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Daily News - Thursday, 10 July 2008

Fernandez on crime
The fight against crime has required increased levels of cooperation between state prosecutors and the drafting of enhanced plans to ensure the security of citizens worldwide, says President Leonel Fernandez. Fernandez was speaking during the XVI General Assembly of the Ibero-American Association of State Prosecutors. Attorney Generals from 21 countries in Latin America, Spain and Portugal are attending the conference that is taking place at the Paradisus Palma Real Convention Center in Punta Cana. Fernandez says that the current top priority for countries is to strengthen their judicial systems so that state prosecutors, the courts and national police forces can work together and be more efficient in fighting crime and drug trafficking. "When there is security for citizens and institutions that can guarantee it, the state becomes stronger," said the President.
Fernandez says that the DR has taken steps to strengthen its state prosecutors, known here as public ministry, through judicial reforms. He added that in today's society, state prosecutors have added a new dimension to their work, which is crime prevention. During his speech Fernandez said that on a national level, the government has taken steps to consolidate the role of the state prosecutor by implementing new procedural reforms. He said that state prosecutors now have greater responsibilities in investigating and prosecuting crime. "This translates into a more efficient judiciary, which is able to provide timely answers to a range of social conflicts," said the President in his keynote address.

Former PRSC secretary general Sergia Elena de Seliman made news yesterday when she calculated that the Chamber of Deputies' RD$5 billion budget, when divided by 178 deputies, means that the legislative chamber costs Dominicans RD$24 million each. The statement made on the Nuria & Huchi afternoon talk show on CDN Radio adds to the public outrage over the high cost of several government departments, which are better known for their spending than for their contributions to the country's development and wellbeing. The statement comes at a time when there is widespread support for reducing or at least freezing the number of deputies. President of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin says that he will make the proposal when the debates for reforming the Constitution take place. As the Constitution currently stands, the number of deputies increases as the population increases.

More of the same rhetoric
Radhames Segura, vice president of the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE), blamed the current energy problems on the increase in fuel prices. Segura says the government is working on a plan to tackle the situation. Segura was speaking during a visit to the National Business Council (CONEP). Segura's words echoed his statements made several years ago when he spoke about the renegotiation of energy contracts, the construction of coal-fired energy plants, the increased use of natural gas, use of wind technology and hydroelectric plants, according to a report in Listin Diario. Despite the fact that the same rhetoric has been employed for four years, not much has been accomplished in the energy sector, says CONEP. This conclusion was reached by CONEP during last week's release of a 'diagnostic' report, "The Dominican Economy: Pending macro-economic and sectorial challenges."
What is new, though, is that the government has been padding the sector with subsidies worth more than US$1 billion this year, which is financially unsustainable, says the CONEP report, highlighting the fact that there has been a reluctance to collect for energy supplied, to adjust the price of fuel and the electricity tariff, and an institutional weakness, as well as lack of diversification in the generation capacity over the past five years.
Segura said, "we are at CONEP explaining what the government is doing and planning and asking CONEP to work with us to find solutions, so that by 2012 we can say we have definitively solved the problems with blackouts," he said.
CONEP president Lisandro Macarulla says that it is the responsibility of the politicians to govern and while the business sector can adhere to policy, it is not their job to design public policy.
Marisol Vicens, former president of the National Association for Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE), says that Segura didn't present any new options to resolve the high cost and lack of reliability of power in the DR and just repeated the same rhetoric.

Chevron maintains its stance
Chevron Caribbean (Texaco) is sticking to its decision to suspend some of their contracts with oil tankers for distribution of fuel dispatched by the Dominican Petroleum Refinery. The company said the conflict and illegal blockade by the tankers (SACTPA union) has cost more than US$1 million, as reported by Hoy. They commented that the government also stands to lose millions of pesos in taxes on fuel sales as the blockade has impeded supplies to 170 Texaco fuel stations nationwide.
In a press conference, company executives Rosanna Grullon, Hector Infante and Fabrice Moore said they were awaiting a proposal from the transporters via the mediating commission, which is made up by Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman and Labor Minister Jose Ramon Fadul. Nonetheless, they are sticking to their position that the state of law should be guaranteed by the Dominican government.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce now says this is a labor issue, and referred the matter to the Ministry of Labor for resolution.
Chevron has canceled the contracts of 25 tank trucks as part of their restructuring process. They have offered the drivers employment with other trucks that have been contracted for the transporting of Texaco fuel.

Terrero leaves Chamber of Accounts
After president of the Senate Reinaldo Pared Perez is denying that former president of the Chamber of Accounts Andres Terrero is still working at the Chamber of Accounts "until a replacement is found", saying that Terrero had definitely decided to pack up and leave. The former president resigned the post after the start of a Senate hearing to determine whether he should be fired. Terrero and eight other presiding members of the Chamber of Accounts, the department in charge of auditing government offices, were removed from their posts due to mismanagement. Terrero said he now planned to go on holiday with his family.

FENATRADO gets subsidies and raises rates
Farming associations in the Cibao say that although the government is subsidizing diesel for FENATRADO union truckers, these have raised their prices by 20%. The association says the increases mean that farmers have to pay RD$13 million more to pay for transporting their goods. Listin Diario reports that the association has expressed concern over the FENATRADO freight monopoly that impedes farmers and businesses alike from choosing the least costly option for transporting their goods.

Customs bust
The Customs Department (DGA) has announced the seizure of RD$8 million worth of illegally-imported pharmaceuticals at the Cibao International Airport in Santiago. Customs director Miguel Cocco says an investigation is under way. Listin Diario reports that drugs had come from Ecuador. Cocco says that the DR has the necessary tools to combat the illegal trafficking of pharmaceuticals. The drugs, which included Acromona Ovul, Dolo Neurobion, Flanax, Valerpan, Epamin and Afrin, were shipped in 15 boxes on a Delta flight.

Tourist worker wages fall
A sectorial study by economist Luis Vargas reveals that wages for workers in the tourism sector have fallen by 11.8% over the past four years. Vargas says that in 2004 workers were earning RD$2,006 every 15 days, but by 2008 the very same workers were earning only RD$1,170. The dip in the tourism wage is worrisome considering that minimum salary rates went up by 12.2% during that same period.

The drug cycle
US Ambassador to the DR Robert Fannin says that Dominican officials are aware that much of the assets (property and money) seized from drug busts eventually end up back in the hands of criminals. Fannin says that Dominican officials are concerned about the situation and say they are frustrated by the limitations in the system. Fannin explained that in the DR goods are only seized by drug enforcement agencies after a trial has been concluded and that in many cases, as the trial progresses, legal loopholes are found by the defense so that the property and cash may return to the criminals. Fannin made the statements during a luncheon with invited press at the US Embassy.

D.N. getting smaller
In the last seven years, more than 300,000 citizens have moved from the National District to other municipalities outside of Santo Domingo city and environs. While this might be welcomed by citizens living in the National District as it could lead to a reduction in traffic, officials are concerned because a population decrease also means a reduction in the amount of funds that the Executive Branch allocates to the municipality. The president of the National District Municipality, Gabriel Castro, says that the funds received by the municipal government have decreased from RD$150 million to RD$130 million per year. More than a million residents live in the National District (913,540 according to the 2002 Census).

Handball players desert
The Dominican Olympic Committee is announcing that four members of the Dominican handball team appear to have deserted and are nowhere to be found. The team was in Spain to play in an international competition. Committee president Luis Mejia said it was a bad decision by the players considering that the situation for illegal immigrants in Europe has become harder in the past weeks.

Thursday sales
Cuesta Hogar at 27 de Febrero/Abraham Lincoln and Bella Vista Mall is advertising bath towels for RD$225 and hand towels for RD$110. The sale is only for Thursday, 10 July.
Batavia furniture store has up to 60% reductions on selected items and a clearance sale on lamps.
Super Pola is advertising 20% off beef cuts and other discounts in their meat department.
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