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Daily News - Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Jagdeo of Guyana visits
President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana was in the DR for a 24-hour visit yesterday, a second stop on a three-country mission to Jamaica, the DR and Ecuador. Jagdeo seeks to jump start a process to seek aid for Caribbean countries affected by the global financial crisis, and expand the Caricom regional integration bloc.
During the 30th Heads of Government Conference held in July in Guyana, Jagdeo was appointed the chairman of the Caricom Task Force to superintend the region's response to the global economic crisis.
In Santo Domingo for the state visit, he used the opportunity to discuss the country's application to join Caricom. Under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) the Caribbean has signed with the European Union, Caricom nations now are expected to extend the trade arrangements of the Community to the DR.
The Dominican Republic sources coconut and wood in Guyana.
Traveling with Jagdeo are Manniram Prashad, Guyana minister of Tourism and Industry and Commerce; Colin Granderson, Assistant ambassador of the Caricom Secretary General for Foreign Relations Topics, and Caricom foreign and economic relations director David Hales.
In the DR, Jagdeo met with his colleague President Leonel Fernandez.
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso announced that it was agreed that in September the Santo Domingo would host workshop with members of the Caribbean Community to discuss the membership of the DR in Caricom. The DR also seeks good governance of the agreement, for both services and farm sectors. Carlos Morales said that regional drug trafficking issues would be also discussed during the meeting, prior to a UN called meeting on the topic.

Provincial stats now available
The National Office of Statistics (ONE) says that 32 socio-demographic profiles are now available for the National District and 31 provinces. Pablo Tactuk, of the ONE says the statistics are valuable tools for those planning on or doing business in the DR.
The profiles are available in print form or on the ONE web page. They were compiled from the 2002 National Population and Housing Census and household surveys carried out in 2005 and 2006, the Demographic and Health Survey of 2007, and other information provided by the ministries of Education, Public Health and Economy & Planning, the Central Electoral Board, and the Central Bank.
The profiles look into geographic and demographic characteristics, socioeconomic data, political participation, education, health, poverty, environment and new technologies.
See http://www.one.gob.do/

Economy slowly rebounding
Tax Department (DGII) director Juan Hernandez announced yesterday that tax collections during July increased by 10.9%. Hernandez added that tax collections were in the red for the first six months of the year, but now seem to be recovering.
Furthermore, Customs Department director Rafael Camilo says the DGA has collected more than expected during the month July. The DGA was expecting to collect RD$3.9 billion, but registered collections of RD$4.1 billion.
Camilo reminded the public that imports had fallen by 33% during the first semester of the year.
Both officials made their comments after a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez.

Borrowing is up, says Central Bank
The Central Bank publishes today a report on how business borrowing has been RD$5.06 billion since December 2008, and thus the economy is recovering. He said that loans for commerce were up RD$3.48 billion and those to construction RD$1.2 billion. Loans to farming and fishing were up RD$2.18 billion in the second quarter of the year, and home mortgages increased RD$1.7 billion, while consumer loans increased RD$980 million.
Hoy reports that bank loans to the private sector have maintained the same levels of 2008 when inflation is taking into account, thus disputing the Central Bank stats show a full recovery of the economy. On the contrary, Hoy economic analysis says the numbers show there has been a slight decline in borrowing, in real terms.
The Central Bank reports that loans to the private sector were up 0.03%, but inflation registered 3.19%.
The flip side of that is that loans to the public sector increased by 16%.
Hoy explains that the global financial crisis has pushed the government to borrow from commercial banks and foreign export agencies to keep itself afloat.

Business doubts energy plan
The business sector is skeptical about the success of a proposal for a new energy plan the InterAmerican Development Bank and the World Bank would present in two months time. The plan would recommend short-term solutions to the present decades-old energy crisis. The business groups say that for the plan to succeed what is first needed in government "is a change in attitude."
Yesterday, representatives of the InterAmerican Development Bank and the World Bank told the press that 2 years would be enough to resolve the energy crisis in the DR "if the authorities decide so."
Representatives from the National Hotel & Restaurant Association (Asonahores), Association of Herrera Industries (AEIH), the Federation of Associations of Industries (FAI), and the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD) say that enough diagnostical studies have been done and solutions proposed.
A previous proposal, submitted by the National Council of Business in 2008 was promoted as a potential starting ground for changes, but ignored by government. Manuel Cabrera, president of AEIH, says that the government needs to stop looking for answers and adhere to the Conep proposal. He said the government continues to revisit the issues that have been discussed ad nauseam.

Edes will return money
The Superintendence of Energy has good news for its clients. The three energy distributors will reimburse consumers with RD$32 million in overcharges in July. EdeSur will refund RD$18.9 million, EdeNorte will refund RD$11.6 million and EdeEste will refund RD$1.4 million to clients. Hoy reports that Proconsumidor, a dependency of the Superintendence, receives thousands of complaints from energy clients. Most clients, nevertheless, do not complain, as the process is hours-consuming and tedious.

Wage increases pegged to productivity
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez told El Caribe that the government is conditioning pay increases to public hospital doctors to productivity.
The government seeks to enforce Law 87-01 and 42-01 on public health and the Ministry's Ruling on Human Resources that rules compensation and calls for the signing of work contracts. The work contracts establish a base salary and incentives based on individual productivity.
He said the impasse with the Dominican Medical College (CMD) union that groups public hospital physicians is because the CMD continues to demand general wage increases.
He said the physicians downplay their request for responsibility, productivity and fulfillment of work hours.
He complains that physicians want to get paid full time wages at public hospitals, but at the same time work full time schedules in private consultation services.

Conflict at protest
With the launching of tear gas at doctors, the National Police sent a clear message to protesting doctors: Be forewarned.
A group of doctors, lead by Dominican Medical College president Waldo Ariel Suero, was met with police resistance when they tried to get to the Duarte Bridge after departing from a meeting at La Trinitaria Plaza. Tensions increased as Suero and other doctors tried to cross a man-made chain by police officers, resulting in the launching of the tear gas to disperse the crowd. As a result of the conflict with the police two of the doctors and a nurse were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.
As part of their continuing efforts, in Puerto Plata public hospital doctors decided to use the San Felipe Apostal Cathedral as a home base for a hunger strike. Supporters of the doctors began to surrounding the area, but police officers refused to let any other doctors pass through the doors.
Priest Francisco Hernandez said he didn't mind that the eight doctors who occupied the church stayed there, but wouldn't allow any more to enter, saying that churches are houses of worship and not protest.
Doctors have become more aggressive in their search for higher wages, but the government has announced it would not raise wages until next year, since there is no money to do so.
Even though the doctors will depart from the church today the protests will continue. Suero has announced that the strikes will continue until Friday, at the very least.

Child labor down
Minister of Work Max Puig says that since 2000 the number of children working has decreased from 430,000 to 150,000. He says that social policies in place now to discourage child labor are behind the decline. He also says that the government's Solidarity Card, issued to help low income families, has helped ease the strain on families. He said that though the DR won't reach the Millennium Development Goals, it will have improved in many areas.

Guerrero points to complicity in Azua
Senator Wilton Guerrero of Peravia denounced that in the southwestern province there are more than 20 officers of the Armed Forces and the Police involved in drug operations. He said this became apparent when on 30 July, three police agents tried to ripoff drug dealers from Santo Domingo. In the clash, two alleged dealers and a police seargent were shot dead and another agent was injured.
"The reality is that the police acted as if they were a criminal gang without scruples, murdering those that had fallen," Guerrero told the press. He said that the intellectual author of the masacre and blamed First Lieutenant Alberto Arturo Lopez Segura, chief of the police station in La Bombita, Azua, as reported in El Caribe. He demanded an investigation from Police Chief Guzman Fermin and State Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez.
Azua prosecutor Rafael Brito Pena speculated on the complacency of the Azua authorities with crime. "I have always said that the fact that Azua, with only 200,000 inhabitants, crime has not come under control, is because there is complicity or people looking the other way," he said quoted in El Caribe.
Townspeople interviewed by El Caribe say that the drug traffickers act freely.
Brito Pena, nevertheless, in statements carried in Hoy, challenged comments made by Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero that Azua is a "narco-province." He says that Azua residents are hard working and honest people.

Consul clarification
Dominican consul in New York, Eduardo Selman clarified there are only five official consuls, recognized by the government of the United States in addition to the diplomatic mission, based in Washington, D. C. Selman responded to a report in Hoy, yesterday that said there were 25 consuls working in the US. The story explained that those consuls hadn't received their salaries. Selman says many of these have been appointed by the Executive Branch but their positions have not been formalized. There are hundreds of vice consuls appointed to Dominican consulates. Many of these are residents in the city where they work.

Brazilian businesspersons coming
Dominican Ambassador to Brazil Hector Dionisio Perez has announced that in October a delegation of 150 Brazilian businessmen will be in the DR to have an "international business encounter" in the DR. The encounter will be lead by President Leonel Fernandez. The event will take place between 9 October and 11 October in Punta Cana. Perez says that as part of increased relations between these two nations the DR has implemented a "visibility" program. He added that 70% of Brazilians do not know where the DR is.

Social networking used to protest
Young Dominicans are associating to protest corruption and impunity in government. Mostly university students and recent graduates, Dominican youths from middle income and upper income levels have joined to support several organizations whose leaders have taken an upfront position to protest the inefficiencies of government at all levels and in all branches.
El Dia reports that at a time when Dominican society in general appeared to accept rampant corruption, clientelism, lack of principles and quick-making of a buck as normal, the youth groups have come forth to lobby for a change.
The groups use blogs, social networking and mobile phone communication to get their messages across. The 85% rejection rate the Los Haitises cement plant project received from Dominicans polled for the recent Gallup-Hoy poll can be in great part attributed to these movements.
Some of the groups that maintain website presence are:
Toy Jarto!... pero creo en mi pais (http://toyjarto.com/); Ahi e que prende (http://ahiequeprende.com/); La Multitud (http://www.lamultitud.es.tl/); Justicia Global (http://www.escueladeformacion.org/jg/justiciaglobal.htm); La Revuelta (http://larevueltard.blogspot.com/); Autoconvocados (http://www.bocealo.com/tag/autoconvocados/); and Jues (Jovenes Unidos por un Estado Sano) see http://www.clavedigital.com/App_Pages/Portada/titulares.aspx?id_articulo=11290

Baseball news
Dominican minor league pitcher Julio Castillo has been convicted of felonious assault causing serious physical injury. Castillo was acquitted on the second charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Castillo was on trial after he threw a baseball into the stands during an on the field fight of a Single-A baseball game. Castillo had been playing with the Peoria Chiefs, a Cubs affiliate, when he threw the ball in the direction of the stands.
The ball flew out of his hands, went into the stands and hit a fan in the temple. Chris McCarthy, the injured fan, suffered a concussion.
In more positive baseball news, pitcher Pedro Martinez will pitch today for his final Triple A appearance. Martinez is expected to be called up at some point this week and pitch with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Last month Martinez signed a US$1 million contract with the Phillies. At the twilight of his career, Martinez could be facing his last hurrah as a MLB pitcher.
During Dominican Republic Night at the Chicago White Sox baseball game yesterday, Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia threw out the ceremonial first pitch. After the first pitch Sonia Alfonso sang the US National Anthem, making it the second time a person of Dominican descent sang the national anthem at a MLB game.

There are 2 Zoetry properties!
DR1 Travel News erroneously published yesterday that the Golden Bear Lodge & Spa of Cap Cana was to be known as the Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. The confusion comes because there is not one, but two Zoetry properties opening in November in the Punta Cana area - the Zoetry Collection Golden Bear and the Zoetry Resorts Agua Punta Cana.
The Golden Bear Lodge & Spa will keep its name and will become the first Zoetry Collection property in the Dominican Republic when it opens in November.
The Golden Bear Lodge & Spa of Cap Cana will feature 126 finely appointed one- and two-bedroom suites with marbled bathrooms and views of the Caribbean Sea and the Las Iguanas golf course, presently under construction, the second Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in Cap Cana. Nearby is the the championship Punta Espada golf course that was a stop on the PGA Tour's Champions Tour in 2008 and 2009.
Rooms feature pillow selection menus, Jacuzzis for two, fully equipped kitchenettes, private terraces or patios, and select suites also offer private plunge pools.
Alex Zozaya, AMResorts' CEO and president; John Mullen, chairman of Apple Leisure Group; and Ricardo Hazoury, president of Cap Cana's board and vice president of the Abrisa Group of the DR, joined Nicklaus at his Philadelphia offices to make the announcement.
The Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts chain is also opening the Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, this time as a Zoetry Resort brand, on 1 November. Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is the former Agua boutique hotel, located in Uvero Alto, in northern Punta Cana featuring 53 cane-thatched suites with beach views. This is the first Zoetry Resorts property in the DR.
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