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Daily News - Monday, 15 June 2009

Hugo Chavez to visit
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela will be visiting the DR to take part in the ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dominican intellectual, writer and politician Juan Bosch, founder of the ruling PLD party.
The celebrations are scheduled for 30 June 2009. Diario Libre reports on Chavez's planned attendance and comments that the Venezuelan leader has frequently expressed his admiration for Bosch and often quotes him in his speeches.

Selling 49% of refinery to Venezuela
News reports indicate that the Fernandez government has agreed to sell a 49% share in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery to Venezuela's PDVSA. A commission to finalize the deal is expected in Santo Domingo this week.
Earlier this year the government finalized the purchase of the Shell Company's shares in the refinery. Speaking in Basseterre, St. Kitts, Venezuelan Minister Rafael Ramirez said that the capacity of the old refinery (at 34,000 barrels) would be expanded. The DR currently needs to import refined fuels because the refinery only serves about a quarter of the demand.
The announcement follows President Fernandez's attendance at the Sixth PetroCaribe Summit on Friday, 12 June in Basseterre. President Fernandez traveled to St. Kitts accompanied by Secretary of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio, Administrative Secretary of the Presidency Luis Manuel Bonetti, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, and Presidency press director Rafael Nunez. He returned to the DR on Saturday, 13 June.
The Petrocaribe agreement allows Caribbean and Latin American governments to buy Venezuelan oil products on long-term credit. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says that the DR owes US$1 billion as per the Petrocaribe agreement, and this year would be paying US$25 million to the debt, as reported in El Caribe.
The DR purchases 50,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, of which 40% (20,000 barrels) is financed with a two-year grace period, 23-year terms and 1% annual interest when the price per barrel exceeds US$50 and 2% if the price is below that sum, as reported in Diario Libre.
There is talk of the DR paying for petroleum bills with agricultural products or tourism services. Bengoa says that the Venezuelan government has approved an arrangement under which the DR would pay the debt in black beans. He is expecting Venezuela to place an order for 20,000 tons of black beans, or US$12 million worth. He said that Venezuelans consume 120,000 tons of beans a year.

Time to revise National Budget
Economist Henri Hebrard says the government needs to revise the national budget now, due to the significant declines in revenue. He gave a talk on "The Seven Plagues of the Global Crisis - Challenges and Opportunities for the DR" at the Alliance Francaise.
Hebrard suggests that priority should be given to small infrastructure works that he says are the most effective in creating jobs.
As reported in Hoy, Hebrard said that a comparison of 2008 first quarter revenues with those in 2009 showed an 18.3% decline. He said that while it is true that the GDP grew 1% in the first quarter, when one excludes telecom and banking, the rest of the economy was down 3.9%. Industry declined 8.9% and construction 21.9%.
Hebrard is optimistic that the DR can take advantage of the present recession if it makes the structural changes needed.

Borrowing to balance budget
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa announced last week that the government would be sending to Congress a request for authorization to issue US$1 billion in sovereign bonds to balance the National Budget. Bengoa sees this as the best solution to the deficit in the National Budget, due to falling tax revenues.
Bengoa announced that the request would be sent to Congress on Monday. The ruling PLD party holds the majority in Congress.
Bengoa said that of the total sum, only US$500 million might be used this year, but "it would be a kind of protective shield for the economy," as reported in El Caribe. He said the government is seeing a deficit from January through May of RD$6.4 billion due to declining taxation revenues.
Bengoa says that taxation revenues should recover later this year with the reactivation of the economy.

Austerity before borrowing
Pedro Perez, president of the National Organization of Commercial Stores (ONEC) has cautioned against the issuing of sovereign bonds, as reported in Diario Libre. He said more debt is not the solution, because it is not known if the money would be allocated to current spending or to productive infrastructure works that generate jobs and not just simply cover a deficit.
"It is not healthy to issue bonds for financing without previously undergoing a strict austerity program, so what should be sought is a way for the government to reduce its spending," he said. "In the first quarter, 89% of the funds were allocated to current expenditure. Only 11% was for infrastructure," he said, as reported in Diario Libre.
Economist Henri Hebrard also expressed his concern that without an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, there would be no supervision on the government's use of the funds. He told Diario Libre that if there were an agreement with the IMF, the interest rate on the sovereign bonds would be lower.
Economist Gustavo Volmar, writing in Diario Libre, says that the government's track record on the use of the sovereign bonds money is not good. "Specialists and public figures indicate that the use of the funds generated by the 2001 sovereign bonds did not follow a rational order of priorities," he says. He warns that back then the funds contributed to an economic expansion that led to inflation and depreciated the peso, which could happen again.
"The government has not given clear indications that it is willing to comply with rational use of public spending. Its announcements for savings are due to the impact of external events, such as a decline in the price of petroleum," he explains. Furthermore, he writes that with this in mind, "the issuing of bonds could be seen as an alternative mechanism for the government to avoid submitting to the financial discipline of the IMF."

Amnesty solves nothing
Speaking at a meeting on Migration Policy and Experiences in Regularization Processes at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso said that amnesty processes do not resolve the problem of illegal immigration. He stated that they do not address the fact that the situation that needs to be resolved then repeats itself over and over, as reported in Listin Diario. His comments came at a time when the regularization of the status of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants is being considered.
Interior & Police Minister Franklin Almeyda has proposed the issuing of legal residency to illegal undocumented immigrants who can prove they have resided in the country for more than 10 years.
Morales said that this proposal was "unheard of" because it would grant facilities to immigrants from Haiti who arrived from a failed state to benefit from Dominican public services. "Migration status regularizations send a message to potential illegal migrants that they too can bet on it, with time and after an extended stay, they also will beat the law," warned the foreign affairs minister.
During the conference, Almeyda said that the DR does not have the mechanisms to estimate the number of Haitians residing in the country let alone to quantify the foreigners who enter as tourists and then stay. Almeyda has proposed the biometrical registration of all people entering the country.
During the event, Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman, president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) said that 61,115 foreign nationals have legal residency in the DR. Castanos told journalists that he is against naturalizing undocumented foreigners.

Intelligence to stop child begging
Father Regino Martinez, coordinator of Border Solidarity and Jesuit Refugees and Migrant Services says that the trafficking in Haitian children through the border has increased alarmingly in recent months. He said most of these children are transported to the city of Santiago so they can beg on city streets. Martinez told Listin Diario that the increase is the result of the lack of intelligence controls by the Department of Migration and the military authorities in charge of controlling migration from Haiti. He said that Migration simply deports the minors but does not make any efforts to find and penalize those responsible.

Provinces still on alert
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) is maintaining a green alert for seven provinces due to forecasts of heavy rains by the National Meteorological Office (ONAMET). Dajabon, Santiago, Valverde, Santiago Rodriguez, Elias Pina, Independencia and San Juan de la Maguana have all been placed on green alert. People living near rivers are receiving special warnings due to the risk of flooding and landslides. The alerts come as the COE reports that two people have died and 355 have been made homeless as a result of the rains.

JCE-SOMO conflict resolved
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) and the company that was contracted for the modernization of the civil registry, Soluciones Modernas (Somo), have reached an agreement for the payment in installments of a pending US$8.5 million contractual debt. The JCE made an advance payment of US$1.2 million to the company that has now agreed to conclude all pending work for the automation of the Civil Registry within 120 days. The JCE committed to paying another US$1.2 million in 10 days, and another US$1.2 million in 30 days. Two final payments for US$2.4 million each will be made, conditional on Somo's satisfactory completion of the pending work.
JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said this agreement puts the judgment that favored Somo behind them.

Semantics and ministers
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly has moved on eliminating expressions of "chief" and "supreme chief" from the Constitution.
The legislators in charge of drafting the new Constitution decided that the President of the Republic will be the person who "directs" domestic and foreign policy, the civil and military administration and will be the "supreme authority" of the Armed Forces and Police, as reported in Hoy.
The legislators also voted to change the titles used for city and town council executives. The Spanish term "sindico" will now be changed to "alcalde." In English both terms can be translated as mayor.
Likewise, cabinet members would now be known as "ministros" or ministers, instead of "secretarios" or secretaries of state.
Among other issues, the legislators incorporated into the new Constitution a provision by which the Executive Branch needs to send the National Budget to Congress no later than 1 October of each year.

DR high C-section rate
The DR has the second highest rate of caesarean births in Latin America, at 44.3% of all births. Puerto Rico tops the region with 49%. Listin Diario reports that although the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that C-sections should only be done in between 10% and 15% of all births, in the DR that figure is more than triple, with almost one out of every two births involving the surgical procedure. The number of caesarean births in the DR exceeds those of larger countries in the region like Mexico (37.8%), Argentina (35,2%), Brazil (44.2%) and Colombia (26.7%).

GPS service for Santiago
GPS mapping service is now available for Santiago. Ola.com.do announced that this is in addition to available coverage for San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, Higuey, Hato Mayor, Punta Cana, Bavaro, Juan Dolio and Santo Domingo. Marlene Sansat, speaking for the company, says that many commercial establishments are already featured in the software, which can be purchased on their site. "This makes it so easy that any tourist can now get around the entire city, without ever having been to the Cibao before," she said, as reported in El Caribe.

Caribair cleared for flight
The general director of the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation, Jose Tomas Perez has announced the lifting of flight restrictions imposed on Caribair in January.
The airline was re-certified after violations to the Civil Aviation Law and navigation rulings, including carrying out commercial operations using private registry airplanes.

President's mom recovers
President Leonel Fernandez's 83-year old mother, Yolanda Reyna, was sent home from the Cedimat hospital at Plaza de la Salud on Friday. She had been hospitalized for arrythmia. Dr. Pedro Urena, director of the Department of Cardiology at the center, said that she had recovered from the heart condition.

Child abuser deported
The Department of Migration has deported Joseph Christian Fontana, who was living in Cabrera, Maria Trinidad Sanchez province, at the request of the US judiciary. He was sought to stand trial for charges of rape of at least 50 minors in the US.
The president of the National Drug Control Department Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez said that Fontana, who was arrested on 5 June, moved to the DR to avoid standing trial in the US. Reportedly, he had been living in the country since 2001.

Couple dies in Damajagua Falls
An American couple, Vero Beach, Florida dentist David Rosenberg and wife Jean, died when on vacation in Puerto Plata. They drowned at the Damajagua falls in Imbert, Puerto Plata. They had been vacationing in Cabarete. Recent intense rains caused a rush of the current, according to a Police report. Measures in place to avoid this situation at the popular adventure site failed. The couple is survived by their two sons, Eddie and Stephen, who had accompanied their parents on the Damajagua tour, but were not able to avoid the tragedy.
For more details on what happened, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/north-coast/...
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