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Daily News - Friday, 06 February 2009

Fernandez receives reports
Yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez received the reports from the seven work groups at the National Summit. Fernandez is expected to incorporate some of the observations during his 27 February Independence Day speech to Congress. Among approvals that met with a consensus and that could be accepted by the government are that the Ministry of Education, the National Police and the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) would receive more funds. Social Security will receive funds from the National Lottery. Also, it was agreed upon that no public employee should earn more than the President and that municipal authorities can receive 10% of funds managed by the government to be used in the areas of environment and development. There was also a proposal by the immigration work group for legislation to be passed that would only allow "jus sanguinis" (right of blood) as a way to obtain citizenship. Fernandez reiterated his confidence that the results of the National Summit will be implemented, in the name of national unity in response to the international financial crisis. Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas said that some of the work group discussions would be revisited at a later date to get a consensus, while those that have already been agreed upon will go into deeper discussion. Montas said that the PRD's participation was not discussed, and added that the invitation for them to attend was still open.

Who's to blame?
The pharmaceutical industry is complaining that the Ministry of Public Health has not done enough to remove fake medicines from the market, despite the department's current efforts to confiscate fake Human Gamma Globulin from pharmacy shelves.
Today it was announced that the Ministry had closed ten pharmaceutical distribution businesses that were selling fake meds. Ninoska, Distribuidora Internacional Garcia SA, Distribuidora DLF, Distribuidora Suplirami SA, Farmacia Matilde, Distribuidora Vendisar SA, Distribuidora C&N Comercial CxA, Farmacia Sanchez, Farmacia Rosa Maria and Farmacia Manuel are among those closed.
Laura Castellanos, speaking on behalf of pharmaceutical sector association INFADOMI went as far as to say that the Ministry has not dared confront whoever is placing these products on the market. Quoted in Listin Diario, she said that although Law 22-06 sets a 10-year sentence for anyone caught falsifying, importing, exporting or distributing drugs, no one has ever been sentenced for this. According to Hoy, the sale of fake pharmaceuticals involves annual profits of RD$1 billion. Fernandez Ferreira, speaking on behalf of another pharmaceutical sector body, ARAF, said that the Ministry of Public Health has granted thousands of licenses to unknown distributors, adding there is no real control in the pharmaceutical sector.
Castellanos claims that on many occasions INFADOMI has asked the Ministry of Public Health for a list of "licensed" distributors, because the list is full of businesses that are not authorized to distribute. While the import and sale of fake medications has been a public concern for some time, the issue was brought back into the media spotlight when two people died as a result of receiving Gamma Globulin injections.
The Public Health Ministry has reiterated its commitment to monitoring the sale of fake medications. Minister Bautista Rojas is quoted in Listin Diario as saying, "we want the Dominican public to trust in the Ministry and in the Drug and Pharmacy Department, which is working with transparency".

Energy's surplus
According to AES Dominicana president Marco de la Rosa, the DR's energy sector will need a cash infusion of US$3.4 billion over the next five years. De la Rosa said that US$2.2 billion needs to be spent on updating the current energy grid and on energy generation. An added US$300 million must be invested in increasing the efficiency of energy transmission. The concern, however, is how to obtain these funds at a time when the national energy sector is experiencing record losses. According to Radhames Segura, vice president of the leading state electricity corporation, the CDEEE, the investment could be greater than the numbers presented by de la Rosa. Segura says that the country needs to spend US$3 billion on installing energy plants that could generate between 1,800MW and 2,000MW. Segura, quoted in Hoy, says the nation's current energy system is obsolete. He mentioned Haina I and IV, as well as Puerto Plata I and II and the plants at Itabo. Segura also spoke on the eventual need for more energy production. According to Segura, by 2011 the nation will need a total of 4,063MW to meet national demand. They made their comments during a panel discussion organized by the American Chamber of Commerce. During the event, former Dominican Republic Industries Association president Celso Marranzini called on the government to maintain only a facilitator and regulatory role in the electricity sector. "Year after year the business sector has to hear promises that the government will resolve the electricity sector, and we are only sinking deeper", said Marranzini, as reported in El Caribe. He called for clear rules of the game and ridding the sector of politics.

Bengoa defends pay raises
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa is defending the pay increases announced for employees at the Ministry of Environment (SEMARENA). The new income levels are now comparable to other ministries. Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez will now receive RD$200,000 a month, up from RD$85,000, and his deputy ministers will each go from RD$60,000 to RD$175,000. The main ministry officials will also enjoy perks like assigned vehicles, cell phones and fuel allowances. Bengoa, quoted in Hoy, justified the raises by saying that any wage increase to keep qualified professionals is justified. He added that it was the only way for the government to ensure it could keep technical personnel working in a sector of such key importance.

Findings reveal concerns
A study by the FM Foundation and the Organization of Iberian -American States for Education, Science and Culture, has revealed that 8.4% of seventh and eighth graders admitted to drinking alcohol every day of the week, while 5.7% admitted to consuming drugs. The report reveals that 9.9% of students between the ages of 10 and 12 say they drink alcohol at least twice per week and 2.6% consume drugs with the same frequency. The study interviewed 3,315 students in 58 schools across 21 provinces and the National District. Another alarming statistic provided by the study is that 5.8% of students have been sexually abused by their own classmates and that 8.8% have received verbal abuse of a sexual nature from classmates. Surprisingly 4.7% of students admit to having sexually abused classmates while 4.3% have admitted to have verbally abused their classmates. According to Hoy, the statistics are the highest compared to those from students in Brazil, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico. The study indicates that psychological abuse is the most common in Dominican schools. Luis Verges, advisor at the National Drug Council (CND) the concern is that the age of drug abusers is getting lower.

Free rides for all
Reducing the ride on a public taxis by RD$10 wasn't enough for drivers, so now, in order to attract passengers, bus drivers will place larger buses at the different Metro stops during rush hour traffic, for free. It seems this may be the only way to rescue the public transport sector as the Metro has become the preferred travel option from Villa Metro (a.k.a. Villa Metro), where the Metro starts, to Centro de los Heroes. The offer will begin next week, but drivers will be hard pressed to find anyone willing to cram into a public car for a 30-minute ride when they can ride comfortably on the train. Commuters interviewed by Listin Diario said that taking the Metro is not only about comfort, but about not putting up with public transport drivers and their "lack of education," aggression and anger. " We are tired of uneducated drivers, cramming us into dirty buses. That's over, now we have a Metro." One driver, not realizing the reality, asked the government for another handout, saying that, "now that people are taking the Metro, the government should help us with Bonagas."

La Nacional drops rates
La Asociacion Nacional de Ahorros y Prestamos has announced that it would drop its interest rates on new loans in keeping with the trend set by other banks and savings and loan associations earlier this week. The 2% drop will decrease rates from 23% to 21%. Personal, mortgage and other loans will also be subject to a 2% rate drop. Customers who currently have loans with La Nacional must wait until a review period in order to ask for a rate reduction. Earlier in the week Scotiabank, Banco Leon, the BHD and Banco de Reservas announced they would also cut rates.

Cigar tax to affect DR sales
The price of cigars produced in the DR is likely to go up this year. While it had been held up under the Bush Administration, President Barack Obama has signed a measure aimed at raising the federal excise tax on tobacco while expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The bill calls for the tax on large cigars to be capped at 40.26 cents per cigar, which is up from the present five-cent cap. The legislation will take effect on 1 April. The revenue will go towards the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a US$32.8 billion 12-year program to provide health insurance coverage to families who can't afford it, and don't qualify for Medicaid.
The DR is a major exporter of cigars to the US market, and could be affected by drop in export volumes.

Just ridiculous
They've caught "Ben Laden!" No, not that that Bin Laden, but a drug dealer with a similar name in the Katanga neighborhood of Los Mina. Police announced they caught Ben Laden who was bold enough to be running a drug ring from the rooftop of a Pentecostal Church in the neighborhood. Police say that when caught, Ben Laden was in possession of drugs and some paraphernalia.

George Arzeno Brugal RIP
The president of Brugal & Co., George Arzeno Brugal passed away today. At the time of his death, he was in Tampa, Florida, according to a report in the online version of Listin Diario. Company spokesman Luis Concepcion is reported to have confirmed the news of his death, saying that his children were with him during his final moments. The spokesman said that Arzeno Brugal had not been sick, " he was here on Wednesday and then left for Florida," he said. Luis Concepcion said he had no details of when the body would be returned to the DR. George Arzeno Brugal was also president of the Brugal Foundation that for over a decade has made major grants to non-profit institutions, under the "Brugal Cree en su Gente" program. Last year Brugal & Co was purchased by leading Scottish premium spirits company the Edrington Group.

Thierry and his horse
French psychologist Thierry Posty, known for his international horseback riding adventures, has arrived in the DR ready for his next ride. The Frenchman, known for riding across the world on horseback will ride across the DR for the next 45 days. Listin Diario writes that Posty has been doing this since he was 18 years old. Posty is fresh from a trip to Jamaica and the Galapagos Islands. Posty travels light with a camera, a tent and a few other items and rents a horse from the host country. He buys most of his necessities in the small towns he crosses where he takes the opportunity to mingle with locals. He says his goal is to ride 100,000 kilometers on horseback and has ridden 62,050 kilometers. Posty can be reached at 809 840 8222 or at [email protected]

Fermin is out
Felix Fermin, considered one of the most successful managers in Dominican baseball has called it quits. In a statement, Fermin simply said, "I have decided not to return to the Aguilas." During his interview on Channel 29 he reiterated that, " I am not coming back as manager." Fermin didn't exclude the possibility of returning as a member of the front office or even living full time in Mexico. In his final comments Fermin added that the Aguilas don't have enough players to win next year and should take some action if they wanted to compete.

DR down and out
It's official: the DR, represented by the Tigres del Licey in the Serie del Caribe has been eliminated from championship contention. The mortal blow was delivered by the Venezuelan team, Los Tigres de Aragua. It was a disappointing end for the DR's championship hopes and a troubling beginning for its international competitive schedule. The DR team had been struggling offensively and last night's 3-2 loss was a testament to those struggles. The team jumped out to an early lead after a two-run homerun by Ronny Paulino. Pitching was the DR's Achilles heel after pitcher Nerio Rodriguez gave up eight hits and three runs in five innings. But not all is to blame on the Dominican team. The Venezuelan team, with a 4-0 record, proved a formidable opponent and could be a challenger in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

It's freezing!
The coldest days of the Dominican winter are here. Chilly temperatures hovering around 20-23C, 68F-73F and it feels colder because of the strong breezes that have caught everyone by surprise. The Weather Department forecasts that the cold weather will continue throughout the weekend nationwide.
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