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Daily News - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

IMF to monitor DR
As soon as Leonel Fernandez begins his third term as President of the Dominican Republic, the country will sign a "monitoring" agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to Diario Libre, the agreement will not entail the disbursement of funds, nor will it involve a revision of the goals as set out in the Stand-by Arrangement that ended last January. At least, according to the newspaper, this is what was released to the press after a three-hour meeting held between President Fernandez and IMF officials at the Presidential Palace yesterday. The IMF delegation was headed by top IMF official Murilo Portugal, and the President was assisted by his economic cabinet. According to the press, the monitoring involves a twice-yearly submission to the IMF on the government's execution of its economic programs. Chief economic advisor and Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas told reporters that this agreement would help the DR maintain its "close ties with the IMF".

AIRD says oil not the only problem
The Dominican Republic Industrial Association (AIRD) is in agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its concern about the growing deficit of government accounts, but it differs with many in that the industrialists also worry about the rate of new imports, which are much greater in volume compared to Dominican exports. According to AIRD president Manuel Diez Cabral, the DR's trade deficit is growing "at an alarming rate". Diez Cabral points out that much the deficit cannot be attributed to the increasing price of oil, especially since most oil comes from Venezuela and not the United States. Diaz Cabral said that, "research shows that we are dealing not only with an increase in imports but also the fact that exports are not stable, they are falling." Diez Cabral issued his comments to reporters from Hoy in response to a statement made by IMF executive Murilo Portugal who said that oil prices were responsible for the increasing trade deficit.

Blackouts not 'financial' says Segura
The executive vice-president of the Dominican Corporation of State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE), Radhames Segura has assured the general public that the rolling blackouts are not the result of financial problems. He said that they were related to technical and machinery issues at the generating stations. Segura said that the ten-hour blackouts, that even affected areas that normally qualify for 24-hour service were due to turbine and boiler problems in Puerto Plata, while the AES generators, which run natural gas, did not have fuel and the generators in Haina were waiting for a ship to arrive with fuel for their boilers. Segura told Listin Diario reporters that the CDEEE was providing 85% of demand and would increase supplies as soon as the fuel ships arrived.

Bishop and business urge dam completion
The Bishop of La Vega, Antonio Camilo, together with representatives of the local Chamber of Commerce and the Vega Real Cooperative, are urging the government to finish the dam at Guaigui. The project is a combination of hydro-electrical generation and flood control. The group led by the bishop told reporters from Listin Diario that the dam would save nearly 400,000 barrels of petroleum per year through hydro-electric generation. The bishop also pointed out the benefits of a stable water supply for the region, for both human consumption and agriculture. In his comments, Chamber of Commerce president Edwin Abreu said that in addition to the US$23 million that would be saved in petroleum purchases, an additional US$12 million would be made from the sale of electricity produced by the dam.

Trial for accountants
Angel Acosta, a deputy from Santiago, told reporters that a report that the Chamber of Deputies will receive from its special commission this afternoon will recommend putting the Chamber of Accounts members on trial. Often called "magistrates" due to their lofty position, the members of the Chamber of Accounts are really just accountants. Acosta told Listin Diario that even though the commission's report was submitted to the secretary of the Chamber of Deputies last night, each one of the accountants is judged individually and that is the basis for a political trial. Acosta said that the commission has the videos taken of each deposition, which led to a series of accusations from the members of the Chamber of Accounts. One of the accountants has already filed an appeal, questioning statements by some of the commission members about the Chamber's activities.

Supreme Court approves ranks for judges
The full body of the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic has announced its approval of the regulations that organize the System of Judicial Rankings and the System of Providing Judicial Placements, an extraordinary step towards attaining full independence for the judicial system. This approval was a necessary step in order for the magistrates to ascend the job scale based upon merits. The announcement was made by the chief justice, Jorge Subero Isa. Article 22 of Law 327-98 that deals with the Judicial Service, allows the Supreme Court to create the rules and regulations on ascending the judicial ladder. Article 15 of the same law creates the different levels of the judicial system. Judges go from Justices of the Peace, or their equivalents, to Judges of the First Instance, then Appellate Court judges, and finally the Supreme Court. Each stage has various portions but these were not specified.

Billions in tourist projects
Without a doubt, tourism is one of the main economic activities in the Dominican Republic. Fifty-four projects are currently under way, with an overall investment of US$12.5 billion dollars. Many of these projects are in the Bavaro-Punta Cana area, according to sources at the Ministry of Tourism. There are 32 hotel projects in this part of the country, representing an additional 13,000 rooms. In the area around Juan Dolio there are four projects, representing nearly 1000 rooms. The remaining investments are in Samana, Puerto Plata, Santiago and Jarabacoa. In the case of the latter, eco-tourism is the main attraction and according to the newspaper, a 44-room project is targeted at over US$10 million.

AMCHAM and corruption
The American Chamber of Commerce organized a seminar on corruption in the Dominican Republic at the Hotel Jaragua. One of the key conclusions was the fact that public and private corruption presented an obstacle to the country's development. The seminar also called for the strengthening of institutions that fight corruption. Speakers at the event included National Council for Private Business (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarrulla, chief justice of the Supreme Court Jorge Subero Isa, award-winning sociologist Rosario Espinal, Supreme Court justice Victor Jose Castellanos, and the Attorney General of Costa Rica, Francisco Dall'Anese. Chief Justice Subero Isa called for severe, even drastic, corruption prevention measures. Rosario Espinal said that the nation needed to modernize its government institutions responsible for fighting corruption. Lisandro Macarrulla pointed out that the recent report from Transparency International showed how corruption hurt the poor hardest, since corruption prevented assistance from reaching the needy as it should. Corruption also prevents social transformation and change of status for the poorest sector. According to the CONEP leader, "societies with a lot of corruption have governments that prefer to spend in areas where the possibilities for payoffs and discretional payments are broader."

Cibao Airport for private aviation
The Cibao Airport, a private venture, will be the port of entry for a new plan to attract private aircraft tourism to the Dominican Republic. There is potential for as many as 50,000 small craft to use the airport as their port of entry. Once in the Dominican Republic, private planes can take off for any of the tourist areas throughout the country: Puerto Plata, Portillo (near Las Terrenas, Samana), Punta Cana, La Romana or Santo Domingo, among others. At least this is what James Parker, the main promoter of this type of tourism predicts will happen. Parker arrived in Santiago aboard his Pilatus 12, piloted by Al Simmons and accompanied by Mike Trim. Trim, an official with the Dominican Airport Authority, is working together with Parker to set up the Dominican pavilion at the huge Oshkosh, Wisconsin Fly-in on 27 July. The Oshkosh event is probably the largest private aviation gathering in the world with 700,000 visitors each year and thousands of small and large aircraft on the ground. A Presidential Decree (169-08) exonerates private planes from paying government landing fees at any of the international airports. After a tour of the airport, Parker praised the conditions that he found at airports around the country and told reporters from El Caribe that he was preparing a Fly-in from Florida with 45 aircraft.

Jobs for disabled people
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) has announced a plan involving the use of modern technology to get jobs for people with disabilities. The new plan was disclosed to the press by Indotel head Jose Rafael Vargas, as he opened a study panel on "Public policy for the inclusion of disabled people in the society of information". The manager of the Orange Foundation in Europe, Rocio Miranda, underlined the fact that with the use of technology disabled people could access different forms of communication and provide for themselves.

Good man works hard to survive
A human interest story from Santiago brings to light just how a poor man survives in the city without a real job. In the case of Angel Mendez, originally from Azua in the south of the Dominican Republic, El Nuevo Diario says that he went to Santiago to work at the local Metropolitan Transport Service (OMSA), but the job vanished when the government changed. In order to feed his family Mendez got a friend to lend him a vacant lot in the Cienfuegos section of the city, where he grows vegetables and raises pigs. Forced to get a horse to travel around and get discarded food scraps for his pigs, Mendez cited the increasing cost of public transport. Next to his very modest dwelling, there is another vacant lot where drivers of the "F" route in Santiago park their cars, and Mendez and his children and wife look after them. Private car owners also use the "security" service offered by the family. Because of the family's honesty and hospitality and congeniality, they are, according to the paper, much appreciated by the neighborhood. And so they survive.

Three years for embezzler
A former government official who took RD$1.7 million in funds from the Immigration Department at Las Americas International Airport was sentenced to three years in prison by magistrate Antonio Sanchez Mejia and assistant judges Pilar Rufino and Giselle Mendez. The court fined the former official RD$2 million and added RD$3 million in damages. The money was collected between 21 and 22 of June 2007. This is one of the few cases successfully prosecuted by the Office of Persecution of Corruption.

Lightning kills one, injures another
To emphasize the dangers posed by the current series of violent thunderstorms, Diario Libre reports the death of one worker and the serious injury to another due to a lightning strike in the town of Cotui. The pair was working at the Barrick Mining operation, on the site of the old Rosario Dominicana goldmine, when they were struck by lightning. The injured worker is in a very serious condition in the hospital in Cotui.

COE issues warnings for 24 provinces
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has issued a series of Yellow and Green Alerts for a total of 24 provinces in the Dominican Republic. The Yellow Alert is for 16 provinces and the result, according to meteorologists, of the interaction of a tropical wave and a frontal system. The COE is warning of strong thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds. The 16 provinces subject to a Yellow Alert are: Santo Domingo, San Cristobal, San Juan de la Maguana, Hato Mayor, El Seibo, La Vega, Monsenor Nouel, Espaillat, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, La Altagracia, La Romana, Duarte, Samana and Sanchez Ramirez. The COE is advising residents of these areas, especially people who live near rivers or creeks to take "all necessary precautions".
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