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Daily News - Friday, 29 May 2009

Fernandez: production over finance
President Leonel Fernandez feels the small and medium-scale business people can help "rescue" the production sector. Fernandez feels this sector should have priority over the nation's financial sector.
Fernandez said that small and medium-sized businesses (Mipymes) are the most efficient at creating jobs in the labor market.
Fernandez made his comments during the first national Mipymes conference "Opportunities for Mipymes within the International Crisis."
"In the DR, in order to return to growth, to consolidate jobs and to generate new jobs and maintain macroeconomic stability we must concentrate on the nation's productive sector," said the President, in his address to the event that was sponsored by Codopyme at the Hotel Lina, in Santo Domingo.

More taxes on the way?
The government has consistently assured the public that no new taxes would be introduced. Even in light of the recent international financial problems, a possible new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reduction in trade and a reduction in tax collections, government officials have downplayed the need for a new fiscal reform. But the back-pedaling might have begun.
Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas says that a fiscal reform (more taxes) needs to be discussed. He argued that almost half of government revenues is going toward subsidies and paying the foreign debt. He spoke during a presentation on labor issues held at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
According to Montas, the government needs to increase its revenues in order to continue building a strong nation and meet the demands of the population.
Montas did not comment on reducing government spending as a way to ease financial pressures.
The minister, quoted in Hoy, made his comments in specific reference to the 4% of the GDP that, by law, should be assigned to education, but has yet to be assigned. Montas says that all government officials want this to be applied, but complain there is not enough money for this.
In defense of new taxes, Montas commented that Dominicans should be asked if they would rather continue with a weak government or a strong one.

New AH1N1 lab
The Ministry of Public Health says that it will be ready to begin testing for suspected flu cases next Wednesday. New equipment to carry out the tests, which arrived in the country yesterday, is being installed at the Dominican-Japanese Friendship Medical Center at the Luis Eduardo Aybar Public Hospital. Up until now, samples for testing had to be sent to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Doctors are training local staff on the use of the equipment, which was donated by the CDC and will permit Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing for the detection of the AH1N1 flu. The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) has donated 10,000 testing kits. This week the first two cases of AH1N1 were detected in the DR, but these were mild and did not require medication. The only Latin American country to not report cases of the virus so far is Nicaragua, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Road reopens to Constanza
The Ministry of Public Works says it has reopened the Casabito route to Constanza but passage is limited to a schedule. The main road to the central mountain valley had been closed for a week following a landslide. Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua said that Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company in charge of repairing the road, said it would soon be fully open. Meanwhile, the ministry says that while passage is possible, it is controlled. Traffic is now allowed from 1pm to 7pm so that agricultural products can pass. Meanwhile, from 6am to 1pm passage is not permitted, in order to allow for repair works to continue. As of 7pm to 6am, the road is closed.

Segura confirms Ede negotiations
State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura is denying reports that the government has purchased a controlling stake in the EDE-Este energy distribution company. He says that negotiations are still under way. Segura says a confidentiality agreement has been signed between both parties as a way of limiting information from getting out until the deal is done. Trust Company of the West (TCW), which initially partnered with the government wanted out of its contractual obligations because they felt the energy business in the DR was not financially viable. TCW has sued the government and the purchase negotiation would end the costly litigation. Segura said that since 2006, the distributor's holding company Trust Company of the West indicated to the government it wanted to divest itself of its shares in the company, as reported in Hoy.

Power generation lags behind
A study by international consulting firm Adam Smith Institute for the Dominican State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) reveals that the country needs to install 3,135 megawatts of power between 2009 and 2016 if it is to keep up with its energy needs. Currently 1,776.4 megawatts are available, which means that generation needs to increase by 176.4%, as reported in Clave newspaper. The data is part of a study "Projections for the Demand of Energy and Potential Energy Required for the Period 2009-2016," dated March 2009. According to the study 2,123 megawatts are needed.
Jose Luis Moreno San of the UASD state university's Energy Institute says the country is four years behind in installing generation units to keep up with demand. He said that at least 1,600 megawatts should have been installed since 2004, but nothing has been done.
Diez warned that the availability of supply to the national electric grid could be reduced even further if mining company Barrick Gold is successful in negotiating the purchase of power from the generators Estrella del Mar, Estrella del Norte and Monte Rio plants, a total of 276.3 megawatts.
Moreno also forecast an additional deficit of 600 megawatts for 2012, because historically demand has grown by 5% every year. He said the demand in 2008 is 2,056 megawatts and maximum supplied is 1,682 megawatts.
The private sector has asked the government to change its energy team, starting with CDEEE president Radhames Segura. The president of the Herrera Industrial Association, Manuel Cabrera said the government team has failed to find a solution to the energy problem. The president of the Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD) Manuel Diez Cabral described the current CDEEE administration as "a complete failure." Segura blames the private sector for not making the investments.
The CDEEE study shows that demand grew by an average rate of 5.91% every year over the last two decades.
The Adam Smith consultants are advising the government to contract for the immediate installation of at least 1,200 megawatts. They also recommend new plants that provide a combined cycle of natural gas and coal, which could be built faster and require less financing. The Adam Smith Institute recommends that all plants should exceed 300 megawatts.
Power plants in operation are AES Andres (280 megawatts), CEPP (50), DEPP (150), GPLV (129), Haina (397), Itabo (255), Laesa (28), Metaldom (22), Monte Rio (72), Seaboard (92), CESPM (270), San Felipe (170), CDEEE (13) and EGEHID (200).
According to consultant Jose Luis Moreno San Juan, of US$1.1 billion in subsidies contributed by the government in 2008, more than US$700 million were paid to the power generators due to distortions in the energy market, according to an editorial in El Nacional (3 May 2009).
The editorial pointed out that what is surprising is that even with the subsidy, consumers have to pay more than 16 cents of the US dollar per kWh, which is far beyond what consumers in other countries pay. He says in Puerto Rico, consumers pay approximately 6 to 8 US cents.
El Nacional points out that the state and paying consumers have traditionally borne the burden of the inefficient power sector.

Trade with Taiwan up in 2008
Trade between the DR and Taiwan was up 21.33% last year compared to 2007, says Chang Chun Ping of the Taiwan Embassy. As reported in Hoy, the Embassy imported US$61.99 million worth of products from the DR. The DR exported scrap metal, medical instruments, rubber soled shoes, train rail elements and electrical protectors to Taiwan. Taiwan exported vehicle parts, pumps, poly-acetates, tires, and textiles to the DR. Chun Ping said that the high cost of power and impositions in the Labor Code have discouraged more investment from Taiwan. He said that several Taiwanese companies have been affected by labor-related legal suits by workers, and this had discouraged them from doing business here. This year, the Taiwanese Technical Mission transferred its shrimp farm in Puerto Viejo, Azua to the Dominican Ministry of Environment.

The great business of credit cards
Writing in Diario Libre, Alejandro Fernandez responds to US President Barack Obama's pursuit of better credit card conditions for US consumers, by saying that the DR government should also look into getting better conditions for Dominican credit card holders. He says that according to the last report from the Superintendence of Banks, more than 1.5 million credit cards are in circulation in the DR, meaning that about a million Dominicans have credit cards. He estimates that 45% of the purchases made with the cards are financed, calculating credit at RD$9 billion. He comments that the average 71.4% annual interest rate charged by Dominican banks on credit card charges not paid within 30 days means that the credit cards generate charges of around RD$1.5 billion. Then he suggests adding to that figure RD$3.5 billion in commissions for credit cards which means the credit cards generate profits of RD$5 billion for Dominican banks or 50% of the net earnings the banks received in 2008.
While applauding the banks for their good business acumen, Fernandez goes on to urge the authorities to publish the actual interest rates that the banks are charging, so that consumers can have a real idea of what they are paying and make better decisions when using the cards. "I denounce that the cost of the cards has no relation to the principal cost, that of money. I denounce that without requesting it or expecting it, they charge us for services never used," he writes in the newspaper. And he says that he does not speak up for the thousands who have been seen their credit history ruined, and are just "buried in the tomb of silence".

Cardinal makes claims
Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez claims that President Leonel Fernandez is under pressure from the US State Department, the White House, the United Nations and international organizations to modify Article 30 of the DR's new constitution, which deals with abortion.
The Cardinal, who is known for his outspoken statements, says that Fernandez has been under pressure to modify the recently passed version of the Article in order to bring about the de-facto legalization of abortion. The controversial issue has continued to generate heated debate after the Revisory Assembly chose to define life as starting "from the moment of conception" in the Constitution. The Cardinal is calling on President Fernandez to ignore the pressure.

Women still lag
A recent study indicates that women still face unequal wages, high unemployment and segregation in the workplace. According to Deputy Minister of Women Sonia Diaz, women make up the majority of informal sector employees. According to Diaz, 54.8% of women who had a job worked in the informal sector.
She made her comments during the Forum on Labor organized by the Foreign Relations and Labor ministries.
According to statistics provided by the Central Bank Employment Survey, the unemployment rate was 14.2% in 2008, but women were unemployed at a rate of 22.8%, compared to 8.5% by men. In corporate settings, only 23% of company executives are women.
She added that men in the DR make, on average, RD$54.50 per hour while women make RD$51.53 per hour. Studies also indicate that work place discrimination and harassment are common. A total of 44.1% of women surveyed admitted to having been harassed in the workplace.

Abundance of fruit
The price of fruit in city markets has dropped considerably, due to a glut of fresh produce that has hit the markets. Prices are about 25%-50% lower than some months ago. The wholesale market prices are usually marked up by 30%, but these prices can be obtained during the sales days of the big supermarket chains, Pola & El Nacional (Wednesday) and Bravo (Tuesday).
Some wholesale market prices are:
Watermelons selling for RD$30-RD$60, depending on size, pineapples could be had for RD$15-RD$20, papaya was selling for RD$20, and melons for RD$15-RD$25.
And with summer on its way, the mango season is here.
Hoy reports that vegetables are also selling for discounted prices, with tomatoes costing RD$10 a pound, carrots RD$10 a pound, broccoli for RD$20 a pound. Onions are going for RD$10 a pound.

Helicopter crashes
A helicopter en route from Bavaro, Punta Cana to Santo Domingo crashed in Batey Altagracia in Cumayasa, La Romana, killing the pilot, Navy Lt. Miguel Angel Perez Guerrero. The Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) announced that the helicopter was flying to Santo Domingo when it crashed at 10:20am.
The helicopter had only flown for 10 miles when it started experiencing technical difficulties.
The pilot made contact with air traffic controllers at La Romana International Airport to report technical difficulties shortly before the crash. The pilot was on his way to the La Isabela International Airport (AILI), also named the Joaquin Balaguer International Airport at El Higuero.
Hoy reports that another passenger had been traveling with Perez, but the bodies has yet to be found.
Perez Guerrero was piloting the helicopter Enstrom, Registration 878EE property of Edgar Contreras, according to IDAC.
Medical examiner Dr. Martha Teresa Aquino said it looked as if Perez had jumped from the helicopter once it started its descent, but was caught on the helicopters blades, which sliced his body.
The pilot had worked for the Dominican Municipal League since November 2005 and frequently flew to the east, as reported in Hoy.

Stolen baby alert
Alexandra Valdez says that she left her newborn baby to go to the bathroom in room 401 of the Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia Maternity Hospital in Santo Domingo. When she came back, her two-day old baby was gone.
She said that a woman, who had been helping her, combing her hair and organizing her clothes so she could get ready to leave the hospital, was responsible for kidnapping her baby.
Hospital staff and the other eight patients in the ward with Valdez say that they thought the woman was a relative of Valdez's and did not question her presence. Valdez said that the unidentified woman just appeared while she was at the hospital and started treating her nicely.
Hospital officials say they weren't aware of the kidnapping until midday when Valdez's screams reached a fever pitch.
The hospital doesn't have security cameras, making the case difficult to solve. All officials know is that the woman was wearing black pants, a white shirt and had a large black bag.

Major industrial accident
A boiler explosion at the Cristobal Colon Sugar Mill in San Pedro de Macoris caused the death of Antono Cuello, whose body was found beneath the boiler. Ten other workers were injured in the explosion, most suffering burns. The injured were taken to the Antonio Musa Public Hospital, the medical center at the Universidad Central del Este, and the Centro Medico Leon. The reason for the explosion is being investigated.

Drug shipment stopped
The National Drug Control Department reported that it is investigating three men in connection with a drug shipment that was about to be dropped over Miches at dawn yesterday.
The agents confronted and arrested the three, who were found in possession of a AK-47 gun, police camouflage uniform, three radios and a red Toyota pickup L236151.
As reported, one of the detained was identified as Ruddy Parcela, a well-known drug smuggler, who has been sought by the DNCD for some time.
The plane the men were waiting for is thought to have come from South America and was detected flying 30 miles off Saona Island.
Diario Libre reports today that as of this week that the eastern provinces of the country there is a record of 54 clandestine flights from January 2007 to May 2008. Reportedly, 2,500 kilos of narcotics would have been launched from the planes. And of the 54 flights, only 15 were caught by the authorities.

Percussion Festival Catarey 2009
The drums will beat to their highest note at the Third International Percussion Festival Catarey 2009.
The event is scheduled for 6 and 7 June 2009 at the National Conservatory of Music.
On Saturday, 6 June: Ezequiel Francisco, Felle Vega, Manuel Tejada, John Blackwell, Jojo Mayer, and a concert with the Ed Calle Quartet.
On Sunday, 7 June: Eddy Sanchez, Terranota, Jose Antonio Molina, Derek Roddy, Giovanni Hidalgo, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, and a concert with the Santo Domingo Jazz Big Band.
Prices are RD$1,000 per day, or two days for RD$1,500.
Tickets are on sale at Orange telecom's Express payment offices.
For more on upcoming events, see http://wwww.dr1.com/calendar
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