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Daily News - Tuesday, 03 February 2009

DR and US Co. go solar
The Dominican government and Sunovia Energy Technologies from the United States have signed an agreement to install the first solar energy plant in the country, according to a company press release.
In a press release, Carl Smith, the executive director of Sunovia Energy Technologies said that Dominican President Leonel Fernandez has shown a "tremendous passion for resolving the country's energy difficulties."
The executive said that the Dominican government has "realized that having a bilateral focus, including responsible renewable energy production combined with a energy conservation program are critical steps that have to be taken in order to get the country on the road to acquiring energy independence."
The agreement sets an investment of some US$200 million and is said will provide employment for 2,500 workers.
Eddy Martinez, executive director of the Dominican Republic Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) stressed that the agreement is the result of "intense work" that the nation has done over the past few years in its efforts to reduce its dependence on oil.
"And, at the same time, to create new jobs and attract new investments to the island", he said.
The contract with Sunovia Energy Technologies, which is based in Sarasota, Florida, is part of a wave of new investments in renewable energy in the Dominican Republic, according to the official.
This wave includes other companies from the United States like the Masada Resource Group, STC Engineering and Burbano Recycling have established energy generation and bio-fuel facilities in the country, according to the Dominican official.
Martinez stressed that as well as wanting to attract investors in renewable energy the country also wants to expand investments in sectors relating to stem cells, genetically modified foodstuffs and the creation of hybrid fuel vehicles.

Only what is possible this year
The government says that it will only fulfill proposals from the National Summit that are economically applicable this year.
This was revealed yesterday by the coordinator of the Summit for National Unity, Temistocles Montas, when he was quizzed by reporters from Diario Libre at the Presidential Palace on his way to the first meeting of the governmental team that is attending the event.
"We really need to know which proposals the government can start discussing (today) in order to determine which can be undertaken as an obligation by the government and which merit a greater level of debate and which we think are not at all applicable for this year," said Montas.
At yesterday's meeting, they began sifting through the issues tackled by all the working groups on Friday and Saturday. The aim is to draw up a list of proposals for presentation to the President tomorrow. Government officials, including Education Minister Melanio Paredes, of Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda, are meeting again at the Presidential Palace's Caryatid Hall at 10am today to finish working on the list of issues that could be undertaken by the government.
The Fernandez administration, which convened and organized the summit, want to arrive at phase two of the get together that is supposed to begin on this Friday, 6 February, at a stage where they can take on the obligations that came from the different participating sectors.
According to information from official sources, more than 700 proposals came out of last week's debates.
Earlier, during a television program, Montas said that there are three big problems that need to be confronted within the framework of the summit, one of which is the country's per capita income, currently ten times less than in the United States and seven times less than that of Spain. The second is income distribution and the third is institutionalism.
Montas defined the first phase of the summit meeting between the industrial, commercial and banking sectors as "completely successful." He said, "I think the event has surpassed the organizers' expectations, as well as proving that there is a great interest from all sectors of the nation to reach agreements that will help the Dominican Republic work its way out of this crisis the best way possible."
Despite the fact that the Fernandez government called the first phase of the summit in order to deal with immediate plans to counter the effects of the international crisis, the working groups came up with proposals that were long-term in their scope and with permanent effects.
Moreover, Montas left this possibility open when he promised to begin the constitutional review assembly after the end of the first phase.
The group that discussed the issues of territorial development, municipal management and the environment came up with a proposal to transform the Dominican Municipal League; the group working on the frontier and migration touched on the difficult question of defining citizenship through blood (jus sanguinis), and achieved a consensus that a new immigration law was needed.
On the issue of institutional consolidation three new laws were suggested: one to create a Judicial Police, one to establish a four-year term of office for the Attorney General and one to regulate political parties, a suggestion that arose during the last electoral process.
The title "Summit of National Unity in the Face of the World Economic Crisis" encompasses the debate on what action the country should undertake to protect itself with the effect that will be felt and are being felt as a result of the collapse of the world's biggest economies.
President Leonel Fernandez's inaugural speech, the previous summit held in November and the invitation to this dialogue that was extended by former Inter-American Development Bank president Enrique Iglesias helped to shape the convocation.
The central message is that the headaches that are expected, such as massive job losses, reduced investments and decreased remittances, mean that all sectors need to support the government in the search for solutions.

Reverse thinking
The coalition known as the Citizens Forum says that the focus of the summit that has the world economic crisis as its central theme, is tackling the national problems from the wrong direction.
Magino Corporan, the secretary general of the entity that is made up of 14 social and community-based organizations, maintains that the country's socio-economic situation is due in large part to the Fernandez government's public policies, to its handling of public spending, and the behavior of public officials in handling state funds.

Leonel revokes tax increase
The director of Department of Taxes (DGII), Juan Hernandez, has suspended, for the time being anyway, the raise in assessment values on real estate and in its table of reference for calculating the Tax on Property (IPI). He said he did so in response to a request from President Fernandez. The Dominican leader asked the official to wait until the end of debates at the National Unity Summit.
Despite knowing that the values attached to real estate classified as luxurious or as unused urban lots or buildings have not been revised since 2005, Fernandez said that "we need to wait until the process of the working group dealing with the economy and competitiveness is finished."
Business sectors have said the appraisal is untimely, because many real estate property prices are inflated by the effects of the real estate bubble that has not left the DR unscathed. These sectors say the government should wait and see what effects the global financial and real estate crisis will have on property prices here.These sectors say the government should wait to see what effects the global financial and real estate crisis have on prices of property here.
The DGII director confirmed the request from the President, saying that it was in line with the spirit of the Unity Summit that is seeking a consensus on all major issues.
According to DR1 News yesterday, the tax director ordered a revision of the assessments on urban properties that serve as the base for the IPI, and even though the measure did not imply an increase in taxes, it did modify the baseline for the payment of the 1% tax on assets due to the fact that this works on the difference between the RD$5.0 million established as exonerated and the new value established by the property assessors.

Construction materials prices decline
Reinforced bars for construction have dropped from RD$3,000 a quintal two months ago to RD$1,550, reflecting a major decline in demand. Listin Diario reports that nevertheless the bag of cement is holding to around RD$255, despite major declines in imported inputs. Cement producers say that the price of the fuel they use to run their operation has not declined. Prices on cement blocks have also declined. Hardware store owner Jose Jimenez said that Dominicans should make the most of the decline that he believes is only temporary.

Nestle announces price cuts
Nestle Dominicana has reduced the prices of powdered milk by between13% and 20%. A company press release says that the decision was taken on the basis of the country's current macro-economic conditions. Last week, President Leonel Fernandez met with local producers and importers of products whose raw materials had gone down in price on the international markets.
Nestle Dominicana announced the price reduction for all products except those that are produced nationally.
The company added that the international powdered milk prices had gone up over the second quarter of last year, "an unprecedented price increase, shooting up from US$2,600 to US$5,000 per metric ton." For this reason, the government, as a way of diminishing the impact on the public, made a special, temporary, concession, and lowered import tariffs from 20% to 8%. Nevertheless, this year began with powdered milk going down in price, reaching about US$2,500 and the customs tariff returned to 20%.
Nestle announced that an 1800g can of Instant Nido was 19% cheaper, while a 2500g package, known as Jumbo, was 17% lower, as well as a 390g package that was 13% less. They also reduced the price of Anchor powdered milk in 2500g cans by 11%.
Local milk production has maintained it price, "due to the fact that national producers have costs in their dairy farms that do not allow for a price reduction, according to the cost reports on a liter of milk as reported by (milk producers association) Conaleche."

ADOZONA urges labor code revision
The president and vice-president of the Dominican Free Zones Association (ADOZONA) is asking for an urgent modification of the Labor Code as a way of sending signals to investors that there is at least an intention to save jobs in this country. Fernando Capellan and Jose Manuel Torres revealed that several international businesses from the sector have told Adozona that they are experiencing problems due to the lack of flexibility in the Labor Code. During the Economic Breakfast meeting with media group Multimedios del Caribe, the executives emphasized that this code is affecting the sector's development and halting the creation of new jobs.
Capellan referred to the fact that "they (legislators) should not change the basic idea but rather the form of several articles of the Labor Code" because they are stalling development and job creation. The articles that should be modified include no. 539 that says that labor decrees are to be carried out on the third day after notification, except in cases where the business in question deposits a guarantee in a bank worth twice the amount decreed by the court. Capellan said that there is currently no opportunity for management and the employee to come to any sort of agreement since the lawyers avoid this. He also called for the modification of articles 80, 86, 147, 537 and 480 of the code. He said that there is currently a deflationary pressure on pricing.
He pointed out, "Production orders, besides being rare, come with a number of additional requirements and at lower prices which is forcing the business to an internal readjustment, digging deeper than ever before to improve production and quality levels."
Capellan also called for a readjustment of Law 890, which is the framework for the Industrial Free Zones, in order to modify it so that it takes DR-CAFTA requirements and new international trade structures into consideration.
He pointed out that the social costs of employees' salaries are 27.8% to 34.69% higher than the competition in Central America.

Good tobacco harvest
Adalberto Rosa, director of Intabaco, the Dominican Tobacco Institute, says that the harvest this year will total more than 110,000 tareas, up 10% over last year. He said the increase is the result of sustained strong sales, despite the global financial crisis. (One tarea = 629 square meters).

Lister 'powerless' in face of corruption
The national director of Persecution of Administrative Corruption (DPCA), Octavio Lister, admitted that there are corrupt officials in the current public administration. Lister, who is also an assistant prosecutor, said that to say anything else would be to lie to the country.
"Of course, yes, and this has been complained about on several occasions, and for this reason we are also investigating cases in this government."
Lister said he felt that it was difficult to investigate corruption cases, "and afterwards, when people are sent to justice, it is even more difficult to get a definitive sentence and above all, for the person to serve the sentence."
He said that a corrupt person acts intelligently, not just to steal, but also because they have enough time to avoid leaving any evidence. He said that he has the authority to investigate any official from any part of the government.
"There are evidently many limitations in current practice, including when we investigate the judges themselves or the legislators."

Six conditions for going to Summit
After a meeting yesterday lasting less than half an hour, the PRD's Political Commission set out the main conditions the government must meet in order for the party to take part in the National Unity Summit. Among them is a requirement to take the discussions of the constitutional reform to the summit itself, and to agree to modify this year's Budget and Public Expenditures Law.
The document outlining the decision was unanimously approved, but party president Ramon Alburquerque was not present, as he is currently out of the country.
Diario Libre said that acting PRD president Tomas Hernandez Alberto pointed out that the original draft of the proposal was prepared by Alburquerque and later submitted for discussion to the party leadership and the political commission, resulting in some modifications.
The PRD indicated that any discussion of the constitutional reform inside the summit should be taken in the context of its later submission to a Constituent Assembly.
The party also said that the government should reduce it current expenditure, revoke the appointments of "absurd advisors", eliminate the special payrolls, and make a commitment to prosecute and punish crime and corruption.
Several other top party officials were at the meeting besides secretary general Orlando Jorge Mera, former President Hipolito Mejia and former candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. Upon leaving the meeting, Vargas said that he felt that the decision was positive, while Mejia said that this was the result of a "consensus and the unity of the entire party leadership."

Legal expert on Colombian judiciary
In a speech last night, the president of the Colombian Constitutional Court Humberto Sierra Porto highlighted the achievements and advances made by Colombian society with the division of the Judicial Branch into a Supreme Court of Justice, a Council of State and a Constitutional Court. The topic is timely because President Leonel Fernandez has sent changes to the judicial power in the constitutional reform bill.
Jurist Sierra Porto gave a lecture titled "The role of the Constitutional Court in the Legal Code of a Modern Democracy". President Fernandez and First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez were present and took part in the question and answer session.
During the event, held at the Presidential Palace's Caryatid Hall, dozens of government officials, lawyers, labor leaders and other prominent figures asked questions, as did President Fernandez.
The Colombian jurist said that the Senate selects the judges who make up the courts for an eight-year period from a shortlist sent by the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court and a Council of State so that there is greater independence.
He said that in Colombia, the Judicial Branch is composed of a number of entities that have a very specific relationship with each other, which has contributed to the good working of the justice system in the country.
He showed how a Higher Council of Judges exists in his country, and is responsible for administering the judicial branches, independently of whether it is Contentious, Ordinary or Constitutional. "Absolutely all the administrative aspects are handled by one organization, and when I speak of administrative aspects, I am referring to contracts, transportation, personnel, and the judicial school."
He stated that there are three large courts and three large jurisdictions in Colombia: "The jurisdiction whose head is the Supreme Court, the contentious administrative jurisdiction, which is headed by the Council of State, and the Constitutional Court."
Sierra Porto said that the judicial branch in Colombia is totally autonomous budget-wise and when it comes to the handling of its public policies. The Executive Branch has no relationship with these components of the Judicial Branch.
Finally, he pointed out that before his country's 1991 Constitution, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Council of State were the administrative authorities of the judicial branch.

Fake vaccines cause deaths
An investigation carried out by the Ministry of Public Health into two deaths revealed that fake tetanus vaccines caused the problem. The vaccines were administered at some public hospitals. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that there are several arrested as the investigation continues. Pharmacies were notify to remove the two medications - Cloferin and gamaglobulina humana (without a brand name) from the market. The Ministry of Public Health, National District prosecutors and the National Department of Investigations are carrying out the investigations.

Theft at the Country Club
The police are on the trail of two individuals who robbed the administrative offices of the Santo Domingo Country Club, the exclusive golf and social club on the west side of the city at around 9pm on Sunday night. They are reported to have got away with RD$400,000 in cash. The club's watchmen said they recovered a box with RD$200,000. Colonel Milton de Leon Perez is in charge of the investigation. As reported, the thieves entered the accounts office, and one used a mask and carried a shotgun in the robbery before leaving the premises.

FAA to investigate Caribair
The director of the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC), Jose Tomas Perez, reported on Monday that the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the Caribair airline and its president Rafael Rosado for irregularities in its flights.
Perez said that on 3 January the airline made an emergency landing in North Carolina because it ran out of fuel, proving that this was a private aircraft that was operating a commercial flight.
Perez said that four FAA inspectors are in the country to investigate not just the airline, but Rosado as well.
Perez recalled that the airline's one-year suspension was precisely due to the fact that it was proven that the airline was carrying out operations that jeopardized the possibility of Dominican registration aircraft flying to the United States (Category 1).
This Monday, interviewed on the popular radio program "El Gobierno de la Manana" the president of Caribair complained that no airline is flying from the Dominican Republic to Haiti and back due to the suspension of Caribair's operations.
Nonetheless, the director of IDAC said that this was not the case, and said that other airlines would take on that route until the Caribair situation is cleared up, so that nothing is at risk. He said that when one airline is suspended, another comes in to take its place.
Perez stated that according to data held by IDAC, the FAA will take measures against Rafael Rosado, "and we don't want to do him any harm, it's just that they are investigating irregularities."
Jose Tomas Perez stated that if Caribair wants to resume its operations, it has to get its house in order and obtain new certification after the next nine months.

Two cities announce carnivals
The municipality of Santo Domingo North has announced the celebration of Carnival on 22 February, with more than 100 groups and floats that will parade along Hermanas Mirabal Avenue in Villa Mella. Mayor Jesus Feliz made the announcement accompanied by folklorist Dagoberto Tejeda and he promised reporters that the event would be a genuine demonstration of the area's cultural richness and a chance for citizens to showcase their creativity. He said that Villa Mella is one of the most prolific locations for cultural activity and folklore, and this is why UNESCO has declared the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the Congos of Villa Mella a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. He said that all of this would be on display during its carnival.
Meanwhile, Santo Domingo East city council, in the midst of the festival atmosphere that caught up and brightened hundreds of its citizens, inaugurated its carnival activities last weekend. Called the "Carnavalbus" this year, festivities began on 30 January and went on until Saturday 31 January. The party started at Plaza Hollywood on Mella Highway, and from there the parade went into the sectors of Los Mina South, Ozama, Alma Rosa, Villa Duarte, Los Farallones, Lengua Azul and La Isabelita. The big parade will take place along Espana Avenue on 15 February.

Athletes of the year
Beijing Olympics gold medal winner, boxer Felix Diaz has been chosen as the Dominican athlete of the year. He is the second Dominican "Felix" to win a gold medal. Felix Sanchez won the country's first gold in the Athens Olympics. Other winners this year by sports categories are:
Chess: Kenia Jose Polanco, Ramon Mateo
Archery: Ivel Felix, Paris Goico de Lara
Track & Field: Arismendy Peguero, Carlos Johelin Santa, Pedro Mejia, Yoel Tapia
Badminton: Yomaira Elizabeth Sanchez, Nelson Javier Ozuna Basketball: Johanna Morthon, Al Horford
Handball: Suleydi Suarez Genao Pablo Jacobo Rojas
Baseball: Carlos Valdez, Wellington Sanchez
Bowling: Aumi Guerra, Hilton Nunez
Boxing: Jennibier Adelina Guillen, Felix Diaz
Cycling: Juana Fernandez, Augusto Sanchez
Equestrian: Fauntyly R. Garrido
Fencing: Rossy Felix, Hector Castro
Soccer: Rosa Cespedes Cotes, Johan Sanchez
Gymnastics: Yamilet Pena, Jesus de Leon
Hockey: Melissa Correa Cabral, Rafael Suero
Judo: Maria Garcia, Juan Carlos Jacinto
Karate: Maria Dimitrova, Alberto Mancebo
Weight-lifting: Yudelkis Contreras, Juan Leonardo Jimenez Wrestling: Elsa Sanchez, Hansel Ramirez, Gabriel Garcia
Swimming: Maria Zenon, Jacinto Ayala
Skating: Deivilet Ramirez, Nelson Martinez
Pelota Vasca: Fabian Augusto Carrera
Pentathlon: Yina Carolina Zapata, Yacil Valera
Raquetball: Luis Perez
Rowing and Canoeing: Blanca Ramos, Karen Severino, Joel Arias, Johan Rodriguez
Softball: Rosaury Perez, Victor Encarnacion
Surfing: Pascual Silverio
Taekwondo: Deysi Montes de Oca, Gabriel Mercedes
Tennis: Franchesca Segarelli, Victor Estrella
Table Tennis: Nieves Wu Xue, Juan Antonio Vila Batista
Skeet: Eugen Klink, Siviel Colon
Triathlon: Laura Gaitan, Javier Cuevas
Skeet: Julio Manuel Dujarric
Volleyball: Bethania de la Cruz, Jose Caceres Gomez
Sailing: Andrea Verdeja, Raul Aguayo
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