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Daily News - Tuesday, 24 June 2008

IMF official voices concern
IMF Deputy Managing Director Murilo Portugal says that high fuel and energy prices are negatively affecting the country's deficit in the current accounts balance of payments. The economist said the issue with fuel and energy prices is more a problem of balance of payments than inflation. He explained that for every US$10 rise in barrel prices, the deficit in the current accounts increases by US$400 million for the DR. He explained that the DR needs an extra US$500 million to deal with the issue. Yesterday, Portugal and other IMF officials met with the DR's economic team and members of the private business sector. Portugal is expected to meet with President Leonel Fernandez today and is due to speak to the media shortly afterwards. El Caribe reports that Portugal is in the DR at the invitation of Central Bank Governor Hector Albizu.

Blackouts are back
Technical difficulties, lack of fuel and an unpaid electricity bill are being blamed for a series of rolling blackouts in the DR. Many of the country's power generators have gone offline in the past few days, but officials expect them to be back online by today. Hoy reports that the Cogentrix power generators went offline because the state owed them US$7.5 million. State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura said that the government had paid the debt yesterday. Segura says that a total of eight power generators have been affected for a variety of reasons, but assured the public that as of today the situation would slowly get back to normal. The Smith and Enron plants were also offline due to technical difficulties, which are being investigated and the V and VI turbines in Los Mina went offline due to a delay in the arrival of a fuel shipment. The Haina I, Haina IV and Palamara-La Vega plants were also offline because of fuel deficiencies. In all, 800 MW of power has been unavailable but Segura says that 470 MW will be available for consumers today.

School more expensive
Education Minister Alejandrina German has authorized schools that charge more than R$500 per month to charge up to 12% more for the 2008-2009 school year. The Minister also ordered schools to give parents a credit if the monthly fees or inscription costs exceeded the 12%. The Minister said that any school wishing to charge more than the 12% increase must provide the Department for Private Schools with an explanation, and that schools that fail to do so will be fined. German authorized the increases as a result of the accumulated inflation rate of 7.95% registered in recent years. Hoy quotes a study which indicates that of the 1,577 recognized schools in the DR, 328 will not raise tuition fess while 378 schools will increases fees by 10% to 19% and 59 schools will increase fees by 20%. Listin Diario writes that 271 schools in the DR currently charge less than RD$500 per month, while 641 schools charge less than RD$1,000 per month. The Dominican Teachers Association welcomed the increase, but parents are wary about the decision as it will increase the costs of their children's education.

Wages will stay the same
Prices are going up, but wages are staying the same, at least for now. According to El Caribe, the DR's business sector is not willing to discuss a salary increase for employees, arguing that various sectors should meet to analyze the pressures caused by high fuel prices before deciding. National Council for Private Business (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarulla explains that "it is not convenient to speak of a wage increase right now: instead there must be an analysis of the economy's development, taking the international crisis into consideration". He added that there is no way the country can continue to grow in the way it has over the last forty years without tackling basic issues like education and quality of life. He said that once those issues are addressed, officials can discuss possible wage increases. CNUS workers' union leader Jose Abreu said that Macarulla's statements are all very well, but while he makes his assertions prices are increasing disproportionately.

Haitians in DR embassy protest
Haitian nationals are being asked to meet in front of the Dominican Embassy in New York on 3 July in protest against what they describe as mistreatment and discrimination against Haitian immigrants to the DR. The protest is scheduled for 5:30. The protest is being organized by the Haitian Solidarity Roots Committee and the Dominican-Haitian Solidarity Network. Both are based in New York. Protestors will denounce alleged abuses of Haitian workers, what they call "racist" policies by the Dominican government and will call on the Dominican authorities to stop the deportation of Haitians from the DR. The organizations estimate that some 700,000 Haitians live in the DR.

Unions still owe
According to FENATRANO transport union leader Juan Hubieres, the country's main bus unions owe over RD$4.2 billion as a result of Plan Renove. He also says that the Office for Metropolitan Bus Services (OMSA) still owes RD$377 million in payments on 106 buses from the same plan. Hubieres explained that CONATRA owes RD$1.25 billion while the CNTU owes RD$1.23 billion. Hubieres claims that 21 bus unions received substantial sums of money as a result of Plan Renove.

Telefonica coming to DR
Spanish telephone company Telefonica is coming to the DR and will offer phone and broadband internet service. Diario Libre quotes comments made by Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) director Rafael Vargas. Vargas said that Telefonica might enter into high-level negotiations with existing communications companies in the DR. No details on when exactly Telefonica would begin to establish a presence in the DR. Telefonica was founded in 1924 and is one of the world's largest telecommunications providers with 228 million users worldwide. It currently operates in 24 countries, including 12 in Latin America.

Trash becomes an issue
Trash has become the main pollutant in the DR. Environmental Minister Omar Ramirez says the DR produces 6,000 tons of trash per day on average. Ramirez made his comments during the opening of the "Waste Management Workshop" sponsored by Red Girasol and the German cooperation agency GTZ. During the conference representatives from 70 environmental groups will be trained in sanitation issues. Ramirez says that the country will soon have the capacity to convert waste into energy, as is done in other nations. The Minister added that the DR needs to look for technological solutions as well as solutions that are economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable.

Claro loses money
Every month the Claro-Codetel phone company loses RD$700,000 due to phone cables being stolen. Company officials estimate that every year RD$10 million worth of cables is stolen. Communications director Fernando Placeres says that 2008 hasn't been as bad as previous years, when the company lost RD$20 million per year. Legal council for Claro-Codetel Ignacio Miranda says that cable thefts are high because of the black market. He added that metal companies buy the stolen cables without asking where the cables come from. The cables are considered valuable because of the copper wiring inside. Officials have continually argued that the DR can't export large amounts of copper since it is not mined here.

Rains will continue
National Meteorological Office director Gloria Ceballos says that rains will continue throughout the DR for the next 24 to 48 hours. She added that the east, northeast and southern parts of the DR should prepare for any emergency situations. Ceballos continued by saying that a storm front originating in Puerto Rico could make its way to the DR today, bringing high winds and thunderstorms. Officials are warning citizens about flooding and are asking people to stay away from rivers. Officials are also asking small boats to stay in port until the storms have passed. Green alerts have emitted for Santo Domingo, San Cristobal, Barahona, Pedernales, Independencia, San Juan de la Maguana, Hato Mayor, San Pedro de Macoris, La Altagracia, La Romana, El Seibo, La Vega, Monsenor Nouel, Espaillat, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Duarte, Bajo Yuna, Samana, Sanchez Ramirez and Monte Plata.

OMD Dominicana wins at Cannes Lions
The Media and Advertising Agency OMD Dominicana emerged as a big winner during this year's Cannes Lions Festival. The company won one silver and two bronze medals at this year's event. CEO Johnny Matos explained that in all only nine companies from around the world were honored for their work out of more than 2,000 submissions. Listin Diario writes that OMD is the only company to win three awards. The silver medal recognized OMD's work on their Tricom "US$3 pennies or less" campaign.
For more information, see www.canneslions.com/winners/media/win_3_1_00270.htm

Museum honors Sixto
The Dominican Museum of Man will honor traditional musician and spiritual leader Sixto Minier in an exhibition that opens on 1 July at 7pm. During the ceremony the Ministry of Culture will launch a CD by the "Cofradia del Espiritu Santo de los Congos de Villa Mella (Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the Congos of Villa Mella)". The Cofradia was named a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral an Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 18 May 2001. The Cofradia is more than 300 years old and in 2006 the government created a plan of action in order to protect it. Minier was born on 2 March 1920 and passed away on 29 April 2008, at the age of 88. Minier was groomed to be the leader of the Cofradia from an early age and in 2001 was recognized by the state of New York for helping to preserve African traditions in the DR. After Minier's death Agustin Guzman Minier was named leader of the Cofradia.

Dominican entrepreneurs in Philly
The Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on the entrepreneurial nature of Dominicans and the way it is reflected in the number of businesses they have opened in Philadelphia. He estimates that 1,000 bodegas in the city are Dominican owned. "While their numbers are relatively small - 4,300 to 20,000 Dominicans now live in greater Philadelphia based on estimates - their influence is outsized", he stressed, commenting on the soaring number of Dominican bodega owners. Many of the shops were bought from Puerto Ricans or Koreans. To explain the phenomenon, the story points out that it could be because Dominicans prefer to be their own bosses. The writer mentions the larger number of corner markets, hair salons and other enterprises that are in the hands of Dominican entrepreneurs.
Read the full article at www.philly.com/inquirer/home_region/...

Kiteboard championship begins
The World Kiteboarding Championships will begin on Cabarete beach tomorrow. A total of 115 athletes from around the world will compete in the week-long event with a US$45,000 prize for the top boarder. Event organizer Lorenzo Sancasani says the event has cost US$130,000 to put together, but represents US$700,000 in revenue for the area of Cabarete. Ariel Corniel, Alex Soto, Enmanuel Rondon, Jean Marcos Rivera and Juan Carlos Morel will represent the DR at the event. Corniel was the 2007 Cabarete Championship winner and has become one of the world's best young boarders. International coverage is expected with SBC Kite boarding, Core Magazine, Fuel TV, GTM Surf, Kiterock Magazine and Kiteworld Magazine already in the country for the event. Cabarete beach is among the world's top three kiteboarding destinations.
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