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Daily News - Monday, 16 June 2008

Government wont eliminate fuel taxes
Hacienda MinisterVicente Bengoa told reporters over the weekend that the government is not able to cut taxes on fuels because the money it receives goes to pay the foreign debt. While denying that the government is thinking about increasing taxes (a new tax reform package), Bengoa said that after the income generated by ITBIS (16% value added tax on goods and services), the income from taxes on diesel and other fuels makes up the second largest source of income for the government. Diesel alone generates RD$11.5 billion and aviation fuel produces RD$3.5 billion. He described recent rumors about a new tax reform as politically motivated.

150,233 more vehicles
In 2007 alone, 150,233 new vehicles were registered, bringing the total number of vehicles in the country 2,121,244 units. Interestingly, as reported in Diario Libre, the category of "jeepetas" (SUVs) was the one that registered the most growth, up 21.6% with 31,175 more in 2007 compared to 2006. Gas-guzzling jeepetas are the vehicle of choice for people benefiting from the government vehicular perk. The Tax Department (DGII) reports there are 175,526 of these. According to the DGII, in 2007 10,517 new jeepetas were reported. The Tax Department (DGII) reports that motorcycles were up 8.77% with 75,944 new units, for a total of 942,180 units or 44% of all vehicles. There were 599,570 cars in 2007, i.e. 24,184 more than in 2004. The number of cargo vehicles increased by 13,347, for a total of 299,987. There are 3,211 buses registered, for a total of 62,020.

Three bookmobiles for the DR
The people of Madrid, Spain have donated three bookmobiles for use in the Dominican Republic. According to El Nuevo Diario, senior Immigration official Carlos Clemente and the assistant director of libraries in Madrid, Maria Jaudenes, will hand over the keys to three vehicles equipped as mobile libraries to Dominican ambassador Alejandro Gonzalez Pons. This gift from the Community of Madrid is aimed at increasing and promoting reading in the Dominican Republic. The bookmobiles will leave Spain from Valencia on 19 June. The Community of Madrid has been assisting the Dominican Republic since 2003, and has spent EUR5,000,000 on a series of projects in the areas of health, education, institutional strengthening and support for local entrepreneurs.

Lights out in Santo Domingo
Rolling blackouts have returned to Santo Domingo. According to reports in Listin Diario, the increased blackouts are due to a deficit of between 200 and 300 megawatts in generation capacity. However, Francisco Mendez, the superintendent of electricity, has denied that there is any deficit in generation. According to the newspaper, areas where blackouts normally lasted between three to six hours are now suffering power cuts lasting as long as eight hours. Officials from Ede-Este told reporters that the "B" and "C" circuits were receiving less energy than needed, and this in turn affected the blackout ratios. Areas with 24-hour power have not been affected. Because of the increased number of blackouts, local businesses have been forced to turn to their small generators and as a result, their costs have increased by as much as RD$2,000 a day. Beauty salons and ice cream parlors are particularly hard hit, and most have had to increase their prices.

Inflation hits 5%
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic has announced that the inflation rate as reflected in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicated a 0.33% rise in the month of May. This means that this year so far has seen a 5.07% inflation rate and from a year ago the rate is pegged at 11.16%. The Central Bank says that the low increase for May was attributable to the lower cost of major food items through government subsidies that offset increases in prices on international markets. While some food prices fell, the cost of transportation increased markedly, contributing a major proportion of the monthly average.

Government to protect basic foodstuffs
President Fernandez and his Agricultural Cabinet met for three hours on Friday at the Presidential Palace and decided to maintain the subsidies on five of the most basic foodstuffs in the Dominican diet: rice, chicken, eggs, milk and beans. Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez said that they would hold another meeting to deal with sourcing the money. The minister said the government has already spent RD$1.4 billion on subsidized rice, milk, chicken and other foods for sale to the public.

Chicken prices up again
Retailers reported yesterday that the price of poultry has risen three times during the past week, going up RD$200 each time. Supplier warned retailers that beginning this Monday (today) the price would increase another RD$200 per hundredweight (HWT) of chicken. Last Saturday the price was RD$2,900 HWT. As Hoy newspaper reporters combed local marketplaces, they found that retailers were selling chickens at RD$42 a pound, and vendors in Villa Consuelo market told Aleida Plasencia that prices of RD$43 or RD$45 were not far off. Fortunately, the price of pork has remained stable, but beef went up RD$5 a pound during the week.

US vets don't find bird flu
Four distinguished animal pathologists from the United States have decided that the H5N2 Avian Virus (Bird Flu) has not caused pathologies or damage to the commercial poultry farms they investigated. The four were in the country to visit and research the situation at the invitation of the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Livestock Commission (CNP) and several of the larger poultry producers such as Pollo Cibao and Sanut Dominicana. According to El Nuevo Diario, the experts issued a statement that read: "to date the H5N2 Avian flu Virus has not led to deaths or damage or pathologies in the commercial poultry farms in the central Cibao." They were speaking at a press conference held in the Marriot Courtyard in Santiago.

Chamber's mea culpa
The members of the Chamber of Accounts, the government's internal auditor, have asked for the nation's forgiveness, admitting that they had made some mistakes. The announcement came just hours before they were to appear before a Special Commission of the Chamber of Deputies to be questioned about some irregularities that were revealed in the national press. Statements made by some members of the auditing unit said that the chief magistrate of the Chamber of Accounts was responsible for the irregularities. Andres Terrero, the chief magistrate, said that he would appear before the commission as part of the invitation that was extended to the Chamber of Accounts. In a full-page announcement in the national press, the other members of the auditing board said that their previous questioning of the chief magistrate's handling of some administrative affairs had been resolved internally.

Transporters on fare increases
With the incredible price increases on all fuels, even propane, the transport unions that monopolize the transportation of people and freight throughout the Dominican Republic are divided on the question of how to go about increasing fares. While leaders such as Juan Hubieres and Ramon Perez Figuereo have announced that they will decide on their fares today, the union led by Antonio Marte, CONATRA, together with the Association of Transport Entrepreneurs and Fenatrano said that they would not change their fares. The split comes after a meeting between the transport unions and the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Melanio Paredes. While a meeting scheduled for Saturday was cancelled, sources told El Caribe reporters that there was a possibility that President Fernandez would meet with representatives of the sector to discuss the issues.

A.M.: They don't get it
In today's A.M. column in Diario Libre, editor in chief Adriano Miguel Tejada goes after people who do not want to understand the realities of Dominican life. He says that an old friend commented that the country is full of intelligent people who do not want to understand what our problems are, that they do not realize that their attitude makes them part of the problem and not of the solution. He goes on to say that we can look at the issue of fuels. The real problem is how to reduce consumption, not how to increase it, and if they reduce taxes on fuels and the stop charging everyone who doesn't pay for electricity but drinks a lot of beer, consumption is not going to decrease, and on the contrary, we will continue spending money that Venezuela gives us on smoke, money that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back.
Tejada goes on to say that they talk about the problem of education, a long and permanent process that is evident in all walks of life, but the government abandoned this issue a long time ago, since it doesn't hand over the resources needed to progress in this area and fails to assign a large part of the state publicity budget to educate the population about vital aspects such as a respect for authority, traffic signals, rules of common courtesy, preventive health measures, civic education, the conservation of our natural resources, and thousands of other subjects that are destroying our capacity to coexist and threaten our chances of survival as a nation.
Finally, Tejada points out that politics has created so many millionaires in this country but that despite all this, these political millionaires have not been able to create institutions to develop the country and with that they are digging their own graves. But they don't understand that either.

New jail for Macoris
San Francisco de Macoris is getting a new jail, the latest to enter the new model penitentiary system where prisoners are called inmates, not prisoners, and where an emphasis is placed on rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. No longer called a prison, the new facility is called a Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. It is designed to hold one thousand inmates. This new model correctional facility being promoted by the Attorney General's office brings the total number of new model incarceration units now in service to ten. The remodeled jail has sports facilities, a dispensary, a library, rooms for visits by children and 10 rooms for conjugal visits.

Police nab 200 in Santiago
Mixed police and army patrols have rounded up 200 people in an operation that focused on certain areas considered most prone to criminal activity. The patrols confiscated weapons, drugs and stolen motorcycles. Police spokesman Colonel Jesus Cordero told reporters that on the first night of the operation alone the patrols netted 150 people even though most were checked out and released. He did say that the patrols seized some drugs, a precision scale, a pistol, two flak jackets and long knives during the searches. Some of the arrested were caught red-handed while robbing homes or stores. Colonel Cordero also announced the capture of two people accused of murdering Francisco Augusto Moreta and Felix Joel Rena last Monday.

Red Alert continues
The meteorological office (Onamet) and the Emergency Operations Center (COE) have announced that the rains should diminish, but the authorities are maintaining a RED alert for most of the eastern Dominican Republic: La Romana, Hato Mayor, El Seibo, La Altagracia, San Pedro de Macoris and Monte Plata. A YELLOW alert is in place for Santo Domingo, including the National District, Valverde, Peravia, Elias Pina, Dajabon, La Vega, Monsignor Nouel, Espaillat, Santiago, Santiago Rodriguez, Independencia and San Juan de la Maguana. The rest of the country is under a GREEN alert. According to reports, at least three deaths have been attributed to the floods, and 210 people have been displaced from their homes.

Go get that second passport
What Dominicans have been doing for decades now could pick up steam in the US. The Wall Street Journal publishes an article in its 15 June issue encouraging Americans to do as Dominicans and pick up dual citizenship, based on their ancestry. The Wall Street Journal mentions that the DR is one of a number of countries (others mentioned are Mexico, Australia and India) that have legalized multiple citizenship. It highlights the fact that citizens of the DR can register and vote from the US.
The WSJ reports that the benefits of another citizenship can be significant. It quotes Peter Spiro, a professor of international law at Temple University's law school mentioning these include expanded opportunities to work or retire overseas.

In the Heights musical wins Tony
The musical based on the life of a Dominican family in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood, "In the Heights" has just won the top prize at the annual Tony Awards, the Tony for Best Musical. The Tony Awards honor the best of the 2007-08 Broadway season. The musical led the nominations with 13, and received four. Besides Best Musical, creator and star 28-year old Lin-Manuel Miranda took home the Tony for Best Original Score, Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler) and Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman). "I wrote a little show about home," he rapped in his acceptance speech.
The production also won prizes for choreography and orchestration.
The production was first seen at Waterford's O'Neill Theater Center before it moved uptown with its Latin rhythms.
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