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Daily News - Thursday, 02 October 2008

Government spending up
According to the Ministry of Hacienda, government spending so far this year was up 36.5% compared to the Jan-Aug 2007 period. The government spent RD$181.31 billion in 2008, compared to RD$132.79 billion in 2007. Business sectors have been pressing the government to implement their oft-announced austerity plan, especially given the financial crisis in the US, the DR's leading trading partner, as reported in El Caribe. Current spending was up from RD$103.42 billion in 2007 to RD$135.05 billion in 2008, for a 30.6% increase. Capital expenditures increased from RD$29.377 billion to RD$46.26 billion, or 57%.

Energy subsidy grows
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has announced that during the first nine months of the year the government has given the energy sector RD$18.1 billion in subsidies and is expected to give the sector and additional RD$10 billion for the remainder of the year. Bengoa says the increase in the energy subsidy results from an increase in international fuel prices and other economic pressures. Bengoa says subsidies for free trade zones and the energy and agricultural sectors represent 60% of the government's increase in spending.

Cacao exports grow
Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez says that cacao exports have increased to US$99 million during the first nine months of the year. Jimenez says this will be a historic year for cacao exports, adding that the high level of demand in comparison to supply is keeping cacao prices stable. According to the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the DR's cacao is highly competitive and the country exports close to 50 million tons of cacao annually.

Santiago's priorities
Representatives of the Santiago Development Association (APEDI) have told Hoy newspaper that before considering the construction of a metro, Santiago needs the government to improve the Port of Manzanillo in Monte Cristi province to facilitate cargo exports and imports. Eduardo Trueba, Hendrick Kelnener, Enmanuel Castillo and Sonia Guzman said that the greatest expense affecting competitiveness of exports is the cost of shipping, and a port in Manzanillo would reduce these costs because exporters would not have to truck their cargo to the port of Haina on the south coast. The government proposed train from Haina to Santiago should be a second phase of the transport project. The businessmen also called for the construction of the Santiago public park on the grounds of the former Cibao airport.

DR makes most of EPA
As arguments rage on about the EPA agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM, the DR is wasting no time in making the most of the trade pact. This week the country sent 12,048 metric tons of sugar to Europe and during October a second ship containing 20,373 metric tons of sugar worth US$19.3 million will sail to Europe. Dominican Sugar Institute (INAZUCAR) president Faustino Jimenez says the shipment of sugar represents the first steps in a new relationship with Europe, adding that it is a turning point that will positively affect the Dominican sugar sector and the Dominican economy. There are expectations that the DR could double or triple its sugar exports to Europe in 2009 and 2010. The Caribbean has a 60,000-ton sugar quota to Europe, as part of the agreement, of which 30,000 tons correspond to the DR.

BC governor operated
Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu underwent surgery earlier this week at the New York Hospital in New York City. Valdez was admitted after doctors detected a growth in his brain. A biopsy revealed that the growth was benign. Doctors Anis Vidal and ophthalmologist Ramon Valdez Albizu accompanied him to New York. Listin Diario reports that the CB governor is recovering at a hotel in New York and will return to the DR shortly.

CMD hunger strike
Eight members of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) administrative board staged a hunger strike yesterday on the second floor hallway of the Ministry of Public Health. The CMD has spent months battling the government that instead wants to peg public hospital doctor wages to productivity and not give an overall wage increase. CMD president Waldo Ariel Suero was joined by the Dominican Institute of Social Security medical association president Jesus Maria Guerrero and other CMD leaders. Hoy reports that Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas did not meet with the CMD reps and instead promptly left the premises. He did eventually return, but never left his office. Hoy also reports that police were dispatched to the headquarters. At 2am the six remaining CMD reps were forcibly removed. Mediator Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado met with the doctors for over two hours, to no avail. Suero threatened a weeklong doctors' strike at public hospitals if demands were not met.

Teneria Bermudez fined
Santiago based leather-goods manufacturer Teneria Bermudez has been fined RD$300,000 for environmental damage. The Ministry of Environment discovered that the company was dumping its residual waste into the Yaque del Norte River, polluting the river. Environmental prosecutor Jacinto Mejia said that the company needed to install a residual waste treatment plant. The company was closed on 5 February after it was proven that it was dumping its untreated waste in the river. Mejia said that the Santiago Water and Sewage Corporation (Coraasan) is permanently monitoring river discharges.

Judges protest accusation
Criminal judges in La Vega are requiring Senator Euclides Sanchez to show evidence of supposed complicity between members of the La Vega judiciary and drug traffickers. Judge Mario Mariot Torres said that the statements by Sanchez are irresponsible, defamatory and intend to stain the honor and good name of the judges in La Vega. He said that Sanchez's statement was general, vague, imprecise and abstract, and he did not point to which decisions, judgments or judges can be accused of complicity.

Police find drugs
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Caribbean Corridor Initiative (CCI) have announced the seizure of approximately 1,930 kilograms of cocaine with a street market value of US$58 million on board the Panamanian-flagged vessel Megan Star.
The Dominican National Drug Control Department (DNCD) provided "significant" assistance leading to the confiscation. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron said that the ship had left Santo Domingo's Sans Souci dock and was suspected by local authorities that tipped off the DEA. The 10-member crew of the ship, composed of nationals from Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Nicaragua and Spain, was arrested at sea after it was ascertained that it loaded a shipment in Colombia. The CCI monitored the route taken by the boat that was intercepted by a US Coast Guard law enforcement detachment on board the USS Farragut Navy vessel in international waters near Puerto Rico.
The successful seizure was part of the Caribbean Corridor Initiative, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area project that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics, utilizing the Caribbean as a trans-shipment point for further distribution to the United States. The members of this inter-agency group are: the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Coast Guard (USCG). For more information, see

Remittances a concern
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says that in 2008, for the first time in a decade, Latin America and the Caribbean will experience a decrease in remittances. The expected decrease will result from the economic crises in the US and Spain, inflationary pressures and the weak dollar. The IDB's report indicates that families and friends will send back more than US$67 billion in remittances in 2008, an increase from last year's 66.5 billion. But if adjusted for inflation it is 1.7% less than 2007 figures. The trend can already be seen in Spain where the Banco de Espana says that remittances during the first half of the year totaled EUR1.7 billion, which is 7.3% less than the first half of 2007. Remittances are a leading source of hard currency in the DR.

Chinatown wants parking
Businesses in Chinatown are not happy with a city ordinance that prohibits parking in that part of town. Business owners say that being open with no parking is the same thing as being closed. Businesses closed from 10am to noon yesterday to protest the ordinance. A large sign was displayed in Chinatown, reading, "Without parking Chinatown will die." Business owners say they don't have the money to build parking spaces and claim that their businesses are only now just recovering from the lengthy four-year renovations that took place for the creation of Santo Domingo's Chinatown district.

Operation Walk
Officials at the Plaza de la Salud have announced that "Operation Walk" will provide patients with free hip and knee replacements, beginning in March 2009. Foreign and Dominican doctors will perform the operations. Doctors will begin evaluating patients on 7 October and those interested should call (809) 565 - 7477 ext. 3000. Thomas Thornhill, who participated in the first Operation Walk, will once again be performing the procedures. On average these surgeries cost between RD$150,000 and RD$200,000 and the insurance providers rarely cover them.

Colombian bodies returned
The bodies of four men killed in a plane crash last week have been returned to their families in Colombia. The bodies Rodolfo Sanchez Quintero, Jairo Jasin Chaica, Hector Ivan Osorio and Ricardo Losano Tangarice were all prepared at the Blandino funeral home. Listin Diario reports that powerful drug traffickers are actually behind the repatriation efforts of the remains, but lawyers for the families have not confirmed this. The four men were killed when their plane, which was carrying cocaine, crashed in Pedernales.

Baseball round up
Reggie Jackson may have to find a new nickname. Dominican slugger Manny Ramirez has become the new "Mr. October," after hitting a home run in Los Angeles' playoff opening win against the Chicago Cubs. The dinger was Ramirez's 25th post-season swat, most all time, and gave him a whopping 11 homeruns in a divisional series, also a record. In other baseball news, the beloved Boston Red Sox beat the Anaheim Angels 4-1 aided by a Jason Bay two-run homer. Readers may remember that Bay and Ramirez were traded for each other before baseball's trade deadline. Also, the Phillies pounded the Brewers 3-1.

Thursday sales
Naturalizer shoes, up to 50% off. Plaza Fernandez. Tel 809 563-8990.
Penny's 2 x 1 shoe sale. Thursday, 2 Oct through Saturday, 4 October. Plaza Central, Diamond Mall, Centro Plaza Internacional (Santiago), Bella Vista Mall, Megacentro.
Nacional supermarket has Pantene shampoo (375ml) for RD$109.95, Colgate 100ml 3 x 1, Colgate dental floss 2 x 1, Listerine (500ml) for RD$112.95, and L'Oreal shampoo (200 ml) for RD$94.95.
Super Pola has meats on sale, with beef filet for RDR159.95lb, chicken breasts for RD$51.95, smoked pork ribs for RD$74.95, fresh pork chops for RD$59.95lb, frozen chicken for RD$25.95lb.
La Isla is advertising 70% off on furniture at Broyhill, Av. Tiradentes esq. Carlos Sanchez y Sanchez, Naco.
Baccessory is advertising 15%-75% off on bathroom accessories in October.
Fresh red snapper for RD$199.95lb at La Cadena supermarket, goat for stewing at RD$79.95lb, and smoked pork ribs at RD$69.95lb
La Iberica has sales on ceramics and bathroom accessories at Av. Nunez de Caceres.
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