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Daily News - Thursday, 30 April 2009

Megastore opens on Luperon
President Leonel Fernandez attended the inauguration of the largest supermarket in the Caribbean and Central America, the Jumbo Luperon in Santo Domingo. On sale are 174,555 articles. The supermarket covers an area of 22,000 square meters, of which 14,000 are store space. It employs 1,108 workers. Jose Miguel Gonzalez Corripio and Jose Miguel Gonzalez Cuadra, chief executives of Jumbo's parent company CCN, gave details about the new mega store that also sells hardware, household items, appliances, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and books, and has a large entertainment area with 8 fast food shops, 4 banks and 28 other shops. Jumbo Luperon, which has parking spaces for 900 cars, can be accessed from three streets. "This is the result of the hard work of 5,491 members of the CCN family, who with their effort and daily dedication, are the backbone of the growth of this company, throughout the past seven decades", said Gonzalez Cuadra, company CEO.

Fernandez honors Bocelli
President Leonel Fernandez awarded Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli the order of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella, rank Grand Official, during a visit the singer made to the Presidential Palace. He was honored for his great contributions to culture. Bocelli is set for a concert on Thursday, 30 April at Altos de Chavon amphitheater in La Romana. The First Lady's Office has bought and re-sold front row seats at his concert to raise funds for the construction of 50 homes for destitute families in El Seibo.

Buy Dominican
Speaking at the First National Forum for Competitiveness and National Production, the director of the National Competitiveness Council Andres Van der Horst Alvarez proposed a campaign to encourage Dominicans to consume locally-made products. He said this proposal is part of the essence of a Country Branding strategy, "which is based on pride and love for what is ours," he said. He said that local products needed to be of sufficient quality to attract the preference of consumers.
The Dominican Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Companies, Codopyme is also campaigning for the government to meet Law 488-08 that calls for 15-20% of government procurement orders to be made for Dominican-made goods. Issachart Burgos of Codopyme said that local companies have the capacity to manufacture military and police uniforms, as well as books, shoes and backpacks for schoolchildren. He said there is also local capacity to satisfy demand for office equipment, school desks, windows, and for the government's printing needs.
The topic of buying local also made front page of Hoy. Local pipe manufacturers are complaining that the government is inclined to purchase 200kms of pipes from Brazilian firm Odebrecht, when these can be manufactured here with the same quality. The news report says that the government accepted an offer said to be overpriced by RD$50 million. Odebrecht has quoted RD$100 million, and the local companies say they can supply the same quality for RD$50 million. The pipes are for use in the construction of the Samana aqueduct.

DR ambassador to Mauritius
Dominican ambassador Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, based in the Indian capital New Delhi, and concurrent in Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, presented credentials yesterday in Mauritius to President Anerood Jugnaut. The accreditation is part of a foreign policy strategy of the Fernandez administration to strengthen ties with Asian and African countries. Dannenberg told Prensa Latina that he discussed exchanges in the sugar industry, bio-fuels and tourism with the Mauritian head of state. The bilateral agenda includes a possible visit to the DR by Foreign Minister Avin Boolell, the possible opening of a Mauritian embassy in the DR, both countries participation in the Association of Small Island States, and an initiative for a general agreement between both foreign ministries. The DR has had diplomatic ties with Mauritius since 2002. Dannenberg says that the DR collaborates with Mauritius in international forums such as the European Participation Act in areas of sugar industry, textile and tourism, also in the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, and in the African, Caribbean and Pacific groupings.
Dannenberg said that the Mauritian business sector had shown an interest in trade opportunities within the framework of DR-CAFTA.

Swine flu has not reached DR
The first publicized case that of suspected swine flu infection that was tested in the DR, that of young Irma Jimenez Chaparro, 23, from Mexico, showed negative results. The Mexican was hospitalized at the Corazones Unidos Clinic with suspicious symptoms. The sample analysis was done in the laboratories of the Center for Medical Education and Dominican-Japanese Friendship (Cemadoja) but the test showed she just had a bad cold. The results of the test, nevertheless, would be sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. The Ministry of Public Health is preparing to a large demand of tests, now that the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the alert level to 5 out of maximum 6. Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez pointed out that tests for the virus must follow the international protocol, and would be carried out on patients who have been in contact with infected people and anyone with symptoms of the illness.
Rojas Gomez commented that while the virus is not going around here, there is no need to use masks. He reported that the WHO has recommended unlimited travel to the country. Yesterday, the president of the National Hotel and Restaurants Association, Haydee Kuret de Rainieri, reported on 11 flights with tourists headed to Mexico that were re-routed to the Dominican Republic.

Public health advice
The Dominican Society of Pediatrics has announced 46 recommendations to reduce the risk of swine flu. These include washing hands frequently, before and after meals, after changing diapers, after touching things such as cell phones, telephones or after travel.
Dr. Jose Brea del Castillo, the society's vice president, also mentioned covering one's mouth when sneezing, by using the crook of the elbow and if a person uses their hands, they should wash immediately.
In the case of the swine flu infection should affect the DR, he recommended avoiding kissing other people and touching the eyes.
Other recommendations include avoiding visits to malls, churches, theaters, schools, fairs, movies, universities or public places in general, by staying at home and taking sufficient liquids, away from the people you live with if that person is at risk of swine flu.
He also recommended cleaning surfaces that are prone to contamination with disinfectants. He said that the symptoms are a fever above 38 degrees C, a cough, and general discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. A person with these symptoms should see a doctor.
On the question of treatment for the sick, the doctor recommended that people caring for the sick in their homes should wash their hands with soap and water before and after contact with the patient, covering their face with a surgical mask as well as keeping utensils used in patient care, like plates and glasses, isolated from all the rest of the household. Floors should also be disinfected.

Doctors' strike enters third day
Today marks the third day of the strike by public doctors and other public health workers in demand of pay increases. As with the first two days, hospital directors and health care center administrative personnel treated the small number of patients who sought outpatient services. Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero accused the authorities of manipulating and changing the favorable opinion that the public had of the doctors and their allies. He said that the government is responsible for them not taking part in current priorities, such as the threat of the swine flu in the country, because of the attitude they have adopted by ignoring the demands of the sector and that has driven them to go on strike.
The CMD-led strike, in combination with the Health Sector Unions, will continue today, and its organizers insist that they will not stop their fight until they get a positive outcome from the government. The striking personnel will only treat emergencies that come in to the hospitals as well as those critical care patients who need looking after.

Credit "not enough for development"
Bank credit, widely held to be the traditional resource strength for the creation, development and expansion of business and the productive sector in general, is not sufficient for the current needs of the marketplace. Marcos Troncoso, the president of the Dominican Republic Stock Market (BVRD), made this statement after pointing out that there is absolute dependence on bank credit, since of RD$305 billion, only RD$11 billion, barely 3.5%, went from the capital markets into corporate bonds.
In his judgment, this dependence is due to the fact that the stock market has not developed in the country, especially in regards to the sale of shares in companies. He said that the lack of resources that is the current situation is not from the demand, but rather because bank credit has to comply with many restrictions in order to protect depositors' interests.
During his contribution as guest speaker at the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) monthly luncheon, Troncoso said that bank credit is not sufficient and should be complemented by a stock market that is a real instrument for development. At the same time, the productive sectors should be allowed to access resources by means of issuing fixed income instruments such as corporate bonds and share offers.
He also mentioned the creation of capital risk funds that in their different versions can invest in businesses in the productive sector according to their level of development. Troncoso said that four conditions have to be in place in order for a country to have a stock market that becomes a real instrument for national development. One of these is to increase the volume of transaction on the stock market. Another would be to modify the law on stocks and shares and the article 99 of Law 87-01 on pension funds and execute a program of creation of businesses and the capital risk fund industry.
Troncoso added that it is necessary, in the short term, and with the necessary regulatory controls, that the negotiation of instruments offered to the public should be done through the Stock Market, or from a platform administrated by the Stock Market, with the aim of reaching the volume that leads to the formation of prices, an earning curve and total transparency.
He added that the Stock Market needed to be a model of liquidity, transparency and trust in order to build confidence and attract investors.
Troncoso proposed an alliance between the public and private sectors with a view to setting up a business creation program as part of the social programs and the principal support in the fight against poverty.
For his part, new AmCham president Alejandro Pena Prieto said that despite the crisis, he believed that this was the right time to continue making efforts aimed at developing a capital market. He pointed out that experience shows that countries that have developed their capital markets have enjoyed sustained economic growth rates and greater and more influential development.

Universal health care
The Constitution Revisory Assembly has approved Article 50 that establishes that "All persons have the right to overall health care", and also article 51 that says, "Employment is a right, a duty and a social function that is exercised with the protection and assistance of the state. It is the essential aim of the state to promote dignified and paid work, and promote the consensus between workers, management and the state".
Although the article allows the right of the employees to strike and of management to halt work or close, the Assembly rejected a part of numeral six that proposed the prohibition of all interruption, blockage, stoppage or intentional slowdown of production in private or state enterprises. All interruption, blockage, stoppage or intentional reduction of production in the work of private or state businesses that does not correspond with the right enunciated is prohibited. This numeral remained in the following manner: "the right of the workers to strike and of the employers to halt or close private businesses, as long as this follows the law and to resolve conflicts that are strictly labor related and pacific is permitted.
The law will provide the measures required to guarantee the compliance of these rules and will establish the guarantees necessary for the fulfillment of the essential public services without prejudice to the legal authority of the President". Article 50 establishes is its first numeral that "The state will watch out for the protection of the health of all persons and the improvement of their diet, the health services, the conditions of hygiene and the environmental sanitation, and will secure the means by which to prevent and treat all of the illnesses, giving free medical and hospital assistance to whomsoever, due to their scarce economic resources, may be in need." And in numeral two "by means of legislation and public policies, the state will guarantee the exercise of economic and social rights of the population with the least income, and as a result will lend its protection and assistance to the groups and sectors that are most vulnerable; and at the same time it will combat the social vices with adequate measures and the help of the conventions of international organizations."
One thing the Revisory Assembly could not agree upon was the issue of education referred to in Article 52 of the proposal for constitutional reform submitted by the President. This article says that: "The Dominicans and legal foreign residents in the country have the right to a complete education, of quality, permanent, and in equal conditions and opportunities without limitations other than their aptitudes, vocation and aspirations." The article has 12 numerals and more than 20 proposals for modification were submitted.
In response, Assembly vice-president Julio Cesar Valentin sent article and the proposals to a commission to seek a consensus that would permit its approval, but the motion was rejected and the debates started. A total of 53 members of the Assembly requested time, of which 29 will be heard in today's session. The issue of Haitians and their possible access to the state educational system and the 4% that by law should be assigned to education in the budget and that is being proposed as a constitutional amendment polarized the debates, with radical positions both in favor and against both motions.
The National Revisory Assembly appointed the commission that will be studying articles 44, 45, and 46 that refer to the family, marriage, maternity, common-law marriage and the rights of boys, girls and young people and the protection of the elderly. The commission is chaired by Cristina Lizardo and includes Isabel de la Cruz, Teodoro Ursino Reyes, Isabel Bonilla, Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Amarilis Santana, Andres Bautista, Rafael Calderon, Noe Sterling Vasquez, Luis Jose Gonzalez Sanchez and Mary Sanchez.

35,000 students sans birth certificates
Despite the Central Electoral Board's (JCE) best efforts to provide birth certificates for undocumented schoolchildren, the number of students who entered school without the document this year is set at 35,000, according to the Ministry of Education (SEE). At present, the education system has nearly three million students.
According to a 2006 census by the SEE, 17,900 boys, girls and young people did not have birth certificates at the time.
Minister of Education Melanio Paredes said yesterday that a system has been set up to collect the data from the schools. In the process, it was discovered that about 67% of students have their documents in order, while 33% are going through a process of cleaning up.
The minister told reporters that, "within one or two months we will know which students were registered without documents and the reasons and we can then pass on the information to the JCE and organize the operations needed to document these children".
Meanwhile JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman warned yesterday about the possibility of creating "a nation without documents." He said that a large number of Haitian children do not have birth certificates, a problem that "will explode with the force of an atomic bomb" if a solution is not found.
One of the problems at issue is that most Haitian immigrants do not have documentation themselves, creating difficulties in their applying for either Haitian or Dominican citizenship for their children.

FENATRANO announces stoppage
The Fenatrano bus union has announced a 12-hour work stoppage on 6 May in protest at a supposed RD$100 million debt the government has with the freight-carrying sector. Fenatrano says that the workload of its drivers has decreased 65% and that many members have gone out of business. Fenatrado says it is also protesting "unfair" measures implemented by the government that limit the exchange of certain goods, including used clothing, at the Haitian border.

Privatized taxes in Cabarete?
A general strike by businesses, restaurants, taxis, transport, hotels and supermarkets that was scheduled to take place from Wednesday to Thursday in Cabarete was cancelled after a long meeting with the private company that is charging taxes and providing garbage removal services in Sosua and Cabarete on behalf of the city government.
Peter Orr of the Cabarete Development Association (ADECA) said that the basic agreement provides a 30-day timeframe to review what businessman Ian Schembri and lawyer Paulo Rondon want to be paid to release their "rights" to the municipality collections. Orr says that so far the public has not had access to the contract signed by the municipality granting Schembri's company the right to charge taxes, so no one can say what those "rights" are.
Orr criticizes the fact that the agreement that resulted in the strike being called off does not acknowledge the "numerous flaws" in the contracts, thus giving the impression that they are legitimate. "From that standpoint, there is no doubt that the process is going to lead to the conclusion that what Schembri and Rondon want to be paid for their rights will be more than what the community of Cabarete feels is fair they are paid to cancel the illegal contracts," he comments. "The agreement does not stipulate any process to get over that snag. Then we are going to be in the same place as we are now, in a month's time".
"Unless we can get a court hearing in our case calling for the annulment of the resolutions of the Municipality and the contracts," he says.
The Federation for a Sustainable Cabarete (FCS) comments that the city council group is a relatively new organization that is collecting millions in taxes while still trying to figure out its role in Cabarete's everyday life. FCS says that it would get the support of the community and local businesspeople when the people see how the money collected is invested back in the community.

A basketball story
There is a slight chance that the Dominican Republic may compete in the World Basketball Championship. At least, according to Sacramento Kings' star forward Francisco Garcia, this is something that he can see happening. Garcia is making the rounds of the country's newspaper offices with the obligatory stop to visit Minister of Sports Felipe "Jay" Payano, and talking up the possibility of a Dominican team in the championships.
While professing that he bears the Dominican coat of arms and patriotism no matter where he plays in the NBA, Garcia says if the Kings give him the necessary permission and the Dominican Basketball Federation pays for the insurance, he would certainly wear the national uniform in the international competition. Of course, he said, the same goes for stars like Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva and Trevor Ariza. The premiums on these insurance policies are thought to be several million dollars for such a venture, but according to accounts in today's Hoy and Listin Diario, Garcia can see it happening. He said that all that was needed was time, practice and unity between all the players on the team. He praised the work done by coaches Scott Roth and Keith Smart the last time the team got together, but also mentioned the lack of communication that sometimes occurred with the local players. Payano told Hoy reporters that the NBA players were keeping the name of the Dominican Republic "on high," adding that President Fernandez greatly respects the Dominican players in the NBA.
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