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Daily News - Tuesday, 30 December 2008

DR1 breaks for the holidays
DR1 daily news digest will not be published through Tuesday, 6 January on the occasion of the New Year and Three Kings holidays in the Dominican Republic. Take note that 31 December has the character of a national partying day and Monday, 5 January is the official holiday celebrating Three Kings Day. Headline news will be compiled for the Tuesday, 6 January issue. Breaking news can always be filed and commented at the DR1 forums that are open 24/7. DR1 wishes all its readers a most prosperous 2009!

Partying for New Year's
The DR's equivalent of New York's Times Square New Year celebration is the Brugal-sponsored live bash at Avenida del Puerto. Starting at 10pm, leading Dominican bands will perform, including Hector Acosta (El Torito), Jose Alberto (El Canario), Tono Rosario, Rubby Perez, Jose Pena Suazo, Frank Reyes and El Chaval de la Bachata. Other parties are planned for Hotel Jaragua's Salon La Fiesta, where Fernando Villalona, Hector Acosta, Omega, Elvis Martinez and Pochy Familia will take the stage as of 10pm.
Jet Set discotheque on Avenida Independencia is advertising a New Year's party with Tono Rosario and Jose Alberto (El Canario). Cane Restaurant on Avenida Abraham Lincoln (between Jose Amado Soler and Kennedy) is promoting dinner (RD$1,200), dinner and open bar ($2,500) and open bar for RD$1,500 with dancing till dawn at their new Tangerine Lounge. Hotel Melia Santo Domingo has its Fiesta del 31 for RD$1,000 and RD$1,500 on the Malecon. The Malecon Center on Avenida George Washington is advertising an electronic music party with French DJ Bob Sinclar, accompanied by leading local DJs.
For more events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Prince Albert in the DR
Prince Albert II of Monaco was in the Dominican Republic to lend his name to the re-launch of the Punta Perla development in the Cabeza de Toro area of Punta Cana.
Punta Perla is marketed as a luxury development featuring high-rise condominiums, beach and golf villas and 3.5kms of beachfront. The property extends over 10.2 million square meters and stretches for five kilometers inland. The golf course is responsibility of golf designer Colin Montgomerie.
President Leonel Fernandez and several government ministers, including Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua, Industry & Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul and Labor Minister Max Puig were all at the re-launching ceremony. President Fernandez, Prince Albert and developer Paraiso Tropical president Spaniard Ricardo Miranda gave the ceremonial ground breaking start for the Punta Perla, Caribbean Golf, Marina & Resort.
Speaking at the event, President Leonel Fernandez reminisced that on a trip he had made to Monaco he had seen parallels and dreamt of making the DR the "Monaco of the Caribbean." Fernandez said the plan is to link both countries with a permanent flow of travelers. He added that the Prince's presence ensures a connection between this country in the Caribbean and that country in the Mediterranean.
Miranda said that as part of the first phase, they would build a boutique hotel, a beach club, the marina and a first golf course. 1,082 residential units are expected to be completed during the first phase, along with commercial locations.
Prince Albert heads the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation that recently won a prestigious Green Apple Award in recognition of its pioneering work for the environment and sustainable development. Hoy newspaper reported that Prince Albert is an investor in the Punta Perla development.
Units at the development were initially marketed in 2006, but sales softened after news reports linked investors to the Marbella real estate scandal in Spain.
For more information, see:
www.puntaperlasales.com
www.singingpig.co.uk/forums/1/96728/ShowThread.aspx
www.interviu.es/default.asp?idpublicacio_PK=39&idioma=CAS&idnoticia_PK=37285&idseccio_PK=547&h=
For more on real estate in the DR, see http://dr1.com/realestate/

Budget approved
The Chamber of Deputies has now approved the 2009 budget for RD$329.9 billion. All is left is for President Leonel Fernandez to sign the budget into law. Hoy reports that the Chamber approved the budget without any modifications to the version originally approved by the Senate. The budget includes an addendum that replaces the US$1.9 billion four-year authorization for foreign loans with one that assigns RD$100 million to infrastructure works for each of the 32 provinces. Of the US$1.9 billion the government had requested, US$312 million have been approved for spending in 2009, as reported in Listin Diario. The funds are allocated to 24 infrastructure projects, including several hydroelectric plants, aqueducts and urban hospitals. As part of the budget INAPA will get US$10 million for the construction of an aqueduct in Higuey and US$10 million for an aqueduct in Peravia. The Nagua aqueduct will get US$5 million. The Presidency gets RD$35.4 billion, while RD$33 billion goes to Education, RD$30.7 billion for Public Heath, RD$23.6 billion for Interior and Police and RD$14.7 billion for the Hacienda Ministry.

Breaking down the GDP
The growth sectors in the Dominican Republic, according to a Central Bank report in 2008 were communications, banking, energy, tobacco and alcoholic beverages, construction and sugar, as reported in Hoy. The telecoms sector showed a growth of 15.7% of GDP this year. This growth is attributed to the increase in cell phones, up 19.6% during the first three quarters of the year. There are 6.5 million cell phones in operation and 1.4 million line-based phones. Banking had another good year with 14% growth, which nevertheless was half of last year.
The energy and water sector posted an 11% growth during the first three quarters, due mainly to increases in production of potable water, up 10.9%, up from 1.1% for all of 2007. This is attributed to an increase in rainfall during the year. Tobacco and alcoholic beverages showed new dynamism, with 8.6% growth, compared to a negative 7.1% last year. Rum production was up 6.4%, and beer production 9.3%, while soft drinks were up 9.5%, and cigars 24.4%, and cigarettes 9.6%, due to increased domestic sales and exports. The construction sector represented 5.3% of GDP, up compared to the 2.3% decline experienced in 2007. The difference is attributed to an increase in public works.
The sugar industry was also dynamic in 2008, with a 4.3% contribution to GDP, where raw sugar represented 5.2%, refined sugar 2.9% and molasses 3.0%. The increase is attributed to new investments in the sector. Nevertheless, this came at a time when exports were down 18.5% during the period.

DNCD keeps working
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) seized 3,779 kilos of drugs in 2008, with most of the drugs seized in the provinces of La Romana and Santo Domingo East. Between August and September alone the DNCD impounded 418 kilos and of the 3,779 kilos, 927 kilos were of cocaine. The DNCD has also seized 17,000 ecstasy pills, 362.3 kilos of marijuana and 3,649 marijuana plants. Though the DNCD has increased its vigilance and efforts to curb the increase in drug trafficking, weaknesses in the Dominican judicial system, corruption in political circles and suspected ties between drug rings and high-ranking figures in Dominican politics and the security forces have dealt a blow to the DNCD's ongoing efforts.

Multi-fuel terminal for 2009
AES Dominicana and Marti Petroleum Group (Marti PG) have signed an agreement for the construction of what would be the largest and most modern fuel terminal in the DR, as reported in El Caribe. The proposed Caucedo Petroleum Terminal would involve a US$50 million investment. Carlos Jose Marti, spokesman for Marti PG, said that the new terminal would go up beside the AES Andres installations in Punta Caucedo. Marti PG operates propane gas distributors Tropigas Dominicana and Sunix Petroleum. The company signed an agreement with AES Dominicana for the distribution of natural gas nationwide. Marti said that in the first quarter of 2009 construction would start on the 10 million gallon capacity propane gas storage tanks.
The installation would also have on site a diesel tank with capacity for 120,000 barrels of fuel. The multi-fuel terminal (propane gas, natural gas, gasoline and diesel) would enable the country to keep strategic reserves to confront any contingency. The new terminal would also mean that the country could source fuel from large ships, reducing costs.

Villa Metro not happy
Villa Mella, a.k.a. Villa Metro, is the starting point of the DR's largest public works project, but as the trains of technology and development pass overhead residents in many neighborhoods feel they have been forgotten by the development. Residents in the Vista Bella, Remanso, Carlos Alvarez, Maranon, Villa Linda, Barrio Nuevo, El Eden Segundo, Casa Vieja, Los Berroa, Sol de Luz, La Colina, El Torito and La Esperanza neighborhoods are urging the government to provide them with power, pick up trash and pave badly deteriorated roads. Yesterday, residents launched impromptu protests and threw objects at the Metro.
In related news, the Santo Domingo Metro now has 16 of the 19 cars needed and officials say the remaining cars will arrive in the DR on 6 January. Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) sub director Leonel Carrasco announced that once the final cars arrive a test of the completed system would be carried out. However, no definitive date has been set as to when the Metro will open for continuous use. Currently, the Metro is free for the public to use as part of a holiday season program.

Fake UASD web page
UASD students have encountered yet another hurdle as they try to register for the 2009 semester. According to technicians at the UASD hackers have set up a false UASD web page (www.uasd.com.do), which includes a similar design to the UASD's official site. The page was subsequently removed. The official web site is www.uasd.edu.do.
University officials had asked their colleagues at the PUCMM, which registers all URLs ending in .do to cancel the fake URL and reveal its owners. An estimated 100,000 students began pre-registration using the website yesterday. Three hundred students have already reported being duped by the fake page and this could cause chaos in the next three weeks of registration.

Lubrano the beauty queen?
Members of the public and private sector are expressing surprise and anger at the pardon granted to former Baninter manager Vivian Lubrano. Though initially the anger was directed at the fact that Lubrano had not served the minimum percentage of her sentence and that the Pardons Committee was not informed of the decision before the announcement, the latest reports have added fuel to the fire. El Caribe reports that Lubrano, who claimed she could not serve her sentence at Najayo because of medical reasons, was seen at a beauty salon only moments after the pardon was announced and then attended a family party. It seems to many that her pardon miraculously cured Lubrano or raises suspicion that her health ailments were in fact a jail evasion ploy.
Artagnan Perez Mendez, lawyer for the Monetary and Finance Authority says the decision by the President is a "joke that has angered the public because it freed a person who only spent days in jail, and who is partially responsible for the biggest fraud the nation has ever seen. She is directly responsible for the RD$27 million in bank funds that were never returned." He added that in the next constitutional reform the power to pardon should be removed from the Executive Branch's power and given to the Supreme Court. Finjus Vice President Servio Tulio Castanos said the decision confirms the notion that the law is a myth in the DR.

Corruption still worrisome
The ruling on the Sun Land case, the dismissal of members of the Chamber of Accounts and the pardons issued by President Leonel Fernandez have made a negative stain on institutionalism in the DR, says Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, spokesman for the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (FINJUS). Castanos Guzman is quoted in El Caribe as saying the public has stood by with astonishment at a series of events which reflect the existence of a culture that threatens the quality of democracy and the climate of good governance. He added that in recent weeks the public has seen that strength of those institutions that defend democracy has weakened, and shows signs of getting weaker. He added that in recent weeks the public has seen that the strength of those institutions that are supposed to defend democracy has weakened, with signs of getting weaker. Castanos stated that 2008 was highlighted by a culture of smoke and mirrors that gave the false impression of constitutionality and transparency.

Playoff update
Will the Aguilas ever get a playoff win? The answer seems to be no, as the team has lost its third straight match. With continued play like this the Aguilas could be looking at an early playoff exit this year. Last night Aguilas faced rivals Licey at the Quisqueya Stadium and lost the match 5-2. Ronny Paulino was Licey's offensive spark plug. In last night's second game were part of an odd match which ended in a 6-6 tie in the 10 inning between the Gigantes and Toros. Entering the 8th inning the Toros were down by three runs, after which they hit swatted four straight hits and a sac fly to tie the game. The Gigantes, Toros and Licey are in a first place tie and the Aguilas are languishing in last place with a 0-3 record.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 2 - 1 .667 --
TOROS 2 - 1 .667 --
LICEY 2 - 1 .667 --
AGUILAS 0 - 3 .000 2.5
Tonight's games:
Aguilas vs. Gigantes 7:30pm
Licey vs. Toros 7:30pm
See http://www.lidom.com/calendario.htm
 
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