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Daily News - Friday, 22 May 2009

Fernandez in Seville and Cadiz
As part of his official visit to Spain, President Fernandez has visited Seville, where he called for the building of a 21st Century agenda between Andalusia and the DR. He met with the head of the Andalusia regional government, Jose Antonio Grinan and with the Mayor of Seville, Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin. "Seville is a city that has traditional cultural ties with Latin America and especially with the Dominican Republic, so to start this program is to strengthen these historic and friendship ties", said Grinan
This is the first time a Dominican President has visited Andalusia, as Fernandez pointed out. During his visit to Seville, Fernandez signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of his think tank the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development and the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean foundation to work closely on activities that contribute to the promotion of democratic practices and values.
During his visit to Seville, the President attended the inauguration of the exhibition, "Spanish Refugees in the DR 1939-1940" organized by the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation's Center for Andalusian Studies.
On another stop of his visit to several Spanish cities, President Leonel Fernandez received the keys to the city of San Fernando in the Spanish province of Cadiz. The ceremony was held at Teatro de Las Cortes de San Fernando, where the 1812 Spanish Constitution was signed. San Fernando Mayor Manuel Maria de Bernardo hosted the ceremony. This was the last day of Fernandez's official visit to Spain. Fernandez was accompanied by First Lady Margarita Cedeno. Fernandez said he would remember this day because of the warm reception he received and because of the significance of the location.

Haiti to Iberoamerican Summit?
President Leonel Fernandez's proposal for Haiti to be incorporated into the Ibero-American community has been welcomed by several Latin American countries and could be debated in the November Summit to be held in Portugal. Haiti requested to be admitted to the community in 2004.
Fernandez said that prior to Haiti's independence in 1804, both Haiti and the DR were part of the Spanish colony of Hispaniola, and the west side of the island was not transferred to France until 1795, under the Treaty of Basel.

Saladin meets with Obama
The new Dominican Ambassador to the US, economist and lawyer Roberto Saladin Selin has presented his credentials to US President Barack Obama. He took part in a ceremony at the White House together with 14 other foreign ambassadors. Saladin replaces lawyer Flavio Dario Espinal as Dominican Ambassador to Washington.
Hoy reports that President Obama said that he looked forward to working with the DR to strengthen bi-lateral relations. As reported, President Obama commented that the DR is the country that has contributed the most baseball players to Major Leagues. Obama also expressed his admiration for Ambassador Saladin's public service record. Saladin is a former Governor of the Central Bank, and administrator of the governmental Banco de Reservas. Ambassador Saladin was accompanied by his wife Bertha Nin and his children Roberto Alejandro, Jorge Horacio, Yovanka, Bertha, Christophe and Pedro.

World Bank plays chess
According to Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, the World Bank is trying to force the DR to sign a deep-reaching agreement with the World Bank as a precondition for receiving a US$300 million loan that would be used to pay electricity sector arrears.
Montas did comment that if the DR decided to enter into a second Stand-by arrangement it would not mean an increase in taxation.
Montas acknowledged that a new Stand-by agreement would force the DR to take concrete measures on the energy issue.
Critics of the Fernandez government's electricity sector policies point to the heavy politicizing of the government entities that dominate the sector.
Economist Isidoro Santana told Hoy that international credit is closed for the DR until the country signs an agreement that indicates that the IMF is monitoring the actions of the government. Santana, interviewed on the Uno+Uno TV show on TeleAntillas called on the government to improve the quality of its spending.

Senate approves loans
The Senate has approved seven loans for US$554 million. Senators also voted to extend the First Ordinary Legislature, which ends on 27 May, by 60 days. Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez said that most of the loans will be directed at the energy sector and revealed that many of the loans are not new, as they were included in the 2009 national budget. One of the loans includes US$50 million financing for construction of the Palomino hydroelectric plant, as well as a US$40 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will be used for developing the energy distribution network.

Thermal spa project passes
The Senate has approved a 99-year concession to the Sociedad Comercial Terma de la Salamandra that proposes the construction of a thermal waters spa hotel and villas complex in Canoa, Barahona. Santiago Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito opposed the approval on the grounds that the company that is requesting the concession is only worth RD$500,000, and so has no capital or guarantees for credits. Dominguez Brito said that Congress should not approve concessions that can be made with good intentions, but without guarantees, as reported in Hoy.
Senator Amilcar Romero also argued that a bond should be posted in this type of contract.
An addendum to the project establishes that the developers have one year to begin construction and 10 years to complete the project, or the contract can be rescinded. The project involves the construction of 1,000 hotel rooms, villas, golf courses, tennis courts and other facilities for an estimated US$563.9 million.

SOMO/JCE reach deal
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) and the SOMO company have reached a preliminary deal, in which the JCE agrees to pay out US$8.5 million to Somo. The agreement also includes a payment plan, rescinding RD$1,980,000 in fines and Somo will immediately begin the process of digitalizing the civil registries. As per the agreement the first payment will be for US$2.5 million, paid once the agreement is signed, and US$879,916 30 days afterwards. Of the remaining US$5,120,083, US$2,560,041 will be paid 90 and 135 days after the agreement is signed. The deal is due to be passed on 29 May when the JCE board meets.

Another one bites the dust
PRSC Senator Noe Sterling Vasquez announced that he was leaving the PRSC party yesterday. However, the Senator has yet to announce whether or not he will join the PRD, as many of his colleagues have already done. Commenting on his decision, Sterling said that he left the party because it has been in continual decay ever since the death of former leader Joaquin Balaguer. Sterling is the latest party member to join a mass exodus of PRSC members.

Energy in the DR cheap
Marcos de la Rosa, president of AES Dominicana, the leading private power generator and distributor has told Hoy the government is in arrears with power generators for US$600 million, and this will increase to US$700 million this month.
De La Rosa spoke during the launch of the Dominican Association of the Electricity Industry, of which he will be the first president. During the event, he also made the point that for many years it has been argued that the DR has the highest energy rates in the region, when he says this is a false perception. He said that in Puerto Rico, Barbados, Panama and El Salvador the price per kWh of energy oscillates between 13 and 13.05 US cents, but that in the DR the cost per kWh is 12 US cents. He added that thanks to investments into the energy sector the DR's cost per kWh of energy is regionally competitive.

Money worship
Hoy newspaper's Que Se Dice commentator focuses today on the large turnout at the funeral in tribute to drug trafficker Rolando Florian Feliz, known for extreme violence in his life and multiple crimes. Claudio Acosta writes that the tributes to "the leader" work against Dominican society, and are a clear demonstration of inverted values that corrode morality. He makes the point that the worship of Feliz can be attributed to a society where the pursuit of the fast buck has grasped the youth. "But the chief exponents of 'worship of easy money' are not drug traffickers like Florian, as one would think, but politicians who for decades have rubbed their irregularly obtained benefits in our faces with absolute impunity, with fortunes inflated by prevarication and theft, which could be described as the great leap from flip flops to SUVs".

British Airways to fly to PUJ
British Airways is launching twice-weekly services from Gatwick to Punta Cana in its winter schedule. Fares will start from ?559 to Punta Cana, including taxes, fees and charges. "These new routes and increased frequencies underline our commitment to the Caribbean," said general manager for global corporate sales Richard Tams. The new flights will launch from 25 October 2009. Tickets are on sale from Friday, 22 May 2009 through www.ba.com and direct through BA reservations on 0844 493 0787.
This is the first direct scheduled flight from the DR to England. Tams explains the new route: "It's a popular destination with our customers and it's due to demand that we're increasing the number of flights to the region."
British Airways now has 45 weekly flights to 13 destinations in the Caribbean.
The flight begins at a time when the British market is relatively strong. In April, travel from the UK was up 4.8%, in contrast to declines from other leading European destinations.

El Pais for El Caribe subscribers
El Caribe newspaper seeks to attract new readers by offering them a free insert of El Pais, the leading Spanish daily paper. The publishing company says that El Pais will only be available to paid subscribers and will not be inserted in copies that are sold on the streets.

Rains cause evacuations
Over 3,000 people have been evacuated due to the heavy rains that have been affecting the DR for over a week. The Emergency Operations Center reports that 646 homes have been affected and 21 communities cut off, and flooding and mudslides have been reported nationwide.
In Santiago the towns of Guayabal and Guanabanal are cut off, as well as the town of Hatillo in San Cristobal.
The COE is maintaining its red alert for the provinces of Barahona, Pedernales, Independencia Elias Pina, Dajabon and Montecristi, while the provinces of San Juan, San Jose de Ocoa, La Vega, Monsenor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua), Monte Plata, Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), Samana, San Cristobal and Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris) are on yellow alert. El Seibo, Santo Domingo and the National District remain under green alert.
Emergency officials are asking citizens to take precautionary measures against flooding, especially residents of the provinces subject to red alert.
As a result of the rains the Public Health Ministry has raised its warning levels as a way of preventing the spread of water-borne infections, common during the DR's rainy season, especially in the 11 provinces under a red alert.

Imports or local produce?
The president of the DR Association of Industries (AIRD) Manuel Diez Cabral has expressed his concern that the government may try to stimulate the economy by promoting imports, as reported in Hoy. He comments on the proposal for a Bill for the Development of Mortgage Market, which would apply tax exemptions for equipment, products and machinery that he says would be used to build low-cost housing. Diez Cabral says that if the government wants to stimulate the economy, it should do so by stimulating national production, not granting exemptions to imports of goods that are manufactured in the country.
He said he doesn't understand how this bill can be considered, when at the same time the President is speaking of a new economic model based on production, as a way of stimulating jobs and the economy. "What sector would be stimulated if these sorts of measures are taken?" Diez Cabral asked. He says that it would end up being commerce, and expressed his concern that the imported goods would end up benefiting all but low-cost houses.

Asonahores backs Cabarete
The Hotels & Restaurants Association (Asonahores) has announced its support for tourism organizations in Sosua and Cabarete that are demanding fair treatment from the municipal authorities. Asonahores president Haydee Rainieri and vice president Arturo Villanueva met with representatives of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Sosua and Cabarete (Ashoresoca), the Cabarete Tourist Companies Corporation (CEIZTURC), the Association for the Protection of Environment and Tourism (Asoprocaso) and the Association for the Development of Cabarete (ADECA).
These organizations are campaigning against the privatization of collections for municipal services in Cabarete and say this is a violation of public procurement law and other laws that regulate municipalities. They have taken the case to the courts against the private company that is now seeking to collect higher fees for municipal services.

International Art Fair
The First International Art Festival (Fiart 2009) is taking place this year at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) located on the corner of Independencia and Maximo Gomez avenues.
This year the event will be dedicated to Dominican master painter Ivan Tovar, known for his surrealistic art, and international sculptor and painter Fernando Botero of Colombia. One of Botero's sculptures is located at the entrance of the Santo Domingo Hilton. The event, which started on May 20, continues through Sunday, 24 May.
Visitors can view works by Patricia O'Rourke, Jaime Abril, Michael Santini, Sacha Tebo, Ulises Bretana, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Anthony Kirov, as well as Guillo Perez, Ramon Oviedo, Jaime Colson, Clara Ledesma, Fernando Varela and Candido Bido, among others.
For more on upcoming events, see: www.dr1.com/calendar
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