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Daily News - Monday, 13 October 2008

Congress opens doors to doctors
The president of the Dominican Senate, Reynaldo Pared Perez and the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin, have agreed to invite the leaders of the Dominican Medical Association CMD) to discuss their demands on behalf of public hospital doctors. Pared Perez said that the meeting could take place this very week, as reported in Hoy newspaper. At the end of a PLD party Political Committee meeting headed by President Leonel Fernandez, Pared Perez told reporters from Hoy that both houses of Congress were more than willing to meet with the doctors.

Gravel pits facing end of the road
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal has warned that this is the last week that construction companies will be allowed to use riverbeds as gravel pits. Five companies were granted extensions for their operations and these expire this week. According to Listin Diario, Fernandez Mirabal said that if there is any resistance to the closures, "a bulldozer will go in and wipe out everything and we will recover our green areas". Fernandez Mirabal stated that the companies are dismantling their machinery in Sabaneta and on the banks of the Yuna. During his statements to the newspaper executives, the environment minister said that he would oblige people to respect Law 64-00 on the Environment. The minister said that the worst damage to the water tables was being done in the watersheds due to "deforestation and poor land management".

Fuel prices relief
Gasoline and diesel prices went down significantly over the weekend. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce set a RD$10 reduction in the price of premium gasoline, a RD$12 reduction in the price of regular and an RD$8.20 reduction in the price of a gallon of regular diesel fuel. Even LPG went down a bit, by RD$1.30 per gallon. Regular fuel now costs RD$166, premium is RD$181 and diesel is RD$150.40. Crude oil went down $60 over last week, approximately 40% of its former price.

Explaining the blackouts
Radhames Segura, executive vice president of the CDEEE, has admitted what everyone knows - that the recent blackouts are caused by the government being behind in its payments to power generators. Hoy cites a source linked to the private generators, claiming that the government is US$373 million behind. The generation companies shut down to pressure the government to pay. The deficit yesterday totaled 509 megawatts: 1,301 were online while the demand is at 1,810, according to Hoy.
Segura told El Caribe that the government would be making a payment of US$46 million, and said that he expected this would reduce the power outages.
"There are plants out of service for fuel, and naturally that lack of fuel is due to lack of payment. Blackouts are due to the lack of payment with some power generators," Segura said as reported in El Caribe. He said this is due to the expensive oil bill caused by the increases in the price of petroleum that caused the fuel bill in September to almost double in price, from US$119 million to US$192 million. He explained that the relief in the lower prices of oil would be felt in December.
As reported in Listin Diario, he said that the oil bill is up US$400 million compared to last year.
Consumers are big losers when it comes to blackouts. Power bills rarely go down, even after prolonged blackouts. One explanation is that on-and-off consumption brings spikes that are more expensive than a stable service. Another is that inverters storing energy use much more power than just receiving power from the grid. Furthermore, on top of high bills, sometimes even higher than without blackouts, consumers have to operate very costly alternate power generators.

A not so merry Christmas
Economist Pavel Isa Contreras predicts that sales will be down this Christmas due to the global financial crisis. He said inventories may not be restocked and there will be a reduction in profit margins. According to El Caribe, "this translates into a lower demand for goods and services from stores, and this will increase unemployment." Pavel Isa expects the year to close with a very high current account deficit in the balance of payments. He forecast declines in remittances and visitors from the US. Because of these factors, the economist advised the government to reduce imports, which he says are too high in the face of our declining exports.

Inflation hits double digits
The inflation rate for the first nine months of the year has hit double digits, according to the Central Bank. The bank reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 2.38% in September in comparison to August and this puts the nine-month inflation rate at 10.76% for the year so far. The Central Bank explained that the increase was due to the rise in food prices and the seasonal increase in the cost of education. These two factors account for 80% of the increase in the cost of living.
See www.bancentral.gov.do

Fedocamaras calls for austerity
The Dominican Chambers of Commerce Federation (Fedocamaras) says that the government's economic team needs to take measures to better prepare the DR for the effects of the global financial crisis. Fedocamaras says that the fact that the government is optimistic is a positive thing, because the government's role is to generate confidence in the economic actors. The Federation maintains, however, that the government needs to reduce the growing fiscal deficit, eliminate subsidies to the electricity sector and establish mechanisms to protect national production. Fedocamaras spokespersons are also urging the government to improve the quality of its spending, as reported in Listin Diario.
Fedocamaras believes that the government needs to sign an agreement with the IMF.
The Fedocamaras board of directors said that the business sector has been calling for austerity in government spending, which has not taken place yet. "It is time the government committed to reducing the fiscal deficit," says the business group.
Today's Hoy reports that the DR accumulated a trade deficit of US$3.48 billion with the US between May 2007 and August 2008, marking the first months of the DR-CAFTA period. From January to August 2008, the deficit increased by US$885 million, or 85% more than during the same period in 2007. Economist Luis H. Vargas says that the deficit is the result of the low level of productivity and competitiveness of manufacturing and farming operations, and what he describes as "the fictitious appreciation of the Dominican peso against the dollar and the onerous trade agreement known as DR-CAFTA".

Darys Estrella honored in USA
Darys Estrella, CEO of the Dominican Republic Stock Exchange, was named "Professional of the Year" at the Dominican-American National Roundtable (DANR) 11th Annual Gala celebrated in Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, 11 October 2008. She also received citations from the United States Senate, State House of Representatives and State Senate of Rhode Island and the Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. Cid Wilson, former president of the DANR and co-founder of Dominicans on Wall Street (DOWS) with Estrella and others, presented the award. The DANR is the largest national organization of Dominicans in the United States, promoting support, development, networking and recognition of Dominicans in the communities where they live throughout the United States.

Chavez sends delegation to Bonao
The Venezuelan government has sent a delegation headed by President Hugo Chavez's special assistant Johnny Janne Rangel to oversee the distribution of the houses Venezuela donated to victims of the flooding from Tropical Storms Olga and Noel last year. The commission said it was satisfied with the social work being done, and they met with Senator Felix Nova, government officials and community activists to discuss various ideas. Rangel spoke of the possibility of installing a plant to build an additional 3,000 pre-fabricated houses for low-income families. According to Diario Libre, community leader Eleuterio Abad suggested using the old Bonao Free Trade Zone facilities, which consists of 14 buildings, for this purpose. He said "we hope that 1,700 families living in vulnerable areas can be relocated with houses from Petrocasa. Venezuela is also providing a small aqueduct for the housing project.

Radars in the south
Technicians from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are looking at areas in the provinces of Peravia and Pedernales with the aim of installing three-dimensional radars in the south of the country. According to El Nuevo Diario, the DEA officials were in Roblegal and Pedernales where radars used to be located but were withdrawn since they did not have sufficient range, and cost a lot to operate. Both the DEA and the Dominican government have given the highest priority to the installation of radars due to huge increase in drug flights over Dominican territory.

Colonel goes to jail
A Lt. Colonel, Jose Luis Pena, and a sergeant major, both from the Dominican Air Force, have been sent to three month's preventive custody by the magistrate in charge of preparing their case for trial in San Pedro de Macoris after they were arrested near a sugar mill 'batey' near San Jose de los Llanos where 95 kilograms of cocaine thrown from a passing airplane were confiscated. The judge also imposed RD$20,000 bail and weekly appearances in court for three others: Wascar Sanchez, Jose Luis Fernandez and Franklin Santos Acosta.

Acting against Victor Cordero
Bani judge Bartolome Michel Castillo Sanchez has banned former Bani prosecutor Victor Cordero Jimenez from leaving the country while the case against him is heard. Furthermore, he was ordered to appear in court once every 30 days. Cordero is accused of aggression and making death threats against Bani journalist Manuel Guillermo Mejia, who had questioned the handling of a recent drug dealing case. Cordero is mentioned as one of the trio consisting of the governor of Peravia, the former police commander and former prosecutor that according to Peravia senator Wilton Guerrero, facilitated drug dealing in Bani. Afterwards, the former police chief and former prosecutor sued the senator for defamation.

In support of Wilton Guerrero
Thousands marched in southwestern San Jose de Ocoa over the weekend in support of Senator Wilton Guerrero and his claim that the Dominican authorities are in complicity with drug dealers. Guerrero said that when it comes to prostitution, violence, drug dealing and crime, many people do not hear or see, but only because they do not want to do so. "But the people see and hear those in charge of acting. If they do not do so, the people will hold them accountable," said the Senator. He said that the increase in crime levels has changed the way people used to live. "Just a few years ago there was no fear on the streets, we felt safe in our homes, and in our workplaces or schools," he commented. He said, "We are not so worried about the wave of crime on the streets, but more about the attitude of those who should be fighting crime but who are not carrying out their role".

146 boat people repatriated
Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo repatriated 146 Dominican migrants to La Romana on Friday, following their at-sea interception by Caribbean Border Inter-agency Group (CBIG) agencies patrolling Caribbean waters last Wednesday.
Coast Guard law enforcement personnel detained 11 Dominicans of the 157 migrants aboard a small craft known as a 'yola' approximately 20 nautical miles north of Isabela, Puerto Rico, for attempting to illegally enter the United States or a US territory on multiple occasions. The United States Attorney's Office in Puerto Rico agreed to prosecute their cases.
The migrants, 120 men and 37 women, were traveling illegally to Puerto Rico aboard a 50-foot grossly overloaded wooden 'yola'.
"This was a very dangerous case with the potential of turning into a mass casualty search and rescue operation," said Capt. Eduardo Pino, Commander, Sector San Juan.
See: http://coastguardnews.com/category/security/

It's raining
The Meteorological Department is forecasting rainstorms all throughout this week. Two tropical waves are reportedly affecting the area, one of which could develop into a tropical storm. The storm will approach the Dominican coast by Tuesday or Wednesday bringing more intense rains than the first tropical wave. The potential tropical storm will affect weather in the DR through Thursday or Friday. In both cases, forecasters say that the east and southwest of the island will be drenched. The intense rainstorms will be felt in the provinces of La Altagracia, La Romana, El Seibo, San Pedro de Macoris, Monte Plata, Santo Domingo, Peravia, San Cristobal, and to a lesser extent in Azua, Barahona, Pedernales and Elias Pina, on the border with Haiti.
For updates, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/
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