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Daily News - Friday, 31 July 2009

Fernandez inaugurates schools and aqueducts
President Leonel Fernandez has attended a series of inaugurations for schools and aqueducts in the northeastern province of Maria Trinidad Sanchez.
Twelve aqueducts, a water system and 11 schools were built or rehabilitated by the government with a total budget of RD$2.5 billion. Mariano German, director of INAPA, says these public works projects will help a total of 13,625 citizens.

Doctors will have to wait
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez says public hospital doctors will have to wait to get their much debated pay raise in 2010, because the government doesn't have enough money at the moment. The physicians had asked the Cardinal to mediate with the government on their behalf.
The Cardinal says President Leonel Fernandez told him the government plans to raise doctors' wages, but not until 2010. Public hospital doctors have been protesting for more than a year to get an increase on their base salaries of RD$23,000 per month.
As part of a new series of protests doctors have gone on a three-day strike, but according to new information the doctors have decided to extend their strike for an extra five days.

PRD senators walk out
PRD legislators, unhappy with the direction of discussions on the constitutional amendments, left the Senate floor yesterday in protest, breaking the quorum. It is expected that the legislators will resume discussions next Wednesday.
PRD members were angered because under the new Constitution the senator and deputy that would form part of the National Magistrates Council that chooses the Supreme Court judges, would be selected from the party that has the larger amount of legislators in each chamber of the Senate. This angered PRD members, as it would work against them, leading to the protests.

Bengoa proposes exemptions
In response to National Business Council (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarulla's suggestion that the DR should change its business model, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa suggested that the private business sector could give up some of the tax exemptions it receives under the same model.
He added that business receives RD$104 billion in exemptions, which is equivalent to a third of the 2009 national budget. He went on to point out that this is money the government doesn't receive as a result of the exemptions, adding that if CONEP want a change, "we can begin right there."
The business sector has said that the numbers being used by Hacienda for exemptions are distorted, as much of the exemptions are those that eliminate ITBIS tax on basic consumer products.
Bengoa says that government spending has increased due to the subsidies and exemptions it has granted to businesses. While speaking on the rise of government spending, Bengoa denied that this spending is due to an increase in wages or payroll, as has been stipulated by some economists.
He also denied that the foreign debt as part of the GDP has increased, saying it is still registered at 16%.
Customs director Rafael Camilo says that for now the DR's business model will have to depend on the services sector without disregarding the value of the production sector. Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier in the week Macarrulla said that the country needed to change its economic model for a more sustainable one. Macarrulla advocated moving from a consumer model to one based on production. During his talk, titled "Towards a Sustainable Social and Economic Model", he said: "We have come to believe that we can resolve everything with the money that comes from remittances, or from increasing the public debt, or attracting more capital. It would seem as if we do not need the productive sectors, rather just financing for consumption."

Refidomsa done by year's end
Negotiations for the sale of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (Refidomsa) should be completed by the end of the year, says Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa.
He also announced that the Ministry of Hacienda is preparing a report to challenge assertions by US Representative from California Loretta Sanchez, who earlier this week asked the US State Department to investigate the sale of 49% of Refidomsa to Venezuela, saying that it could be a potentially dangerous and non-beneficial agreement for the DR and could be in violation of trade agreements with CAFTA and the US. Bengoa has denied this.
Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez said the push by Sanchez is actually led by a coalition of politicians who don't want the agreement with the DR to go through. He says the sale of Refidomsa will ultimately benefit the DR.

Pina Toribio defends government model
"This economic model has taken the country to reach new economic growth records," said Secretary of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio, in response to the call made by National Business Council president Lisandro Macarrulla for a change to a sustainable economic and social model. As reported in Diario Libre, Pina Toribio said that there is the need to think how all can contribute so that the model produces the desired effects.
Addressing the AmCham luncheon on Wednesday, Macarrulla said: "We have come to believe that we can resolve everything with the money that comes from remittances, or from increasing the public debt, or attracting more capital. It would seem as if we do not need the productive sectors, rather just financing for consumption."
According to Hoy newspaper, the business leader also called for a change in the role of the state that seems to invest only when loans are available. He said this has "increased the public debt to unprecedented levels".

Macarrulla willing to talk
Lisandro Macarrulla, president of the National Business Council (CONEP), has accepted an invitation from Radhames Segura, VP of the Corporation of State-owned Electricity Companies, to attend a summit to discuss the critical electricity situation. "We have gone to all the summits and are willing to go wherever we are invited," said the business leader. He says he awaits the invitation with the proposal for the summit from Segura.
Segura held a press conference following the AmCham luncheon this Wednesday, where Macarrulla was the guest speaker.

Call for actions against corruption
Thirty-four civil society organizations led by Foro Ciudadano (Citizens Forum) and Participacion Ciudadana (Citizen Participation) are demanding that the General Prosecutor of the Republic should begin the actions that are needed to safeguard the transparency of the state. They request more efforts from the chief executives at the Supreme Court of Justice, Senate, Chamber of Deputies, Chamber of Accounts, Department for the Prosecution of Administrative Corruption (DPCA) and the Commission of Ethics.
In a document addressed to the heads of these government departments, the organizations are calling for measures to be taken against corruption within the framework of Dominican laws so that a rule of decency and respect for the resources of the state may be enforced. They criticize the fact that the authorities have done nothing to confront the corruption that has been denounced, allegedly because those who have made the claims have not backed them up with proof.

Government departments take taxes
In an interview with Hoy newspaper published yesterday, the Chamber of Accounts revealed that audits at several government departments show that it is common practice for these entities to deduct income tax and ITBIS from employees and service users without transferring these funds to the Department of Taxes (DGII). In an editorial today, Hoy criticizes the sad example the government sets when violating the rules it should be making everyone fulfill.
The audits also exposed the common practice in government to go ahead with no-bid contracts, despite the existence of a procurement law, as reported in Hoy.

Traffic in Santo Domingo
What we already know, for those who live in Great Santo Domingo, is that traffic is at best chaotic, but if there was ever any doubt, research by the international firm Samsung Networks has provided a study to prove this.
The study, ITS Optimize was financed by US$40,000 in funds from the Korea Information Technology Promotion Agency.
It focuses on the road network, access to main roads, lack of parking spaces, parking on both sides of streets, use of streets by street vendors, and sidewalks by small businesses, among other issues.
Samsung Networks chief team Shawn Park delivered the report to the Ground Transport director, Rafael Tobias Crespo. The company suggests that roads could be widened or new roads built.
Quoted in Listin Diario, Tobias says that 90% of the accidents that occur in the DR happen because of the human factor, and lack of respect to driving rules by drivers. He said the remaining 10% of accidents occur because of the condition of the vehicle and roads. Also a lack of education and an inability to follow the rules by drivers is also one of the major factors that contribute to this chaos.
The increased visibility of AMET and mega-road projects has done nothing to ease traffic problems.
Land Transport Technical Office (OTTT) director Angel Segura believes there are not enough roads in the city for the amount of cars. He said there are 2.3 million vehicles nationwide, of which 40% are concentrated in Santo Domingo. Half of the vehicles are motorcycles.
The government has a large bureaucracy dedicated to transport affairs. These are the Land Transport Office (OTTT), General Land Transport Department (DGTT), Metropolitan Bus Service (OMSA), Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) and the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), in addition to the National Police.

Blue Mall in time for Easter 2010?
The Blue Mall, billed as the largest commercial mall in the DR, is due to open in December or the first quarter of 2010, company executives announced yesterday, according to a report in Listin Diario. A first phase of the office and commercial building is nearing completion, and yesterday executives delivered the commercial space to the stores that have signed lease contracts. Blue Mall, which involves a US$100 million investment, is going up on the corner of Gustavo Mejia Ricart and Winston Churchill avenues in Santo Domingo. Luis Emilio Velutini and Michele De Prisco, spokespersons for the Blue Mall said that they are making 90,000 square meters of construction available to the store operators for their completion.
Velutini y Asociados, Fondo de Valores Inmobiliarios, Consultoria Astur and Empresas Varma are behind the project, which also involves Venezuelan capital. The mall will have 180 stores, of which 94 were delivered yesterday, located on six levels. The project also has a nine-floor office tower and more than 1,200 parking spaces, mostly underground.
The promoters promise a mall built to the highest standards of commercial malls worldwide.

DR on UNESCO documentary heritage list
Two items of documentary heritage of exceptional value from the Dominican Republic have been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Memory of the World Register, it was announced yesterday. The Book for the Baptism of Slaves (1636-1670) and Documentary Heritage on the Resistance and Struggle for Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1961 are now part of the prestigious list.
Created by UNESCO in 1992, the Memory of the World Register identifies and lists the most significant documentary heritage collections in the world, including such eminent works as the Gutenberg Bible and the original manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. With the 35 new additions, the total number of inscriptions since 1997 is 193.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, announced the inscription of these items on the recommendation of experts during a 3-day meeting of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO's Memory of the World Program, which continues to 31 July in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The new inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register:
Book for the Baptism of Slaves (1636 - 1670) (Dominican Republic): The book is a source of valuable information on American slavery, particularly in the Dominican Republic and provides information about lesser-known aspects of the colonial slave system, namely the transition from a slave society to a society with slaves; from a slave plantation society to a patriarchal slavery. This later system, linked to the economic crisis that marked the Spanish colony in the 17th century, was accepted because it was not dependent on the world market system, but served to consolidate the social stratification of "Creole society".
Documentary Heritage on the Resistance and struggle for Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1961 (Dominican Republic): From 1930 to 1961, the Dominican Republic endured one of the most oppressive regimes in Latin American history: the Rafael L. Trujillo dictatorship. Thousands of Dominicans and foreigners were imprisoned, tortured or killed. Some were mutilated, while others endured permanent physical or mental scars. The inscribed items document these atrocities and contain rich evidence of the Dominican resistance movement and its struggle for democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights.

Shootout leads to death
A police sergeant in Azua was killed today after a routine police check led to a shootout.
Sergeant Major Israel Sanchez was in the company of a second officer, when he moved to action after a call from a concerned citizen about suspected drug activity in the area.
When the officers arrived, they were greeted with gunfire, and Sanchez was shot in the head. The remaining officer alerted other police officials, who in turn, shot Santos Matias Beltre and a second, unidentified man.
A third man, Luis Manuel Collado, a rookie cop who was in the company of the drug runners, was arrested for complicity in the events.
A total of 10 packets of cocaine were seized from the scene.
The news once again brings Azua into the front pages in its continual struggles to deal with the high volume of drugs that passes through the region.

Journalist still missing
Journalist Jacinto Gimbernard has been missing for a month now, and there is little information on his whereabouts. Listin Diario is reporting that one account suggests that Gimbernard was seen somewhere near the Haitian border before his disappearance while another account places him at a farm in Monte Plata, where it is alleged that he was executed.

Baseball's black eye
The black cloud hovering over Dominican baseball got bigger yesterday as Dominican baseball player David Ortiz admitted that he had tested positive during a 2003 drug test, administered by Major League Baseball. In a report originally published by Fox Sport, Ortiz commented, "I've just been told that the report is true," Ortiz said in a statement after contacting the union. "Based on the way I lived my life I'm surprised to learn I tested positive."
Ortiz, known for his big bat and big smile, had become a beloved figure in Boston and had never been suspected of any drug use prior to this report. Ortiz's name as a PED user comes on the heels of former Red Sox star Manny Ramirez's recent suspension for failing a drug test.
"You know me - I will not hide and I will not make excuses," he said. There is controversy surrounding Ortiz's revelation.
The test Ortiz had supposedly failed was administered in 2003, when MLB baseball and the player's union agreed to do testing on players to determine if there was in fact a drug problem in baseball. The tests were administered, with the expectation they would be confidential, and the names not released.
But the results of the tests, which included Ortiz's name and that of fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez, were seized by Federal investigators looking into the case of former player Barry Bonds.
The list included a total of 104 players who failed the test, including some of the game's brightest players. However, Ortiz's revelation digs deeper into the drug culture in baseball and has now tainted the two championship rings he won with the Boston Red Sox.
Though the revelation of Ortiz and Ramirez as PED users occurred while in the US, playing for a US organization, this news has undoubtedly added to the negative stigma placed over the DR and its baseball system.
The use of PEDs, lying about age and falsification of identity has put a sour taste in the mouth of many baseball analysts and has put into question the quality of baseball coming from the DR and the honesty with which the baseball system is run.

Minaya says sorry
In another tough week for Dominicans in baseball, NY Mets Genral Manager Omar Minaya apologized to Mets beat writer Adam Rubin. The controversy started when Minaya made comments questioning Rubin's reporting on the firing of executive Tony Bernazard.
Minaya did not retract his statement, and only offered an apology, which Rubin accepted, saying Minaya was sincere in his remorse. "I should have never talked about those things that day. I should've never said those things and that's what I told Adam [Rubin] and I apologize."
ESPN reports "After announcing Bernazard's dismissal Monday, Minaya said Rubin had "lobbied" him and others in the front office, including Bernazard, for a job in player development.
Rubin denied he had asked Minaya for a job and insisted he had merely sought career advice.
Minaya said Thursday he let his emotions get to him and felt bad about his remarks.' 'I should have never talked about those things that day," he said. 'I should've never said those things and that's what I told Adam and I apologize.'"
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