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Daily News - Wednesday, 22 July 2009

DR ranked high for trade procedures
Andres Van der Horst Alvarez, director of the National Competitiveness Council, said that the World Economic Forum's newly released Global Enabling Trade Report 2009 index shows that the DR is neck and neck Panama as the region's leading nation in export process. He said the DR is ranked among the top 20 best in the world in this area.
The official said that the ranking places the Dominican Republic and Panama in 18th place among the world's nations with the fastest export process, and ahead of all Latin American nations in the category of Efficiency of Import-Export Procedures.
The DR ranked above average in time to import (18th in ranking and 10 score), time for export (18th ranking and 9 score), documents for export (42nd ranking and 6 score).
The DR also fared well in several indicators in the domestic and foreign market access. In complexity of tariffs 25 (score 6.7), variance of tariffs 35 or 7.9 score, and number of distinct tariffs 24, with a 7 score.
The country also performs well in availability and quality of transport infrastructure in the categories of transshipment connectivity index with 35 ranking, quality of air transport infrastructure 33rd.
Overall, the DR fared above average in efficiency of import-export procedures, with a 42 ranking and a 5.1 score. But when other components of the index are taken into account, the DR overall ranking is well below average. The Index compiles data on market access, border administration, transport and communications infrastructure and business environment.
The DR posts a very poor 99th ranking in regulatory environment and physical security components of the business environment category .
As a result of poor performance in most other categories, overall, the Dominican Republic is ranked 81st, with a score of 3.64 among 121 countries in the Global Enabling Trade 2009 Index published by the World Economic Forum.
This score and ranking compares to 4.96 for Chile (ranked 19th), 4.36 for Costa Rica (ranked 43rd), 4.18 for Uruguay (ranked 51st), 4.06 for Panama (ranked 53rd), 4 for El Salvador (ranked 56th), 3.97 for Guatemala (ranked 58th), 3.81 for Peru (ranked 65th), 3.80 for Honduras (ranked 66th), 3.74 for Mexico (ranked 74th), 3.71 for Nicaragua (ranked 77th) and 3.70 for Jamaica (ranked 79th), Colombia 3.61 (ranked 84th), Brazil 3.58 (ranked 87th), Bolivia 3.55 (ranked 88th), Argentina 3.46 (ranked 97th).
The Global Enabling Trade 2009 Report is published for the second time and covering 121 economies worldwide. The report presents a resource for dialogue and provides a yardstick of the extent to which economies have in place the necessary attributes for enabling trade and where improvements are most needed. The index has been revised since it was first published in 2008. The main changes concern the explicit inclusion of the export dimension in the index and the addition of an assessment of overall governance conditions to the business environment subindex.

Referendum included in new Constitution
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly approved a first reading on Art. 247 that will allow that a referendum (yes and no vote on an issue submitted by the government) be used to make changes to the Constitution in the future. The Central Electoral Board would prepare the referendum vote, once receiving the question from the government. A referendum is now authorized for requesting an opinion from citizens on rights, duties and fundamental guarantees.
For the approval of a change by the government, the vote of more than half of the voters is required, and voters need to be more than 30% of those registered in the Voters Registry.
Art. 247 says that if the result of the refereumdum is affirmative, it will be proclaimed by the Constitutional Revisory Assembly or in its absence by any authority of the Dominican Republic, incorporating this into the constitutional text.

Central American DR-CAFTA violations
Association of Industries of Herrera (AEIH) president Manuel Cabrera is asking the government for answers about supposed violations of the DR-CAFTA agreement by Central American nations. Cabrera claims that some Central American countries are exporting "dumped" goods to the DR, in violation of the free trade agreement and to the detriment of Dominican businesses.
Dumping is when a manufacturer exports products to a second nation below local production costs.
Cabrera is arguing that Dominicans are forced to comply with the rules of CAFTA and so should Central Americans.
Cabrera argues that plastic and glass containers, sacks, electrical wiring, socks, shoes and dairy products are being imported into the country under unfavorable conditions for industrialists and business owners.
Cabrera also commented on the rumor that Guatemalan and Dominican officials were on the verge of restructuring the trade agreement, saying that neither country can reform the agreement.
Since the implementation of DR-CAFTA, the DR has an US$1.2 billion deficit with Central America. This is partly due to the importation of duty free products from the Central American Free Trade Zones.

Red flags re Mayr Maldonado
Writing in today's Clave Digital, environmental columnist Roberto Sanchez comments on the professional track record of Colombia's former environment minister, Juan Mayr Maldonado. He points out that Mayr Maldonado was denounced during his term by indigenous groups from Alto Sinu and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for allegedly maneuvering in favor of the installation of the Urra Hydroelectric and Petrolera Oxidental, against the interests of the country's indigenous communities and natural heritage.
On the local front, Sanchez expressed concerns about reports that when Mayr Maldonado first visited the DR as the head of the UN assessment commission that is studying the government's granting of a permit for the construction of a cement plant on the outskirts of the Los Haitises National Park, he did not make contact with any of the groups that oppose the installation of the cement plant.
Sanchez points out that Mayr was reported to have flown over the area in a helicopter belonging of the owners of the cement plant and to have met with Ministry of Environment officials. Minister of Environment Jaime David Fernandez has been a vocal defender of the installation of the cement plant on the site.
Sanchez states that the opinion to be expressed by Mayr Maldonado is just the opinion of a UN expert, and should not be decisive for national authorities in this case.
Sanchez reminds his readers that the opposition to the project is because it is located so near the Los Haitises National Park, and that the area should be managed as it is, a buffer zone of the same hydro-geological unit and one of the most important karst zones in the world.
He said that many are opposed to the plant because the karst zone is one of the main sources of potable water for the DR, supplying water and serving as a reservoir for the areas of Santo Domingo, Monte Plata, Hato Mayor and San Pedro de Macoris. Ministry of Environment studies show it is the country's second largest water source.
He added that much of the opposition has come about because activities that can drastically affect the landscape, topography, source of drinking water, flora and fauna and the ecosystems should not be permitted in this buffer zone of an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category II protected area. He also warns that this area used to be part of the National Park.
Furthermore, he criticizes the fact that the families that lived in the area were evicted, their crops destroyed, and they were promised housing and farmlands, which have never materialized. He says that the UN team should look into this social aspect. "When inquiring you will be able to learn about the abuse that these families have been subject to for years after being violently evicted from the area in 1991, from the same area that is now graciously being ceded."
He says that the lands being granted to the Dominican Mining Consortium in such "spurious terms" are part of the land that could help solve the social pressure on the Los Haitises National Park and would be a way of serving justice for thousands of affected families.
Finally, he comments that the entire Dominican protected area system could suffer if the UN recommends the installation of the cement plant and the mining exploitation of the buffer zone. "Automatically, the floodgates for other similar projects on the outskirts of this park and other protected areas of the country would be opened," he writes. He says new promoters would gain the right to request similar concessions.
See www.clavedigital.com/App_Pages/opinion/Firmas.aspx?Id_Articulo=...

Blackouts: It's a cash problem
The vice president for generation of the AES Dominicana, Angel Guastaferro confirms what everyone knows by now. Despite allegations of technical difficulties at the generation plants being made by government electricity sector officials, Guastaferro says that the arrears of the government on the subsidy payments are behind the blackouts. He said that the arrears affect the cash flow of the power generation companies that resort to shutting these down. "At present, Los Mina V and VI, that contribute 180 megawatts, are out of service", he told the Listin Diario.

Countries agree on protected areas
Delegations from the DR, Cuba and Haiti have agreed on the basic structure for the Caribbean Biological Corridor, which will include 59 protected areas in the three countries.
The Corridor focuses on the development of conservation policies, bio-trade and ecotourism in each country. It also seeks to preserve endemic species in each protected area.
The delegations held a three-day meeting in Dajabon, on the border with Haiti on the understanding that each country's environment ministry would announce the results of the meetings during the first week of August. The ministries of environment from each nation would announce the results of the meetings during the first week of August.
The Corridor was initially agreed to in 2007 and would encompass 46 protected areas in Cuba, 11 in the DR and 4 in Haiti.
The DR and Cuba have both asked the European Union for EU2.7 million in funds for the project that will cover a land area of 1,600 square kilometers, encompassing mountain ranges, lakes and biosphere reserves.

Gallup reveals more unhappiness
The recently released Gallup-Hoy poll reveals that 53.3% of the 1,200 persons able to vote that were interviewed feel that the government is not doing a good job within the education sector. An even lower perception of performance is perceived for other areas of the economy, fighting drugs, the energy sector or Haitian immigration.
Of those polled 77.6% said that the government is not doing a good job in the area of Haitian migration, while 75.8% believe the government is not doing a good job with food prices and 75.6% feel they aren't working properly in the effort to create jobs.
With regards to the energy sector, 63.8% believe the government has done a poor job managing the situation.
The same Gallup-Hoy poll reveals that 45% of Dominicans are unhappy with how the government has handled the effects of the international financial crisis, while only 35% feel the government has done a good job.
Also, 49% of those interviewed say they don't agree with the measures the government has taken during this time, while 45% do agree with the measures adopted by the government. Among the measures implemented are a loan from the Inter American Development Bank for US$300 million, to free up credit, flexibility in bank credits, reduction of interest rates and a temporary flexibility of prudence norms.
The poll also revealed that 60% of those interviewed feel that President Leonel Fernandez only governs for a privileged few, while 36% feels he governs for the benefit of the country.
In the same poll, 8 of every 10 Dominicans say they are against the installation of a cement plant in the buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park.

Killer cop goes to trial
A police sergeant accused of killing a bystander during protests in the neighborhood of Capotillo has been relieved of his duties and is expected to go to trial.
Cleber Encarnacion Quevedo is charged with shooting dead 13-year old Miguel Angel Encarnacion, who was said to be standing nearby when residents of Capotillo took to the streets to protest against the recent wave of blackouts.
The sergeant is also accused of killing 24-year old Carlos Valentin Franco during the same protests.
The decision to prosecute the sergeant came after a report by a commission, headed by National District Attorney General Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, Police Inspector General Jose Dominguez Castillo and Homicide Investigation Commander Guillermo Baez Ubiera, which confirmed that the bullets found in the victims matched those from the sergeant's gun.

Youth gets shot
A 23-year old youth was gunned down yesterday during protest in Bonao. Police say they were shot by two hooded men.
Two journalists were also shot, but survived.
It was announced yesterday that Bonao's merchant, community and popular organizations would begin a 72-hour strike.
Police say they have a video, which captured the event.
Police Chief Mayor General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin warned protesters they must be careful with the actions they take.

Lion cubs born at the Zoo
Visitors to the Santo Domingo Zoo can see the three baby lions that were born this week. The lions were named Alba, Canela and Rayas.
Zoo director Patricia Toribio said that the newest inhabitants have come in time to provide enjoyment for more than 400 children who will be attending summer camps at the zoo.
The cubs were born as part of a program to reproduce the species living at Zoodom, as reported in Diario Libre.

Manny beats out 'the Mick'
Manny Ramirez added another notch to his likely Hall of Fame career, by passing Mickey Mantle on the all-time home runs list.
Ramirez is now in sole possession of the 15th spot on the list after banging out his 537th career long ball.
However, regardless of the media scrutiny surrounding Ramirez, he maintains his ignorance, albeit comical demeanor.
Commenting on his feat Ramirez said, "To be honest, I haven't been keeping track of who I've passed or where I'm at. I just wait for you guys to tell me."

Tropical wave crossing
A tropical wave is moving across the island of Hispaniola, bringing strong showers and thunderstorms from 17N to 22N between 69W and 74W. The weather department in the DR has issued a red alert for most of the national territory and forecasts around 80mm of rain between Tuesday and Thursday.
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) issued a red alert for La Altagracia, Hato Mayor, La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris, El Seibo Santo Domingo, Samana and Monte Plata. The Weather Department has forecast strong winds with gusts of up to 50kph and torrential rains.
The provinces of La Vega, San Cristobal, Monsenor Nouel (Bonao), Azua, Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui) and Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), and the Bajo Yuna area have been put on yellow alert by the COE.
To follow bad weather affecting the DR, see http://dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml
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