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Daily News - Monday, 24 November 2008

Leonel says crisis is lack of ethics
In La Romana, President Leonel Fernandez said that the financial problems that the world is experiencing are the result of a profound crisis of "ethical values in the markets and the rottenness of the system." As he presented the conclusions of the two-day "Emerging Global Financial Order: A Regional Perspective" seminar, held in Casa de Campo over the weekend, President Fernandez said that this crisis of ethical values is seen in the speculation in the futures markets and in the deregulation and lack of supervision in the markets. According to El Nuevo Diario, he argued that another proof of this is that auditing firms and risk assessment agencies were complicit in the fraud and manipulation of the markets. He said that this situation should never have occurred, and we will have to pay a high price because the planet will have an increased number of poor, unemployed and disoriented people.
As reported by El Nuevo Diario, the President said "Only greed, desire to accumulate wealth has been able to bring the world to this situation. For that, the return to ethical values is fundamental, to know that the markets do generate wealth, but they also are destined to satisfy the needs of society."
He said that in order to achieve a proper balance that permits the effective working of our societies, the "invisible hand of the State" is needed in coordination with the invisible hand of the markets.
The President suggested that 2009 would be very difficult for the world's economies, but he said that an optimistic point of view would say that a slow and gradual recovery would begin and the problems would be overcome by 2010.
At the same time the President warned the greater structural crisis related to the United States internal debt could become evident in the near future as a "credit card crisis," takes place, making things all the worse.
The President maintained that a new paradigm has to be sought, all the while discussing a capitalism that is in intensive care that requires new alternatives that combine the political with the economical and social needs.

OAS Secretary on the crisis
The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza is proposing the application of short-term measures to tackle the global crisis, including mechanisms to limit speculation in the futures market and in the weaker currencies of developing nations. Speaking yesterday, Insulza said he believed that this would require a voluntary policy in order to gain greater flexibility in the loans that international financial organizations will provide to emerging nations. He said, "I think that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has certainly taken an important step by increasing the loan quotas, but I think that an additional effort has to be made to substantially increase the loans and reduce in some way the conditions placed on countries.
During his talk at the "Emerging Global Financial Order: A Regional Perspective" seminar held in La Romana over the weekend, Insulza reaffirmed that the international financial crisis is difficult and will affect the middle class sectors and the urban middle class, which will have to restrain their spending. The OAS secretary general clarified that the multilateral international organizations are not guilty of the problems facing the world, since they are not responsible for supervising individual country economies.

Budget: numbers warehouse
Two leading business organizations, the Herrera Industrial Association and the Federation of Industrial Associations, have issued a press release criticizing the 2009 National Budget of being little more than a "warehouse for numbers." The industry leaders called on the government instead to prepare a budget with the role of fostering development. They expressed disappointment that the 2009 budget continues to be what it has always been, "a warehouse of numbers that do not take into account the country's true priorities," as reported in Listin Diario.

Strengthen export sector
Economist Roberto Despradel writes in today's El Caribe that the DR could feel the present economic crisis more than its own financial crisis in 2003 and 2004, and needs to foster conditions to strengthen its export sector. He explains that the former crisis was internal, and foreign exchange sectors, namely goods and services exports, including tourism, were not affected. He explains that this is what enabled the country to recover rapidly. But he highlights that the present global situation is completely different. He explains that 84% of what we export is shipped to the US or the European Union. Furthermore, 72% of our tourists come from these two areas. "As a country, our foreign exchange receipts depend heavily on those two economies," he explained. Despradel feels that even the decline in fuel prices that will bring relief to the balance of payments, will shield us from the effects the country will suffer from the slump in the economies of the US (-0.7% GDP forecast) and Europe (-0.8% GDP forecast) for 2009. He points out that that this situation coincides with rules under DR-CAFTA that will not allow the government to subsidize exports after 31 December 2009. He says the time is right for promoting substantial legal and institutional framework changes for the export sector that may encompass companies within and beyond the free zone regime. "This situation will require greater attention of all, and increased focus of the government in the development of unified policies to promote export," he says.

Prices drop, little by little
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (SEIC) has ordered a slight reduction in the price of premium and regular gasoline and diesel, LPG, kerosene and aircraft fuel, ranging between RD$0.42 and RD$0.90. These prices will be in effect until next Friday. A gallon of gasoline will now sell for RD$123.70, RD$0.70 lower. Premium gasoline is selling at RD$136.90, a RD$0.90 reduction. The SEIC says that regular diesel will cost RD$118.10, a RD$0.60 reduction and premium grade diesel will be sold for RD$124.70, just RD$0.50 less. For the general public the cost of a gallon of LPG (propane) will be RD$56.20, RD$0.42 less than last week. This is the seventh week in a row that prices have fallen, although the SEIC says that the behavior of the fuel prices is independent of the world oil market prices for West Texas Intermediate.
El Caribe reports that around 40% of the price of gasoline is taxes.

Relief in monetary policy?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests that the Dominican monetary policy observe "a certain margin of relief" next year, in proportion to the fiscal adjustment that the IMF mission agreed with the Dominican authorities. In a report that is published in today's El Caribe, the organization says that an IMF mission headed by Andy Wolf visited Santo Domingo from the 12th to the 19th November "to hold the first conversations about the monitoring program in the Dominican Republic."
The note refers to the Stand-by Arrangement that ended on 30 January of this year. The document goes on to say, "It is expected that these conversations will take place each semester after an IMF program expires and the exposure of the country to the IMF exceeds 100% of the quota." It adds that the last Stand-by with the country expired on 30 January 2008. The posterior monitoring is a form of intensified vigilance that complements the yearly vigilance in the framework of a consultation of Article IV.
The report points out that conversations between the members of the IMF mission and the Dominican authorities "centered on the macroeconomic policies needed to maintain the stability in view of the rapid deceleration of the world economy and restrictive international financial conditions." The report says that during these conversations there was "broad agreement that it would be necessary to have a fiscal adjustment in 2009, especially in the light of more restrictive conditions in global credit, but this hardening of the fiscal policy will create space for certain relief in the monetary policy."
As a positive point, the report says that the "country will benefit from the international reduction in food and energy prices, which has improved significantly in terms of Dominican commercial exchange and should help reduce pressure on current fiscal and foreign accounts." The IMF understands that "the prudent monetary policy applied in 2008, which contributed to a restriction of internal demand and served as an anchor for the macroeconomic stability is now beginning to produce benefits, helping to diminish the pressure on the exchange market and it is hoped that it generates a reduction in the 2009 inflation rate."

European Union conditions support
The European Union has conditioned disbursement from a EUR179 million development program fund to the government fulfilling pre- established requirements. The chief of the EU mission in the Dominican Republic, Alicia Escuin, signed the agreement with Domingo Jimenez, the director general of Multilateral Cooperation in the presence of the Minister of Economy, Planning and Development, Temistocles Montas and his deputy minister for international cooperation, America Bastidas.
After pointing out that the EU has not been able to disburse a EUR27 million donation due to the fact that the government has not fulfilled the required conditions, Escuin said that the country has work pending in cleaning up public finances and especially in the reduction of the public and foreign deficits. The resources that will be disbursed under the program during 2009-2013 will be spent on programs aimed at eradicating poverty, promoting social and human development and social cohesion, according to Hoy newspaper. At the same time the programs are aimed at promoting democracy, governance and improving competitiveness.
In addition to the EUR179 million there are another EUR15 million known as "Envelope B" that the EU can disburse immediately in case of natural disasters or important losses in the value of exports.
Escuin explained: "We are aware of the fiscal adjustments that the Dominican government has put into place. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the controls on public spending and to ensure fiscal austerity should be implemented effectively, and, above all, they should be consistent with the projections regarding incentives and infrastructure."
EUR91 million of the fund is targeted to help the country fulfill the United Nations Millennium Goals, especially in the areas of education and health that should absorb 50% of the funds. Another EUR37 million would go to support the competitiveness of the Dominican economy, and a further EUR25 million would go to promote institution reforms.

Javier Garcia focuses on southwest
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia is focusing his attention on developing the southwest coastline of the Dominican Republic. As reported in Diario Libre, Javier Garcia said that the time has come for the southwest and he soon would announce multi-million investments forthcoming for the area. Javier Garcia says that he has the blessing of Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez. In the past, the governmental focus on allowing hotel construction in protected National Parks lands has met with opposition from the Ministry of Environment and environmental campaigners. Environmentalists argue that there is plenty of beach land outside the National Park that can be developed.

From one extreme to the other
Writing in today's Listin Diario, deputy Vinicio A. Castillo Seman says that citizens should become aware of the urgent need to reform the Penal Procedures Code. He points to three recent cases that highlight the need for this reform. He criticizes the fact that the code, which has been in effect for four years now, sought to improve on the previous code that was authoritative and based on the "lock him in," but explains that now what prevails is a focus on "let him out," which has brought increased impunity and he says is behind the increase in crime. The cases he highlights are those of the murder of Police Major Paula Mercedes by a gang that had been released because of the loopholes in the code, that of the gang that robbed the Attallah exchange house, also released, and that of the owner of a shipment of liquid cocaine disguised as shampoo, who was also released. Castillo criticizes that the new penal code was imposed on the country by the USAID, and the new difficulties in processing suspect criminals have now made society a victim. "If Dominican society does not protest and push for changes to the penal code in those aspects it has served as an escape and passport for dangerous criminals in the past four years, crime will have to be contained by police violence, which has proven not to be a solution. "How many more deaths will have to fall to repeat criminals? How many armed robberies will there have to be? How many container ships will have to be confiscated, so that the actors in the judicial system and those with the political power to change the penal procedures code take on their responsibility to defend society before crime?" he asks.

People evicted from Los Haitises
The Deputy Minister of Protected Areas at the Ministry of the Environment reaffirmed yesterday that the first squatters to leave Los Haitises National Park were high-ranking military officers from the armed forces or the National Police who had occupied the lands in an irregular fashion. Deputy Minister Eleuterio Martinez said "Everyone will have to get out of Los Haitises National Park, no matter whether they are military or political, and regardless of social status." He pointed out that the government is making great efforts to get the poor rural residents, who have nothing, out of the park area, and it would not be fair for military and police officers who had also appropriated some of this land to be treated with kid gloves. "Not only were there military personnel, but also cattle-ranchers and people in very comfortable social positions," said Martinez. "They (the military and police) were the first to leave. They knew that nobody could claim land by illegal possession and they were the first to leave." Martinez said that he was not able to say how many military officials had appropriated plots of land in the park, without paying anyone a penny, and knowing full well that it was a state protected national asset. To those who think that these lands will continue to be left to their fate and subject to the will of the military, police and civilians, Martinez said that from now on a permanent military presence would be installed to prevent the lands from being reoccupied. The official made these statements to reporters from El Caribe during a event to disburse of RD$6.4 million to people who lived in Los Haitises National Park for many years and were obliged to move as the government struggled to preserve the natural resources in the reserve. In total, 119 families were part of the initial program. Data from the Ministry of the Environment showed that between 1993 and 1994 the government paid out RD$3.220 million to 291 families who lived in Los Haitises National Park, in 2002-2003 RD$5 million was paid to families living in El Catey, and between January 2007 and July 2008 a total of 651 people received RD$32.9 million. According to Martinez this was the second disbursement this year and another two are planned before the end of the year.

93% of jails are contaminated
A total of 93% of all the jails in the Dominican Republic are sources of pollution. An estimated 60% do not have sufficient beds for the number of inmates, while in others overpopulation has reached 300%, according to the results of a study by the Ministry of Public Health Environmental Health Division. This overpopulation, ranging from 150% to 200% of capacity obliges the inmates to live in an overcrowded environment that poses serious health risks, since a simple cold can turn into an epidemic. The same is true of inmates with tuberculosis, dengue or any other infectious disease. According to the study carried out in 20 of the country's 39 jails, and which was shown to Listin Diario, 93% of prisons contain sources of pollution, such as stagnant water, garbage dumps, open wells or cisterns inside or outside the prison walls, and 60% revealed the presence of insects and vectors. It was determined that the jails are never sprayed, 40% looked dirty, and 53% lacked sufficient space for the inmates to move around. Although it does not establish percentages, the study does point out that the most common sicknesses are lung infections, skin infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, gynecological problems and poor nutrition. The study, updated last August, says that overpopulation is 150% in La Victoria jail, 168% in Salcedo and in La Romana prisons, 172% in Barahona, 185% in San Juan, 200% in Neiba and 220% in Pedernales. The jail at el Seibo is at 230% of the installed capacity, in Bani 295% and in Monte Cristi it is at 202%. Added to this is the lack of beds in 60% of the jails and a lack of space in 53% of the prisons. Most prisons (57%) do nothing to make sure the drinking water is safe, and although 83% have specified areas for garbage, nearly half (47%) have no recipients, and in one third of the prisons garbage is not picked up with the required twice-weekly frequency.
On an interesting and contrasting note, filmmaker Brett Ratner recently visited Najayo and San Francisco de Macoris women's jails and reportedly would consider including the jails in his Prison Break series. He considered filming in the two model jails, according to a note from Major General Manuel de Jesus Perez Sanchez, director of Prisons. The women are offered opportunities to learn computer skills, learn baking, to farm, and to learn beauty parlor and sewing skills.

Families losing hope
Families of over 90 travelers that are still missing after attempting an illegal crossing of the Mona Channel to Puerto Rico on 14 November are losing hope. The boat departed from Miches, but according to reports the captain accepted more passengers than the boat could safely hold. The US Coast Guard abandoned the search mid last week, and while the Dominican Navy said it would continue there is little hope the travelers could have survived the turbulent waters of recent days.

Chichi Peralta goes Japanese
The beats of the Caribbean are now mixed with the sounds of Japan, in new tracks recorded by maestro Chichi Peralta for his new release "Amor Samurai," included in his fourth CD, "De aquel lao del rio" that will be available to the general public in January 2009. The shamisen, shakuhachi, Japanese strings and taiko drums are part of the new musical fusion. Peralta, a leading percussionist and composer, has worked with Cuban Orchestra NG La Banda to create the unique new sounds. As a preview, a videoclip of one the tracks will be shown on 30 local TV programs. In the track he sings with Japanese Kumiko Yoshijara.

It's chilly in the DR
Cool breezes and temperature lows for the year - in the low 20s Celsius - are reminding Dominicans that Christmas time is approaching. Traditionally, the chilly weather welcomes the Christmas holidays. The Meteorological Office says that the lows will continue throughout the week nationwide due to a front moving in from the north.

Baseball update
On Saturday, the Tigres del Licey defeated the Estrellas Orientales 11-5, and stayed in first place. The Toros del Este defeated the Aguilas Cibaenas 9-4 and the Gigantes del Cibao and Leones del Escogido were rained out.
In yesterday's action, the return of pitcher Nelson Figueroa helped the Aguilas shut out the Tigres del Licey, 5-0 in Santiago's Estadio Cibao. Figueroa pitched seven scoreless innings and Dan Mayer and Randy Choate finished the shutout. Luis Polonia got hit #880 in the fifth inning. The Aguilas scored three runs in the first inning with a hit by Michael Bourn, a walk to Polonia, another walk to Victor Diaz, a single to center by Melky Cabrera, Mendy Lopez is hit by a pitch, Alberto Castillo a walk and Diaz scored on the passed ball.
Over in the Quisqueya Ball Park in Santo Domingo, the Leones del Escogido managed to defeat the Estrellas Orientales 6-4. The defeat almost seals the fate for the lowly Estrellas who would now have to win their next 19 games in a row to finish at .500 and have a chance at the playoffs. The Leones won the game with two runs in the seventh to break a 4-4 tie.
In La Romana's Francisco Micheli Stadium the Toros del Este defeated the Gigantes del Cibao 7-4. Even though the Gigantes closed to within one run in the seventh inning, the Toros scored two more runs in the eighth to seal the deal.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
LICEY 19 - 12 .612 --
TOROS 18 - 12 .600 0.5
GIGANTES 17 - 12 .586 1.0
AGUILAS 17 - 13 .557 1.5
ESCOGIDO 13 - 16 .448 5.0
ESTRELLAS 6 - 25 .193 13.0

Tonight's games
Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris 7:30pm: Aguilas vs Gigantes (Lima vs Bastardo)
Francisco Micheli Stadium in La Romana 7:30pm: Estrellas vs Aguilas
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