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Daily News - Friday, 20 June 2008

Losing the fight against corruption
The DR spends RD$944.6 million per year on corruption fighting institutions, but Diario Libre writes that the successes of these entities have been minimal at best. The result of this failure is that it generates skepticism among citizens and creates the perception that all cases are politically motivated. DL writes that between 2004 and 2007 the National Department for the Prevention of Administrative Corruption (DPCA) only received 263 corruption complaints. In 2007, 153 investigations were pending, of which 107 were remnants from the Hipolito Mejia administration. One of the biggest concerns is the Chamber of Accounts. The Chamber has an RD$423,861,897 budget but in the last 17 months the nine judges on the Chamber have only studied 10 cases and have only audited RD$294 million of the RD$235 billion that the government manages, leaving the door open for continued corruption. On top of this, these judges are themselves being investigated on charges of corruption. Other problems have been the mismanagement of corruption fighting entities, which has led to weaknesses in the system. According to lawyer Olivo Rodriguez Huertas, the DR lacks real political will to combat corruption. Francisco Cueto from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLASCO) says that one way to fight corruption is for the Supreme Court to appoint the directors of the anti-corruption institutions. The Executive Branch is currently responsible for deciding who to appoint for these positions. Some unresolved corruption cases include Plan Renove, the CDEEE's sovereign bonds, the pensions scandal and the Sun Land case.

Please, eliminate bureaucracy
Investors are asking the Ministry of Tourism to help reduce all the red tape involved in approving tourism projects by creating a one-stop approval process. The one-stop process would include the paperwork required by the Ministries of Public Works, Environment and Tourism. Ministry of Tourism sub Minister Radhames Martinez Aponte said that investors had proposed the idea, explaining that the current bureaucracy and paper trail can slow down investment. Investors agree that the one-stop process should also include the Tax Department and Customs. Martinez says that the biggest problem with removing bureaucracy is getting through the existing bureaucracy at the Ministries. The sub Minister said that the hope is that the Ministries will work as one because much of the investment in the DR is done by people who don't understand the work involved in navigating through local government institutions.

US continues help
US officials have once again pledged to help the DR in fighting the war against drugs. During a conversation with US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich, National Drug Control Department (DNCD) director Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira spoke about the successes the DR has had in the war against drugs. He added that the major successes have been in capturing drug shipments dropped from planes. Nimmich says that the US will continue supporting the DR, adding that the fight against drugs would be won with intelligence, cooperation and exchange of information.

UNDP on Metro
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is the latest organization to chime in on the Santo Domingo Metro project. Although the first line of the Metro is almost complete, the UNDP is criticizing the government for not releasing the environmental studies, plans and or budgets for a public works project of that size. In a report quoted by Hoy, the UNDP says that there wasn't enough information provided to know if in fact the metro will decrease the dependency on foreign fuels, reduce pollution and help ease transit in Santo Domingo. The UNDP also criticizes the fact that the Metro was built in an area of the city with limited demand from passengers. The government assigned the Metro RD$750 million in 2005, RD$1.835 billion in 2006 and RD$10.7 billion 2007, for a total of RD$13.3 billion. Officials say the first line of the Metro won't cost more than RD$25 billion.

British media keeps mum
Angela Hills, head of Health, Safety and Operational Support at the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) says that British newspapers aren't publishing relevant tourist information provided by the Dominican Tourism promotion office in London. She added that in cases where information is provided, it is relegated to the back page of the papers. Hills said that when bad news happens it is then plastered on the front page of the newspapers. Dominican ambassador to Great Britain Anibal de Castro has also spoken out about the increasing negative press the DR is receiving in the British press. Hills added that most of the reports in British papers are attributed to ambulance chasing lawyers who want to represent travelers who might have fallen ill while in the DR. Last year the DR received 225,157 British tourists.

New free trade companies
The National Free Trade Council for Exports has approved the creation of 22 new companies that will be opened in the free trade zones (FTZ). The incorporation of the new businesses will require an investment of RD$832.2 million and could generate as much as US$22 million in revenues and salaries. The new businesses are expected to create 4,000 new jobs.

Americans want mangos
The Center for Exports and Investments - Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) is reporting that representatives from twelve US companies are interested in importing Dominican grown mangos. The US firms are based in New York, New Jersey and Miami. In recent years the Dominican mango has become a hot agricultural commodity. The DR has 1,014 mango producers and 14 exporters. The DR is also known for producing different varieties of mangos including Keitt, Kent and Tommy Atkins mangos. There are also local varieties such as Banilejo, Gota de Oro, Yamagui, Juan Jaquez, Madame Francis and Puntita. The DR averages US$3 million in mango exports per year. During the first four months of the year the DR exported US$518,874 worth of mangos.

DR will receive money
For the next five years the DR will receive RD$12 billion (EUR220 million) as part of a non-refundable cooperation program. National Authorizing Office for European Funds (ONFED) director Onofre Rojas said that the funds are part of a promise made by the European parliament that seeks to direct 0.56% of its GDP towards development in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations between 2007, and 2010 and 0.7% of its GDP between 2010 and 2015. But under pressure from ACP nations, the EU decided that it would not wait until 2015 to fulfill its commitment and will try to direct at least.056% of its GDP towards development in ACP nations. No word from Rojas on how the money would be used.

Hubieres keeps threatening
FENATRANO transport union leader Juan Hubieres said that if the government removes the fuel subsidies on public transport fares, prices would go up accordingly. Hubieres said that next week fares would go up to RD$35 per ride and in the coming weeks, without the fuel subsidy, prices would be adjusted according to the price of fuel. Yesterday, passengers were surprised by increases of RD$3 to RD$20, depending on the route. CNTU leader Ramon Perez Figuereo said that his union would keep prices at the same level until he meets with government officials. Land Transport Office (OTTT) director Franklin Beltre ordered the unions to keep prices at the current level and added that a meeting with union leaders and Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) director Diandino Pena is scheduled for next week. Hoy writes that the government will propose a set of compensatory measures next week as a way to appease the transport sector once again. According to El Caribe, passengers spend 40% of salaries on public transport.
In related news, Metro Tours and Transporte Vegano have announced that they will also increase fares by RD$30 and RD$10 per route. Caribe Tours, Transporte Espinal and Terra Bus will keep fares stable for now.

Doctors fight; no one listens
Yesterday, members of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) held a protest rally outside the Presidential Palace, but the government didn't even send out an envoy to meet with the doctors. The rally ended without incident shortly after midday. Hoy writes that the Senate is willing to intervene to try to work out a solution. One option is to increase the tax on firearms, which would create the needed revenue to pay for salary increases. Public hospital doctors have been fighting for a RD$30,000 wage increase since February, but their demands have fallen on deaf ears and the series of strikes has done nothing to further their cause. Hoy writes that next week the CMD will formally file charges against Minister of Health Bautista Rojas Gomez for violating the Doctors' Resources Law.

Almeyda recovering
Interior and Police Minister Franklyn Almeyda is recovering at Cedar Medical Center in Miami after undergoing heart surgery earlier this week. Officials say that Almeyda had an obstruction in his aortic valve corrected. Listin Diario writes that the obstruction was a result of an endocarditic infection in 2006.

Placido is here
World famous Spanish tenor Placido Domingo is in the DR and ready for his performance at Altos de Chavon tonight. The tenor will be performing tracks from his new CD Pasion Espanola, which is dedicated to Spanish 'coplas'. Arrangements have also been made to include a short selection of Dominican songs at the Altos de Chavon performance. Sixty musicians from the Dominican and Puerto Rican Symphony orchestras will accompany Domingo. Argentine soprano Virginia Tola will also perform during the show.

Miss DR in Vietnam
Twenty-three year old Marianne Cruz, the Dominican Republic's representative at the Miss Universe 2008 contest taking place at the Crown Convention Center, Diamond Bay Resort, Nha Trang in Vietnam arrived in Vietnam this week for her almost month-long participation in the contest. Miss Dominican Republic is 5'11" and has brown eyes and brown hair. She traveled with a wardrobe by designers Leonel Lirio, Gutierrez y Marcano, Isabel Reynoso and Elisa Morato. Cruz works as a model and is a college student who aspires to be a world famous fashion designer, with Oscar de la Renta as her inspiration. The pageant will be televised on NBC on 13 July from 9-11pm. In the DR, it can also be viewed on Antena Latina, Channel 7.
See www.missuniverse.com/delegates/2008/files/DO.html
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