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Daily News - Thursday, 26 June 2008

Duarte highway closing
The Ministry of Public Works has announced that a section of the Duarte Highway near Santo Domingo will be closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that a bridge can be completed at the 11th kilometer of the highway. Listin Diario reports that on Friday 27th the inside lane from Santo Domingo to Santiago will be closed, as will the Santiago-Santo Domingo inside lane. On Saturday 28th the outside lane from Santo Domingo-Santiago will be closed. Finally, this stretch of the highway will be completely closed on Sunday. Drivers coming from Santiago will have the option of taking a detour via the bridge on Prolongacion 27 Febrero to enter Santo Domingo. Drivers heading towards Santiago will have to take a detour 400 meters to the right of the Carrefour shopping center.

Parents take note
The Ministry of Education announced that the 2008-2009 school year will begin on 18 August for both private and public schools and will end on 29 June 2009. Technical schools and Middle Schools Excellence programs will begin on 4 August. The Ministry of Education has also announced that next year's National Exams will be held in June so that teachers can have the whole month of July off. Furthermore, the Ministry also approved that mid-terms be held in December, prior to the Christmas vacation period, and not after.

ISPRI initiated
The Institutional Program for Regional Integration (ISPRI) was officially launched during a ceremony at the Hotel Santo Domingo yesterday. The ISPRI will work for the next two years to help the DR transition into the recently signed EPA signed between CARIFORUM and the EU. The ISPRI will have a EUR6 million budget. Of the EUR6 million, EUR5 million comes from the EU Commission while EUR1 million comes from the Dominican government. The ISPRI will cooperate with the Foreign Trade Department (DICOEX) at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Committee for Commercial Negotiations (CNNC) and the European Funds National Authorizing Office (ONFED).
For more details on the EPA click here: www.dr1.com/trade

EU donates funds
The European Union (EU) will support development in the DR by donating EUR91 million to the fight against poverty and strengthening the health and education sectors. The EU will also donate EUR25 million which will help in the decentralization and reform of the Dominican state. EU economic advisor Jean Marc Ruiz said that eventually the EU will create a specific budget that will directly help governmental reforms. Ruiz says that the EU is committed to increasing public spending in areas of extreme importance like education, poverty and health. Ruiz explained that the EU is moving away from planned development programs like PARME (the EU program for reform and modernization of the state) and are moving towards more direct aid and support programs. The EU funds will also help support the National Statistical Office (ONE). Ruiz made his comments during the Institutional Program for Regional Integration (ISPRI) ceremony. The ISPRI has received EUR6 million that will be used to help the DR transition into the recently signed EPA agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM.

Fernandez receives ambassadors
During a 40-minute ceremony at the Presidential Palace, President Leonel Fernandez welcomed four new ambassadors to the DR. Fernandez accepted credentials from Kang Sung-Su from South Korea, Juan Jose Chaux Mosquera from Colombia, Giovanni Rene Castillo Polanco from Guatemala and Tchavdar Miladenov Nikolov from Bulgaria. Fernandez was accompanied by Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. Kang Sung-Su studied Latin American literature at the University of Korea and has worked in various Latin American countries. Chaux Mosquera is a judicial sciences graduate and speaks French, English and Spanish. Polanco has a political science and literature background as well as experience as a foreign diplomat, while Miladenov Nikolov has a Masters in international relations and has worked in the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's Political Information Department.

IMF agreement welcomed
The recently announced "monitoring" agreement with the IMF will be the DR's ninth agreement with the international financial institution since 1959 and it is receiving support from the DR's private sector. 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. The DR's private sector believes the agreement will serve as a vote of confidence for foreign investors interested in the DR. Pablo Piantini, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) said the agreement could bring more investments to the DR because the IMF projects an image of transparency and confidence. However, former Central Bank governor Carlos Despradel questioned the circumstances under which the agreement was signed. Quoted in El Caribe, Despradel says that this agreement is much lighter than the previous Stand-by arrangement, because the government didn't want such a rigid agreement this time. Despradel also entertained the idea that possibly the IMF didn't see the need for another rigid agreement. He added that ultimately what is important is to see if the government is willing to monitor itself with or without an agreement.

DR could be fined
The DR could be fined heavily for failing to purchase 300 buses that were ordered from Brazil, with a Dominican company, Autozama as its intermediary. The buses were purchased for use by the Metropolitan Bus Service Office (OMSA). Hoy reports that one of the issues holding up the purchase is that the government has yet to emit the US$52.5 million line of credit required for the deal. Hoy writes that the 300 buses are currently sitting in the factory in Brazil. Critics are concerned that the OMSA could collapse without the injection of these 300 new buses into the public transport system.

Auditors go on trial
Last night, after a marathon five-hour meeting, Deputies unanimously recommended that judges Andres Terrero, Henry Mejia, Jose Altagracia Maceo, Julio de Bera, Jose Gregorio, Freddy Almonte Brito, Alcides Benjamin Decena, Luis Yepez Suncar and Juan Adalberto Lora should be put on trial for irregularities at the Chamber of Accounts (CA). The chamber is the government organization entrusted with auditing government departments.
Terrero, the president of the Chamber of Accounts is only being charged with "lack of leadership, transparency and communication". Hoy reports that 160 of the 161 Deputies present voted in favor of the trial. The judges will be tried for violations of articles 14, 24, 26, 28, 30, 40, 43 and 56 of Law 10-04. They will also be tried for violation of Law 41-08 and 449-06 on Contracting of Goods and Services and violation of the Austerity Law. Chamber of Deputies President Julio Cesar Valentin said that Andres Terrero's biggest weakness was that he was negatively influenced by the other CA judges. He added that some of the CA judges were good people who made bad mistakes. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez said that the Senate is ready to hear the trial of the accused judges. El Caribe puts the CA case in perspective and reports that the DR has only held two political trials since 1961, including the trial of a mayor, Manuel Antonio Jimenez Rodriguez in 1972 and Deputy Isidro Ramirez 1989. Both were removed from office.
Diario Libre editorializes today that Congress is missing the point when dealing with the Chamber of Accounts. It speculates that these members may be tried and fired, but there is nothing that impedes the new bunch from repeating all the same inefficiencies and irregularities. It is not only about changing the members for taking advantage of their posts, but should also be about strengthening the institutional side of the organization, writes the newspaper. "The problem is not about the chamber, or the accounts, it is that they need to be transparent," it concludes.

Colmados don't get food
The National Federation of Commercial Retailers that says that 95% of the nation's small grocery stores, known as colmados, aren't receiving the subsidized foods that were promised by the government after the 16 May presidential elections, as reported in the Listin Diario. Retail officials say that this is just a question of bad distribution policy by the government. Some colmado owners interviewed say they received some foods in the days following 16 May, but haven't received anything since. Other colmado owners say that when they go to buy certain foods like rice, there isn't any for sale. This comes as food prices continue to rise even after the government announced it would continue to subsidize basic food products like rice, beans, milk, eggs and chicken.

Where's the change?
Different sectors in the DR are complaining about the lack of change in circulation, making the simple purchase of juice from a street vendor an uncomfortable ordeal. El Caribe writes that representatives from large, medium and small businesses as well as street vendors have all voiced concern about the lack of change. Citizens are also angered because instead of getting money back after a purchase they must leave the money at the cashier because no one has change. A RD$80 purchase could cost you RD$100. Reps from large stores like Plaza Lama and Multicentro, and retailers associations like FENACRED and FENACODEP have asked for an explanation from the Central Bank but they have yet to respond. El Caribe reports that in February a public bidding process was launched to determine who would mint new RD$1, RD$5, RD$ and RD$25 coins, no word on which company won the bidding or whether they have begun producing new coins. There is speculation that the government has been lax about the cash to encourage vendors to favor the use of credit cards and debit cards that considerably reduce tax evasion by stores.

Murderers sentenced
Luis Alberto Solano and Geraldo Nicolas Beltre have been sentenced to 30 years in jail for the 2007 murder of journalist Victor Gulias Vicioso. Manuel Ferran de Paula was sentenced to 20 years for his role in the murders. Gulias was found dead with 42 stab wounds and according to reports, the killers tied Gulias's hands behind his back before torturing and stabbing him.

Best tips for summer
Summer is here and it looks to be a hot one. The following tips could be useful as you try to stay cool and save some money:
1) Keep yourself hydrated and drink as much water or sport juice as you can.
2) Stay in the shade as too much sun can be dangerous
3) Try to stay indoors between 11am and 3pm as these are the hottest hours
4) Eat lighter foods and stay away from hot foods and soups. Fruits, vegetables and salads are preferred.
5) Limit the use of AC and fans.
6) Use light clothing. Use fabrics that breathe as well as light-colored clothing. Stay away from black or brown clothing.
7) Use your sun-block if you are going out. Tomato face isn't the best summer fashion.
8) Consider buying an umbrella if you must go out.
9) Get a nice hat and make sure you take it where ever you go.
10) Take a small towel or handkerchief with you as you walk around the city.
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