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Daily News - Monday, 01 June 2009

Electricity tariff increases
The Superintendence of Electricity has authorized a 6.4% increase in power rates this month. As reported in Listin Diario, this is the first of two hikes that will increase the rate by 12% by July. This means that as of June power will cost:
0-200 kilowatts from RD$3.12 to RD$3.32
201-300 kilowatts from RD$4.71 to RD$5.01
401-700 kilowatts from RD$7 to RD$7.45.
700 kilowatts+ RD$9.18.

Metro versus electricity
He didn't say anything new, but the fact that it came from Jose Miguel Bonetti of Mercasid, one of the leading companies and a long-time supporter of the Fernandez administration, and that the comment was made in the presence of President Leonel Fernandez and First Lady Margarita Cedeno on occasion of the 47th anniversary of the Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD), made all the difference. Bonetti addressed those present, and at one point commented: "We can't transport ourselves in 21st century equipment like metros, when young people in most households in the Dominican Republic have to study by candlelight. It is time to change the vision in search of solutions," he said.
In his talk, Bonetti pointed out that the country has one of the worst power services in the world with blackouts, high costs, an excessive and unnecessary government bureaucracy, a large part of the population that does not pay for the services, and losses on transmission lines of power supplied. He said that today taxpayers make hefty contributions to "a parasitical bureaucracy at Edenorte, Edesur and in the ever-increasing new departments of the government energy bureaucracy", as reported in El Caribe. He described the nationalization of the power distributors Edesur and Edenorte seven years ago as "unfortunate" and said that one only has to compare the number of employees before and after the government takeover.
Bonetti recommended that the government get out of the business of power production and distribution in a transparent way. He argued that the government has failed badly in these, obliging the population to pay the price of inefficiency in taxes and inflation, as reported in Hoy.
He said the business sector is concerned about the recent purchase of the AES Ede-Este power distributor by the state.
In his opinion, the energy issue is the greatest challenge for manufacturers, and the Dominican people can't rely on an efficient service.
Bonetti said that any agreement the government reaches with the International Monetary Fund should not entail a tax increase or additional charges. He said he was in favor of an agreement, as it would help the country withstand the negative effects of the crisis and maintain macro-economic stability and a flow of fresh funds. He said that it is not enough to achieve macro-economic stability; the country must strive for this to be based on development and sustainable growth of productive sectors.
He called for increased judicial security, efficient transport of cargo and better access to financing.
During the event, the AIRD launched the George Arzeno Brugal Award for Journalism for a praise-worthy investigative journalism piece.

Government insists on cement plant
Minister of the Environment Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal accuses business interests of being behind the opposition to the construction of a cement factory on the outskirts of the Los Haitises National Park.
Fernandez argued that those same people who are defending the National Park today should have done so four years ago when the government agreed to build the Samana Highway, which cut the park in half. Fernandez, who has been vigilant on Environmental issues since taking office, says that he is glad that people are showing an interest in protecting the park, but maintains that the cement factory will not hurt the environment.
The Dominican Mining Consortium (Consorcio Minero Dominicano), a company belonging to leading Santiago businessman and builder Manuel Estrella, announced the start of construction of the cement plant in April. The company stresses that it will provide 500 direct jobs for the town of Gonzalo and nearby communities.
One of the strongest opponents of the construction of the plant outside the National Park, Luis Carvajal, of the Academy of Sciences, has said it will affect water reserves in the area. He said that the cement plant would go up right on top of the formation of subterranean waters.
He points to the National Hydro-geological Study of the Dominican Republic Phase II, funded by the European Union in 2004 that indicates that the subterranean waters are not only within the ecological reserve.
The Ministry of Environment authorized the construction of the cement plant between 1.5 to 3 kms outside the park limits. The study reports that the hydro-geological area of Los Haitises covers an area of 1,682 km2 throughout the provinces of Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), Samana, Monte Plata and Hato Mayor.
Two ecological groups, United Communities Farmers Movement (Movimiento Campesino Comunidades Unidas - MCCU) and Espeleogrupo have submitted a legal recourse requesting the stop of construction works.
Los Haitises is a world ecological phenomenon being the second largest karst aquifer region in the world, extending over an area of 1,860km2.
Speaking today on Hoy Mismo TV program, Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez said that President Leonel Fernandez himself had chosen the site for the cement plant. He said he does what he is required to do by the State.

No more taxes
The government needs more money, new taxes have been suggested, but opposition parties like the PRD, PRI and MIUCA have a better suggestion. According to Orlando Jorge Mera, Secretary General of the PRD, it is time for government to do its bit. "Citizens have fulfilled their quota, now it's the government's turn to make a sacrifice, adopt an austerity plan and tighten its belt as a result of this international financial crisis." Trajano Santana, President of the PRI, said that the reason the government needs more money is because of contradictions in their economic team, the squandering of public funds and maintaining an unsustainable payroll. Manuel Salazar, secretary general of the PCT says that while the government wants to increase taxes they will also want to reduce social spending.
Economy & Planning Minister Temistocles Montas recently spoke in favor of more taxes in order for the government to implement its programs.

Where the new taxes will go
Claudio Acosta, a page two columnist in Hoy newspaper, has criticized the government's stated intention to increase taxes in order to fulfill the law that calls for the government to make available 4% of the National Budget for educational needs.
He speculates that the new tax money would be used for informal payrolls in government departments, thousands of consuls and vice consuls appointed where they are not needed, to purchase SUVs for high up and lower down government officials, to remodel and redecorate government offices and departments, to hold workshops where everyone agrees on the problems, to organize large missions abroad on first class tickets to attend summits or any global meeting while staying at luxury hotels, to improve the quality of life for the privileged citizens who belong to what one day (hoping it will not take 100 years) will be known as the "comesolismo gobernante" or eatalonegovernment.
To contact the author with your opinions, email Claudio Acosta at [email protected]

Conep asks for delay
The National Business Council (CONEP) is asking for an extension of the period for converting Dominican companies to the business structures established in the new Corporate Law 479-08 (Ley de Sociedades Comerciales y Empresas Individuales de Responsabilidad Limitada). Companies with assets of RD$30 million and more need to be restructured by 11 June 2009.
Conep wants an extension of 18 months for companies to adapt to the new rules. Lisandro Macarulla, president of Conep, says that the original six-month grace period for the implementation of the law is not enough for business owners. Macarulla says he has been hearing a great deal of concern and confusion about the new law.
You can follow the story here: www.dr1.com/forums/legal/88055-corporate-alert-new-company-law-enacted.html

Nine more AH1N1 cases
The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia has confirmed that nine people in the DR, including six students at Santo Domingo's upscale Carol Morgan School have tested positive for the AH1N1 virus. This news comes a week after the school was closed last Thursday through this Wednesday as a precautionary measure after 46 people at the school were suspected of having contracted the virus.
This brings the number of cases confirmed in the DR since last week to 11. The first two cases were located in Santiago and the province of Santo Domingo, involving two women who had traveled to Seattle, Washington, and Orlando, Florida.
According to Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez, only one of the six people is being treated at a private hospital, Corazones Unidos. The other five, who only have mild symptoms, are making good progress.
Hoy is reporting that the Public Health Ministry has investigated 308 possible AH1N1 cases, of which 11 have turned out positive.
One case was detected in the southwestern province of Peravia (Bani), and another three cases in the National District (Santo Domingo). The Ministry reports that all the cases have been mild bouts of flu.
The country now has a lab to test for the strain of the flu. Previously, samples had to be sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. As of this coming Wednesday, all samples may be tested in Santo Domingo, after local staff have completed training by CDC personnel.
Doctors at Corazones Unidos, a hospital that has handled several of the cases, is recommending that patients should be treated at home. Nevertheless, the clinic confirmed that one child has been hospitalized at the center.
News reports indicate the AH1N1 virus that has been the subject of so much media attention has killed around 100 people, when the common influenza kills half a million around the world every year and receives relatively little media attention.

Book prize comes under fire
Judges for the National Literature Prize are defending their decision to award the prize to a novel by Aida Trujillo, who is the granddaughter of former dictator Rafael Trujillo and daughter of Ramfis Trujillo. The novel, "A la sombra de mi abuelo," (In my Grandfather's Shadow) has come under fire for its content, with many arguing that it is a defense of the Trujillo regime. The novel justifies the spate of assassinations led by Trujillo's son Ramfis after his father's death. Roberto Marcalle Abreu has defended the prize, saying that Trujillo's novel is not the only one to comment on the dictatorship and that many of those criticizing it haven't even read the book. Marcalle says that the book is not an apologist novel and says that the debate about Trujillo still provokes strong emotions in the DR.

Florian cops freed
Judge Rosa Idania Mateo has ordered the release of Lt. Colonel Francisco Pulinario Rodriguez and Lino de Oca Jimenez. Both men had been sentenced to three months jail time for the murder of drug trafficker Florian Feliz while in jail. His family argues that he was prevented from receiving medical assistance and left to bleed to death. Mateo made the decision after receiving a letter from Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, who said he would be responsible for the officers' safety. As part of the release deal each officer must appear before the judge every month.

Deportees causing concern
Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge John Giuliani is expressing concern about the fact that many deportees returning to the DR are using the names and details of deceased people as a way of changing their identities. He added that many returnees only have old cedulas and aren't registered in the country's new cedula system, which makes it easy for them to obtain false identities. He also said that with the new push to register Dominicans those who are returning to the DR after having spent time in US prisons would have an easier time obtaining new birth certificates and gaining identities.
Guiliani recommended that the deportees should be registered upon arrival after the Police and General Prosecutor Office review their cases.

Drug hauls
The National Drug Control Department has confiscated two shipments of cocaine bound for Puerto Rico. A 98-package shipment weighing 120 kilograms was discovered in a freight container belonging to a plastics company and being sent to a company in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico on the ferry. Freight truck driver Fabricio Rodriguez was arrested.
The DNCD says that Termo Envases, the owner of the plastic packages shipment and J.F. Montalvo, located in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, are not responsible for the shipment. The DNCD said its investigations show that it was the driver, Fabricio Rodriguez and other individuals who are under investigation. The DNCD said the driver and accomplices detoured to pick up the cargo. For this purpose, the door of the container was removed, the seal was not broken, and the drugs placed inside, as reported in Listin Diario.
An additional 16-package shipment weighing 19 kilograms was discovered at Las Americas International Airport. Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez said that a woman who was trying to smuggle the drug onto Jetblue Flight 1734 was stopped before boarding. Several arrests have been made in connection with both cases.

Baseball update
Four Dominican ballplayers are making opposing pitchers cringe every time they come up to the batters box. Albert Pujols, Carlos Pena and Nelson Cruz are crushing fastballs at an alarming rate, with the three players vying for top spot in this year's homerun race. Pena, first base for the Tampa Bay Rays, is a surprise in this group, having hit 17 home runs this year and is projected to finish with 53 homers if he continues at his current pace. Cruz, playing in his first full season in the Bigs has hit 14 total homers for the Texas Rangers and is expected to hit 46 dingers, if he continues at his current pace. Pujols, continuing what is also certainly a Cooperstown career, has hit 16 homeruns thus far and if he keeps up the pace he could wind up with 49 long balls for the season.

Hurricane season is here
June 1st marks the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane season. Weather officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are expecting this to be a "normal" hurricane season. The names for this year's storms have been picked out and they include Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

Organic Coffee Festival in Polo
Now in its sixth year, the Organic Coffee Festival that takes place in the coffee-producing region of Polo will be held on the weekend of June 6 and 7, with performances by Puerto Rican musicians Andy Montanez, Wilkins, Danny Rivera and Nelson Gonzalez scheduled for this year. Dominicans Victor Victor, Manuel Jimenez, Sexappeal, Patricia Pereyra, Manuel Jimenez, Bonye, Pochy Familia, Ileana Reynoso, Milagros Hernandez, Grupo Maniel and the Club Nacional de Soneros will also be going west in support of the region's organic coffee growers.
The event, which is produced by Jose Roldan, has been a growing success over the years. Farm products and arts and crafts produced in the region will also be on show.
For more upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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