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Daily News - Thursday, 25 June 2009

Refidomsa is a done deal
President Leonel Fernandez all but told media directors meeting at the Presidential Palace yesterday that the Dominican government deal that involves the transfer 49% of shares in Refidomsa to the Venezuelan government petroleum company PDVSA is a done deal. There will be no tender for the shares. The deal is for US$130 million, and will mostly be paid for in oil supply.
Business leaders have expressed concern about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's recent anti-business practices in Venezuela. They also warned that the sale could create a monopoly, but President Fernandez said that the deal does not oblige the Dominican government to source its fuel from Venezuela. He said that currently 75% of the oil imported is from Venezuela and 25% from Mexico.
Fernandez said that the criticism was "an emotional reaction due to lack of information. Nevertheless, he said the contract could not be made public because until it was signed "there is no contract." He also denied that the government is obliged to send the contract draft to Congress.
Fernandez said that prior to deciding to go with Venezuela, the government held talks with Brazil and Mexico's state oil corporations. Venezuela was chosen as a strategic partner, said the President, not only for its assistance in expanding the refinery, but because it has been a reliable supplier.
President Fernandez said that they would make the most of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's presence during the events celebrating the 100 anniversary of Professor Juan Bosch's birth, to sign a letter of intent for the shares sale, scheduled for 30 June 2009.
During the luncheon to share details on the Refidomsa deal hosted by President Leonel Fernandez, others attending were Presidency Secretary Cesar Pina Toribio, Presidential Legal Advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe, Refidomsa general manager Viriato Sanchez, lawyer Mariano German and Presidential Press Director Rafael Nunez.

UN opinion on Los Haitises
President Leonel Fernandez says the Ministry of Environment has asked the United Nations Development Program to channel a request to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for an environmental advisory team. The mission would determine whether a cement plant would be damaging in the location chosen by the Dominican Mining Consortium, on the edge of Los Haitises National Park.
He said the authorities would follow the recommendations made by the impartial specialists from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Last week, a judge ordered a halt to construction until the case presented by a Monte Plata community group and the leading caving group could be heard in court. Environmental groups say the operation of the cement plant would be damaging to the underground water sources in the area. In a letter dated 17 March, deputy Environment minister Jose Manuel Mateo Felix said that the heavy machinery would affect the rest of the karst formation and the underground water sources in the area. Nevertheless, in April, the Ministry granted environmental permits for the construction. Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez later said that authorization had come directly from President Leonel Fernandez.
The request for an opinion was also made for a cement plant that the Ministry of Environment has rejected for construction in the northern Luperon area, on the grounds that it would be damaging to future tourism development interests in the area. Another cement plant, located in southwestern Pedernales, was granted a concession on lands adjacent to prime tourism land, and is now affecting tourism development in the area.

US$48 million deal with Brazil
The contract signed by Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa yesterday with the Brazilian government export finance agency, the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) in Rio de Janeiro is worth US$48 million. Also attending the signing ceremony were BNDES president Luciano Coutinho, Marco Cru, Carlos Napoleao and Marcos Machado from the Odebrecht Construction Company and Manuel Estrella for the Dominican company Estrella Engineering, which will carry out the Duarte Corridor Project aimed at easing north-south traffic flow in Santo Domingo. Funds will be used to tackle traffic problems at the intersections of the Duarte Highway at the entrance to Manoguayabo in Santo Domingo, the Av Monumental Avenue, the intersections of John F. Kennedy and Nunez de Caceres and Dr. Defillo, the intersection of Ortega y Gasset with 27 de Febrero and the intersection of Charles De Gaulle Avenue and the San Isidro Highway.

US$300 million for business
The Central Bank has made US$300 million available to commercial banks for financing exports and their clients' working capital requirements. The money comes from a contract signed on 27 March of this year between the Dominican government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with the Central Bank as the executor organization. Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu said the funds were targeted for the private sector from the start and will enhance liquidity, which is needed to sustain economic growth.

Government aid for mototaxis
The director of the President's Social Plan, Emigdio Sosa has announced a new welfare program targeting motorbike taxi drivers, known in the DR as "motoconchistas." According to El Nuevo Diario, the plan was launched with the distribution of 300 safety helmets to drivers who also received food rations during an event at the Club Calero in Villa Duarte. Sosa said that this program was just the start of a nationwide operation that aims to contribute to the safety and social protection of this sector.
"Many "motoconchistas" are ill and awaiting the President's helping hand and we will coordinate this so that you can be sure to have help from the government," he said.
Also attending the function were Ground Transport Director (OTTT) Rafael Tobias Crespo, and Colonels Orlando Pichardo and Dinapoles La Paix in representation of General Rafael Bencosme Candelier, the director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (AMET) and the commander of Villa Duarte.
The event was organized by the Social Plan's Department of Institutional Affairs coordinated by Gabriel Mendez, the National Organization of Motoconchistas (ONAMOTO) led by Gustavo Orlando Urena, which has 10,334 members.

Government revenues dropping
The Ministry of Hacienda says that government revenues were RD$4.3 billion lower in the first quarter of the year than estimated in the National Budget. Tax collections for January to April totaled RD$76.3 billion, or 5.4% less than the RD$80.6 billion estimate. The Tax Department (DGII) reports that revenue collections were RD$53.57 billion, or 1.4% less than the estimated RD$54.35 billion. Income from value added taxes, the sales tax, was down 14.8%. Customs revenues were RD$14.76 billion, or 21.4% less than the estimated RD$18.78 billion. Imports were down 33.5%, free zone imports 20.2% and oil imports 66.7%.

New car sales down 50%
Enrique Fernandez, executive director of the Association of Concessionaires of Car Manufacturers (Acofave) estimates that new car sales are already down 50% this year, compared to 2008. He said that sales in 2008 were already much lower than in 2007. Fernandez said that his members sold 30,636 new cars in 2007. New car sales in 2008 totaled 21,894, and prospects for this year are much worse.

Tricom invests in the Internet
Tricom telecom has invested more than RD$230 million so far this year on developing its broadband Internet service. To improve its service, the company installed the underground submarine cable Antillas I linking the DR with Puerto Rico. Tricom has an offer on the market, offering a Triple Play combo with broadband Internet service, cable TV and residential phone service for very competitive rates.

ONAMET forecasts rains
It was a swelteringly hot day in Santo Domingo on Wednesday, but the Weather Department (Onamet) is forecasting rains and thunderstorms with some strong winds for the northeast, north, northwest, southeast, Cibao Valley, the central mountains and along the border. A tropical wave located east of Puerto Rico is moving west at 25 kilometers per hour. Onamet is maintaining its alert for flash flooding and landslides for residents of high-risk areas near rivers and creeks in the provinces of Elias Pina, Valverde and Santiago. At the same time, the office says that a low-pressure area located to the northeast of the country and winds from the east/southeast are causing humidity and are keeping the atmosphere unstable. Onamet reports an area of showers and electrical storms to the west of the Gulf of Mexico, but says that there is little chance of this area becoming a tropical storm.

DR volleyball to world events
The Dominican women's volleyball team, ranked 13th by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) will be competing in the Eighth Women's Pan American Cup in Miami from 26 June to 4 July, says Cristobal Marte, director of women's volleyball. The DR is the defending champion in the event.
The DR's top volleyball players will be competing against the 12 best teams in the Americas, grouped into two six-team pools that include three of the four 2008 Olympic Games semifinalists.
Each team will play five pool matches in a round-robin format from 26 June to 30 June, followed by a day off on 1 July. The winner of each pool advances to the semifinals on 3 July, while the second- and third-place pool finishers play cross-pool quarterfinal matches on 2 July. The championship match is scheduled for 4 July. All match times and pool schedules will be announced at a later date.
The nine-day Pan American Cup, which has three of the four 2008 Olympic Games semifinalists (Brazil, USA and Cuba), will be played on the campuses of the University of Miami and Florida International University. The event serves as a qualifying event into the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix.
The top three teams from NORCECA in the Women's Pan American Cup and the highest placing South American country will earn berths to next year's premier annual event, the World Grand Prix 2010.
The DR Women's National Team (No. 13 FIVB world ranking) has been grouped into Pool A with the US (No. 2), Peru (No. 17), Canada (No. 23), Uruguay (No. 29) and Argentina (No. 31).
Pool B consists of Brazil (No. 1), Cuba (No. 3), Venezuela (No. 24), Puerto Rico (No. 19), Mexico (No. 26) and Costa Rica (No. 30).
From the 31 July to the 23 August, the national women's team will participate in World Grand Prix events in China (DR, Russia, China, Korea). Phase II of the Grand Prix will be in Taiwan (US, Holland and Germany), and Phase III in Hong Kong (DR, China, Poland, Holland). The fourth phase of the FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championships will take place in Japan 2010.
See www.fivb.org/EN/volleyball/competitions/WorldGrandPrix/...

1,000 RBIs for David Ortiz
Dominican slugger David Ortiz, despite his slow year, reached the 1,000 runs batted in milestone in a game against the Washington Nationals yesterday. He batted a three-home run that moved the Boston Red Sox from losing 1-0 to a 6-4 win of the game. Ortiz is now only four runs short of reaching home run No. 300. Thursday's homer was Ortiz's seventh of the season, and sixth in the past 15 games.
See http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090624...

Tribute to Eric Clapton
Cinema Cafe in Plaza de la Cultura is presenting a Great Concert Tribute to Eric Clapton on Thursday, 25 June as of 10pm. Andres Aybar Master and the legendary Rock and Blues group "Masters & Friends" gets together to play the music of Eric Clapton. Remember the tunes of Sunshine of Your Love, Badge, Cocaine, Hoochie Coochie Man, Wonderful Tonight, Holy Mother, Let it Rain and Layla, among others. Playing for "Masters & Friends" are: Luis Guzman, Andres Aybar, Wellington Valenzuela and Rigo Zapata. Tickets are RD$200 at the door.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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