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Daily News - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Life easier for small business
The Chamber of Deputies approved the Small Business Act (Ley Pyme) that simplifies governmental requirements for small business yesterday. Issaachart Burgos, president of the Dominican Confederation for Small and Medium-scale Business (Codopyme) stressed the importance of the bill for job creation, especially at a time when large companies are cutting jobs. He is optimistic that the legislation could stimulate the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the first half of 2009. Codopyme is also holding workshops to train small businesses in adopting the new Simplified Tax Declaration Procedure (PST) that makes tax paying easier for small companies.
This is the second important bill Congress has approved in favor of small business. In November, Congress passed a new company formation bill that was drafted by the National Competitiveness Council (CNC). That bill creates the figure of single-owner companies, a welcome change to the previous system where companies were obliged to have seven partners. At the time, Andres van der Horst, director of the CNC highlighted the positive effect the simplification of the company formation procedure would have on small business development.
See www.cnc.gov.do

Business on pension funds
The National Business Council (CONEP) and the Industries Association called for prudence and caution in the proposal to pension funds, and that the priority should be to seek the highest possible yields for the workers.
Pablo Piantini, of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) joined those who are of the opinion that the funds, contributed by companies and workers, are earmarked for worker retirements.
President Fernandez had announced on Monday that he would seek congressional approval to use of pension funds for government low-income housing and infrastructure programs in his speech to the nation yesterday.
This is not the first time Fernandez has bid for these funds. Diario Libre recalls that the President had showed an interest in using the funds for educational programs and agriculture. The pension fund amounts to RD$68 billion.
So far the funds have been affected by low yields, in part due to the restrictions on where they can be invested.
PRD president Rafael Alburquerque disagrees that the money can be used for infrastructure. Alburquerque says there is an odd coincidence that the nation's budget deficit in 2009 is RD$77 billion. Alburquerque says the government proposes to finance this with RD$20 billion from unnamed local sources and RD$57 billion in foreign loans.
Trajano Santana of the PRI minority opposition party said the money could potentially be used to benefit party members instead of workers. Meanwhile PRSC minority party deputy Victor Bisono said that using the funds was not a good idea because the public has no guarantee or say in how the money would be used. He said there are also no guarantees that the public would get the money back if it were misspent.

More jobs for nurses
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas says that he will guarantee 600 new jobs for public hospital nurses nationwide. In response to questions about doctors' salaries, Rojas said that the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) should continue talks with legislators now that the 2009 budget is being debated. Rojas said that benefits, which had been withheld, would be paid to 1,923 nurses.

AMET doesn't kid around
Transport authorities have impounded 3,809 vehicles since 28 November because drivers failed to get their 2008-2009 stickers within the three-month renewal period. This represents an average of 380 per day. Diario Libre reports that 2,114 owners have paid for the renewal and the RD$1,530 in fines to get their cars back. According to DGII, 75,000 of the DR's 800,000 vehicle owners did not renew on time. Amet has also intensified the confiscation of motorcycles for traffic violations. The main reasons are failing to use protective helmets and using the overpasses.

Fewer scholarships
Budget constraints for 2009 have led the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (SEESCYT) to announce a cut in the number of new scholarships for next year. The 2008 budget was for RD$6.5 billion, which provided funding that enabled 1,590 students to travel abroad for graduate and undergraduate university studies. SEESCYT's 2009 budget will be reduced to RD$5.2 billion. Minister Ligia Amada Melo says that the reduction in the budget is due to the 15% increase in the salaries of public employees, which forced government to look for the money elsewhere, resulting in educational budget cuts.
The Minister added that the national scholarship program would be suspended for the first quarter of the year. She stressed that students who have already received scholarships would not be affected.
Melo says that of the RD$5.2 billion that the Ministry will receive RD$3 billion will be transferred to local higher learning centers (UASD, ITLA and the Loyola Polytechnic), leaving the remaining RD$1.5 billion for educational and administrative costs. She announced that scholarships would from now on only be awarded for graduate studies in order to benefit more students.

Free Metro
Citizens will be able to ride the Metro for free in December, similar to the program that ran during the Book Fair in April, according to a report in Diario Libre. OPRET director Diandino Pena said the trial run would last two weeks and will be used as a way of educating the public about correct Metro use. Pena explained that train rides will eventually cost RD$20 or RD$25 and will be paid using a card system, similar to those in Boston and New York City. Pena did not give a precise date for the Metro opening.

Fenatrano is bullying again
Once again the Fenatrano bus union imposed a wildcat strike on citizens, leaving thousands of frustrated commuters waiting in long lines. The strike lasted from 6am-9am. This is the second such strike in as many days. According to union leader Juan Hubieres, these strikes will continue until the union gets its concessions. Hubieres is also on a six-day hunger strike. This tactic has become one of Hubieres's favorites and was used only a few months back to force the government to increase subsidies on fuels and reduce importation costs on vehicle related products, such as wheels and replacement parts. Now Hubieres is using bullying tactics to try to ensure that his union gets the bus routes that will feed the Santo Domingo Metro line. Listin Diario reports that Fenatrano drivers were physically pulling passengers out of cars not joining the strike, while other drivers sabotaged vehicles that continued working by removing the air from their tires.
OPRET director Diandino Pena continues to scoff at the protests, saying they have no basis.
In response to the news, Administrative Minister to the Presidency Luis Manuel Bonetti told Diario Libre that Hubieres's use of violent tactics should not be tolerated.

Prostitution study
A study by the Juan Montalvo Center reveals that 30% of sex workers in the provinces of La Romana, Santo Domingo and the National District began working before they turned 18.
According to the study, 73% of sex workers entered their line of work due to financial needs and lack of other job opportunities, while only 1% said they entered the field out of pleasure or curiosity.
Of the 100 women who were interviewed as part of the study, aged 18 to 35, only half had achieved 6th grade education level. A total of 12% did not have a birth certificate and 26% did not have an ID card. They did have 1 to 3 children, and 73% were single mothers.
The women told the researchers that 68% had been physically abused. Twenty-three per cent said they had been mistreated by clients, 25% by their parents and 51% by their former spouse.
63% said they had been arrested by the police, even though there is no law against prostitution in the DR. A total of 48% said they were physically mistreated when in police custody, 38% say they were sexually abused, and 40% say they were robbed.
A full 94% of the women said they would prefer to leave the profession for their children's sake.

Coach Offerman
Former MLB player Jose Offerman will be introduced as the new manager of the Tigres del Licey after former manager Hector de la Cruz was fired by the team. Last year Offerman played with Licey's Caribbean Series championship team. Though Offferman was known for his hitting skills in his 15 year MLB career, he will be remembered for an ugly incident in 2008 when he attacked two players from the opposing team with a baseball bat. Offerman, playing for the Long Island Ducks, was hit by a pitch and charged the mound

Andruw the Aguila
Former All-Star center fielder Andruw Jones is in the DR and will play with the Aguilas Cibaenas. The current Dodgers player looks to bolster the Aguilas line-up while trying to recover his form, which made him one of the best players in baseball throughout his 10-year career. Jones commented on the move saying that last year, for the first time in his career, he missed much of the season because he was injured. He added that he's been practicing, fielding, batting and will practice today with the hopes of suiting up on Thursday or Friday. Hoy reports that long-time friend Rafael Furcal was a major factor in the Major Leaguer's decision to play in the best winter league in the world. Jones says the Dominican League is a strong league and a great way to prove oneself as a player.

Venezuela powers through
Jose Castillo hit a long hit in the eighth inning giving the Venezuelan all-star team a 4-3 victory over the DR, who was represented by the Estrellas Orientales. The team was in Caracas as part of the mid-season all-star games in which teams from regional leagues travel and play in host cities. This year's games have been played in the DR, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Frank Diaz, who plays for Venezuela's Bravos de Margarita team won the homerun derby that was held before the game.

Museums are free today
From 9 am to 12 midnight tonight there is no charge to enter museums in Santo Domingo. Culture Minister Jose Lantigua says he seeks to introduce this Spanish and French tradition to the city. While all museums will be open until late, on occasion of this first "Long Night of Museums," the plan is that each museum will have its own "long night" in 2009. Participating in the event are the Columbus Alcazar, the Casas Reales Museum, the Dominican Family Museum, and the Fortaleza Ozama Museum in the Colonial City. Colonial City restaurants will be offering discounts of 20%. At the Plaza de la Cultura, participating institutions are the Museum of Dominican Man, Museum of Modern Art and the Natural History Museum. The Columbus Lighthouse Museum is also part of the program, and has scheduled a concert by opera singers.

Christmas carols at the Theater
To truly get into the Christmas spirit there is nothing better than listening to traditional Christmas carols. The National Theater is inviting the public to its Christmas Concert: Lights of the World, on Wednesday, 10 December at 8pm. The 100-voice National Theater choir will perform. The choir is directed by Mayra Peguero.
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