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Daily News - Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Funds for competitiveness
The European Union will provide EUR5.1 million of a EUR6 million fund to finance competitiveness programs benefiting productive sectors in the country, as reported in Hoy. The program will be implemented by the National Competitiveness Council (CNC). The Dominican government will contribute EUR800,000 in counterpart funding. The program will benefit the Standard and Quality Systems Department (Digenor), the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, the Center for Export & Investment (CEI-RD), the Institute for the Development of Farm and Forestry Research (IDIAF), the Institute for Biotechnology Research (IIBI), the Center for the Development of Industry Competitiveness (ProIndustria) and the Program to Support Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Business (Promipyme).
Andres Van der Horst, director of the CNC, said the donation is the first in a series of European Union supported projects expected to total EUR33 million that will be targeted at reducing poverty in the country.
The Head of the European Commission Delegation in the DR, Francisco Carreras said that support programs to the DR from the European Union are expected to increase in these times of crisis.
Domingo Jimenez, who is in charge of European Union programs for the Dominican government, said that the country is facing the challenges of open markets, with the signing of the DR-CAFTA treaty with Central America and the US, and the EPA with the EU.

Government tackles flu threat
President Leonel Fernandez convened the National Influenza Commission today to hear details of preventive measures that have been adopted in response to149 deaths reported in the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, where the World Health Organization raised the alert level to 4 on a scale of 6. There is a risk of a global epidemic that the world health authorities are attempting to prevent through mitigation efforts. In addition to the cases in Mexico, there have been others in the US, Canada and Spain.
Fernandez called Public Health minister Bautista Rojas Gomez and Agriculture minister Salvador (Chio) Jimenez into his office after the meeting. They said that the National Epidemiological Vigilance System had been activated.
Bautista Rojas called on the population to remain calm. He said they are monitoring airport arrivals from affected countries, as this is one way for the disease to be spread. Airlines are on alert that any passenger with symptoms of a high fever should be placed under observation for 10 days as required by international protocols. In view of the fact that there are not enough thermographs to measure high temperatures, portable equipment will be on hand at immigration checkpoints, and the inspectors will check for fevers. There are also restrictions in place at seaports and along the Haitian frontier.
The Public Health Minister has delivered materials and equipment for airport employees to help passengers arriving from overseas, especially at Las Americas International Airport (AILA), which receives flights from Mexico. Passengers on COPA Airlines flights from Mexico via Panama were checked, and each was required to fill out a card with their address and telephone number, and advised to call the government hotline in case of any flu symptoms. AILA was placed on alert and the control measures were put into operation at terminals A and B.
The director of the ministry's Livestock Department, Angel Faxas, told Dominicans that they could eat pork without any risk. He explained that no virus could survive the heat required to cook the meat. But the Department of Customs has already suspended pork imports.
The measures that the World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending for swine flu prevention include frequent hand washing, keeping windows open and keeping a clean house. In the case of sneezing, it is recommended the person cover their mouth and nose with disposable tissues that should be discarded at once. Hands should be washed immediately for optimum hygiene. The WHO reminded people that the flu is highly contagious and can be spread to others, even when no symptoms are evident. School-age children are most susceptible to flu contagion.
The US Center for Disease Control reports 45 confirmed cases in New York City, and a total of 64 cases in the US.
See www.cdc.gov/swineflu

National vaccination campaign
With a budget estimated at RD$60 million and with the aim of immunizing more than 909,967 people of all ages, the Ministry of Public Health began a national vaccination campaign yesterday. The objective of this strategy is to immunize against eight preventable illnesses, including diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus in children over seven years of age. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez headed the formal launch of the immunization operation yesterday during a ceremony at the Professor Juan Bosch Primary School in the La Puya Sector of Arroyo Hondo. The launch of the campaign comes as part of the "Americas Vaccination Week".
Rojas Gomez said that staff will go from house to house in more than 900 priority areas and that the vaccines will be available at more than 955 fixed sites that the Ministry has around the country. Staff members expect to vaccinate some 623,000 children under three years of age. For his part, the director of the Broad-based Immunization Program, Zacarias Garib, said that the children from the ages of one to three who have not been vaccinated would receive a dose against measles, chickenpox and mumps, while women of childbearing age will get a vaccination against Hepatitis B. Elderly people will also be vaccinated, as well as schoolchildren with chronic illnesses.

RD$4 billion in works in the East
The Ministry of Public Works is spending RD$4 billion on several projects in the east as part of government efforts to develop the region. Most of the money will be spent on roads and bridges as well as a vast program of asphalting the streets of barrios and smaller roads between towns. In San Pedro de Macoris, for example, the Ministry says it is building the bridge over the Soco River, at an estimated cost of RD$600 million. Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua told reporters from Listin Diario that the bridge was designed to support the worst climatic and flood conditions. The Ministry also says it is working on the road between the Cruce de Cayacoa and Los Llanos, on the reconstruction of the Ramon Santana Bridge and the bridge over the Magua River near the Consuelo Sugar Mill. He also mentioned other projects in the province of San Pedro de Macoris, such as the construction of sidewalks and gutters in Los Llanos, and the barrios of Japon, Las Filipinas, Las Colinas and Justo Carrion.

Doctors and nurses on strike again
At a time when the public is worried about the risk of the DR being affected by the swine flu outbreak, the leadership of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) and the Health Sector Unions have decided to begin a four-day work stoppage, starting at 6am today, that will affect public hospitals and the hospitals of the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS). Using the argument that there are no suspected cases in the country, CMD president, Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero said that the struggle for a salary increase is still on. "The government is responsible if a case (of swine flu) should arise because of a lack of epidemiological vigilance such as took place with rabies, just as happens with all of the cases that occur here daily, that tricked the health sector unions with three months talking in the Senate, just to come up with an irresponsible answer," he argued. When he was asked if it was a good idea to paralyze the hospitals at a time of a major virus watch, Suero said that the CMD leadership would meet with specialists, epidemiologists, public health workers and other experts in order to help prevent the illness from reaching the country. He emphasized though that it was the government's responsibility to prevent this from happening.
Minerva Magdaleno, representing the Public Health Sector Unions, said that her people are willing to double their efforts in the emergency rooms if necessary.
The work stoppage will continue until 6am on Saturday, and emergency room service and the care for critical patients will be maintained throughout.

Nationality on Constitution agenda
The issue of nationality is on today's agenda at the National Constitutional Revisory Assembly, with the right to strike, and marriage among the items that are expected to generate heated debates. President Leonel Fernandez's proposal says that Dominicans are defined as: "Those born in the national territory, with the exception of children of foreign members of diplomatic and consular missions or of foreigners in transit or residing illegally in Dominican territory. Dominicans are also, "Those born in the national territory of unknown parents or stateless persons." The article includes, "Those born in the national territory of foreign parents, if the legislation of their country of origin does not give them any nationality." "Those born overseas, to a Dominican father or mother, no matter having acquired by the place of birth, a different nationality from their parents. Once a person reaches the age of eighteen, that person can profess his or her decision, before the competent authorities, to keep dual nationality or renounce one of the nationalities." And "Those who marry a Dominican man or woman can opt for the nationality of their partner, as long as they fulfill the legal requirements" are also citizens. "The direct descendants of Dominicans who reside overseas" automatically become Dominican. "On those who have been naturalized, the law will establish the conditions and formalities required for naturalization." This article already has numerous proposals for modifications that will be sent to a commission in order to speed up the discussion of the Constitutional text.

CDEEE salaries quadrupled
In August 2004, the state-owned electricity businesses employed a total of 5,802 people. This amount had climbed to 8,862 by February this year, meaning that around 3,000 employees joined the government electricity department. Hoy reports that the monthly payrolls totaled RD$84 million in August 2004 and in February this year they were RD$422 million, around five times as much.
Recently, investigative TV journalist Nuria Piera reported on inflated payrolls, nepotism and mismanagement at the Blackout Reduction Program (PRA), one of the dependencies of the CDEEE.
This information was published in the Report on the Performance of the Electric Sector, February 2009 by the Dominican Corporation of State-Owned Electric Enterprises (CDEEE), the Hydro-electric Generator Enterprises (EGEHID), the Unit for Rural and Suburban Electrification (UERS), and the PRA.
The CDEEE also oversees the two electricity distributors, Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur, which are now operated by the government.
The number of employees of the CDEEE, EGEHID, UERS, and PRA went from 2,574 in August 2004 to 4,629 in February 2009, an increase of 2,055 people, or a 79.84% increase.
Meanwhile, Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur went from 3,228 employees to 4,233, a 31.13% increase.
The increase in employees of CDEEE, EGEHID, UERS, and PRA represented an increase in the payroll of RD$256 million, or a 656% increase from August 2004.
At Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur, the payrolls increased from RD$45 million in 2004 to RD$127 million in 2009, a 182% increase.
Overall, the yearly budget went from RD$2.01 billion in payrolls to RD$11.84 billion.
Business sectors have called for a removal of the government electricity team, deeming their efforts have been inefficient at solving supply and price issues.

Spanish vessel finishes study
After several weeks of oceanographically plotting some 35,000 square kilometers of Dominican underwater territory, Spanish investigators are leaving the country and will return in November with the conclusions of their study. Researchers say it is premature to speculate whether there are any commercially exploitable oil deposits off the shore of the Dominican Republic.
During a press conference held by the Spanish technicians, they said that the full analysis would take three years.
The initial reports were delivered by Andres Carpo, chief investigator of the Caribenorte project, sponsored by the Spanish government and the Complutense University of Madrid.
The marine floor survey was conducted by technicians aboard Oceanography Research Vessel Hesperides and the Dominican Navy's GC 109 Orion, which provided hydrological specialists to assist in the investigation.
Twenty seismographs were installed on the surface and connected to Santo Domingo's UASD University and the Mining Department.
The investigators covered the area from San Pedro de Macoris in the southeast to Peravia in the southwest in the search for marine data up to 1000 meters deep. There is a lot of work yet to be done, since in the area known as the Fosa de los Muertos (the Deep of the Dead) the depth is 5,000 meters.
Meanwhile, director of mining Octavio Lopez emphasized that the information that has been obtained is very valuable for the country's geographical database and can be used in natural disaster prevention. Spanish Ambassador Diego Bermejo thanked the Dominican authorities for their help.

Another cocaine load at Paya?
According to today's press, the authorities are saying that another major load of cocaine entered the country from the beach at Paya in the southwestern province of Bani last night. The cargo was reportedly unloaded on a beach known as Sabana Uvero. The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) arrested four people and seized several vehicles and a small craft, but not the drugs.
Bani Senator Wilton Guerrero reported that a Hummer SUV that was used to carry the cocaine was seized in a car wash in Santiago, where the vehicle had been taken for washing to remove traces of the drugs.
Reportedly, the drug traffickers abandoned a 40-foot boat and a Mazda pick-up that are now in the possession of the DNCD and the Bani Justice Department.
A source told Hoy newspaper that agents from the DNCD quick strike force together with Bani assistant district attorney Edward Rosario, went to Sabana Uvero beach in Paya, following some information that came from the DNCD Joint Information and Coordination Center. At the beach they found the boat, 12 blue plastic gasoline tanks and an 18-gallon tank in the launch, a cap with the Santiago Fire Department insignia and the Mazda pick-up truck.
Senator Wilton Guerrero, who has criticized the authorities for failing to point to high-ranking figures he says are complicit in drug trafficking in the region, said that he did not know how much cocaine was in the shipment. He said that several groups of drug traffickers are still operating in the south.

Horrific crash on Bani Hwy
The latest official toll is 11 dead and at least 14 injured among the passengers who were traveling from Neyba to Santo Domingo on a bus that collided with a large dump truck on the Lucas Diaz Bridge entry ramp. The governor of San Cristobal, Orlando Espinosa Medina, sent five ambulances to take the injured to hospitals in Bani and San Cristobal. At least three of the injured were transferred from the Juan Pablo Pina hospital in San Cristobal to the Dario Contreras Hospital in Santo Domingo. According to El Nuevo Diario, the accident occurred because the engineers rebuilding the highway between Bani and San Cristobal decided to use just one lane of the Lucas Diaz Bridge where the accident took place.

Book Fair
These are the final days to attend the National Book Fair at the Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo. This is the most important cultural event held annually in the DR. The fair closes on Monday, 4 May. The fair gathers most of the book shops in the DR that offer discounted prices.
For more on events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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