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Daily News - Friday, 13 June 2008

Fernandez tackles rising prices
President Leonel Fernandez has announced a series of meetings with the economic and energy government department leaders, with a view to devising a strategic plan aimed at tackling rising food and fuel prices. On his return from a 10-day trip to Europe, Fernandez met with his economic and energy sector teams yesterday. Today he is scheduled to meet with the agricultural, industry & commerce and energy commission.

OMSA buses in trouble
The Office of Metropolitan Bus Services (OMSA) needs to urgently purchase between 300 and 500 new buses. As reported, buses are just taken off their routes because the replacement parts are too expensive. OMSA directors say they need to add 200 new buses every year to maintain adequate levels of transport service and the required 800 buses in operation. Hoy reports that the buses will be needed to feed the new Santo Domingo Metro line that is scheduled to start operations in December. The paper's source said that there is no telling what may happen come December due to OMSA's current deficiencies.

Doctors' strike not successful
This time the public hospital doctors' strike in Santiago didn't have the effect the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) was hoping for. Hoy reports that at the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez hospital as well as at public hospitals in La Vega and Moca, patients went to the hospital as usual, and were treated by strikebreaking physicians and medical students. This compensated for the absence of striking CMD-affiliated doctors and took the wind out of their sails. Deputy Minister of Public Health Nelson Rodriguez said that by 10am over 20,000 people had been seen, 20 births were registered and doctors performed 12 surgeries. North region Dominican Medical Association (CMD) VP Hugo Cruz Peralta says that the hiring of interns by the Ministry of Public Health is illegal. Cruz announced that doctors would be holding a vigil at the Presidential Palace next week in the next step in their fight for increased wages.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health has announced that come August, the entire public hospital doctor network is scheduled for a major restructuring, with doctors assigned to specific hospitals, and their work hours increased to six hours with considerable increases in pay, but that this would be linked to proven productivity.

Domestic airlines feel the crunch
Domestic airlines have joined the major international airlines serving the DR in asking the government to eliminate taxes to help reduce their costs. The airlines say that demand is down due to the high cost of flights, making matters worse at a time when they have to endure spiraling fuel costs and crippling airport tariffs. According to Hector Genao, Rafael Rosado and Omar Chahin Lama from the Association of Commercial Airlines, fuel costs earlier this year amounted to 40% of operational costs, but the proportion has since increased to 48%. Domestic carriers also want to pay their aviation taxes in local currency, not in dollars. Domestic airlines are primarily flying charter flights to get around the climbing cost of operation.

Tourism on the up
The Ministry of Tourism reports that tourism was up by 7.17% during the first five months of the year, as reported in the Listin Diario. The DR received 1,677,391 tourists between January and May. This represents an increase of 112,235 more tourists compared to the first five months of 2007. Tourist arrivals grew by 9.78% in May of 2008, compared to 2007, during which 247,357 visitors arrived in the DR. This is 22,037 more than the same period in 2007. Arrivals from Canada and the US also grew by 21.19% and 12.86%. German tourism to the DR increased by 12.78%. This is thought to be a result of the DR's representation at the ITB conference in Berlin.

Asia gobbles up metal scraps
Though you might think your metal waste will end up at a junkyard around the corner, what actually happens is that metal waste ends up in large containers that are shipped out to China. According to Diario Libre, China received 91.3 million kilograms of scrap waste in 2007, 152,460 kilograms of which came from the DR. The trade in used batteries is also big business with an unnamed source telling Diario Libre that his company ships 1,000 tons of batteries each month, of which 90% goes to South Korea.

Banks up rates
Commercial banks and savings and loan associations have upped their interest rates by 2% and 3% for personal loans, vehicular loans and for home financing. Bank officials have been calling clients to notify them of the changes, and that adjustments could now be made on a quarterly base. The average annual mortgage rate is now at 16-17%. In May, prior to the presidential election, the Superintendent of Banks said that the stable exchange rate would keep interest rates at bay.

DN mortality rate high
A report released by the Citizen Watchdog, a division of the Santo Domingo Municipality (AND), reveals that 40 out of every 1,000 children born in the National District (Santo Domingo) die at birth. This is higher than the percentage for Santo Domingo province (39/1,000) and the national average (32/1,000). The report also indicates that 10.8% of children born in the National District are born underweight, while 58.9% are not put on an immunization schedule. In addition, 45% of all children in the ND fail to receive all their immunizations. The report also reveals that 13.9% of women under the age of 19 are pregnant or are already mothers. The report also established that the fertility rate in the city is 2.3 children per mother, when the goal is 1.8 children. The report concludes that while it is the area with the most economic growth, the capital city is well below where it should be regarding human development indicators of its population. The capital city is marked by inequity and social exclusion, "that defines it as a violent urban center and one of potential social conflicts."

Importing beggars
Priest Regino Martinez of Solidaridad Fronteriza says that the Haitian children who are regularly posted to beg from passing cars at key intersections in Santiago and Santo Domingo are part of an aggressive people-smuggling ring across the border with Haiti. The Jesuit priest says that the ring is very well organized and operates in several border communities. He says that from January to April this year, 1,353 children were trafficked to the DR from Haiti through the towns of Mellac, Fort Liberte and Ouanaminthe, among others.
Father Regino says that Migration, G2, J2, National Investigation Office (DNI), and the Border Security (CESFRONT) are the government bodies that should impede the trafficking of the children.
On occasion of the World Day Against Child Abuse, the priest called out for the Dominican and Haitian border authorities to implement real border control. "That corruption not be what determines who crosses the borders, that the authorities fulfill their control roles, both in the trafficking of children as well as adults," he said.

DNCD plays waiting game
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) says that in the next few days it will reveal what it describes as "important cases of drug trafficking and money laundering involving politicians, armed forces members and civilians, and are probably greater than the case of former military official Quirino Paulino", who is standing trial on drug trafficking charges in a New York City court.
DNCD president Radhames Ramirez Ferreira told reporters that details would emerge in one or two week's time. Without giving too many details, Ramirez said that everything is in place and the situation is ready in order to bring this "big fish" to justice. Analysts speculate as to why Ramirez decided to prematurely inform the public of the DNCD investigations.
As reported in Listin Diario, Mayor General Ramirez Ferreira said that the absence of strict court sentences for drug traffickers and the indifference in many cases pending in the courts, leads to the understanding that fear and weakness are obstacles to the application of true justice in narcotics cases.
The announcement was made prior to the incineration of two tons of cocaine, 23 kilos of heroin, 101 kilos of marijuana and 10 kilos of opium by the DNCD at the Army First Brigade HQ on the Duarte Highway yesterday.

Wrong medicine case
The two children who survived being given the wrong medicine at the Dario Contreras Hospital earlier this week are recovering. Three nurses and two pharmacy employees were suspended after dispensing potassium chloride instead of distilled water to dissolve another pharmaceutical, leading to the death of a two-year old and complications in two other children who had to be admitted to the intensive care unit. The mothers were present when the lethal medicines were injected. The deceased child had been hospitalized for a second time for head injuries after being run over by a motorcycle, but the wrong medication didn't give him any chance of recovering. Deputy Minister of Public Health Jose Rodriguez Aybar said that it was a case of human error and negligence. "No medicine should be given without reading the label," he said, adding that a lot of pharmaceuticals have similar packaging. He said that measures would be taken to prevent this from happening again in any public hospital. He said the hospitals were there to solve problems, not to create them. Lawyer Eric Raful, interviewed by Huchi Lora on his CDN talk show, said that the parents were unlikely to be able to sue the hospital for damages.

Friday sales
Plaza Lama is offering smoked pork chops for RD$68.95lb, carrots for RD$5.95lb, rice for RD$14.99lb, and fresh chicken for RD$34.95lb.
La Sirena and Super Pola are advertising Norwegian codfish for RD$69.95lb, rice for RD$149.95/10lbs., La Yogurt yoghurt for RD$19.95/6oz, Caserio ham for RD$119.95lb, Sosua Danish cheese for RD$109.95lb, Welch's juices for RD$89.95/64oz, Niagara starch for RD$39.95/22oz, Presidente Light for RD$199.95/6-pack12oz, Dewar's White Label whisky for RD$429.95/0.75l5, Brugal Anejo rum for RD$199.95/0.75lt, Smirnoff Vodka for RD$399.95/0.75lt, Milex milk powder for RD$539.95/2500g, and sales in their seafood department.
Facconnable store in Acropolis Mall has a 50% two-day sale on selected merchandise (Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 June).
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