fills reservoirs
The latest reports are indicating that the country's oldest and largest reservoirs are filling up with sediment faster than ever projected. These reservoirs are all behind dams, starting with Tavera and including Valdesia, Sabaneta, Sabana Yegua, Rincon and Hatillo, all of which are over 20 years old. According to Hoy newspaper, a report from the Ministry of the Environment indicates that the Tavera reservoir registered 2,282 cubic meters of sediment per square kilometer instead of the 725 cubic meters originally predicted. Similar or worse figures were shown for Valdesia and the other dams. This shortens the effective lifespan of the dams or indicates a costly dredging process. As the Dominican Republic is now entering the 2008 hurricane season, the reservoirs' capacity to store rainwater becomes an important national issue, since Tropical Storms Noel and Olga caused enormous amounts of sediment to enter the lakes and people are now worried.

Government creates a dam committee
The Dominican government has set up a committee to oversee the handling of the country's dams during the hurricane season. There are a total of 32 dams in the Dominican Republic, ranging in size from the largest, Valdesia and Tavera-Bao, to tiny, almost micro-generators. The director of the National Institute for Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI), Hector Rodriguez told reporters from Hoy that the committee would include military

School tuition fees climb steeply
As usual, private schools in the Dominican Republic have announced increases in tuition fees for the 2007-2008 school year, some as high as 100%. The president of the Public and Private School Parents Federation, Juan Avila said that 20% of Catholic schools had announced increases and 50% of the other private educational centers had done the same. Avila complained that there were no viable controls in place to prevent schools from imposing unlimited tuition increases. On the other hand, several school officials contacted by Diario Libre told reporter Tania Morales that higher fees were necessary to maintain the quality education that parents demand. The director of the famous Colegio Calasanz told the reporter that their teachers did not get a salary increase last year, but that in the light of current inflation, it was necessary to give them a pay raise.

The best athletes of the year
The Dominican Olympic Committee honored the best athletes of the year yesterday. For the first time the Athlete of the Year Award was shared by six leading athletes - Yuderkis Contreras in weight lifting, Gabriel Mercedes, taekwondo, Wendy Cruz, cycling, Luis Lin Ju, table tennis, Heidi Rodriguez and Dionisio Gustavo, karate.
The winners by sport were:
Archery: Ludys Tejada, Modesto Betances
Badminton: Hector Pena, Veronica Vivieca
Baseball: Misael Jose Carela, Jenny Reyes Molina
Basketball: Manuel Fortuna, Johanna Morthon
Basque Ball: Idalberto Rincon, Esther Mateo
Bowling: Aumi Guerra, Rolando Antonio Sebelen
Boxing: Argenis Nunez
Canoe/Kayak Rowing: Luis Franco Nunez, Vianca Ramos
Chess: Jose Manuel Dominguez, Mercedes de la Cruz.
Cycling: Wendy Cruz, Juana Fernandez
Equestrian: Ivonne Losos de Muniz, Jose Broker
Fencing: Violeta Dorali Ramirez, Rafael Westhen
Football: Johanna Martinez, Wellington Agramante
Gymnastics: Jesus Vidal de Leon, Yamilet Pena
Handball: Suleydis Suarez Genao, Elvin Escoto
Hockey: Luis Manuel de los Santos, Estefany Guerrero
Judo: Maria Garcia, Teofilo Diek
Karate: Heidy Rodriguez, Dionisio Gustavo
Modern Pentathlon: Julio Benjamin, Ana Luisa Gil
Racketball: Claudine Garcia, Luis Perez
Sailing: Sebastian Mera, Paloma Esteban
Shooting: Jennifer Reyes, Rafael Vargas
Skeet: Domingo Lorenzo Casanova
Skating: Devile Azucena, Felix Mateo
Softball: Rosaura Perez, Franklin Gomez
Surfing: Junior Gomez
Swimming: Jacinto Ayala, Laura Rodriguez
Taekwondo: Gabriel Mercedes, Jahaira Peguero
Tennis: Luisiana Rodriguez, Victor Estrella
Track & Field: Felix Sanchez, Marlenys Mejia
Triathlon: Javier Cuevas, Laura Gaitan
Volleyball: Amaury Martinez, Bethania Cruz
Weightlifting: Yuderki Contreras, Juan Carlos Quiteria
Wrestling: Vanesa Torres Batista, Jose Antonio Arias Paredes, Carlos Felix Garcia

Wednesday sales
Super Pola (La Sirena) is offering 35% off fruits and vegetables.
La Cadena supermarket is advertising green bell peppers for RD$14.95lb, green bananas for RD$2.95ea, Tommy Adkins mangos for RD$5.95ea, green apples for RD$34.95lb, and limes for RD$14.95lb.
Super Lama has 30% reductions in its meat and seafood department.
Supermercados Nacional is advertising 40% off onions and garlic and 20% off other fruits and vegetables.
La Isla advertises 50% off on select upholstery material, towels, bathroom curtains, and other house decoration items.

GREEN ALERT for much of the DR
The directors of the Emergency Operations Center (COE) and the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) have issued a Green Alert for 21 of the country's 32 provinces. This means that there is a good chance of heavy rains and resulting flooding and landslides. Green Alerts warn citizens to take precautions. In this case, a tropical wave is crossing the country and heavy rains are expected over the next day or so. Civil Defense and local COE committees are aware of the situation and are advising people living near rivers and creeks to be aware.
 
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