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Daily News - Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Fernandez travels
President Leonel Fernandez hits the road tomorrow as he embarks on another international trip. The President will take part in the XVIII Ibero-American Summit in El Salvador between 29 and 31 October. Fernandez will also make a stop in New York before heading to Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Qatar. He is the first serving president to visit either country. The DR established diplomatic relations with Qatar last year, yet little has been done in the form of cooperation between both nations. Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troconso said that Fernandez would attend economic meetings in Dubai as well as meeting with government officials and private investors.

Debt figures 'incorrect'
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says the DR's debt is not US$9.129 billion as reported in El Caribe yesterday. Bengoa said the DR's debt is now lower than it was ten years ago. He said that while the nation owes more in absolute terms, the debt was lower in terms of percentage points. "If you take the GDP and the debt and compare them you will see that we have reduced the debt by 15%". However, these comments were not backed up by any figures. Yesterday's reports claimed that the national debt has grown by 23.75% over the last three and a half years, going from US$7.377 billion in 2004 to US$9.129 billion in June 2008, an increase of US$1.752 billion. According to data obtained by El Caribe from the Ministry of Hacienda website, the total amount of US$9.129 billion is divided between external debt (US$7.929 billion) and internal debt (US$1.200 billion). Bengoa says that Leonel Fernandez's administration has a good record when it comes to paying its external debt.

BVRD not in danger
According to the president of the Dominican Stock Exchange (BVRD), Marcos J. Troncoso, the BVRD will not be directly affected by the international financial crisis. Troncoso says that because of the relatively new nature of the BVRD and since it only emits debt instruments and fixed rates, and conducts basic domestic operations, connections to the world markets are practically non-existent. BVRD general manager Darys Estrella said that although there won't be a direct effect on the BVRD, if the world economy is affected then the DR's economy could feel the impact, and therefore there would be an indirect effect on the BVRD.

DAs don't declare, don't get paid
Over 208 District Attorneys in the DR have yet to declare their assets, according to Diario Libre, and true to his word, Chamber of Deputies president Julio Cesar Valentin has ensured that the DAs in question have not been paid for the month of October. Attorney General Radhames Jimenez said that checks would be withheld until declarations were submitted. The Public Ministry said that 901 members had not declared their assets within the permitted timeframe, leading to calls by private and public officials for action to be taken. By last Thursday 461 had yet to file and early Monday morning 208 still hadn't submitted wealth declarations. The law stipulates that all public employees must submit declarations within 30 days after taking up office. First to present his declaration was President Leonel Fernandez who reported assets totaling RD$18 million.

Ships provide solution
The State-run Electric Companies Corporation (CDEEE) has announced the rental of three large energy-generating ships that will add 205 MW of power to the national grid. The energy will be supplied to the Cibao region, which has been hardest hit by the latest wave of rolling blackouts. According to Listin Diario, the kilowatt per hour price of energy produced will be US$0.20, which is relatively cheaper than the rate set by the Madrid Accord, which stipulates US$0.26. The agreement with the floating generators will last five years and energy companies Polar and Coste will invest US$100 million in the project. The less encouraging news is that they will not be available until 1 April 2009, meaning the region will continue to endure intermittent power disruptions until then. The CDEEE signed the agreement for the energy boats with Polar Energy, Costes Enterprise and Santiago Electricity (LAESA). CDEEE vice president Radhames Segura said the generator will provide 175 MW of energy that will back up the San Felipe generator when it goes off line. The remaining 30 MW will be provided by LAESA, which will back up the Pimentel generator. The government will provide the fuel needed to power the generators. Segura did not disclose whether the contracts had been put out for public tender before the agreement was signed with the companies.

Customs revamp
The Customs Department (DGA) is installing 700 computers, 250 scanners, 50 printers and 350 VOIP phones at the DR's different ports of entry this week. Customs director Miguel Cocco said the new equipment was bought with a loan from the Exim-Bank of South Korea. The US$23 million loan is for 25 years with a seven-year grace period and an annual interest rate of 1.72%. Cocco said that this equipment puts the DGA among the most modern customs departments in the world. The equipment is part of a modernization process known as DOM-1 that is due to be completed by 2009 and which will include new equipment at the Haina Oriental port, Multimodal Caucedo port and Las Americas International Airport. South Korea is helping the process through a series of cooperation agreements. The modernization program seeks to strengthen Customs and reduce the amount of customs-related crimes. With this in mind a Command Center and other security measures are being introduced. Listin Diario reports that South Korean technicians have been in the DR for six months preparing to install the systems. AutoEver SystemCorp-Interdev Corp is in charge of the installation, as part of a US$19.8 million agreement.

Prices fall - negligibly
Consumer rights body Pro-Consumidor reports that basic food prices decreased by a mere 2.79% between 13 October and 20 October, despite the sharp fall in international fuel prices in recent weeks. Fuel has dropped 50% in comparison to June, yet food prices have yet to follow suit. Some food prices have actually increased, including a 30-egg carton, which is up by 12.64%. Milex milk power, Rica milk, fresh chicken, pasta, onions, pork chops, cod and herring have also experienced price increases. Producers have yet to justify maintaining these high prices and some have said that international food prices and fuel prices are still too high, keeping production costs up.
Industry and Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul has warned businesses that the government will not tolerate unjustified high prices for foods and goods, saying they could be prosecuted if found guilty of gouging. Fadul says that prices should be going down in the light of the significant drop in fuel prices. Fadul says the public has the right to complain about high prices in comparison to lower fuel prices. Fadul says that high prices could threaten the country's competitiveness and that the public deserves a break.

Cacao takes a hit
The National Confederation of Dominican Cacao Producers (CONACADO) says that cacao prices have fallen by 35% on the international markets and that 25% of processed cacao has yet to find a buyer due to a decrease in demand. According to CONACADO this could amount to a RD$500 million loss in revenue for the sector. CONACADO leader Isidoro de la Rosa says that the recent international financial crisis is partly to blame. De la Rosa says that on 1 October 2008 the price of cacao was US$2,523 per ton on the NYSE, but the price fell to US$1,966 yesterday. According to de la Rosa, the cacao sector in the DR is extremely important as it generates US$100 million in yearly revenues, as well as creating a large number of jobs. CONACADO members called on the government to provide financial help in order to stabilize the sector during the Confederation's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Local tourism
Former Tourism Minister Frank Jorge Elias says there is no better time than the present to explore development of the internal tourism market as a way to tackle the international financial crisis. Elias says the government should initiate programs that promote travel to local destinations like countryside villages and mountains that are not usually on the tourist trail. Elias is also calling for provincial cities and towns to renovate their historical sites, bars and restaurants in order to attract more visitors. He encouraged local authorities to clean up their cities, to provide clean recreational areas and feature bands playing in parks so that Dominicans revive the custom of traveling internally.

UASD 470th B-day
The UASD University is celebrating its 470th anniversary. Only limited personnel will be present at the University today and no classes will be held. The UASD was founded in 1538 by a Papal Bull issued by Pope Paul III, but was not recognized by royal decree until 1558. It is the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere.

Theft on Las Americas
Thieves have reportedly stolen more than one kilometer of electric wiring from landing strip 35 at Las Americas International Airport (AILA). The new landing strip is in its final stages of construction. The company in charge of construction on the landing strip reported the incident to the police. Police are questioning employees of the airport and of the company, but no leads have surfaced. Although there is security on the highway entering AILA, cable theft has become common. Thieves steal the cables, leaving the highway without lighting, and extract the copper wiring inside and sell it for a profit.

Water warning
The Santo Domingo Water and Sewer Corporation (CAASD) is notifying residents in the Los Jardines, Gala, Cerros de Arroyo Hondo, Viejo Arroyo Hondo, Colina del Seminario I y II, Los Pinos, Villa Elena, Residencial Aurora, Ensanche Kennedy, Palmas de Arroyo Hondo, Carmen Amelia, El Caliche, Yaquito, Puerto Isabela, Cuesta Hermosa I, Villa Consuelo, Villas Agricolas, La Cienaga, San Martin de Porres, Domingo Sabio, La Zurza, Simon Bolivar and Gualey sectors that water service will be suspended from Thursday 30 October 6am until Friday 31 October 6pm. Los Proceres, Constelacion, Los Bambues, Villas Amanda, La Yuca, Amapola, Altos de Arroyo Hondo I, II y III, Pradera Hermosa, Villa Claudia, Los Caminos, La Cementera, La Agustinita, Lanna Gautier, La Cuarenta and Lomas de Arroyo Hondo will also have interrupted service. The CAASD will also be excavating on the intersection of San Martin and Ortega y Gasset, so expect traffic jams. Officials say that this is part of a program to update the water system around the city.

Game 5 suspended
Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies was suspended last night due to rain and atrocious field conditions. The game was canceled in the sixth inning with large puddles forming around the field and even at home plate. The game was turning out to be crucial for the Rays, considering they are down 3-1 in the series and facing a series ending game. Dominican Carlos Pena tied the game at 2-2 before the game was suspended, giving the Rays a glimmer of hope as the game resumes in Philadelphia. MLB commissioner Bud Selig says they will wait until Thanksgiving if need be in order to resume the game. He added that they would never preemptively give a victory to a team due to weather.

Baseball updates
Last night the Gigantes del Cibao beat up on the Aguilas 11-6, continuing their march to the top of the standings. Julio Polanco pitched for the victory while veteran Jose Lima took the loss.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
TOROS 7 - 2 .778 --
GIGANTES 7 - 2 .778 0.0
ESCOGIDO 6 - 4 .600 1.5
LICEY 4 - 6 .400 3.5
AGUILAS 3 - 7 .300 4.5
ESTRELLAS 2 - 8 .200 5.5

Tonight's games
Estadio Quisqueya: Gigantes vs. Escogido 7:30pm
Estadio Cibao: Azucareros vs. Aguilas 8:00pm
Estadio Tetelo Vargas: Licey vs. Estrellas 7:30pm
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