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Daily News - Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Senate extends company act
Congress has passed an amendment that extends to 18 months the deadline for businesses with assets of over RD$30 million to bring themselves into compliance with the new General Law on Commercial Societies and Individual Enterprises of Limited Responsibility (479-08). The law goes into effect on 19 June.

Less power for the President
The Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) is once again insisting that the current process of Constitutional Reform should serve to promote a sort of "extenuated Presidency" as an alternative to "the excessive Presidency or a hyper-Presidency" in the present Dominican constitutional system.
The Foundation proposes that the Legislative Branch should be involved in the selection of ministers, that it make sure there is no Executive Branch interference in the affairs of the municipalities and that the powers of the President should be limited to the composition of the central cabinet.
Finjus wants to promote the concept of an "extenuated Presidency" in order to guarantee fundamental rights and prevent what it describes as "excesses and arbitrary actions".
The foundation is calling for legislative action that will ensure better selection of ministers, saying that these, even more than the Central Bank, should be independent.
A report in Hoy newspaper says that it is a shame that we do not have independent administrative authorities.
According to Finjus, it is a contradiction for the President to propose the candidates for membership of the Chamber of Accounts, the entity in charge of auditing government departments.

Transparency in refinery deal
The National Business Council (CONEP) has called for transparency in the deal with the PDVSA, the Venezuelan government oil company, for the sale of 49% of shares of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery. CONEP president Lisandro Macarrulla said that the council would be meeting to establish their stance on the sale.
Ricardo Bonetti, president of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) warned about the sale of the government entity to a Venezuelan government entity. "This will mean we would increase our country's dependency in a key area such as fuel, and in addition, a foreign country would be intervening in the fuel supply and policy handling in the DR," he observed.
For the past 38 years, the Shell Company held 50% of the shares and controlled the management of the company.
Bonetti said that a tender should be called for the Refinery, as ordered by Law No. 340-06 on Government Purchases and Contracting. He disputed the confidentiality treatment in government deals, as occurred in the case of Ede Este.
Listin Diario reports today that the deal is being promoted as one that would guarantee the supply of fuel to the DR.
President Hugo Chavez will be visiting the DR on 30 June and is expected to provide more details on the forthcoming deal.
Lawyer Marino Vinicio Castillo says that the deal also includes the purchase of Operadora de Pueblo Viejo (Opuvisa) in Azua, which imports, stores and distributes propane gas and other fuels. Quoted in Listin Diario, Castillo said that the purchase would be paid for in fuel.

Heavy transport cost for families
Dominican households have an average monthly expenditure of RD$11 billion (21.4%) on food and non-alcoholic drinks and RD$8.9 billion on transportation, for a sum total of RD$19 billion (38%) in these two areas alone. This data appears in the National Survey on Household Income and Expenses (ENIGH) 2007, released yesterday by the National Statistics Office (ONE).
According to Diario Libre, the study also reveals that expenditure on housing, water, electricity, propane gas or other fuels represents 10%, with 8% going on goods and services and 6.1% on health.
The total of all of these items, together with food and transport adds up to a monthly 62.8% of household incomes.
The research uncovered the fact that most food expenditure goes on bread, cereals and meats.
At national level, monthly expenditure in 2007 totaled RD$51.6 billion and the income was calculated to be RD$53.4 billion. Of this last figure, RD$23.5 billion corresponds to income for salaried work and RD$14.9 billion to independent or farm labor.
In the survey, which was carried out during 12 months in 2007, 9,600 homes were studied across the nation, of an estimated total of 2,548,928 homes in existence at that time.
Presenting the results, ONE director Pablo Tactuk said that this survey is the most complex and detailed investigation even carried out in the country.
Besides the statistical importance, the information produced by the ENIGH will permit the Central Bank to update the cost of the family food basket as well as the Consumer Price Index.
The study will also serve to review the account of homes for the National Accounts System, as well as to reveal people's living conditions, including physical characteristics of homes.
The survey also includes important data on access to health care and education. According to the results, in 2007 71% of the population did not have health insurance, or, in numbers, 6,912,379 out of 9,353,700. With regard to education, the study showed that 60% (4,711,365) of the population had barely reached the primary level, 21.3% (1,822, 897) had finished secondary school and 10.1%, 890,792 had university studies.

Repairs on elevated section go slow
Through traffic that uses the Estrella Sadhala Avenue in Santiago is practically at a standstill with repairs going slowly on the section of the pavement that collapsed over the weekend. The huge hole has caused the entire segment between Av. Argentina Avenue and Av Duarte to be funneled down to one lane to get through the repair site, with few alternative routes available.
The Santiago Water and Sewer Corporation (CORAASAN) has deployed heavy equipment on site and work goes on from early in the morning until late at night.
Engineers from Coraasan are diverting the drainage pipe that caused the problem into other pipes. According to the engineers, "What happened here had nothing to do with the elevated section of the avenue. It was due to the failure of a sewer line that became saturated by the rains."
Initial witnesses said that the avenue caved in after several heavy semi-tractor trailers passed over the area, in violation of the ban on heavy vehicles using the route.
DR1 advises readers traveling to or through Santiago to use the river road known as the Circumvalacion, which bypasses the city center.

National Tests start today
Today is the day that most 8th and 12th graders dread: the day that they have to start the National Tests. The Ministry of Education (SEE) announced that the standardized tests will start today, 16 June, and end on 29 June for hundreds of thousands of students who finished eighth grade and from 24 to 28 June for students who have finished high school.
According to El Nuevo Diario, Education Minister Melanio Paredes called on students to be on time for their exams. Paredes also asked parents to encourage their children, and to "remember that we educate by example."
The Ministry of Education covers the total costs of the examinations, in both public and private schools, which total some RD$62 million. The National Tests were introduced in 1992 as the only evaluation instrument on the education obtained by the students.

AmCham favors IMF agreement
The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) has come out in favor of a new agreement between the Dominican government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). AmCham believes the agreement would boost confidence among local as well as foreign investors. Chamber president Alejandro Pena Prieto said, "What we have to look for are what will be the conditions of such an accord if it were to come to fruition." During a breakfast meeting hosted by Multimedios del Caribe, Pena Prieto was accompanied by AmCham vice-president William Malamud and communications director Carol Croussett.
Pena Prieto said that looking at the projected numbers for year's end that forecast a 6.2% deficit in the balance of payments, the Dominican Republic might be eligible for some sort of deal with the multilateral organization, despite the fact that the government has said that it is not necessary under the current circumstances.
The American Chamber of Commerce executives went so far as to mention that with the announced intention of launching a US$1 billion sovereign bond issue, it would be most convenient to have an agreement of some sort with the IMF because of the confidence that this inspires.
Malamud also mentioned that any IMF agreement would have a positive effect on the country's risk levels in the financial markets.

Consumer group sues Superintendence
The Pro-Consumer Rights Foundation, the Citizens Forum and business organizations submitted a suit against the Superintendence of Electricity to the Contentious Administrative Tribunal of the National District yesterday, demanding the cancellation of the recently announced electricity rate hike and the application of an 18% reduction instead.
The suit, which asks for modification of Resolution CIE-44 of 2009 issued by the Superintendent of Electricity was presented by Pro-Consumer lawyers Joaquin Luciano, David Lao and Magino Corporan Lorenzo.
The consumer advocates argue that instead of the increases that range from 2% to 22% in the price per kilowatt/hour as of June, a reduction of 18%, as was recommended by the S.A. Consulting Group, should be applied.
The suit also calls for the court to order the government electricity company to ensure that public biddings should be held for the purchase of electricity by the distributors from the generators, as required by Article 110 of Law 125.01 and as agreed during the National Summit that was held in February and March of this year.
The suit goes on to ask the courts to order the Superintendence of Electricity to dictate the monthly resolutions that order the distributors to refund customers 150% of the cost of each hour of unjustified blackouts, registering in the books the amounts owed since 2003 for its gradual payment based on Paragraph 2 of Article 93 of Law 125-01.

Seven to be indicted by JCE
The National District Prosecutor has recommended that the Central Electoral Board (JCE) submit seven employees from the legal consultant's office for indictment for their alleged participation in a so-called 'mafia' that issued fake documents to foreigners.
National District DA Alejandro Moscoso Segarra said that he would hand in a report today with the results of his investigation into allegations of wrongdoing to the board of the JCE.
Roberto Rosario, chief magistrate of the JCE Administrative Chamber, said that while he is heading the Administrative Chamber there would be no place for corruption or impunity. Rosario made the statement after it was discovered that some employees in the Legal Advisor's office were asking for money in order to speed up the document process.

More rains forecast
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) reported that the forecast for the country continues to be of more humidity and slightly unstable atmospheric conditions due to a low-pressure area located in the high levels of the atmosphere to the northwest. Light to moderate rains and thunderstorms are forecast to continue nationwide.
This is in addition to the predominantly east/southeasterly flow of winds that is bringing lots of clouds.
Light to moderate rains are expected with electrical storms over a large part of the country, mainly in the northwest, north, northeast, southwest, southeast, the central mountains and the frontier area.
In addition, there is a circulation of low pressure developing to the east of the Lesser Antilles that will increase rainfall as of tomorrow.

Lightning kills farmer and burns 4
In El Mamey, Los Hidalgos, in the Septentrional (northern) Mountains, a farmer has been killed and four others suffered burns as a result of a lightning strike in Romerico in the municipality of Mamey, according to the National Police.
The victim was identified as Romulo Brito, 60, who was killed by the massive electrical discharge. The burn victims were identified as Rosa Maria Guzman, Fermina Garcia, Pedro Quintana and Ramon Vargas of 32, 47, 34 and 35 years of age.
The police report says that the two women and two men who were hit by lightning were treated at the local hospital and then transferred to the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez Regional University Hospital in Santiago.
All five victims had violated one of the basic rules for people caught in lightning storms: They sought shelter under a tree!

Landslide leaves hundreds homeless
All today's newspapers feature dramatic photos showing the land sloughing away in the barrio of Los Guandules in Santiago de los Caballeros, built in a vulnerable area. The first major movement came at 4:14am, and caused 15 very humble homes to crumple to the ground or be seriously damaged.
The Los Guandules barrio is on Estrella Sahdala Avenue, across the avenue from the Villa Olimpica and borders the Arroyo Nibaje.
The landslide made an enormous rumbling noise that woke up the entire neighborhood.
Some thirty families, close to 200 people, were affected and have been left homeless.
Civil Defense chief for the region Francisco Arias told Hoy reporters that they are advising local residents to leave the area due to the risk of further landslides.

Volleyball team qualifies
Last week the Dominican national volleyball team won the right to compete in the World Volleyball Championship, scheduled for Japan in 2010. The DR team won the Norceca-D third-round tournament held in Santiago de los Caballeros. Milagros Cabral, Bethania de la Cruz and Priscila Rivera were praised for their excellent game. This is the sixth time since 1974 that the DR will compete in the world's top volleyball championship.
The Dominicans now join defending champions Russia and hosts Japan, who received byes to the final tournament scheduled for next fall in Japan.
As reported by the FIVB, the Dominican Republic downed Mexico in straight sets 25-12, 25-10, 25-18 on Sunday to book their sixth appearance in a World Championship Final Round, following participation in 1974, 1978 and in the last three editions starting in 1998.
"It is a great feeling to get the ticket to Japan," said Dominican Milagros Cabral. "This is a year when we have to prove to ourselves where we really are and how good we can become."
See http://www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldChampionships/...

International Marathon
The Santo Domingo International Marathon and the 14th Half Marathon Hispaniola, a 21 km race will be run on Sunday, 28 June at the Mirador. It is sponsored by Lowenbrau. More than RD$700,000 in cash prizes will be distributed to the winners. Runners have already registered from Kenya, Ethiopia, US, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the DR.
The run begins at the Km. Zero of the Avenida de la Salud of Mirador del Sur Park at 5:14pm.
There are categories overall, 16-29 years, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60+ in men's and women's categories.
There are also special categories for handicapped and amateur runners.
The winners of last year's competition, Mary Ackor and Caolin Camuche have confirmed they are coming.
The Women's best time is 1:50.02 and the men's best time is 1:06.51.
Also coming this year are Daniel Cheruiyot and Julis Keter from Kenya; Alemsehay Misganaw from Ethiopia; Carmen Valle and Luis Rivera from Puerto Rico; Simon Sawe from the US; Venezuelan Pedro Mora, among others.
The competition began in 1996 with the participation of 36 runners.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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