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Daily News - Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Fernandez is back
President Leonel Fernandez is back in the DR after a 10-day overseas trip during which he attended the FAO World Food Summit in Rome and met with potential investors in Spain. Fernandez and First Lady Margarita Cedeno arrived on an Iberia flight from Madrid at 3:30pm yesterday. He was greeted at the airport by Vice President Rafael Alburquerque and more than 20 members of his cabinet.

ECLAC calls for change
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented its study "The Dominican Republic in 2030: Towards a cohesive nation" with a proposal for a 25-year agenda for the DR at the Presidential Palace yesterday. Delegates from 50 Western Hemisphere countries are meeting in Santo Domingo for the 32nd assembly of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The meetings run through Friday, 13 June.
The report, produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy and Planning, concludes that the DR needs to change its economic model in order to turn economic growth into general welfare for the majority of the population.
Jose Luis Machinea, executive secretary of ECLAC, read the summary of the report that indicates that the way the DR has liberalized and opened its markets has resulted in a reshuffling in the economic structure that has negatively affected internal markets and pushed out workers who do not have the right skills to be absorbed by the DR's most dynamic sectors. The report states that the current model is unsustainable and that it needs to be modified significantly over the coming decades. If the system is not modified it could lead to a worsening in job opportunities in the DR.
The report does present a positive outlook. ECLAC asserts that, in a quarter century, the Dominican Republic could become part of the group of nations that have attained mid-high levels of development. To do this, the United Nations regional body suggests a feasible goal: a per capita income three times higher than that in 2006, by the year 2030.
If the DR follows its "seven priority lines of action", the country could become one of the world's developed nations and could reach its highest levels of development in 25 years. The priority lines focus on: improved institutional quality and effectiveness, sustained gains in social and geographic cohesion, active promotion of full, productive employment and decent jobs, recovery and modernization of the agricultural sector, strategic reinforcement of the industrial fabric and its competitiveness, restructuring the energy sector's institutional and operational foundations and forging stronger links with the international economy.
The report also calls for an increase in transparency and accountability. The DR also needs to maintain a consistent growth rate of 7.2% per year as this could raise average annual incomes from US$7,000 per year to US$21,000 per year in that time span.
The report stresses the country needs to modernize its production for the local market, while at the same time increasing exports.
For more details, see http://www.eclac.cl/cgi-bin/getProd.asp?xml=...

911 Emergency
The US Embassy is providing US$600,000 to conduct a feasibility study on setting up a 911 emergency help system in the DR. The agreement was signed with the Ministry of Interior and Police. Verioska Mella, director of the Call Center 911 and Teresa Rojas, director of the Program and Planning Division at the Ministry of Interior and Police, said that at the moment the DR has only made minimal attempts at a real 911 emergency system and admits that the lines are often clogged by people using the system incorrectly. They explained that of 2,460,012 calls received in the past five months, only 9,508 calls, or 0.38%, were genuine emergency calls. The new program would include penalties for people misusing the service, such as the cancellation of a telephone line. The new service would interconnect the Police, firefighters, Red Cross, Civil Defense, and the electricity companies.

Disarming the population
Deputy Minister of Interior and Police Roberto Lamarche says that it will be impossible to disarm the population until there is a guarantee of safety for the nation's citizens. He acknowledged that 60% of crimes are committed at gunpoint.
Owning a gun is legal in the DR and 343,044 gun licenses have been issued by the Ministry of Interior and Police since 2003. Lamarche said that the Ministry has a record of 193,859 firearms for the period 2003 to 31 May 2008, corresponding to 160,851 users. He said they have issued 209,114 licenses for ownership and 133,930 licenses for carrying weapons.
He explained that while attempts have been made to crack down on illegal gun ownership in the past, as well as legislative moves to make it difficult to purchase a gun, the perception of crime increase has led many people to feel the need to own a firearm. Lamarche says this makes it difficult to disarm the population. He added that the Ministry is now stricter when it comes to issuing permits.

Reorganizing the work of doctors
The Vice President's Office and the Ministry of Public Health is working on a new structure aimed at merging hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health and the Dominican Social Security Institute. Currently, 1,215 doctors are on the payroll of these government institutions. Each of these physicians would be assigned to a single medical center, and wages would be increased to RD$45,000 plus incentives for productivity. The doctors would have six-hour working days, as many maintain their private practice. The new system would be restructured as the Public Health Network (Red Publica de Salud). Rosa Maria Suarez, spokeswoman for the program, told Listin Diario that physicians entering the system would have to sign contracts defining their responsibilities. The new scheme is mandated by Law 87-01 that created the Dominican Social Security System. The plan is to decentralize public hospitals and that each would be responsible for hiring their own staff and ensuring productivity. The system is expected to kick off in the south and north of the country in July.
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez says it will be a democratic revolution of the public health system. The minister says that his position will no longer have "godlike" powers, and the decisions concerning each hospital's operation, including staff hiring, will be only in the hands of the hospital itself. The role of the ministry will just be to oversee the system, not appoint nor watch over the operation. Once in operation, the networks will hire about 3,000 new doctors.

Reviving the Haitian trade topic
Farming specialist Osmar Benitez is calling for more efforts to be made towards the signing of a free trade agreement with Haiti. Benitez says that the DR has three basic consumer markets - the local market, the tourist market and Haitian consumers, both in the DR and in Haiti. He argues that after the local market, the Haitian market is the next most important for the DR and its economy. He stresses that Dominican/Haitian trade relations need to be regulated, and government and business need to move away from the present laissez faire approach. Earlier this year Dominican exporters were complaining about tax gouging at the Haitian border, saying that since there is no fixed tariff structure they were getting charged up to 60% above the expected tariff rates.

Trade with South Korea
Trade between the DR and South Korea now stands at US$120 million per year. South Korea primarily ships appliances and motor vehicles to the country. The Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) says that trade between the DR and South Korea will triple within the next three years because certain South Korean products will be better positioned within the Dominican market. South Korea's trade within the region has increased in the last few years. KOTRA spokesmen believes that the DR could start exporting tropical fruits (bananas, mangos) to South Korea. South Korea imports 60% of its food.

DR/Guatemala trade issues
The DR and Guatemala are still holding discussions aimed at resolving ongoing trade issues between the two DR-CAFTA signatories. The conflict began earlier this year after Dominican exporters complained of unfair trade and tariff practices at Guatemalan ports. A mission of Dominican experts from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce traveled to El Salvador to discuss the complaints with the Guatemalan authorities. Pablo Espinal, in charge of foreign trade at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce headed the local team that met with Guatemalan deputy minister for integration and development, Ruben Morales. He said a team headed by the Guatemala Minister of Economy Romulo Caballeros would travel to the DR to continue the talks.

Jeepetas not as popular
The popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs, locally known as "jeepetas" is declining as fuel prices climb. The Association of Used Vehicle Importers (ASOCIVU) says that in recent months 85% of the vehicles that its members have imported are low-consumption, low-cylinder types. ASOCIVU says that consumers are demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles because of the gas crunch.

DR could help air travelers
The move to reduce taxes affecting airlines and travel in the DR is gathering support. Representatives of several economic sectors see it as a way of compensating for the climbing fuel prices that are forcing several major airlines to reduce their flights to the DR.
American, Delta and US Airways have already announced flight cuts. The Italian company Neos announced it was canceling its Punta Cana, La Romana and Samana charter flights. The cancellations affect tourism, farm and free zone exports, and expatriate and local travelers. The reduced supply is already leading to higher fare prices.
Yesterday, Airport Department director Andres Vanderhorst said that it is important to convince President Leonel Fernandez to change the laws and reduce taxes affecting aviation. Hoy newspaper quotes an International Air Transport Association (IATA) report stating that the DR has the Caribbean's highest aviation fuel prices.

Mejia denies revival
Former President Hipolito Mejia is denying published reports and statements by his former spokesperson Hector Guzman that he will revive his PPH (Proyecto Presidencial Hipolito) team with a view to positioning himself as a PRD pre-candidate for the 2012 presidential election. He claims that his role within the PRD party is to balance forces to make sure that things run smoothly and that party rules are met. Mejia told Mundo Vision that he is in no position to express his aspirations and that his goal is to continue working for the PRD. He suggested that a workshop to evaluate the party's participation in the 16 May presidential election should take place on 22 and 23 June. A blueprint of the party's next steps would come from that meeting, he says. The Constitution bans the former President from running for President. But there is speculation that President Leonel Fernandez could push through changes to the Constitution that would allow himself and thus Mejia to run again.

Name-calling leads to murder
The residents of San Cristobal are in shock today as they come to terms with the death of a 14-year old at the hands of a child of the same age. Although names weren't released, El Caribe reports that as the children were leaving the San Rafael school one child insulted the other. Angered by the comments, the students began to fight and one child was stabbed in the chest, with the object passing through one of his lungs. The child was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead at 2pm.

Dominican doctor defended
The Plastic Surgery, Esthetics and Reconstructive Surgery Society (SODOCIPRE) has come out in defense of Dr. Roberto de Guerrero Daniel who is under house arrest in Puerto Rico. The doctor is accused of illegally performing a medical procedure on a patient, but SODOCIPRE denies the charge. SODOCIPRE president Jean Paul Giudecelli says that the doctor's innocence will be proven. Severo Mercedes explains that Guerrero, who was on vacation in PR, met with a patient he had operated on while in the DR at the hotel room where was staying. He allegedly gave the patient a home made remedy and the patient then brought charges against the doctor, saying he was practicing medicine illegally. The doctor had been imprisoned for three days and was then placed under house arrest.

Million dollar ballplayers
Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez are among the world's best-paid athletes, according to Forbes Magazine. The list considers base salaries and estimated endorsements, revenues and royalties among other things. Rodriguez is seventh on the list among North American athletes, with an estimated contract of US$300 million. Ramirez is making around US$20 million per year while Pujols is making a "measly" US$16 million.

Tuesday sales
Plaza Lama has potatoes for RD$10.95lb, red onions for RD$7.95lb, green bananas for RD$2.95ea, squash for RD$4.75lb, watermelon for RD$7.95lb, rice for RD$16.50lb, fresh carite for RD$79.95lb.
Bravo is advertising 30% off fruits, vegetables, fresh juices, flowers for its supermarket card member holders.
Jumbo has green bananas for RD$5.95lb, limes for RD$6.95lb, watermelon for RD$4.95lb, squash for RD$3.95lb, potatoes for RD$8.95lb, sweet potatoes for RD$6.95lb, passion fruit for RD$36.95/10 units, cabbage for RD$19.95lb, pineapples for RD$17.95ea, black eggplant for RD$6.95lb.
Super Pola has milk powder for RD$549.95/2,500g, aluminum foil for RD$17.95/25ft, Marcal Sofpac toilet paper for RD$39.95/8/4rl, apple juice for RD$79.95/64oz, Brunswick sardines for RD$15.95/106g, Crisol oil for RD$269.95/128 + 16 oz.
Carrefour has its Tuesday meat sales day with beef filet for RD$169.95lb, imported T-bone steak for RD$144.95lb, ground meat for RD$42.95lb. Seafood sales, too.
Optica Lopez has eyeglasses for RD$1,199 (SuperLent).
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