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Daily News - Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Precautionary Stand-by Arrangement?
International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief in the Dominican Republic Alejandro Santos predicts that the DR economy will grow by 0.5% this year.
He said that talks are continuing on the possibility of the government signing a Precautionary Stand-by Arrangement with the IMF. Such an agreement would involve indicative targets rather than structural performance criteria.
Santos said that the DR would have access to a flexible line of credit that could be used to resolve its balance of payment problems, under such an agreement. He confirmed that the Dominican government has the prerogative of requesting US$1 billion under those terms from the IMF.
Santos made his statements during yesterday's "Economic Prospects for Latin America," conference, which was sponsored by the Central Bank.
During the event, Central Bank Governor Valdez Albizu said that the Dominican economy grew by 1% during the first four months of 2009 and that the accumulated inflation rate during the last five months was only 1%. He says the government's goal is to achieve 3% growth, as reported in El Caribe.

Support for IMF agreement grows
Support for a new type of agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is growing. Nevertheless, Ricardo Bonetti, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) is opposed to new taxes being part of the agreement with the IMF, saying that it should rather be about more control over government spending.
Former Central Bank Governor Bernardo Vega says that an agreement would help compensate for the government's fiscal deficits. Funds would be provided by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
He said that the national budget quadrupled in 2008 due to the presidential campaign and all the internal lending that it entailed, adding that those limitations have continued into 2009.
He added that the government has a huge floating debt due in large part to the Ministry of Public Works, the Presidential Public Works Supervisory Office and bonds issued to subsidize electricity.
Vega said the recent hikes in energy rates make absolutely no sense if the government doesn't reduce the payrolls at the CDEEE, Ede-Norte or Ede-Sur or apply the penalties for anyone caught stealing energy.

Rejecting the electricity increase
The Santiago Chamber of Commerce, Association of Industries (AIREN) and Association of Traders and Industry (ACIS) have spoken out against the recent increase in power rates ordered by the Superintendence of Electricity. Residential rates are expected to go up 12% over the next two months, and commercial rates are rising 5% this month.
The Santiago business community complains that the increase comes at a time when the service is already one of the most expensive and inefficient in the world. Oliverio Espaillat of the Santiago Chamber of Commerce said that before increasing the rate the government should have re-engineered the operational structure of the sector in order to increase efficiency. Lina Garcia de Blasco of AIREN said that the measure threatens competitiveness, placing it in an even more disadvantaged position compared with to competitors in Central America and other countries in the world. She said that while the country continues to compete under conditions of high energy costs, three times those in China and seven times those in Brazil, local industry will not be able to compete globally, as reported in El Caribe.

Ede purchase 'changes roles'
The business sector, led by the National Business Council (CONEP) has come out against the government's decision to purchase energy distributor Ede-Este. During a press conference, Conep president Lisandro Macarulla argued that the purchase of Ede-Este changes the government's role. He said the government should only be a regulator and not an investor in private business. He stated that government should not compete with the private sector, adding that its presence in the sector makes it less attractive for potential foreign investors.
Ede-Este was the last energy distributor to remain in private hands after the other two Edes, Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur were bought back by the state at the end of the Hipolito Mejia administration in 2003. Macarulla also commented on his concern about the cost that the purchase of Ede-Este would represent to the state. Macarulla explained that RD$300 million was budgeted for the energy sector but this figure is currently at RD$700 million.

New Migration rules
The Ministry of Interior & Police is outlining the new Migration rules for the Dominican Republic. In today's Listin Diario, the Ministry presented its proposals for the new rules for the application of the Migration Law in the DR. An event open to the public, "Migration Policies and Experiences in Regularization Processes" will be held on Wednesday, 10 June and Thursday, 11 June at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Anyone interested in attending can register for the event at www.seip.gob.do

Legislators protect themselves
A bill aimed at penalizing legislators for irregular use of government funds and influence peddling has been rejected by the legislators themselves. The Constitutional Revisory Assembly also rejected a new article aimed at penalizing legislators for not attending sessions or for failing to take possession of their legislative seat in the established period. They did approve Article 73 that establishes complete impunity for opinions expressed by legislators during the sessions, and Article 74 that establishes that no legislator can be arrested during the legislature, without the authorization of the chamber to which s/he belongs, unless the person is arrested in the act of committing a crime.

Two more flu cases
Ministry of Public Health has confirmed two more cases of the AN1H1 flu, in two males, age 16 and 18 who had been in contact with people already confirmed with the illness. They were the first to be confirmed using the new lab now installed in the DR. Hoy reports that both patients are being treated at home. This brings the total number of cases in the DR to 13. Of the 13 cases of AH1N1, only one patient, a small child with a history of asthma had to be hospitalized. All the rest are being treated at home. Carol Morgan School re-opened for classes today, Wednesday, after a week-long shutdown to prevent an outbreak after cases were detected among students.

It's just a cold
Writing in today's Listin Diario, columnist Oscar Medina reminds readers that seasonal influenza kills 75,000 people every year around the world, mainly during winter. "In case you didn't know, AH1N1 is also a cold. It's just as contagious, with the same symptoms, the same fever, the same muscle pain, the same cough and the same nasal congestion, and it can be treated with the same remedies used for other colds". The difference, he explains, is that it is a new strain and so the public does not have the same immunity. He says that while all the media exposure has led to panic, the pharmaceutical industry is having the last laugh. Hoffmann-La Roche has made millions with its Tamiflu, as have sellers of masks, gloves and even disinfectant soaps. In the DR as in the rest of the world AH1N1 has been big business. Some pharmacies are selling medicine for inflated prices, some labs are offering fraudulent tests, and some clinics are not accepting medical insurance for cases related to these symptoms. "A great global and widespread scam over a cold. Because, yes, it is a cold. Regardless of its name in secret code or chemical formula!"

Crime map released
A new "crime map" released by the National District Prosecutors Office points out that Capotillo, San Carlos and Villa Maria are the three Santo Domingo sectors with the highest rates of drug trafficking and drug consumption.
National District DA Alejandro Moscoso Segarra says that the map, along with the research that was conducted for its preparation, will allow for the establishment of a statistical system to help identify trends in criminal activity and measure the efficiency of the penal system.
The plan is to use it to help reinforce and develop new penal policy in the DR.
The map reveals that the movement of drugs in the DR is most common between the hours of 12pm and 6pm.
Moscoso said that similar maps would be developed to track homicides, theft and forgery.

JCE cancels IDs
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has canceled 24,706 identity documents and a further 7,797 ID cards are on the verge of being canceled. Most of the cancellations were made due to the death of the identity holder, but 628 identities were also canceled when it was found that there was more than one card in the system, while 623 were canceled because they were fakes.

Dominicans in the 2010 Census
The Dominican American Round Table (DANR) has launched a campaign "One plus One" in the US and Puerto Rico to lobby for the inclusion of a box in the 2010 Census for Dominicans to identify themselves as Dominicans, in the way Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans can do. Otherwise, Dominicans are lumped into the "Other Hispanics" category.
DANR president Nestor Montilla stresses that Dominicans are the second largest immigrant group in the US. "It is unconceivable and detrimental for our community that the Dominican presence is not treated appropriately in the census," he told El Diario La Prensa in NY.
It is important because public funds are budgeted according to official demographic figures. If the group is not specified, then Dominican community numbers will be undercounted and there will be less funding for programs benefiting the community.
The 2000 Census showed 35 million Hispanics (12.5% of the US population), including 20,640,711 Mexicans (58.5% of Hispanics), 3,406,178 Puerto Ricans (9.6%), 1,241,685 Cubans (3.5%) and 764,945 Dominicans (2.2%). But DANR says the 2010 Census could show a Dominican population of 1,920,831 Dominicans, which would make Dominicans the second largest immigrant group, surpassing the Cubans.

Jimenez gets a street in NY
108-37 Drive in the New York borough of Queens will be renamed in honor of fallen Dominican-American soldier Alex Jimenez. Jimenez moved to Queens at a young age and spent his formative years there before moving to Lawrence, Massachusetts and joining the US army. He was kidnapped and killed by an Al Qaeda cell in Iraq in 2007 but his body has never been found. Jimenez is one of eight Dominican-Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Big 'Grand' Papi?
David Ortiz's troubles at the plate have been well publicized this season. Early season indications led many to believe that Papi's woes were due to a simple slump.
As his troubles have continued, some have suggested that his wrists, knees, personal problems or even performance-enhancing drugs are the source of Papi's decline as one of the league's greatest power hitters.
But Bill Simmons, writing for ESPN.com is speculating that Papi's troubles could be due to his age. Simmons writes that maybe Ortiz was actually older than his birth certificate stated and that his descent from the upper echelons of power hitting was due to a natural decline in production by older players.
Simmons notes the stories of Dominican friend Miguel Tejeada who was found to have cut two years off his birth certificate.
Simmons writes: "Watching Papi flounder now, I'd believe he's really 36 or 37 (not 33) before I'd believe PEDs are responsible. In a recent game in Minnesota, he couldn't catch up to an 89 mph fastball. Repeat: 89 mph!"
And while it's been a tough season for Ortiz, Simmons acknowledges that Red Sox fans are still standing behind him: "Red Sox fans refuse to turn against Ortiz. They just can't. They owe him too much for 2004 and 2007. It's like turning on Santa Claus or happy hour. Every Ortiz appearance is greeted with supportive cheers, every Ortiz failure is greeted with awkward silence. The fans are suffering just like he is."
See: http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=4223584

A-rod back in the news
Alex Rodriguez has had a relatively quiet return to baseball after having off-season hip surgery, but his love life continues to draw interest. People Magazine is reporting that the All-Star third baseman is dating movie star Kate Hudson with reports suggesting that the relationship is serious. He has introduced her to friends and she has been spotted cheering him on at baseball games.
This is just the latest chapter in Rodriguez's love life. After divorcing his wife Cynthia he was linked to pop mega-diva Madonna.

Italian Day at the Fortaleza
For a wide selection of Italian products and food in the Dominican Republic, go to the Italian Eno-gastronomic Festival this coming Sunday, 7 June starting at noon at the Fortaleza Ozama in the Colonial City.
A large selection of Italian restaurants will be selling their popular dishes during the family event, which is organized by Casa de Italia.
The Italian cultural center is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, with an exhibition "Landscapes of Italy" by famous Italian artist Silvana Chiozza on the occasion of the anniversary.
For more information, contact Tel 809 688-1497 or [email protected]
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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