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Daily News - Thursday, 31 July 2008

Strengthening ties with Haiti
During the inauguration of the Global Dominico-Haitian Forum (FDHG), taking place at the Global Democracy and Development Foundation (Funglode), President Leonel Fernandez said that the DR and Haiti have lacked better understanding, dialogue and cooperation over the years. Fernandez called for better understanding to strengthen ties. "I think that as we get to know each other and we can identify institutions, personalities, and understand history and culture both countries become richer." During his speech Fernandez highlighted the strong personal friendship between himself and Haitian President Rene Preval. Fernandez highlighted the importance of the forum as a space for dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

Government deficit at RD$21 billion
The government has a deficit of RD$21 billion due to overspending so far this year and now proposes to finance it primarily by taking on PetroCaribe debt, as reported in Listin Diario. The Executive Branch sent the complementary budget to Congress yesterday. Of the total, RD$10.3 billion would come from an increase in tax revenue, RD$5.05 billion would be funded by a decline in Central Bank recapitalizing. The funds that were used to recapitalize the Central Bank would be directed to social programs. The complementary bill also cuts RD$360 million from the RD$576 million the government had allotted to the purchase of Super Tucano Brazilian airplanes by the Ministry of Armed Forces. Furthermore, the bill authorizes the Ministry of Finance to take on foreign debt for the construction of the Duarte Highway-Casabito-Constanza road in La Vega province, that has been entrusted to the Ministry of Public Works.

US$20 million loan for aqueduct
Yesterday, the Executive Branch sent to the Senate a bill to approve a US$20 million loan from the Deutsche Bank Sociedad Anonima Espanola, a Spanish commercial bank. The funds would be used to finish the Oriental (Barrera de Salinidad) Aqueduct project that feeds off Ozama River waters and supplies water to the eastern side of Santo Domingo. As reported in Hoy, the Fernandez administration signed the agreement for construction with Consorcio Acueducto Oriental (Impregilio S.P.A., and Sinercon, S.A.) on 16 August 2007. The start of construction of the aqueduct dates back to 1999. As reported on the site of Impregilo, the construction should have been completed in 2004.

Power rates to stay the same?
Aristides Fernandez Zucco, president of the National Energy Commission, says that energy prices for consumers will not increase until the government figures out a way to expand the subsidy program and coverage of the Solidarity Card. He says the government wants the subsidies to reach the most needed.
Electricity Superintendent Francisco Mendez said that any price increase will depend on how the government decides to deal with the subsidies. Mendez said that the government has been supplying fuel to EGE-Haina and San Felipe generators to keep the electricity prices down. Mendez said that whether or not billed rates are increased in the future will depend on how much the government is willing to maintain the present subsidies.
As for the increase in blackouts in the last few days, Mendez says the demand has increased exponentially. This has increased the energy deficit to 23% at peak consumption hours.

AMET vs. stoplights
Dominican drivers wonder if we are going forward or backward. Many streets now have modern LED stoplights that countdown the seconds between green, orange and red lights. The new lights were installed to increase efficiency and reduce traffic jams. But drivers find it frustrating when at an intersection AMET transit cops disregard the functioning traffic lights and direct traffic themselves, seemingly causing a bigger transit mess. What's worse is that AMET only take to directing traffic at peak hours of transit when it would seem the controls of the LED stoplights are most necessary. El Caribe newspaper explains that heat, honking horns and anxiety cause some drives to disregard the warning of transit officials and climb sidewalks and run red lights in order to get to their final destination a bit quicker. AMET director Latif Miguel Mahfoud says AMET officers direct traffic as is needed. Cameras located at the intersections feed transit engineers with the information on where there are traffic jams that need to be cleared. Enter the officers.

Fire chief is wrong, says Espaillat
Juan Ignacio Espaillat, president of the National Association of Gasoline Retailers (Anadegas), disputes recent comments from the chief of the Firemen in the National District, Oscar Guillermo Garcia, regarding that the government needs to increase allotments to the firemen before authorizing the sale of propane in gasoline stations, as reported in El Caribe. Espaillat criticized the prevalent lack of government supervision mechanisms for the sale of propane, and mentioned that there have been 27 deaths so far in deaths attributed to inadequate handling of propane.
Espaillat said that Anadegas stations would only supply propane to vehicles that meet their gas installation norms. Anadegas seeks that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce authorize them to sell propane and natural gas in addition to gasoline and diesel. He argues they are purchasing the equipment to guarantee quality service and safety.

Codacsa to sue government
Concesionaria Dominicana de Autopistas y Carreteras (Codacsa) is suing the Dominican government in an international arbitration court in Paris because the Dominican government didn't fulfill its contractual obligations. Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua says the company doesn't have the resources to complete the Santo Domingo-La Romana highway and has been using toll monies and wants to rescind the contract. According to Diaz Rua, Codacsa explained to him, in a memo, that they only had RD$235 million to complete the RD$4 billion project. He says they are seven years into the project and have only invested US$6 million, total. Diaz Rua says Codacsa wants to build the highway using the toll money and then keep the revenues from the three tolls.
Codacsa says the project stalled because the government was supposed to provide US$10 million before the start of the project mitigate foreign exchange risks. Roberto Garcia, spokesman for Codacsa, says that because of the government's delay, the company was never able to secure two loans that were necessary to expedite the construction. Diaz Rua counters that those funds would only be dispersed once Codacsa made its initial investment, which he says Codacsa hasn't made.
The contract to build the highway was agreed upon in 2002 and began in 2003 with an expected cost of RD$4 billion. The project would have three tollbooths and the investment would have been recovered in tollbooth revenues over 30 years. Acording to Public Works, only 30%, or 17 kilometers of the road have been built.
Codacsa, says that through May 2008, they have invested RD$1.36 billion in construction RD$155 million in maintenance and RD$145 million in operational costs, plus RD$30 million in engineering projects.
Diaz Rua disputes that the company might have intentions to sell the concession for US$111 million.

Ladom vs. Nuria & Huchi
Lacteos Dominicanos (Ladom) milk company lawyers demand, on behalf of their client, that TV and radio journalists Nuria Piera and Huchi Lora present proof that they used deproteinized whey in their school breakfast preparations or that the journalists retract this allegation in 24 hours. In May, Piera first presented on her "Nuria en el 9" investigative journalism TV show lab tests to prove that Ladom school drinks had levels of protein that were well below the Ministry of Education requirement standard. Ladom is the largest supplier of school breakfast drinks in the country, with 40% of Ministry of Education allotments.
Piera and Lora said they would not retract themselves and instead that they await the proof to the contrary to be presented by Ladom. Piera said that they have consistently but unsuccessfully requested that Ladom come forth with the results of lab tests carried out during the past school year. Ladom has so far only presented test results with levels of protein that are below the Ministry of Education written standard.
Ladom says if the journalists do not retract themselves they may sue because criticism by the popular talk show hosts has hurt their sales.
As reported in El Caribe, Piera says: "The problem is that they are speaking about the present, that they do not use deproteinized whey. But when was that? Now or in the past? Because while it is possible that they are not doing so now, they probably did so in the past. Who knows?"
Piera and Lora say their motivation in carrying the stories is that public school children receive the minimum nutritional requirement levels contracted by the Ministry of Education in the school drink.
A previous Nuria en el 9 investigative report resulted in the gradual elimination of the bromation in baked goods, benefiting consumers nationwide.

Santiago has dry spell
A drought in Santiago has reduced the water supply to city residents. The city is getting 24 million gallons of drinking water less per day than normal. Under normal circumstances the city would receive 135 million gallons a day. The Santiago Aqueduct and Sewage Corporation (Coraasan) attributes the reduction to the marked decline in the water level at the Tavera-Bao dams.

No more RD$3 bread
Beginning in August, colmados nor bakeries will no longer stock the RD$3 bread. The bakeries say they cannot sustain the present costs now that the government has removed the flour subsidy promised into the 16 May presidential election.
Hector Delgado, president of the Industrial Flour Processors National Union (Unpih) says that bread prices will now be RD$5, RD$7 and RD$9 per unit. At the beginning of the year, the government was subsidizing each 120 pound sack of flour with RD$350, but when the price of flour shot up the subsidy had to be doubled to RD$734 per sack, and this was not done.

CND takes over
Beginning in August, the Dominican National Brewery (CND) will take over the marketing and selling of Barcelo and Siboney rums as part of an agreement between CND and Barcelo Export Import CxA (BEICA). CND is the Presidente Beer brewery. CND will also be responsible for the local distribution of Corona beers. Rafael Menicucci, president of the CND says that this is a historic moment for the CND because for the first time in their 80-year history the company will be entering the rum market. He added that the cooperation agreement is part of the company's diversification strategy.

Ethanol investment
The RJS Group, of mixed Dominican and American capital, has announced a US$340 million investment in the "Fenix" Agroindustrial project that will produce 100 million gallons of ethanol yearly, as reported in El Caribe. The project, which will benefit the northwestern provinces of Montecristi, Dajabon, Santiago Rodriguez and Valverde, will have four production plants up within its first six months of operation and will create 3,250 jobs. The company says it will reinvest 10% of its profits in regional social programs. The plant will also produce 100 MW of sugar cane biofuel.

Cuban brothers charged
Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez have been charged by a Florida court for conspiracy to defraud the US Medicare system, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, submitting false claims to Medicare, money laundering and other charges. Thomas Mckenzie of Florida was also charged for his role in the fraud case. Reports indicate that the brothers ran 11 bogus clinics in the US and provided the paperwork to make it appear as if the procedures they were conducting, like HIV treatments, were necessary. In total the brothers defrauded Medicare of US$110 million and laundered the money in major investments in real estate and tourism projects in the DR. The brothers face up to 155 years in jail for the crime.

Cop kills himself
Miguel Rosario, a 25 year old corporal of the National Police, shot himself yesterday afternoon in front of the Customs (DGA) offices on Abraham Lincoln Avenue. A traffic jam resulted. Hoy reports that all that is known is that Rosario was on Lincoln Avenue to meet a friend, Mayra. Reportedly, he called the young lady and urged her to meet her so he could pay her the RD$4,300 he owed her so she could retrieve a golden chain he had pawned, as he didn't have much time to live. Soon after the two met, Rosario shot himself with his Taurus 9 millimeter hand gun.

Manny the Marlin?
Will the circus stop? Will he stay? Can the Sox win without him? Can he be replaced? What will Papi do? These are just some of the many questions the baseball world is asking as the MLB trade deadline is fast approaching. The rumor mill has been burning as the Mets have dropped out of the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes to be replaced by the Florida Marlins. The Marlins could use a big time bat and playoff experience as they make their push for the post season. According to ESPN, Florida is the best option for Ramirez. Reportedly, the Red Sox have begun negotiations re the disgruntled slugger. There are many hurdles to overcome -- Ramirez's huge contract, his 2009 and 2010 options and the fact that the Red Sox need to be compensated.
Also, Ramirez, who has been in the league for more than 10 seasons and five with the same team, can veto any deal. Ramirez is quoted as saying, "The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me. During my years here, I've seen how they [the Red Sox] have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them. "
Either way the Sox need to do something fast. Ramirez has been seen moping around the clubhouse and dugout and has played "lazy ball" as of late while the Sox have gone on a four game skid and are now three games back of perennial losers turned Cinderellas, the Tampa Bay Rays. The trade deadline is today at 4pm.

Thursday sales
La Cadena advertises plantains for RD$5.95, Chinese eggplant for RD$4.95lb, Jaja evaporated milkfor RD$29.95/315gr, La Joya soya oil for RD$129.95/64oz, Giselle red beans for RD$54.95/2lbs.
Super Pola advertises sales in its meat department with smoked pork chops selling for RD$74.95lb, pork spare ribs for RD$74.95lb, USM pork loin for RD$99lb, frozen chicken breasts for RD$49.95lb, turkey wings for RD$29.95lb, frozen chicken wings for RD$34.95lb, frozen chicken for RD$23.95lb.
United Colors of Benetton is holding an up to 50% sale on its seasonal merchandise.
Plaza Lama has a GE Mod 2080 22lb washing machine for RD$15,995, a Daewood Mod K500 10lb washing machine for RD$4,395 and a Frigidaire Washer/Dryer Mod FEX831SC for RD$36,995/gas model.
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