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Daily News - Monday, 01 September 2008

Javier Garcia in Puerto Plata
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia was in Puerto Plata on Saturday and pledged to continue government investment projects in tourist areas along the North Coast. "We have come to review what the government has been implementing and what the Ministry of Tourism is executing in the area. We can tell you we will continue the public works underway here in Puerto Plata and create the conditions so that tourism can continue to develop in the province," he said at a luncheon at Casa Colonial hotel.
In another meeting in Cofresi, he confirmed that he would be backing the Underwater Park of Sosua, and the alternate lane (third lane) to decongest the central area of Cabarete, among other works.

One stop office for paperwork
Businessman Jose Antonio Martinez Rojas writes in the Sunday Hoy of the numerous tourism investment projects the DR is losing out because of the common practice of government officers asking for graft to process the paperwork. He backs the request by Gilberto de los Santos, of the Association of Real Estate Companies (AEI) and Arturo Villanueva, executive vice president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association (Asonahores) for the establishment of a single stop office where all paperwork for a project can be processed at the same time. "If this happens we would attract an enormous flow of foreign investment that otherwise will go to competing countries as the investors flee from the obstacles," he writes. At a conference at the Asonahores Trade Show, Jose Natalio Redondo, president of the Puerto Plata Tourism Cluster also called for the single stop office for paperwork. He said this would also avoid companies using just one permit to start a project that could later be contested by other government departments. The single stop office is available at the Department of Customs and the Center for Exports & Investment (CEI-RD).

Why the no to the IMF?
El Nacional newspaper editorialized on Sunday asking why the government let expire the offer of the International Monetary Fund to monitor the Dominican economy as a follow up to the previous Stand By Arrangement. El Nacional writes that it appears the government is not interested in the IMF reviewing the present or future status of the economy. The editorialist says to ignore the IMF offer sends a bad signal to domestic and foreign economic agents on the status of the economy and erodes the credibility and image of the country before investors and financial institutions.
"There are reasons to think that it is in the country's interest -- and there is still time -- for the government to sign some kind of agreement with the IMF that obliges the government to restrain its spending and reduce the current account deficit and that of the Executive Branch and the Central Bank," writes the editorialist.
The editorial writer says that the available statistics indicate that the current account deficit in the balance of payments could be more than US$4 billion, double that of last year, while the government and Central Bank accounts that are in red are 3.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which means the house is still on fire.
The newspaper says that it is convenient for the Dominican economy, now under external pressures and with excessive public spending, to submit to periodical reviews by the IMF, because if not, in the short term, the government will again be forced to subscribe to a new Stand By Arrangement obliging greater restrictions.
The IMF had expected the DR to engage in a post-program monitoring, following the completion of the 3-year Stand-By Arrangement for about US$688.6 milllion in January 2008. The authorities had expressed their willingness to do so on 24 July. At the time, Julio Estrella was appointed as new Dominican government representative to the IMF. The monitoring agreement would oblige the DR to present to the IMF their economic, fiscal and monetary implementation programs twice a year.
Diario Libre reports that government spending is up 40% from January-August 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. Government spending was RD$176.06 billion, or RD$50 billion more than last year and RD$11.6 billion more than fiscal revenues collections.

PLD politicians in government
Only four members of the Political Committee of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party, the key group that decides party policies, are not part of the Fernandez 2008-2012 administration, according to a report in Diario Libre today. In its first government in 1996, the PLD had considered no member of the Political Committee should be in the cabinet. But today, only former secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina, former Vice President Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, former director of Migration Carlos Amarante Baret and former Minister of Tourism Felix Jimenez (Felucho) have not been included in the 2008-2012 cabinet. The first two aspired to the Presidency. On 16 August, President Fernandez appointed Fernandez Mirabal to be his Minister of Environment. But Fernandez Mirabal has not yet accepted the post. Medina did not campaign for Fernandez into the 2008 election, as he opposed reelection.
Other members of the influential board that have been posted or confirmed to the present cabinet are: Alejandrina German (Ministry of Women), Cesar Pina Toribio (Secretary of the Presidency), Ramon Fadul (Ministry of Industry & Commerce), Bautista Rojas (Ministry of Public Health), Temistocles Montas (Ministry of Economy), Franklin Almeyda (Ministry of Interior and Police), Ramon Ventura Camejo(Public Administration), Alma Fernandez (National Institute of Housing), Euclides Gutierrez (Superintendence of Insurance), Jose Joaquin Bido Medina (Public Ethics Commission), Radhames Segura (CDEEE), Francisco Javier Garcia (Ministry of Tourism).
Other members of the committee yet to be confirmed in their posts are Jose Tomas Perez, (Dominican Civil Aviation Institute), Eduardo Selman (NY consulate), Radhames Camacho (member of the Central American Parliament).
Other government members are Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, deputy Lidio Cadet, senator Reinaldo Pared Perez and Cristina Lizardo.

Political patronage reigns
While the nation's problems press on, news headlines indicate that President Leonel Fernandez continues to give priority to finding room in government for his political supporters. The pressure on the government for the coveted jobs continues, and President Fernandez himself has complained that there cannot be enough jobs to meet the demand.
Business sector groups see their taxpayer money being put to questionable use. The president of the Association of Herrera Industries over the weekend expressed his concern for the "voracious patronage" that is prevailing with numerous appointments. Manuel Cabrera, president of AEIH, expressed in a press release the organization's concern with the creation of innumerable deputy minister jobs at a time when austerity should be the norm. Just at the Ministry of Youth, 11 new deputy minister jobs were created.
"Patronage has reached scandalous levels in contradiction with the promise of the President to freeze the government payroll to the level of 31 December 2007," says Cabrera. He commented that in almost all the decrees that have been issued regarding the 2008-2012 cabinet the government has created new deputy minister positions that can only be interpreted as 'the distribution of the spoils', and not a showing of politicians with a vocation to serve the country," says the press release.
"Political patronage has overflowed to the point that it is now a true danger to our institutions," said Cabrera. He called on the government to curb the payroll at a time when the Central Bank has had to implement restrictive monetary measures that have spurred an increase in interest rates with their negative consequences on business. Cabrera said that as the government payroll increases, it is becoming more difficult to implement macroeconomic policies to maintain exchange stability and control inflation.
He said what the government should be doing is stimulating the creation of jobs that generate wealth, and not opening the doors of government to hoards of politicians that seek to milk the government and create an exaggerated growth of the administration and an increase in red tape.
He warned that the worse of the financial crisis of the US and the volatility of petroleum prices and their sequels is not over, and 2009 will be a year of great challenges.
He urged the government to instead end the year imposing austerity in government and curtailing its spending.

Environment authorities are accomplices
Peravia senator Wilton Guerrero is alerting on the criminal practice of illegal tree-cutting at El Pino, near the Valdesia Dam. This action will cause an increase in siltation, or erosion causing alarming deterioration of the dam. He said the forests are essential to keeping Valdesia as a source of water to Santo Domingo, Peravia and San Cristobal provinces.
As reported in Hoy, The senator said that the Peravia province authorities in charge of preserving the environment are accomplices to the illegal cutting of the trees that can be watched by all.
He denounced that there is a recent request for the clearing of an area of 130 tareas(8.1 hectares) of forest in the zone. He called for the authorities and the Senate to monitor the situation. He denounced that there are many forests and riverbeds that are being deforested in view of everyone.
Last month, Guerrero had accused the judicial police and military authorities of being accomplices to drug trafficking in his province.
At present there is no head to the Ministry of Tourism. President Fernandez had appointed his former Vice President Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, but the latter has of yet to accept the position.

Gas shortage again
Propane gas is again scarce at distributors, causing long lines and inconveniences to vehicle owners and housekeepers. As a result, over the weekend and on Monday there were less multi-fare taxis, or conchos, offering their services. These operate on the subsidized propane fuel, given that gasoline is too expensive for taxi operations. Most distribution stations were closed after selling out their supplies.
National Association of Propane Gas Distributors spokesman, Victor Raposo said that supplies had dwindled due to Hurricane Gustav's passing along the southern coasts.

Two-phase tragic traffic accident
Six persons died and 18 were injured in a double accident at Km. 16 of Duarte Highway, at Loma de Miranda, between Bonao and La Vega. In the initial crash at 1pm on Saturday, the tire of a Transporte Cibao intercity bus transporting passengers exploded, causing the bus to lose control and slide down a slope. La Vega firetrucks and ambulances were sent to the scene with rescue teams. The scene was mobbed by onlookers, and Metropolitan Traffic Authority agents were directing traffic.
Barely an hour later, a Mack truck with an Evergreen freight container would pass at excessive speed and would crash into bystander vehicles, running over several people observing the scene. The truck would only stop after it crashed into a pine tree some 100 meters from where it first lost control. In the process, it collided into a Daihatsu truck loaded with rice, an Aetra intra-urban bus, the ambulance and firemen truck, a Toyota car and five motorcycles. The driver of the freighter fled the site.
News reports say that 12 of the 18 injured that were hospitalized at the Professor Juan Bosch La Vega Trauma Hospital are recovering satisfactorily at the Professor Juan Bosch La Vega Trauma Hospital and could be released tomorrow. A hospital report indicates that only one of the injured is in the intensive care unit, but in stable condition. Others were interned in La Vega and Santiago hospitals.

Manny Ramirez leads Dodgers
Dodgers' left fielder Manny Ramirez had a four-hit game, including two home runs and scoring three times on Saturday, in the 6-2 Dodgers defeat of the league first place Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. The needed win ended an 8-game losing streak of the season. That evening, Ramirez became the 47th player in the history of baseball to hit 500 doubles. Ramirez put the Dodgers ahead with a home run in the third inning. His double in the 5th extended the Dodgers' lead to 5-1. Ramirez's homer in the seventh ensured the victory.
Manny has been batting .419 (104-44) since his start with the Dodgers on 31 July, with 9 homeruns and 25 RBIs.

Pedro Martinez has a good game
Pedro Martinez had another good day with the New York Mets. On Sunday, he got his 5th win of the season, against the Florida Marlins, and the 214th in his career, keeping the Mets to the lead of the Eastern Division. The Mets defeated the Marlins 6-2 as Martinez pitched for six good innings, allowing 7 hits, two earned runs, and struck out 4.

DR wins bronze in Centrobasket
The DR lost to Puerto Rico 76-74, but defeated Cuba 102-74 to place third in the Centrobasket tournament held in Cancun, and win a slot to the Pre-World Tournament next year. The team also qualified for the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship set for October 2008. Coach Scott Roth resigned after the tournament.
Puerto Rico would go on to defeat the US Virgin Islands 87-70 that would win the silver medal. Cuba was forth and Mexico fifth, and Panama sixth in the tournament.
The FIBA America's Championship acts as a qualifying event for both the Olympics and the FIBA World Championships.
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