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Daily News - Monday, 19 January 2009

Sans Souci officially inaugurated
The new Sans Souci terminal at the Santo Domingo port was officially inaugurated yesterday, in the presence of President Leonel Fernandez. Sans Souci is part of a US$45 million port renovation project. During the inauguration ceremony the audience, which included Santo Domingo Mayor Robert Salcedo, Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua and Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, welcomed the arrival of the Vision of the Sea Royal Caribbean cruise liner. Sans Souci president Lisandro Macarulla, who spoke at the event, estimates that 20,400 new jobs will be created and that the terminal has the capacity to handle 3,000 passengers, plus crew. Macarulla said that the real estate part of the renovation project would begin once the Navy base has moved from its current location.

Queen of Spain arrives
Queen Sofia of Spain arrived in Santo Domingo yesterday for a 72-hour tour that will include the DR and Haiti. She will use her brief time in the country to visit ongoing Spanish government-funded projects. The Queen's plane was escorted by a second Spanish Air Force plane, which arrived moments after her landing. The Queen is scheduled to visit a project helping street children and their mothers in San Cristobal today. She is also expected to visit a school in Villas Agricolas and Los Mina, one of the areas worst affected by the 2007 tropical storms, in Santo Domingo.

IMF supports DR
The IMF is expressing its support for economic policies implemented by the Dominican government to help protect the economy from the effects of the economic financial crisis that began last September. The IMF is also praising the DR's ability to maintain exchange rate stability. In its review of the DR's post Stand-by Arrangement monitoring program, the IMF says that proper fiscal planning in 2009 will help ease external pressures and create a margin for monetary flexibility. The report says that the IMF is satisfied with the government's macroeconomic policies, which seek to rebalance fiscal and monetary policies, aiming to place the DR in a position to effectively deal with international financial concerns. The report highlights the capitalization of the nation's banks, their liquidity and their profitably and the fact that recent stresses have proved they can handle shocks to the markets, but warns that if external pressures continue the DR must be ready to apply even more flexible exchange rate policies. However, according to IMF projections, the DR's growth, represented by the GDP, will only total 1.8% due to external economic pressures. This is visibly lower than the 3% projection by Dominican authorities, and lower than the 4.8% and 8.5% economic growth registered in 2008 and 2007.

AILA gets positive ratings
A special commission from the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) has awarded satisfactory grades for security arrangements at Las Americas International Airport after spending a few days at the airport conducting an inspection. In a preliminary card emitted by George L. Perez and Anthony Tranumm on behalf of TSA to Brigade General Carlos Robles Diaz, director of the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA) the TSA comments that the airport is up-to-date on all airline and airport security requirements. The TSA also commented on the significant progress made by AILA in ensuring that the airport is safer and highlighted the role of CESA in that process. During their visit the TSA representatives observed the work of CESA employees, baggage checks, passenger checks and inspection of landing areas. The x-ray areas of security checkpoints were also observed.

Metro cards go on sale
The Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) has announced that Metro cards will go on sale today. This is a sure sign that the Metro's opening date, which has been postponed for several months now, could be approaching. The Metro cards will cost RD$30 and are reusable, providing passengers the option of topping up the Metro card with funds. A ride on the Metro, which will run from Villa Mella to La Feria, will cost RD$25.

Where's the proof?
Listin Diario is reporting that PRSC secretary general Victor Gomez Casanova is challenging embattled San Pedro de Macoris Senator Alejandro Williams to reveal evidence for "a politically-motivated attempt to hijack his Senate seat." This was Williams' response to recent allegations that he is being investigated in the US on Medicaid fraud. Though the claims of fraud, and Williams' response are serious enough, there has been little to no response from the DR media or its politicians to the fact that Williams has been absent from his Senatorial duties more than 33% of the time or the fact that he spends so much time in the US that he is able to run a dental clinic full time, in the Bronx, New York. Regardless, Williams will meet with the members of the PLD political committee today to provide his side of the story.

Health getting better
A study conducted by the Universidad del Rosario, in Colombia and sponsored by the United States Development Agency (USAID) reveals that access to health care, public spending on health and insurance coverage in the DR have increased between 1996 and 2007. The report, available from the Public Health (SESPAS) offices reveals that when it comes to health, the gap between rich and poor has been reduced greatly during the study period. The study also indicates that of the 50% of people who needed medical care 37.86% didn't seek treatment because they didn't think it was necessary, 27.93% said they continued their treatment, 25.42% said they resolved their medical issues personally and only 4.18% said they did not have the money to seek medical treatment. The report, quoted in Listin Diario, highlights the improvements in the DR's medical sector over the last 10 years.

DGII gets serious
Beginning this summer the Tax Department (DGII) will place cameras in tollbooths across the country in order to reduce the level of contraband smuggling and improve cargo inspections. The cameras will be connected to the DGII's security monitors and Listin Diario reports that any cargo or freight vehicle passing through the booths must present the company's NCF number or risk having the whole cargo seized. DGII director Juan Hernandez says the move comes after businesses urged the government to cut down on "black market" competition. Hernandez said it would also be a way of reducing tax evasion by businesses.

Florian refused parole
Interim Judge Leonardo Garcia Ruiz has refused a parole petition by convicted drug trafficker Florian Felix and has ordered him to remain in jail. The ruling by the judge states that Florian's petition for parole is valid, but that the inmate has not displayed the qualities to merit a parole. Some prosecutors have been arguing that Florian's petition was not valid. During the ruling the courthouse was plunged into chaos as the judge ordered all journalists to leave the court. Journalists refused and the judge would not provide an explanation for wanting the media to be removed.

Dominican appointed
Governor David A. Patterson has appointed Dominican-American Felix M. Rosa Jr. as a member and Chair of the State Board of Parole. As Chair of the Board Rosa will serve as the CEO of the State Division of Parole. Rosa has served the Division of Parole for more than 20 years. Rosa was born in Santo Domingo and immigrated to the US at the age of two, settling with his family in Washington Heights. He returned to the DR to attend high school at the Colegio Dominicano de la Salle, before returning to complete his university studies in the US.
http://ny.gov/governor/press/press_0116091.html

More controls needed
An unlikely voice is coming out of the shadows urging the government for more protection and security for foreign investment. Baseball player Julio Lugo is asking the government to provide better safety nets for foreign investment. The cause is close to Lugo's heart as he is currently fighting a RD$50 million real estate fraud case in the DR courts. Listin Diario reports that Lugo gave 'investors' Edwin Vaquero Alvarez and Luis Manuel Ruiz Mendez RD$50 million to purchase land in the Las Praderas sector of Santo Domingo. The men were able to procure fake documents and land titles making Lugo believe he was owner of the land. The case will be heard on 5 February.

Baseball update
In one of the most exciting post-season finishes in recent history, the Toros and Gigantes will play a tie-breaker game to determine who will play for the league championship. The last two weeks of the winter league Dominican baseball classic have been one for the ages as the once mighty Aguilas had their wings clipped while the once perennial cellar-dwelling Toros are fighting with the Gigantes for a chance at the league championship. During last week's play the Tigres guaranteed themselves a spot in the finals, which left the Toros and Gigantes to battle it out for the final stop. Over the weekend the teams battled it out and with a Sunday win against the lowly Aguilas, the Toros guaranteed one more game.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
*LICEY 12 - 6 .667 --
GIGANTES 11 - 7 .611 0.5
TOROS 11 - 7 .611 1.0
**AGUILAS 2 - 16 .111 8.5
(*) In the finals
(**) Disqualified
Tonight's games:
Julian Javier Stadium, San Francisco de Macoris, 7:30pm - Toros v Gigantes
 
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