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Daily News - Friday, 22 August 2008

Where will the $$$ come from?
President Leonel Fernandez has appointed a commission to explore options for funding the mega-public works projects he announced in his 16 August inauguration speech. The Ministries of Hacienda and Public Works, the National Housing Institute (INVI) and the Public Works Supervising Office will discuss the budgets needed and domestic and international financing options. In his 17 July speech, the President announced that the government would only allocate funds to projects that were 75% completed.
The projects announced on 16 August:

Eastern region:
Completion of East Coast Tourist Boulevard Highway.
National Asphalt Paving Plan.
Bridge over Rio Soco.
Sabana de la Mar-Miches Highway.
Bayaguana-El Puerto-Hato Mayor Highway
Seafront Avenue (Malecon) in San Pedro de Macoris
Rehabilitation of the port of San Pedro de Macoris
Completion of the Autovia del Este (Eastern Highway)
Coral Highway from La Romana to Bavaro

Northern region:
Constanza-Duarte-Casabito Highway
Jarabacoa-El Rio-Constanza Highway
Improvement of Santiago's north-south traffic bottleneck with the extension of Calle Sabana Larga to former Cibao Airport, bridge over Calle Hatuey and Calle Enriquillo, and underpasses at Circunvalacion Sur.
Side road in Cabarete, Puerto Plata
Malecon in Nagua
Rehabilitation of the Port of Manzanillo
Completion of the Circunvalacion Norte de Santiago.
Expansion to four lanes from Navarrete to Puerto Plata
Expansion to four lanes from Controba to San Francisco de Macoris.

Southern region:
Completion of the San Cristobal-Bani highway.
Construction of the Circunvalacion de Bani, Azua and San Juan de la Maguana
Completion of the San Juan-Batey II-Barahona highway

Santo Domingo:
Crossover at Av. Luperon
Tunnel at 27 de Febrero between Caonabo and 6 Noviembre Highway Overpass, tunnel and traffic circle at Av. 27 de Febrero and Nunez de Caceres, 27 de Febrero with Dr. Defillo and 27 de Febrero with Ortega y Gasset.
Completion of the extension of Av. Del Puerto to Puente Presidente Peynado. Construction of the Duarte Corridor (construction overpass at Av. Monumental, overpass at Manoguayabo, overpass at Nunez de Caceres-TeleAntillas, overpass at Padre Castellanos (formerly 17), construction of two bridges parallel to the Puente de la 17 and the overpass of Av. San Vicente de Paul to Las Americas.
Tunnels connecting Sans Souci and its Av. Espana with the Malecon, underneath Ozama River.

Students get scholarships
President Leonel Fernandez has attended a ceremony giving 884 students scholarships for studies in the US, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and France. The ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace. Of the scholarships, 149 are for engineering, 140 for computer science and communications, 12 for basic science, 17 for applied sciences, 136 for health, 90 for economy and finance, 199 for administration, 70 for political sciences, 10 for the humanities and 52 for education.
So far this year, the government has granted 1,715 scholarships for study abroad. Since the program began in 2005, 3,709 scholarships have been awarded for international studies.
The students will be attending the following universities:
Spain: Universidad de Alcala, Universidad de la Rioja, Universidad de Salamanca, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Escuela de Hoteleria y Turismo, Universidad de Valencia, Escuela de Negocios EOI, Mir Asturias, CTO Medicin, Centro de Estudios Financiero, Universidad Mediterranea, Universidad Camilo Jose Cela, Instituto Empresa, Carlos III, Universidad Interamericana de Consejeria Psicologia, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Universidad de Alicante, Universidad Antonio de Nebrija and EADA.
United States: Western Michigan University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Utah State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Boston College, Manhattan Village, Purchase College.
Mexico: Universidad Tec Milenio and Tecnologico de Monterrey.
France: Euromed Marseille, Ecole de Management, Ecole Nationale Superieure d'architecture de Grenoble, Institut de Sante Publique d'Epidemiologie, Toulouse School of Economics and the Sorbonne.

Funglode internships 2009
Apply now for the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development student internship to get a closer look at Dominican culture. President Leonel Fernandez's think tank announces the start of the spring semester (January 5-April 24 2009) enrollment period. The deadline for applications is 7 November 2008. The InteRDom Program provides undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to take courses in Spanish at Unibe university in Art, Business, Communications, Education, Engineering, Environmental Studies, History, Information and Communication Technologies, Law, Medicine and Psychology. Each semester, InteRDom offers specialized courses tailored to InteRDom students on Dominican History and Culture and Spanish as a Foreign Language.
Candidates must possess a minimal GPA of 2.9, have completed 60% of their academic program, and have taken three university-level Spanish courses.
For more information, see www.globalfoundationdd.org/gfdd/fulltext.asp?t=a&id=612

Dalai Lama to visit
Santo Domingo's IberoAmerican University (UNIBE) has announced that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso has accepted an invitation to visit the Dominican Republic in September. The Dalai Lama will receive a Doctor Honoris Causa degree from the university. The event will take place at the Central Bank auditorium. The Tibetan spiritual leader will deliver a speech on "Intelligent Mind, Compassionate Heart" at the event. Unibe has only granted two Honoris Causa degrees in its 26-year history: one to Dr. Severo Ochoa (Nobel Peace Prize 1959) and another to Oscar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize 1987).
Unibe rector Dr Julio Amado Castanos Guzman says the visit is in recognition of the Dalai Lama's humanistic and academic achievements in these trying times. The Dalai Lama has received countless international honors, including the US Congressional Gold Medal last October.

The 14th wage?
The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill that would call for government making a 14th wage payment to public employees. In addition to 12 monthly payments, by law a 13th wage is paid at Christmas time. The 14th wage would be paid in July, prior to the start of the school year, a time when parents have to come up with extra cash to get their children ready for school. It now needs to go to a second reading, and then to the Senate and the Presidency before becoming law. If passed, it could put pressure on the private sector to follow suit.

Not enough women
Bernarda Jimenez Clemente, a Dominican resident in Spain who is on the executive board of the Spanish ruling PSOE party, has expressed her discontent about the fact that there are only two women in President Leonel Fernandez's new cabinet. She said women need to be present in all parts of government and says that if there is time more women should be appointed. Jimenez Clemente has been active in supporting Dominican and women's rights in Spain and was the first immigrant elected to a high-ranking position within the PSOE party.

Steel exports up
This year the DR has exported US$96.5 million in steel, making it the third largest revenue-producing export for the country. Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce president Oscar Rosa said that an agreement with the Caribbean Community ten years ago converted the DR from a steel importer into a major steel scrap exporter. Rosa says that much of the scrap used to make steel is imported from Caricom nations. He added that Caricom nations used to purchase steel from China, the European Union, Puerto Rico and Brazil. Fernando Gonzalez, president of the Commonwealth Roundtable in the Dominican Republic says that the agreement has helped the DR increase trade and cultural relations with neighboring Caribbean nations.

High hopes for EPA
Although negotiations and signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) have hit obstacles in the last two years, the Caribbean-European treaty is due to be signed in Barbados on 2 September. The agreement provides development funding for Caribbean Community nations and the Dominican Republic and is expected to ease intra-Caribbean trade barriers and those between the Caribbean and Europe.
However, not all parties involved are supporting the agreement and argue that the EPA was signed in haste, without full consideration of the consequences. Critics have claimed that negotiators were bullied into the agreement, but as has been explained, the current version of the EPA is considered the best agreement the region could get.
The liberalization scale for goods in services is unparalleled in a trade agreement and the inclusion of services in the agreement is a first for an accord of this type. The EPA also includes special exemptions for Haiti.
Still on the agenda are details about the regulation of banana, rum and sugar and whether or not there should be a quota system. However, this must pass to the World Trade Organization for discussion, as the current standard is now considered illegal under WTO rules.
Another concern voiced by smaller nations is that the EPA would reduce tariff revenues. The concern is well founded, considering that many smaller Caribbean nations depend on these revenues since they lack an organized domestic tax structure. Supporters of the agreement argue that the gradual liberalization will allow for smaller economies to adapt.
Despite dissident opinions the EPA brings high hopes of increased exports by regional players to Europe, which has a consumer base market of 400 million people, with unparalleled purchasing power. According to Jose Vanderhorst Silverio, Fernando Gonzalez and Oscar Rosa, the EPA is the best way for the Caribbean to achieve greater integration with Europe.

Serbia has consulate
Serbia has opened a consulate in Santo Domingo. Serbian ambassador Milena Lukovic Javonic spoke at the reception held to inaugurate the new office, which will be run by honorary consul Ramon de la Rocha. "I am honored to host this reception on the occasion of the opening of the consulate, marking the start of many future fruitful activities leading to sustainable development of bilateral, governmental, economic and scientific and technical relations between our countries," she said. Ambassador Milena Lukovic Javonic is based in Cuba. De la Rocha said that an increase in demand for services led to the opening of the Serbian consulate in Santo Domingo.

Pothole nation
Wonder why traffic jams are so bad in Santo Domingo? Although there is no definitive answer it can be said that the poor condition of the city's roads has a lot to do with congestion, as reported in Listin Diario. Holes are scattered across many of the busiest roads in the city causing drivers to swerve erratically to avoid driving into them or carefully crossing over them. Either technique adds to the congestion of city streets and is responsible for the deterioration of tires and vehicles in general. And bad enough as it is, the situation gets worse when it rains, as drivers drive more carefully not knowing when a new pothole will appear.

Perez gets invitation
PLD member and Dominican Civil Aviation Institute director Jose Tomas Perez has been invited to attend the Democratic National Convention being held at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Perez is the only Dominican invited to the event. This is the second time he has been invited to the DNC. He attended Al Gore's 2000 proclamation. Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Travel declines in July
So far this year, travel to the Dominican Republic is up 5.21%, but figures from July show that the upward trend in visitors could be reversed. Diario Libre reports that after 11 consecutive months of increases in arrivals, July shows a 2.17% decline. In July 2008, 3227,277 foreign travelers arrived, compared to 334,473 in July 2007.
As reported in Diario Libre, if the trend continues the year will end with zero growth over 2007, according to travel expert Henri Hebrard. In 2007, there were 3,398,374 arrivals.
See http://www.bancentral.gov.do

Ferry takes break
The Santo Domingo-Mayaguez Ferry will not operate between 15 September and 5 October due to scheduled remodeling and maintenance work. Ferries del Caribe president Nestor Gonzalez said that the ship would sail from Santo Domingo to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for the last time on 14 September. Gonzalez says that it is usual for ships to go through routine maintenance every two years.

Benitez case still developing
United States FBI agents, working with the Dominican authorities, have begun the second stage of their investigation into the Benitez brothers and their links to a US$100 million Medicare fraud case. FBI officials are currently in Bavaro and Higuey confiscating properties owned and operated by the brothers. So far they have seized a two-story house, plots of land and nine purebred horses. The authorities have also opened a safe in the Higuey branch of BanReservas. Money Laundering Unit head German Miranda Villalona says the operation into the connection between the Benitez brothers, Jose, Luis and Carlos, and the participation of Dominican nationals and foreigners will continue until next week. In earlier seizures, the authorities confiscated an aqua-park, dozens of luxury vehicles, cabanas in Higuey and Bavaro, a shopping strip, houses and 12 apartments at Malecon Center in Santo Domingo. They have also confiscated a car rental business, eight more apartments and a 32-unit apartment complex. The case broke in July when the daughter of one the Benitez brothers was kidnapped for ransom. It was then determined that her father had connections to the crime ring.

Going for gold
True to his word, Dominican boxer Felix Diaz is going for gold. Diaz promised that he would try his best for a gold medal and barring a total collapse he could bring the country its second gold medal. Previous to his Friday night fight in Beijing, Diaz was assured a bronze medal. This would have been enough for any other athlete, but not Diaz. The pugilist came out blazing against Frenchman Alexis Vastine. Diaz won the fight 12-10 and a visibly shaken Vastine could not believe the results. Vastine was constantly penalized for grabbing Diaz, losing four total points, but experts feel Vastine was grabbing because he couldn't contain Diaz's speed. Diaz has now guaranteed himself a silver medal in these year's games and will go for gold Saturday, 7:35pm Beijing time.
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