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Daily News - Wednesday, 29 October 2008

No risk for DR
Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) director Eddy Martinez says that according to business experts from New York University and The Economist magazine, the DR's economy is not at risk from the international financial crisis. In fact, according to Martinez, the experts claim the Dominican economy will continue to grow. During the closed-door seminar, "Global Business Today; Different Perspectives For The Dominican Republic", President Leonel Fernandez said the Dominican economy would grow 3% in 2009. Fernandez said that the DR has been able to maintain its stability despite the current turbulence in the global financial market. "Our country continues to enjoy the highest levels of growth in Latin America: with a 5.4% growth rate projection for 2008 it will among the four with most growth in the region." Fernandez says that foreign direct investment has increased due to confidence in the country and added that the DR has a potential 40 investment opportunities worth upwards of US$8 billion. These investments included renovating the Duarte Highway, building the train from Haina to Santiago and the second line of the Santo Domingo Metro.
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas and Central Bank Governor Hector Albizu Valdez were present at the event. Dean Anthony Davidson from New York University, Anna Szterenfeld from the Economist, Larry Marciano from Financial Markets, Marjorie Kalter from Global Marketing, Denis Garritan from Global Business Strategies and Bruce Baulch from Global Operations also attended the event, which was sponsored by CEI-RD and the Foundation for Global Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE).

Morales offers preview
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso says that President Leonel Fernandez will sign seven cooperation agreements in the areas of economy, science, education, culture, tourism and investment during his forthcoming trip to Qatar and Dubai. It is thought that Fernandez will also begin negotiations on building a petroleum refinery in the DR, a plan which had been discussed last year when diplomatic relations were formalized.

New Metro details
President Leonel Fernandez has announced that the second line of the Santo Domingo Metro system and the train from Haina to Santiago will involve an initial budget of US$4 billion. Fernandez said that the funding would come from foreign direct investment. The President added that before the end of the year bidding would begin for the construction contract. He has already met with representatives from Spanish, German and French companies interested in building the trains.

Declare, or else
Presidency minister Cesar Pina Toribio is warning government officials to declare their assets or their November salaries will be withheld as punishment. Pina Toribio says there is no excuse for employees not filing their asset declarations by this date. Pina says he has issued instructions to the director of the Treasury to withhold salaries. As of yesterday 208 District Attorneys had not yet filed their declarations. Director of the Department of Corruption Prevention (DPCA) Octavio Lister said that the health risk administrators (ARS) executives should also declare their assets, seeing as they manage substantial amounts of money. Lister said this would remove any cloud of suspicion from those executives.

Blackouts affect competitiveness
The recent wave of rolling blackouts makes life difficult for citizens, but also places an additional burden on small and medium sized businesses, which are already struggling with high fuel and production costs. In some cases blackouts have caused business overheads to double because they need to buy more fuel to keep their generators going. In Haina businesses are complaining of blackouts of up to 14 hours, mostly during the morning and afternoons, when they are open. Bakers are also feeling the pinch, saying that they have to spend an average of RD$2,000 per day to fuel their generators. According to State-run Electricity Companies vice president Radhames Segura, the energy grid should be back on track this week. Segura said that yesterday the energy deficit was only 35% and but gave no word on when AES, which supplies 20% of national demand, would be back on the grid. But this contradicts reports by Listin Diario saying that only 1,092MW of energy were produced for a deficit of 902MW. According to Listin, AES is only producing 20MW of energy from a total capacity of 300MW. The distributors claim that deficiencies in the system are the result of the government's lack of payment. Segura said that before the end of the month the CDEEE would pay RD$64 million towards a debt of more than US$300 million, but now the Hacienda Ministry says it can only provide US$10 million. El Caribe reports that failure to pay less than 20% of the amount promised means that the blackouts will continue indefinitely.
In related news, the president of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) Pablo Piantini Hazoury has voiced concerns about the gradual deterioration of the electricity sector, to the point where floating generators have to be rented. He added that if the problem is the payment of debt the solution is not to rent out floating generators, but to pay off the remaining debt.

Bus fares maintained
Though transport union officials assured the public that bus fares would go down this week, passengers have yet to see a decrease in fares. News correspondent Lu Olivero reports that arguments between drivers and passengers have become commonplace on buses at the moment of paying the fares. Drivers argue that prices have not changed while passengers quote the recent statements made by union leaders. Olivero reports that when drivers are asked why prices haven't gone down, the response is a well-rehearsed spiel, "fuel prices have gone down, but fuel derivatives, tires and other parts are still expensive. When those go down, then fares will go down." Passengers are now refusing to pay full fares, giving drivers the exact change for the reduced amount. This collective rebellion makes it difficult for drivers to argue. On rare occasions drivers have lowered their prices individually, by RD$2 and RD$5, though no telling when prices for the whole sector will go back to normal.

USAID donates money
The USAID has donated RD$92.5 million which will be used to fight the spread of AIDS in the eastern Dominican Republic. The funds will be divided between several NGOs working against the spread of the disease in the region. As a result, USAID and the Public Health Ministry will sign 14 cooperation agreements. The Presidential Council on AIDS (COPRESIDA) and the Executive Commission for Health Sector Reform will also take part in the AIDS prevention programs.

Japanese tourists
Several tour operators have started to bring Japanese tourists to the DR, opening up the country to a new tourist market. Since April operators have brought tourists to the provinces of Pedernales and Barahona where they have taken part in ecological activities in Bahia de las Aguilas and visited Lago Enriquillo. Max-A, Five Star Club, Kamome Tours, Eurasia Tours and Revi Internacional are offering tours from Japan to the Dominican Republic. Dominican Ambassador in Japan Jose Urena said that Japanese tourists spend a good portion of their salaries on travel, which could be beneficial for the DR tourism sector. Urena says that the DR's diplomatic mission in Japan has been promoting Dominican tourism to Japanese citizens for three years.

Indotel to 'connect the whole country'
Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) president Jose Rafael Vargas says that within one year the whole country will have access to telephone and Internet service as part of the Rural Broadband Connectivity Program. Vargas said that in some cases rural residents must travel at least 20 kilometers to get Internet access or a phone card. He added that at present, only about four million Dominicans have Internet access. Vargas says the project will open the doors for all provinces to be connected to phone centers, cyber cafes and broadband Internet.

Murder sparks deportations
The murder of motor-taxi driver Julio Cesar Diaz Perez has caused uproar in Neiba and police have deported 470 Haitians as a result. According to reports, a Haitian national murdered Diaz with a machete on Monday, while trying to steal his motorcycle. The event provoked indignation from Neiba residents, including violent acts. Hoy reports that residents took to the streets, indiscriminately attacking Haitians. Two men, Solano Mendez Perez and Manuel Yen were killed in the violence. In all, 11 Haitians have been hurt during the disturbances. Police officials in Neiba explain that the decision to deport the Haitians was partly due to the high tensions in the area and was coordinated with the Haitian embassy. Officials feared that tensions could unleash more violence and social unrest.

Weather watch
The National Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is watching a slowly developing low-pressure system developing near the DR. The storm is moving east-southeast, bringing light rain to the northeast of the country, including Montecristi, Puerto Plata, Dajabon, Elias Pina, Valverde and Santiago Rodriguez. The eye of the storm is located over the Virgin Islands. Light winds are also expected. Officials are also watching a storm developing off the coast of Cape Verde, but chances are low that it will become a tropical storm. For weather updates, see: www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond

Baseball updates
Yesterday, the Leones del Escogido proved no match for the strength of the Gigantes. What started out as a competitive match turned into a marathon with 21 hits, 11 of them for extra bases. The final score was 14-6. In last night's second game Erick Aybar helped guide the Tigres to a 9-6 victory over the Estrellas Orientales. In the final game of the night the Aguilas got a much-needed win after they beat up on the Toros 6-5.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 8 - 2 .800 --
TOROS 7 - 3 .700 1.0
ESCOGIDO 6 - 5 .546 2.5
LICEY 5 - 6 .455 3.5
AGUILAS 4 - 7 .364 4.5
ESTRELLAS 2 - 9 .181 6.5

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