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Daily News - Friday, 29 August 2008

CB governor on monetary policy
Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu defended recent Central Bank monetary policies implemented to counteract external pressures on the balance of payment. Valdez Albizu agrees with Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa who argues that the recent appreciation of the dollar to the peso is seasonal, and nothing out of the ordinary. Business and consumer groups have also complained about rising interest rates, but Valdez says this is a Latin American and European trend. Consumer bank lending rates have increased up to 50% this year, going from 16.5% in May to 24.5% in August. In a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez and economic advisors at the Presidential Palace, Valdez Albizu said the peso is where it should be. "The measures we have taken tend to adjust and guarantee macroeconomic stability and to slow down the economy," he explained. Valdez Albizu also agreed with projections from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) that indicate the Dominican economy will grow 5.5% in 2009.

Gasoduct to Haiti
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says the government is considering an offer by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), under the PetroCaribe agreement, to build a natural gas pipeline from the DR to Haiti, as reported in Diario Libre. Two routes are being contemplated. One would be 300 kms long along the south coast, and would cost US$105 million. The other would cross the DR south to north, to Haiti and then run along the south coast of the DR. This one would cost US$625 million, of which the DR would pay US$150 million and the government of Haiti the rest. Venezuela technicians were here for a 4th Meeting of the Petro Caribe Technical Work Group. Construction could take between 18 to 24 months. PDVSA spokesman Anibal Rosas stressed the environmental-friendly qualities of natural gas, especially for the quality of life in small towns.
The country already has experience with natural gas pipelines built by AES Dominicana, the company responsible for 40% of the power sold here. The company has announced the construction of a new gasoduct to supply natural gas from its deposits in Punta Caucedo, Santo Domingo to their San Pedro de Macoris power plant. AES already pipes natural gas into Santo Domingo. Construction could take a year. Already 16% of the power in the DR comes from natural gas generating plants, according to Manuel Lopez San Pedro, spokesman for AES Dominicana.

Santiago tramway
The first line of the Santiago electricity-run metro will cost an estimated EU200 million, or US$300 million, according to a report in Diario Libre. The Spanish company, FEVE, that will build the line is in the final stages of designing the route. According to the preliminary plans, the first line of the train will cover a East-West 21-kilometer stretch, beginning at the Cibao International Airport, going under Victor Espaillat Avenue, to follow along the tunnel under the Monumento de los Heroes. The tramway would continue until the circle at the El Ingenio Arriba sector. The tram will run between 6am and 7pm for passengers and 7pm until 11pm for freight. Jose Enrique Sued, Santiago Mayor, said the tramway would be constructed with foreign financing and would not be a burden on the Santiago economy. Officials have yet to announce when construction would begin. Transport unions in Santiago are concerned they would be displaced. See feve.es
The Santiago metro would be the second in the country. The first, the Villa Mella-Centro de los Heroes north-south line is expected to begin operation in November of this year.

AMET to work to clear streets
The new Metropolitan Transport Authority director Rafael Bencosme Candelier announced that AMET agents will help clear city streets and sidewalks of obstacles to ensure the free flow of vehicles and pedestrians. General Bencosme said one cannot talk of traffic jams in Santo Domingo, but rather of the problem created by too many schools and businesses keeping the same schedules causing problems at peak hours. He said he is part of a new task force that will suggest changes to improve traffic in the cities.

Families will be moved
The government announced that families living in the Jarro Sucio and Benavides sector of Guachupita will be relocated to housing rented by the municipality. The announcement comes after a landslide killed eight in the vulnerable neighborhood. National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo said technicians would identify the families that need to relocate. Earlier this year, the families had visited the municipality to explain their situation, but an engineer said it would cost RD$1 million and that cost would have to be included in the 2009 National Budget.
Meanwhile, Jenny Torres of the Center for Social Studies Juan Montalvo said the government is to blame for not implementing Law 147-02 on Management of Vulnerable Areas. The legislation covers public policies in favor of those who live in vulnerable areas.
The Civil Defense is also still working at relocated families that live besides the Ozama River. September is the peak month for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean.

National Police cleans house
The National Police has announced that it has fired 5 more police officers for dishonorable acts, which include charging "toll" fees to drug traffickers and illegally removing residents from their homes. Carlos Alberto Rodriguez Matias was posted in Los Alcarrizos in northern Santo Domingo, and William Rodriguez, Winston Rodriguez, Radhames Rosario and Gerson Mateo were on duty in Santo Domingo city. In the past year's time, 947 officers have been removed from their police duties.

'We're sick and tired'
Literally, patients around the DR are growing weary of the constant strikes by the nation's public hospital doctors. Yesterday, doctors held the 10th strike so far this year. Mother Sarita Ogando said she was referred to the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital to seek care for her son, but was unable to speak with a doctor. This story was repeated over and over today. Listin Diario reports that a shoving match between doctors and patients occurred during the protests, but never escalated beyond that. Listin Diario is also reporting that the doctors are now considering a seven-day strike. Previously strikes have been for 24 or 48 hours. And there has even been talk of an indefinite strike. Dominican Medical Association (CMD) members are meeting on Saturday to discuss the extended strikes. The physicians seek overboard wage increases, the Ministry of Public Health wants to peg these to productivity, and thus the impasse.

Orange warns of fraud
Orange Dominicana is warning of a telephone fraud scheme. In a press release, Orange says that scammers send SMS messages to users informing them of a EU10,000 or US$10,000 prize. The scammers also call users and have them listen to a 10-minute recording while their accounts are debited. Orange says the scam is originating from England. They say they are taking legal actions against the identified scammers.

We can win more
Could this year's performance at the Beijing Olympics mark a new beginning for the DR in international competition? President Leonel Fernandez believes so. During a ceremony held yesterday to present medal winners Gabriel Mercedes (silver in taekwondo) and Felix Diaz (gold in boxing) with multi-million peso checks, Fernandez said he was honored to recognize the athlete's accomplishments. Diaz received RD$7 million and Mercedes RD$2 million. He feels the DR could win even more medals during the 2012 London Games. Diaz and Mercedes doubled the country's previous Olympic medal count and have inspired a new generation of athletes to strive for international success.

Centrobasket update
It didn't take the Dominican squad much time to get back on track, after a disappointing opening round loss to the US Virgin Islands. Yesterday, the DR team defeated El Salvador 106-41. The Dominican team dominated since the start. The next hurdle for the DR is Mexico, a much stronger and more experienced squad.
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