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Daily News - Wednesday, 08 July 2009

Fernandez inaugurates natural gas plant
President Leonel Fernandez cut the symbolic ribbon inaugurating a new natural gas plant at the Caucedo Energy Park yesterday. The plant was built by the SNG company (Soluciones Gas Natural SA), part of the Lama Business Group at a cost of RD$500 million. It is considered one of the most modern plants in the DR and the Caribbean.
Company spokesman Mario Lama Hache predicted that the company would make considerable contributions to reducing dependence on oil-based fuel imports. Lama Hache thanked President Fernandez for the government's support for the project.
The new plant will compress, distribute and sell natural gas to several sectors of the Dominican economy.

Hacienda issues bonds
The Ministry of Hacienda has issued RD$2 billion in domestic bonds. Congress approved the bonds, which are aimed at jumpstarting the construction market. Minister Vicente Bengoa said the bonds would primarily be used by the Ministry of Public Works, the Public Works Supervision Coordination Office and Inapa, as well as other government agencies, to continue the construction of infrastructure affected by the slowdown in government revenue collections.

Wage dispute will continue
The National Union Unity Council (CNUS), true to its word, has announced that it is opposed the tentatively agreed 15% increase in the minimum wage for non-sectored workers who make RD$4,485, RD$5,060 and RD$7,360. The government approved increases for minimum salaries of RD$672.75, RD$759 and RD$1,104 a month with 5 of 7 votes.
Yesterday, the National Salary Committee (CNS) agreed on the controversial wage hike during a meeting at the Ministry of Labor, but Hoy reports that CNUS members walked out of the meeting in protest, before voting had commenced.
Rafael Abreu, representing the CNUS, said that their rejection of the agreement was partly because members of the salary agreement refused to pass the 15% wage increase with the promise of continuing to discuss the other pay scales.
Marisol Vicens, president of Compardom, which represents the business sector, expressed regret at the walkout.
The salary increase will not affect workers in the trade zones, the tourism sector, agriculture or construction. These will negotiate their wage increases, but will use the same negotiation process.
The CNUS has 15 days to dispute the raise, but Abreu announced that the union would "focus its energies on reforming the CNS" instead. The CNS legally can only rule on increases of the minimum wage.
Abreu argues that Labor Minister Max Puig was the mastermind behind the agreement and this was why he wouldn't argue against the resolution.

Aura Fernandez: transparency
Central Electoral Judge (JCE) Aura Celeste Fernandez has persistently called for increased transparency at the JCE. Fernandez says the JCE has an operating budget of RD$2.5 billion, but that its members don't know what the budgetary spending consists of because the judges have never discussed the topic.
"I see rental contracts of RD$2,000 and RD$3,000 for civil registry offices but I've never seen them," said Fernandez, quoted in Hoy. Fernandez also says the JCE has authorized contracts of RD$400 million, without having been authorized reviewed by the other JCE judges.
"I don't know if Dr. Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman signs those contracts, in legal representation of the JCE. He probably does, but he does not take these contracts to his fellow judges of the JCE for approval."
She voiced her criticisms against the JCE Administrative Chamber, adding that there is a culture of fear in that office that has silenced all government employees there.
She added that there was a culture of "secrecy" at the JCE and a lack of responsibility because Castanos Guzman has never asked for increased levels of austerity for the JCE judges.

Police tackle cyber crime
The DR's Attorney General's office is heading a new organization involving 10 government institutions in an attempt to help monitor and fight cyber crimes.
The Inter-institutional High Technology Commission (CIDAT) aims to make the struggle against cyber crimes more effective and serve as a coordination body for national and international cooperation.
General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez said that the new entity was created in response to a need to tackle all forms of cyber crime.
This new commission will define policies and make suggestions about the most effective strategies for fighting these crimes. It will work closely with the police, the military authorities and the judicial system to persecute these crimes.
The Armed Forces, National Police, Indotel, the DNCD, Ministry of Interior and Police, DNI, Banking Superintendence, ITLA and Conani all form part of the commission.

Customs investigation deepens
A Customs Department (DGA) investigation into tax fraud by the cement company Cemex, the generator Itabo, and the DGA itself now involves the energy generator EGE-Haina. According to Listin Diario, a preliminary investigation by Customs reveals the transfer of 9,800 gallons of fuel to Cemex, without notifying the DGA. Still no word on the monetary value of the irregularities detected, how long they have been in operation.

Trade with South Korea up
Trade with South Korea increased US$40.6 million overall during the first five months of the year.
South Korea exported US$31.4 million, while the DR exported US$9.2 million to South Korea, reported Jung Suk Choi, director of the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) for the DR, as reported in Listin Diario.
He made the comments upon announcing that from 17 to 19 July, KOTRA was sponsoring Expo Korea 2009, a trade show presenting South Korean goods and services. The event will take place at the Don Diego Port Terminal, on the west bank of the Port of Santo Domingo.
The DR exported ferronickel, copper wiring wastes, medical instruments, hygiene articles, discharged batteries, clothing, and optical instruments.

Chinese killer was underage
The young man who murdered three of his countrymen is only 17, according to press reports following up on the crime.
Reports indicate that he will receive a maximum sentence of 3 to 4 years, and psychological assessments and help.
Last week two women and one man, Legni Fung Dng, Hui Ting Win and Shao Tang, all Chinese nationals, were found dead in an apartment in the Alma Rosa sector of Santo Domingo.
Hoy speculates that the killer's motive could have been to avoid paying back a debt for being brought to the DR.

Ramirez hits, gets ejected in debut
Manny Ramirez's tumultuous road towards image recovery and redemption took a downturn yesterday as he was ejected in bottom of the fifth inning in the LA Dodgers' game against the New York Mets.
Ramirez's seemed apathetic about his ejection, saying after the game, "I didn't want to throw even more fire. I just walked away. I only play five innings, so I was leaving anyway." Ramirez had driven in three runs, going 2-4 in four at bat. But it was a disputed strike three called by umpire John Hirschbeck, on a full count and the bases loaded, which lit Ramirez up.
Ramirez began walking towards first thinking it was Ball 4, but Hirschbeck disagreed and called the strike.
Ramirez threw down his bat, gloves and elbow pad. He was halfway through the infield when Hirschbeck inspected what Ramirez had thrown and ordered him out of the game.

Cosmo Bikini Bash
President Beer is promoting its Verano Presidente with a Cosmopolitan Third Bikini Bash with more than 1,000 women wearing bikinis for the biggest aerial bikini photo shoot with the women's bodies forming the word "Cosmo".
The event is co-sponsored by Cosmopolitan Magazine. The Bikini Bash is an event that has been held worldwide.
This year it will take place at Costa del Sol beach at the Metro Country Club in Juan Dolio.
The event is described as a great beach party with DJ music and bathing suit fashion shows by Larissa Salcedo and Roberto Flores.
Last year the photo shoot was held at Nikki Beach in Florida.

Merengue Festival: 23-26 July
The Ministry of Tourism has announced that the Santo Domingo Merengue Festival will be held on 23-26 July. This is a lively celebration of merengue music with free live performances by leading bands.
See www.dr1.com/calendar for more upcoming events.
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