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Daily News - Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Paredes's ambitious goal
Education Minister Melanio Paredes has announced the ambitious goal of reducing illiteracy in the DR to 0% by 2015. Paredes said that the only thing that frees people is the ability to overcome ignorance. Hoy reports that the DR's illiteracy rate currently stands at 11%. Paredes did not provide concrete details about how this goal would be accomplished. In 2008, the DR spent just 2% of its GDP on education. For 2009, Paredes said he would be happy to get 2.5% of the GDP in his budgetary allotment.

Bengoa refutes rumors on more taxes
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has reaffirmed the government's stance that new taxes or increases in taxes would be counterproductive during the present global economic slowdown. Bengoa was reacting to rumors that the government has been discussing a "fiscal adjustment" with the IMF. Bengoa has also spoken of a significant reduction in sub-sectorial subsidies. The minister is quoted in Hoy as stating "categorically speaking the government will not introduce new taxes or modify the current tax structure, because doing so would deepen the economic recession expected for 2009." Presidency Minister Cesar Pina Toribio, speaking from his offices at the Presidential Palace, reiterated that during last week's 2009 budget discussion by the cabinet and economic team they did not even discuss the possibility of new taxes. Rumors that the government is considering new taxes have been circulating since a recent IMF visit to the DR. Constant talk of "reforms," which in the DR has become the code word for taxation, sounded alarms across the public and private sectors. Regardless, the general consensus has been that if there needs to be a reform the government should initially consider cutting its own costs before it increases taxes.

Hold the applause
Dominican Repubic Association of Industries (AIRD) president Manuel Diez Cabral has asked the IMF to hold its applause for the DR's fiscal policies, saying that they have created a "forced stability" that has damaged the productive sector, punished exports and increased interest rates. Diez Cabral also said that the private productive sector has found it very difficult to access loans. He added that he understood the IMF viewpoint that a "fiscal adjustment" is needed but says that this time it should be applied to public spending. He commented that in other countries the productive sectors are getting support, not more taxes. He said the trend in the DR has been the opposite, which is creating an unsustainable situation.
Adding a different perspective on the issue of the IMF, Diez said that the DR should be able to solve its problems by itself.

More borrowing
The Executive Branch has sent a bill to the Senate proposing a RD$10.8 billion increased financing for the 2008 budget. This increased financing will be directed towards the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) to "cover the budget deficit in the national electric sector." Blackouts in the DR are attributed to government financial constraints. The Executive Branch now blames its budgetary deficit on declines in tax revenues from nickel exports, declining fuel prices (fuel is a major tax producer) and local commerce. The government has had difficulties in paying its debt to power generators and distributors.

Tourism woes
Though the DR economy has yet to feel the full impact of the global financial crisis, the tourism sector is slowly feeling the effects of the lack of free flowing cash. Listin Diario reports that while tourism was up 6% during the first half of the year, since July both foreign and non-resident Dominican arrivals have declined every month. The DR still has a 2.7% arrival increase when comparing January - October 2007 and January - October 2008, but the slow decline is causing concern. The secondary worry is that these arrivals were booked before the fall season crunch that began in September.

Discontent at JCE
Employees at the Central Electoral Board (JCE) are angry that only members of the JCE's presidential and administrative chambers have received a substantial salary increase, of between RD$8,000 and RD$23,000. Most other employees received only salary adjustments of around RD$100 in some cases. Employees are also complaining that one of JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman's secretaries makes RD$75,000 per month, and that others are now making RD$70,000 per month after having received salary increases of RD$11,500 each. Executive secretaries are not complaining, because their salaries were raised to RD$42,000 while auxiliary secretaries salaries were increased to RD$28,000. According to one JCE employee quoted in Hoy, "that is discrimination because no one works more than anyone else at the JCE. We all do what we are asked". Employees are also confused, since Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario refused to implement a 15% salary increase mandated by the Executive Branch for public and decentralized government organizations, because, according to him, there was no money for that increase.

A reading first
Avenida Caracas, near Avenue Duarte has been dubbed "Reader's Walkway," during a ceremony led by National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo. The Readers Walkway will be the site of the first New and Used Book Fair comprising 70 book vendors and lasting until 30 November. Book lovers can expect to find some bargains at this fair. The book fair seeks to attract some of the crowds that have made the annual National Book Fair held in April one of the most successful events in the DR.

First Lady honored in Brazil
First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Brasilia today for her work on social issues. The University announced that it wanted to make the most of the First Lady's visit to present her with the award. She is in Rio de Janeiro for a world conference on the exploitation of children.

Colmadones curfew kept
Colmadones and gas stations, the neighborhood grocery stores turned into outdoor pubs and beer parlors, are not on the list of businesses allowed to sell alcoholic beverage for extended hours during the Christmas holidays. Interior & Police Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier said that Police and Metropolitan Transport Authorities (AMET) and ministry inspectors will be enforcing the measure by ensuring that colmadones keep to the present schedule for selling alcohol - Sunday to Thursday, closing at 12am, and Friday through Saturday night, and holidays closing at 2am. He said a recent Gallup poll showed most Dominicans favored the continuation of the curfew. During the Christmas holidays, the Ministry of Interior & Police announced that closing times would be relaxed for indoor drinking establishments.

Explaining the EPA
The Federation of European Chambers of Commerce in the Dominican Republic, the European Commission Delegation and the Center for Exports & Investments in the DR (CEI-RD) are holding a workshop to explain the full scope of the European Partnership Agreement passed by Congress on October 27. The agreement creates a reciprocal trading block between Cariforum countries and the European Union. It is presented as an agreement with instruments for improving the Dominican Republic's competitiveness, helping the country diversify its exports and develop regional markets. The conference is scheduled for 26 November at the CEI-RD conference hall at Plaza de la Independencia from 9am to 12:30pm.
Anyone interested in attending should e-mail the Federation at [email protected] or call 809 616-2335. The same workshop will be held in Santiago, on Friday 5 December at the Edificio Empresarial.

DR trade review
The World Trade Organization has just released a Trade Policy Review on the Dominican Republic. The trade review looks into trade liberalization and the country's multilateral trade agenda. The report comments on economic growth over the period under review that has been significant, although distinctly cyclical, and stresses the inefficiencies in the electricity sector, together with other weak points. The report says that steps need to be taken to rationalize fiscal incentives to improve economic efficiency and on the need to strengthen the fiscal situation to help smooth out economic cycles.
See www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp307_e.htm

Falconbridge closed indefinitely
The Falconbridge Dominicana mining company has announced that it will be ceasing work indefinitely due to high production costs and the low cost of nickel on global markets. In August Falconbridge announced that it would close its operations for just four months for maintenance works and to install new lower-cost energy units, but the situation on the international markets is thought to have added pressures on the company. No word on how much the losses have totaled during their closure. Local residents who were employed by Falconbridge are concerned by the lack of answers from the company about their job stability.

Dominican businesses grow in Miami
The Dominican Consulate in Miami, Florida says that there are more than 1,000 Dominican-owned or run businesses in that city, as reported in Hoy. The Consulate also informed that 70% of all shipments that go to the DR pass through Miami. Consul General Manuel Almanzar said that there has been a growth in the number of typically Dominican businesses like bodegas, betting houses and Dominican restaurants. Almanzar said that as many as 60% of the medical doctors now practicing in Miami-Dade County had studied at Dominican schools, as reported in Hoy. An estimated 160,000 Dominicans live in Miami. The consul general was speaking during the Dominican Republic Flavor Fest organized by the Ministry of Tourism in Miami-Dade.

Ferocious fencing
The DR made a strong showing at the Caribbean and Central American Fencing Championships being held in Boca Chica. The DR scored three gold, one silver and three bronze in an event that included 120 athletes from 10 countries. Among winners were Rafael Western and Julio Benjamin, who won gold. In the women's contests Maiyelin Jhonson and Carmen Nunez won bronze. The championship continues today at the Concha Hall in the Hotel Hamaca.

Sports updates
Could an era be over in Boston? Well, according to Chad Finn, from the Boston Globe, the possibility exists that the Boston could trade lovable slugger David Ortiz and then sign Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixera. Ortiz has dismissed the news as rumors, but Finn said that Teixera would be a valuable addition to the Bo Sox and Papi's age and his health are more reason for Boston to consider its future without Ortiz. However, nothing is set in stone considering that Ortiz is still a favorite with fans, a member of the 2004 World Series team and a trade of Ortiz could draw ire from the Boston faithful. The baseball winter meetings are coming up so anything is possible.
In other sports news, Milwaukee Buck Charlie Villanueva dropped 17 points and collected 9 rebounds in 25 minutes of play, but it wasn't enough as the Bucks lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Dominican-born Al Horford is still recovering from an ankle injury. Horford has been a force for the Hawks this year, becoming a relative double-double machine, and one of the key reasons why the Hawks jumped out of the stables in the first month of the season.

Baseball updates
The Escogido is still fighting, no matter what the standings tell them. This was the case last night as they took on and beat the Toros del Este. The game was tight all the way through, but Escogido was able to pull out the victory.
Tonight's Games:
Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm: Toros vs. Escogido
San Francisco de Macoris, Estadio Julian Javier 7:30pm: Licey vs. Gigantes
San Pedro de Macoris, Estadio Tetelo Vargas 8pm: Aguilas vs. Estrellas
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