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Daily News - Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Parties get money
The two leading political parties, the PRD and PLD, will get a considerable chunk of national budget money - RD$420.8 million - for 2009. This accounts for 80% of all funds that the law allocates to political parties. According to Electoral Law 275-97, in a non-electoral year political funds will not exceed 4% of the budget. The law stipulates that parties that received more than 5% of the vote will divide 80% of all funds equally. The remaining two political entities will split the remaining RD$106 million. Of the remaining 20% of the funds, 12% (RD$12.6 million) will be distributed among the parties that received less than 5% of the vote and the remaining 8% (RD$4.6 million) will be distributed equally in proportion to the votes obtained in the previous presidential elections. This announcement confirms the long developing trend that the once powerful PRSC is no longer a political powerhouse.

DGII introduces system
According to Tax Department (DGII) director Juan Hernandez, the implementation of the Simplified Tax System (PST) will allow for companies to file taxes more efficiently and could transform the DGII. Hernandez says the system will be in place by January 2009 and will include a document that can be accessed online. The PST will allow the DGII to be more efficient in its tax collection and could incorporate 70,000 to 80,000 taxpayers into the system. The director said there are two parts to the PST; one based on local industrial purchases less than RD$30 million per year and a second based on revenues of under RD$6.5 million.
Hernandez says that the benefit of this new system is that taxpayers won't have to worry as much about "keeping their books" in order to pay taxes, pay taxes ahead of time or paying taxes on assets. A similar system is used in Chile and in Spain. The DGII has become increasingly efficient in the area of tax collection in recent years, after implementing new tax collection mechanisms that have succeeded in reducing tax evasion. For more in formation on the PST click here: www.dgii.gov.do/pst/Paginas/default.aspx

US in recession
While economists have known this for months, the US is now officially in economic recession, which is sending waves around the globe. Coupled with tumbling gas prices and limited spending by large and small banks, observers can only estimate the damage to the US and satellite economies like the DR over the coming months. Asian markets have also plummeted in recent days and although stocks showed some life at closing last week, they took another dive at closing yesterday. The US is the DR's largest trading partner and a recession in the US invariably spells trouble for the Dominican economy. Although some Dominican politicians and economists have said the DR is well prepared to handle the pressures of an international market and financial crisis, others have expressed concerns that the DR is in fact unprepared and has not instituted the proper mechanisms that could soften the blows of this crisis. According to economist Guillermo Caram and social expert Olaya Dotel, the 2009 national budget is an example of how the government has failed to focus on the possible difficulties of 2009. The experts say that once again the budget is more geared at building public works instead of investing in social programs. The budget has been set at RD$329 billion. According to Caram the new budget is an exercise in internal and external accumulation of debt. Caram added that in a tough fiscal year the government must be more even-handed with its policies and its emission of non-organic money.

More government borrowing
Hoy is reporting that the Colombian Export Bank (Bancoldex) will grant the DR a US$100 million line of credit. US$80 million of the money will be used to build housing for poor families while RD$21 million will be used to import coal. The housing loan will have a two-year grace period for a ten-year duration. The deal was struck during Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso's recent trip to Colombia. During his trip he held private meetings with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Foreign Relations Minister Jaime Bermudez Merizalde. Hoy is also reporting that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved the installation of a Colombian built pilot bio-diesel plant in the DR. The plant could be running by 2009 and will produce 10,000 liters per day.

JCE opening centers
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) will open ten new mobile information centers where citizens can enter their biometric data into the JCE's database. The information will include photo, signature and fingerprints. A total 109 centers have been set up around the country for citizens to register their information. JCE Administrative Chamber President Roberto Rosario is asking citizens to go to any JCE office or mobile center as soon as possible and not leave it till the last moment. He added the program seeks to prevent bottlenecks and long lines. Rosario says that in less than one month 4,113 citizens have registered their information. The program, which started on 3 November 2008, will run until 30 September 2009. For more information click here: www.jce.do/Portal/Default.aspx?alias=www.jce.do/portal/biometricos

Police don't play
Who to believe? The chief of the police and the chief of the state prosecutors have different opinions on a call for curbing of use of guns during the Christmas holidays. Despite the public outcry in response to the decree restricting the carrying of guns, Police Chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin says police officers will enforce the ban that began yesterday. Hoy reports that as of last night police officers began random searches of vehicles throughout Santo Domingo looking for people carrying weapons. Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena warned that any officer caught illegally impounding a gun would be fired, while adding that he supported the measure. Jimenez, however, voiced a different opinion than that of Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda, by stating that the measure looks to reduce the display of arms and not to disarm the public. Jimenez says that if a gun is inside a vehicle and a person has a permit, police cannot impound the gun. Guzman said that beginning this week 1,000 police officers will be sent out to patrol the streets and provide increased security during the holiday season. According to Jimenez Pena 68% of all crimes committed in the DR involve the use of firearms.

Yaqui Nunez del Risco hospitalized
Popular communicator and show business producer Yaqui Nunez del Risco was hospitalized yesterday at Cedimat in the Plaza de la Salud after suffering a severe stroke. He is in a coma and is being treated by doctors Eduardo Yermenos and Pedro Urena. Dr. Yermenos said that del Risco is in intensive care and that his condition is serious.

Haitises gets military
Los Haitises will be getting 1,200 military guards to continue clearing out the national park. Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez and Armed Forces Minister Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio said the protection of Los Haitises is a matter of sovereignty and national security. The move is the next step in a continued effort to remove squatters and farmers who have made the park their home.

People like booze
The Dominican Beer Producers Association (ACOFAVE) says that the industry generates RD$14 billion in revenue annually, which is equivalent to 2.1% of the DR's GDP. ACOFAVE president Rafael Menicucci says that, directly and indirectly, the beer industry employs more than 100,000 people. ACOFAVE members are Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, Cerveceria Vegana, Cerveceria Bohemia and Ambev Dominicana.

Hubieres plays games
Citizens woke to a cruel surprise today as the Fenatrano bus union staged an impromptu strike, leaving thousands of people stranded. The bus union didn't announce the strike in advance, leaving people with little room to maneuver and find alternative transport options. Fenatrano bus union leader Juan Hubieres said the "surprise strikes" are part of the union's campaign to persuade the government to allow them to work on the transit lines that will feed the Santo Domingo Metro. Hubieres says the impromptu strikes will continue throughout December. The strike was expected to end at 9am. In a radio interview Hubieres defended his stance, stating that once the Metro is running thousands of families will be left with no means of support.

Manhole money
The old practice of stealing manholes is once again on the rise, posing an additional danger for citizens during blackouts. Manhole covers are stolen and resold as scrap metal for big bucks. The metal is then exported. Aside from being a nuisance for city officials who must constantly replace the covers, pedestrians must now take care not to fall into one of these giant holes as they move round the city. When it rains the situation becomes more precarious as it is difficult to know where a manhole is. And when there is no power, city sidewalks become like minefields. Drivers also deal with the missing manhole covers as they slow down to avoid falling into a hole. According to a report in Listin Diario, although the DR doesn't produce any metal, it is fifth on the list of the DR's main national exports. Steel bars are the leading metal export, but interestingly enough no steel is produced in the DR. According to statistics from the Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD) exports of metals have doubled, reaching 79.2% in 2008. Metal exports in 2008 alone totaled US$39.9 million compared to 2007 when exports were US$22.3 million. Part of the growth in export and revenues generated is due to the increase in metal prices during the first months of the year.

Selective liberalization
According the World Trade Organization, the DR scores passing grades when it comes to market and trade liberalization. But the WTO points out that these changes in policy are selective as they are a result of the DR entering in agreements with the US (DR-CAFTA) and Caricom (EPA). The WTO has conducted three evaluations in the DR, once in 1997, 2002 and now in 2008. The WTO recognized that the DR has made multilateral trade a priority and is trying to integrate into the world economy. However, apart from the successes, the country still has many deficiencies in this area. The DR still receives preferential treatment from New Zealand, Russia, Norway, Japan, Canada, Australia and Switzerland, as well as having agricultural tariffs above the norm in certain cases.

Thai conflict hits home
The Dominican Embassy in Thailand is reporting that several Dominican citizens are among the thousands of foreigners stranded at Bangkok airport during the recent anti-government protests, unable to get onto flights home. Ambassador Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, who is based in India, says he is in constant communication with the stranded travelers and the Embassy is seeking ways to get the travelers back home. He added that if any other Dominicans find themselves in this situation they should contact the Embassy at 91 11 4601500 ([email protected]), the Honorary Consulate in Thailand at 66-2-9335686 ([email protected]) or the sub Ministry of Consular Affairs at the Foreign Relations Ministry. The situation started as protesters took control of the airport in Bangkok causing over 900 fights in and out of the country to be canceled. An estimated 100,000 foreigners and 40,050 Thais were stranded as a result of the protests, which as of this morning were called off, as reported in the international media.

Licey going to court
A group of baseball fans is suing the Tigres del Licey after an incident turned ugly during their Saturday game against the Gigantes. Lawyer Washington Espina, representing the fans, says he has a video that proves that Licey players were at fault during the incident on Saturday and caused injuries to several fans. Players Ronny Belliard, Timoniel Perez and Erick Aybar have all been named in the suit. As a result of Saturday's incident the Dominican Baseball League (LIDOM) says they will increase security at the Gigantes stadium and will prohibit the sale of beverages in glass bottles. Firearms and fireworks will also be banned from stadiums.

Baseball updates
Forgetting about their on-the-field squabbles, the Gigantes were all business yesterday as they fended off the Aguilas easily with a 5-2 victory. The Gigantes are keeping themselves in the play-off hunt and look to be this year's strongest championship contender.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 22 - 14 .611 --
TOROS 20 - 16 .556 1.5
LICEY 20 - 16 .556 1.5
AGUILAS 18 - 18 .500 3.0
ESCOGIDO 17 - 19 .472 4.5
ESTRELLAS 11 - 25 .306 10.5
Tonight's Games:
Gigantes v Licey, Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo 7:30pm
Estrellas v Aguilas, Estadio Cibao, Santiago 8pm
Escogido v Toros, Estadio Francisco Micheli, La Romana 7:30pm
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