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Daily News - Friday, 28 November 2008

Budget at RD$329billion
President Leonel Fernandez has sent the RD$329 billion National Budget for 2009 to Congress. Listin Diario makes the observation that while in previous years a commission of officials from the government economic team would deliver the bill, this year a messenger was dispatched from the Presidency to deliver the bill to the secretary of the Senate. On 20 November, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa said that government department allotments would be at the same level as last year. An additional RD$29 billion will cover wage and pension increases that were approved in mid 2008 and were covered by surplus taxes collected by the government in 2008.

Bahia Principe's newest
President Leonel Fernandez was present at the symbolic start of construction of Playa Nueva Romana project, a hotel and real estate development midway between San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana, in the Cumayasa River area. The project is the latest investment by Grupo Bahia Principe from Spain that operates hotels in Samana, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Punta Cana and La Romana areas. El Nuevo Diario reports that Fernandez highlighted the fact that the project involves an investment of at least US$1 billion, and that it reflects the trust that foreigners have in the investment climate in the DR. "With this project, not only San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana gain, but also the city of Santo Domingo". "I imagine all the tourists who will drive in to see the Colonial City", said Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, at the groundbreaking ceremony. At the event, Pablo Pinero, president of the investor group, praised Dominican hospitality and the beauty of the local beaches. The development is on a six million square meter property. There are plans to build four luxury hotels with 2,800 rooms, as well as 1,200 luxury chalets. The project features two kilometers of beach, a marina, an18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and polo and baseball fields, among other installations.

BC injects money
The Central Bank says that beginning today it will inject between US$50 and US$100 million into the money markets to counter the rise of the exchange rate. The Central Bank says that the small spike in the rate change was not caused by any fiscal or monetary policy. CB governor Hector Valdez Albizu also announced that the International Monetary Fund has made a short-term liquidity mechanism available, allowing financial entities to cover part of the holiday season money demand. Part of the mechanisms will be the purchase of CB titles. Finally Valdez said that once the 2009 budget has been passed, the CB would begin to lower interest rates, beginning in February 2009.

Expensive cedulas
The new cedula (ID and voting card) program launched by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) will eat up more than half the board's 2009 budget. Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said that the program involves issuing new cedulas to more than six million Dominicans. The new cedulas will feature biometric technology, which is aimed at curbing identity fraud. The project will cost between RD$1 and RD$1.5 billion.

Paredes offended
Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez has expressed his anger about comments made by US Ambassador to the DR, Robert Fannin. Paredes described Fannin's comments, made at the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) luncheon yesterday, about the increased public perception of corruption in the DR, the critical problems affecting the electricity sector and how these deficiencies will deter foreign investors, and his calls for the government to implement the law penalizing electricity theft, among other things, as "shameless meddling" by the Ambassador. Quoted in Hoy, Paredes urged the Foreign Ministry to look into the matter and asked Fannin to "look at his own country." Paredes said Fannin's statements were intolerable. Instead of addressing the issues he raised, Paredes spoke about the US financial crisis and asked the Ambassador to comment about the corruption in the US as he has done about the subject in the DR.

Rabies will be controlled
Deputy Minister for Community Health Nelson Rodriguez says his department has enough vaccines to deal with the situation created by stray dogs carrying rabies. Rodriguez said anyone who is bitten by a stray dog should visit a hospital to get a rabies shot.

Bank execs to jail
Former Bancredito bankers Manuel Arturo Pellerano Pena and Juan Felipe Mendoza Gomez have been taken to Najayo jail, where they will serve an eight-year prison term for banking fraud. The men will also have to pay a RD$2.5 million fine once they get out of jail. Although the sentence was issued several weeks ago, both men refused to go to jail, claiming they didn't know which jail they would be sent to. Pellerano describes himself as a "prisoner of the Central Bank." In addition to Bancredito, Pellerano was behind the creation of Tricom telecom and Diario Libre. Former Baninter president Ramon Baez Figueroa and businessman Luis Alvarez Renta are serving sentences at the same jail for their role in the Baninter collapse. Reportedly, Alvarez Renta met Pellerano and Mendoza's upon their arrival at Najayo.

Company denies accusations
Bahia Cruise Services has refuted reports that they deny entry to Dominicans on beaches in Samana, and say they only "control" access to certain places. The company is responding to accusations made earlier this month by former provincial senator Milton Ray Guevara, who said that tourism companies are not allowing Dominicans to access certain beaches, especially on Cayo Levantado. Federico Andres Schad from Bahia Cruises said that CESEP and Politur have implemented certain security measures on cruise ship days.

Low pay is common
According to Diario Libre, of 1,161,194 workers employed by 40,480 active businesses in the DR, an estimated 716,026 get paid less than RD$10,000 per month. According to the National Treasury, 12 businesses employ more than 5,000 and 122 employ between 1,000 and 5,000. An estimated 84,000 workers make between RD$15,000 and RD$20,000 and 161,305 make between RD$10,000 and RD$15,000. An estimated 68,568 make between RD$20,000 and RD$25,000.

Drugs and the DR
Listin Diario reports that a book published by Random House, "Illustrated World Atlas," highlights the fact that drugs have become a very important part of the Dominican economy and that the country has become a springboard for transporting drugs to the United States. The book was written under the guidance of Ray Hudson from Durham University. Congressman Pelegrin Castillo says the fact the country now has this image should be enough for the government to show signs that it is willing to limit the amount of influence that drug money has on the economy.

Falconbridge has no plan
The Falconbridge mining company has not yet decided what to do with its workforce, but Labor Minister Max Puig says that both sides are discussing possible solutions. Earlier this week Falconbridge announced that it would extend the closure of the plant indefinitely, putting many company employees in a precarious situation. Falconbridge executive Ernest Mast said the company has been paying employees on the payroll since it originally closed on 12 August, however, there is no indication about how long this will continue. Temporary and contractual workers, totaling nearly 400, aren't being paid.

AIDS patients want rights
The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS is asking the government to include their treatment in the national social security budget. The organization's president Lissette Mendoza said that AIDS patients aren't exempt from paying taxes so therefore they shouldn't be exempt from receiving care. According to Mendoza 0.8% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS.

Canadian goes to jail
Judge Jose Duverge has sentenced Canadian national Ronald Bruce Sadgak to a year of preventive custody for burning Freddy Perdomo to death in Boca Chica. Officials say Sadgak purchased the gasoline in what was a premeditated act. The judge declared Sadgak a flight risk, which influenced his ruling. Listin Diario reports that Sadgak and the victim had fought over a woman.

Photo exhibition in Punta Cana
Dominican photographer Pedrito Guzman is holding an exhibition of photos on social and environmental themes at the Punta Cana Art Gallery, Punta Cana Village (Plaza Bolera) opening 3 December 2008 at 7:30pm. Guzman, who has worked as a photographer for over thirty years, has exhibited his work in several major world cities. He started his career as a photo journalist in the 1970s, went on to work as a war correspondent in Central America in the 1980s, and since then has covered high profile international events in the DR and beyond, as well as highlighting social and environmental issues in his work for international organizations. The exhibition "Made in Punta Cana" will be open to the public until the end of the month. Most of the images featured in the exhibition were taken in the east of the Dominican Republic, and a percentage of proceeds will benefit the PuntaCana Ecological Foundation.
For more information, see: www.flickr.com/photos/pedritoguzman/sets/72157608881603705/

Diaz won't fight
Current Olympic boxing gold medalist Felix Diaz will not compete in the World Championships being held in Russia between 10 and 14 December. Hoy reports that the Olympic champion has suffered a muscle injury, as well as other ailments. Fellow boxer Argenis Nunez will take Diaz's place in the tournament.

Baseball update
The Gigantes continue their giant ways as they pummeled the Escogido 10-3 last night. The Gigantes are on a three-game winning streak and have scored 47 runs in their last three games. They look tough to beat.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 20 - 12 .625 --
LICEY 19 - 14 .576 1.0
TOROS 19 - 14 .576 1.0
AGUILAS 17 - 15 .531 2.5
ESCOGIDO 15 - 18 .455 4.5
ESTRELLAS 8 - 25 .242 12.0
Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm - Gigantes vs. Escogido
Santiago, Estadio Cibao 8pm - Toros vs Aguilas
San Pedro de Macoris, Estadio Tetelo Vargas 7:30pm - Licey vs. Estrellas
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