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Daily News - Friday, 26 June 2009

12% pay raise not enough
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque and Labor Minister Max Puig both agree that the 12% pay increase for minimum wage earners proposed by the private sector is not enough. They called on the business sector to come up with a larger pay hike, in the spirit of the 100th anniversary of the birth of former President Juan Bosch, founder of the ruling PLD and opposition PRD parties.
Alburquerque also asked the private sector to take into account the effects of inflation on the Dominican economy and its workers during the past two years. Puig says that a wage increase is justified, especially as the working class is a key factor in helping generate wealth.

Remittances continue to decline
Remittances declined by more than US$65 million in 2008 compared to the previous year. Central Bank statistics indicate that remittances in 2008 totaled US$3.045 billion compared to US$3.11 billion in 2007.
The drop in remittances is being felt even more this year. There has already been a decline of US$55.1 million for the first quarter, reports Diario Libre. From January to March, remittances totaled US$722.3 million, down from US$777.4 million for the same period last year.
Nevertheless, during a recent luncheon meeting with exporters, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu said that remittances are still an important source of resources for the country. Peak months are December, July, April and May (in the run up to Mother's Day on the last Sunday in May).
Remittances for the peak months were: December 2008, US$298.6 million, July US$293.3 million, April US$255.9 million and in May US$255.5 million, according to the Central Bank.
Valdez pointed out that 2007 had been a very good year, with a record US$3.045 billion in remittances sent.
Remittance companies' spokesman, Freddy Ortiz predicts that this year the flow will decline by 10%, or US$273 million, due to the job losses in Europe and the US economic difficulties. Speaking for the Dominican Association of Remittance Companies (Aderedi), Ortiz said that 42% of Dominican households directly benefit from remittances.

Mining Department is too liberal
Geologist Osiris de Leon says that the Department of Mining bears the greater responsibility for the conflicts arising when mining companies are authorized to operate in or around protected areas or areas with tourism potential. As reported in Hoy, de Leon said that that government body is liberal and lacks responsibility when granting permits, without giving much thought to future consequences.
He said that the Department of Mining requests permission of the Executive Branch, and once the permits are granted above Environment Law 146-00, they assume these are irreversible decisions.
"But that has to change. The Mining department cannot continue with that carefree attitude, nor should they grant so many permits to so many people. Definitely, that department is not being managed correctly," he stated, as quoted in Hoy.
De Leon says that the department should stop thinking only of the interest of mining concessions, and begin to consider the negative environmental aspects of the permits.

UNEP just a "Dormicum"?
The president of the Congressional Environment Commission, deputy Mario Jose Fernandez Savinon has described President Leonel Fernandez's decision to delegate the recommendation about the construction of the cement plant off Los Haitises to an United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) mission as just playing for time. "It is only a Dormicum for those who oppose the project," he said, referring to the popular sleeping pill, as reported in Hoy.
The Chamber of Deputies commission has opposed the construction of the cement plant at the site on the grounds that Los Haitises is the most important source of drinking water in the DR. Fernandez Savinon warned that the construction would cause major health problems for the community of Gonzalo. Los Haitises is a major water source for Santo Domingo.
Fernandez Savinon compared the government's attitude towards the cement plant to the way the government ignored opposition to the Sun Land borrowing without Congressional approval.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez, president of the Ecological Society of the Cibao (SOECI) said that the UNEP experts were not necessary, and that the matter could be debated with local experts.

Monsignor: Governors can't be softies
The Bishop of San Francisco de Macoris, Monsignor Jesus Maria de Jesus Moya spoke out yesterday, calling for a government with more authority. "They should not be softies, but need to be capable of applying the laws and earnest", he said, as reported in Hoy.
He urged the government to deliver the RD$4 billion it had promised for the education sector during the summit held early this year. The money would be used to raise quality standards of public education.
He said that for years there has been no evidence of political will and instead there is buck-passing between the public and private sector, when both groups should join forces to solve the problems.
"A softie cannot govern, it has to be a strong and earnest person," said the bishop. He urged society to demand ethics from politicians, instead of accepting that to be a politician is synonymous with being a liar.
"See that I am almost 75 years old, and all my life I have heard that government is going to resolve the electricity problem and everything has remained the same," he said.
Monsignor de Jesus, who is rector of the Universidad Nordestana in San Francisco de Macoris, said that there has never been political will to put education first. He said this is also due to a lack of community empowerment and unity.
He criticized the great levels of inequity in the country, commenting on thousands of good public servants who make pennies, while there are others who work very little and get paid millions.
Monsignor also criticized the business sector, saying there were private groups that think the government has to do everything.

Check out India
India will experience the greatest rate of growth in 2010, with a World Bank forecast increase in GDP of 8% in 2010, more than China at 7.7%, says Fernando Gonzalez Nicolas, president of the Caribbean Trade Consortium. He says that bilateral trade between India and the DR in 2008 totaled US$44 million, with potential for a marketed increase.
"India has all the conditions to become a major source of raw materials, technology, equipment and investments for the DR," he says.
Gonzalez Nicolas, a major local trade promoter, says that talks are under way with Tata, the largest corporation in India with US$62 billion in annual sales, with a view to setting up a Dominican operation.
Gonzalez also highlighted India's potential as an investor, making the point it is already the second largest investor in Great Britain.
The Embassy of the Dominican Republic in India is coordinating a trade mission to the DR together with Center for Export & Investment (CEI-RD) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to take place before the year ends, says Dominican Ambassador in India, Hans Dannenberg Castellanos.
"In the three years our mission has been open in New Delhi, there has been an increased awareness of our country, our free trade agreements and the potential for investment for Indian nationals," he says.
He said that the Dominican Embassy has actively promoted the country as a strategic regional business hub as well as positioning the country in the minds of large Indian Outbound Tour Operators, by holding seminars and workshops together with the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) in most large Indian cities.
"Indian outbound tourism is dramatically increasing every year and according to the World Tourism Organization it will be one of the largest tourism generators in the world by 2015", said Ambassador Dannenberg, encouraging the DR tourism sector to make the most of the Indian travel boom.

Manny in the Minors
Major League slugger Manny Ramirez is back to hitting Major League style hits, sort of. Ramirez, who is only two weeks away from returning to batting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, began his gradual return to baseball this week playing with the Dodgers' Minor League affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. Ramirez played four innings in his first game and was hitless in two at-bats.
However, Ramirez was welcomed with loud cheers of the crowd packed there to see him. The capacity 15,321-person crowd was the largest in Isotopes' history.
"People love me everywhere I go," Ramirez is quoted as saying before the game. "I'm excited about bringing a lot of joy to a lot of people here. I feel good. I'm happy that I'm here."
Ramirez has yet to open up about his steroid use, which led to his 50-game suspension from MLB ball, but during a brief interview before his first game Ramirez commented, "I'm not talking about it any more. I already said what I'm going to say. I'm here to do my rehab, you know, and (go) to the game and get a couple at-bats and get back to the big-league team." Ramirez is expected back on the field on 3 July.

A-rod's milestone
Despite his on and off the field struggles, Dominican ball player Alex Rodriguez hit his 563rd career home run yesterday, tying him with baseball great Reggie Jackson at 11th place on the all-time home runs list. Rodriguez hit the homer off Braves right-hander Derek Lowe.
On the milestone Jackson said, "I am glad to see him tie it, maybe it will take some of the pressure off. I want to see him do well, he has been struggling."
Rodriguez is now only six dingers away from passing Rafael Palmeiro for 10th on the all-time homeruns list.
The milestone could be a jolt for Rodriguez who has been struggling at the plate and in the field this season. Rodriguez has a total of 33 hits, 10 homeruns, 34 RBI and a batting average of .223. His batting average of during the 2009 season is nine points lower than his previous season low, which was .232, during his second season, in 1995.
Adding to the pressures on Rodriguez is talk that without the potential use of performance enhancers Rodriguez will not be able to recapture his MVP quality performance. There is also speculation that his age, 34, and his off-season hip surgery could also hamper his career.

The King of Pop is dead
Dominican newspapers and talk shows are giving front-page coverage to the death of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. He was just as much a part of Dominican culture - with the Michael Jackson show being one of the longest standing in tourism resorts nationwide for many years.
Initial reports on his death indicate it occured at the UCLA Medical Center of cardiac arrest after being taken there at 12:30pm on Thursday after paramedics tried to revive him at his Los Angeles home. The King of Pop, as he was commonly known, was about to begin a worldwide comeback that was expected to polish his tarnished public image.
Jackson and the Dominican Republic were suddenly intertwined in world pop history in 1994 when Jackson married the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, Lisa Marie Presley, in the town of La Vega. Although the wedding, celebrated by judge Hugo Francisco Alvarez Perez was supposed to be a secret, the news soon leaked out to the world.

New honor for Julia Alvarez
The 14th Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference will honor Dominican-American poet, novelist and essayist Julia Alvarez later this year.
As well as her successful and acclaimed novels including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez's poetry and prose have been widely praised and published. Her most recent book Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA was described by the Washington Post as a "fascinating, exhaustively researched book about the celebration of a girl's coming of age."
Every year since 1996, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference and its award have honored the achievements of a great American author. Past award winners include John Updike (2002), Joyce Carol Oates (1998) and Norman Mailer (2000).

Gastronomy benefit at the Hilton
Producciones Buen Vivir has organized a benefit at the Santo Domingo Hilton in support of the Friends of Children with Cancer Foundation. The 27 June Saturday 10am to 10pm event, Food & Fashion 2009 is a mixture of fashion and gourmet food, all for a good cause.
Taking part are chefs Franchesco Iaconeta, Lilia Sanchez, Arleen Rivera and Maria del Carmen Bonarelli from leading Dominican restaurants.
At the event, chef Franchesco Iaconeta of Il Buongustaio Restaurant on Gustavo Mejia Ricart avenue at the intersection with Virgilio Diaz Ordonez street will share his new menu with participants.
Also, wine expert Carmen Cataldi will give advice about matching wines and food.
There will be cooking demonstrations from 11am to 8pm, a children's fashion show at 4pm, and closing show at 8pm. Tickets are RD$300 and can be purchased at the door.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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