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Daily News - Thursday, 06 August 2009

Fernandez: 2.5-3% growth second half year
President Leonel Fernandez said during the cabinet meeting held yesterday in eastern Hato Mayor that growth during the first half of the year reached 1.4%, and that a 2.5-3% growth is foreseen for the second part of the year despite the present global financial difficulties. He announced that the Ministry of Economy & Planning is working on a plan for a nationwide structural transformation of the economy. Once ready, the Executive Branch would send the plan to Congress. The project seeks to strengthen manufacturing and services sectors.
Fernandez said that present measures the government has implemented to counteract the financial difficulties seek to maintain economic and job stability, while supporting agriculture to ensure food products reach the consumer at reasonable prices.
This week, new Customs Department (DGA) director Rafael Camilo spoke on his vision of the economic model of the Dominican Republic as one that should give priority to services. Camilo recently reverted measures of his predecessor, the late Miguel Cocco, to close down operations that import used clothing. Local garment manufacturers and seamstresses say they cannot compete with the many shops that are selling the highly discounted imported used clothing. Due to the widespread imports of used clothing, hundreds of small manufacturing shops have shut down.

Assembly rejects Constitutional Chamber
The 16 judges of the Supreme Court of Justice will continue to be responsible for ensuring the abiding of the Constitution. The Constitutional Revisory Assembly yesterday rejected President Leonel Fernandez's proposal to create a Chamber of Constitutional Guarantees. The Assembly accepted as part of the justification by the commission that studied the proposal, the fact that over the past 12 years the Supreme Court has only heard 504 cases, not enough to justify creating a new department.
The Assembly also approved that "the judges that make up the Judicial Branch are independent, impartial, immovable, and responsible and are committed to the Constitution and the laws. They cannot be removed, separated, suspended, transferred or retired, except for some of the causes established and with the guarantees foreseen by the law."
They also approved that "the obligatory retirement age for the justices of the Supreme Court of Justice will be 75 years" and for other judges, officials and employees of the judicial order "retirement will be administered according to the law that governs the matter."

First reading of Constitution completed
After four months of deliberations, the Constitutional Revisory Assembly yesterday concluded for the most part the first reading of what will be the expanded Dominican Constitution, as reported in Diario Libre. The Commission for Verification and Auditing will now go over the process and the articles that were approved to avoid skipping an article, title or inscription by mistake.
Now there are 150 articles ready for the second reading that will take place over the next weeks. 135 articles passed in the first reading.
The president of the Assembly, Senator Reinaldo Pared Perez nevertheless says there is not enough time to complete a second reading in time for the President Leonel Fernandez to proclaim the new Constitution when he gives his annual address from Congress on 16 August, marking his second year in government on this term.

Council to govern Judicial Power
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly approved the creation of the Council of the Judicial Power that will become the governing body of the Judicial Branch. This Council will be made up of 6 members that will remain in their posts for 5 years. The Council will direct and implement the judicial service, the civil service of the Judicial Branch of government, the financial and budgetary administration of the Judicial Branch, the disciplinary control over the judges and officials of the Judicial Branch, with the exception of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice.
In other measures approved by the Constitutional Revisory Assembly yesterday regarding the judiciary in the DR, the Property Jurisdiction, the public defender and free legal assistance were incorporated into the Constitution, as well as the unremovability of the Prosecutor's Office and the creation of the Superior Council for the Prosecutor's Office that will be its main governing body.

Sale to Venezuela violates DR-CAFTA
The former coordinator for DR-CAFTA trade negotiations, Hugo Rivera Fernandez confirmed statements by US legislator Loretta Sanchez regarding the sale of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery to the Venezuelan state petroleum company.
Hugo Rivera Fernandez said that the sale of 49% of the Dominican government stock in Refidomsa to PDVSA of Venezuela clashes with the investment chapter of the agreement. He said that the agreement requires transparency in government investments and the Clause of Most Favored Nation obliges the government to restrain from offering a privilege to a country that is not a signatory of the agreement.
He said the investment chapter states that a signatory of the treaty cannot grant to third parties benefits that the signatories do not enjoy. He says this would be the case if the government goes ahead to sell the stock to the Venezuelan state company.

The most corrupt in government
Dominicans perceive the most corrupt institutions in the DR are the political parties (52.5%), judiciary (49.8%), Police (44.6%), Congress 40.9%, Department for Control of Corruption in Government (DPCA) (40.9%) and the Presidency of the Republic (32.7%). The perception is that the least corrupt are the National Ethics Commission (19%), Department of Passports (18.7%), community associations (14.3%), Catholic Church (14.3%) and Christian churches (7.8%).
The findings are from the Study of the Perception of Corruption in Dominican Households, during which Gallup Dominicana polled 2,400 persons in June and July 2008 nationwide.
The Consulting Council (CC) civic group study was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CC is made up by the National Association of Young Entpreneurs (ANJE), the state university UASD, Casa de Zion, La Lucha civic group, and other organizations.
The poll also reveals that 73% of polled participants feel that government institutions responsible for combatting corruption are ineffective.
Corruption is perceived as the nation's fifth greatest problem. The leading problems are the economic crisis (82.9%), crime (80.5%), drug consumption (75.3%), unemployment (67.2%) and corruption (67.2%).
The poll indicated that in the DR corruption thrives because the opportunities for abuse of the law for personal benefit surpass the risks and costs of abiding the law.
As reported in the Listin Diario, 80% of Dominicans are not concern about the consequences of incurring in corruption, which is an indication of the weakness of government mechanisms and departments entrusted with the control, detection and penalizing of corruption.

Garment expert: We need 50 factories
Garment industry expert David Birnbaum encouraged small and medium-sized factories in the DR to join efforts to become the new generation of the local garment industry. Birnbaum is in the DR consulting with the Dominican government to help Dominican apparel companies refit for the 21st century.
Birnbaum spoke during a workshop sponsored by the CEI-RD and the Dominican Association of Free Zones, as part of a program to relaunch the local garment industry funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank. Birnbaum stressed that volume contracting is a model in decline for the DR. He said that the sliding of Dominican exports has more to do with the fact the industry model is obsolete, rather than with the present financial difficulties or the overvalued peso.
Birnbaum alerted that the DR cannot compete to produce low cost items such as trousers or cotton T-shirts with low labor costs in Bangladesh, Cambodia or China. "It is not a question anymore of reviving the industry. It is a question of building a new industry," he said.
He encouraged Dominicans to build an industry based on the assets the industry already has. "The Dominican Republic probably makes the best quality garments in the region, and has the most skilled workers," said Birnbaum. "Middle management is good," he said. "You should be producing fashion goods, small quantities, many orders, high value-added, high-profit goods," he said, motivating a complete change in production strategies.
"If you have an industry that is based on fashion goods, then all things you have in the DR make sense," he explained. He says these are proximity to the US to move goods fast, DR-CAFTA for the tariff advantage." In other words, he says these things start to make sense once you get away from cotton knit underwear that has no production time limit and you move into fashion goods.
Birnbaum is motivating a group of 8 to 55 factories that want to produce high quality garments to get together. These need to take advantage of speed to market and then be ready to travel abroad with them to find better quality customers.
Birnbaum stresses the customers for Dominican factories are not Walmart, Kmart or Sears. Go to Dillards, Nordstrom, he says. "People who have a need and can pay for the product."
But he explains once the switch to high quality exports is made, Dominican factories will have to also evolve into being service suppliers. He explained that traditionally, local factories have relied on the "customer doing everything." But he says to survive in today's industry, service needs to be provided, and this starts with the designer. The DR needs to focus on producing small quantities of many styles, and to do this, it is necessary to get together a group of people and factories to develop the new skill sets that are needed to service the customer.
One of the project's several components is an initiative to streamline and simplify the Short Supply approval process by which factories will be allowed to use fabric unavailable in the region to re-export into the US on a duty-free basis.
He also announced the US government would be sponsoring US textile mills sales visits here to show designer fabric.
He also is encouraging a break to making original design here, instead of in the buyer country as has been the tradition. "Design is a proces, not a thing," he explains.
But he highlights that the most important thing "is how fast you can make the garment."
He says companies that will succeed are those that can get to the point they can move garment in 3 to 4 days.
"The problem with lean manufacturing is not about machinery -- it is about empowerment," he explains. "You need to empower the person who sits at machine. That person needs to be responsible to get the order out," he says. "If you think of your worker as a machine that does the same operation over and over, it wont do."
He suggested getting Infotep in the DR to subsidize teams of engineers to visit factories to develop on site the systems for speed manufacturing.
Birnbaum's consulting will last three months. He is inviting local manufacturers to join the effort to reorganize and then move on to the international marketing aspects with their help.
"We need to develop interesting services and interesting products," he says. This is not theoretical, the modules exist for factories that focus on working for the customer. "It's not the product that is lacking, it's the mentality."
The fundamentals for success are focus and commitment, he emphasizes.
Birnbaum concludes the opportunities are there because China can't take more than 35% of the garment industry. He stresses the industry is shifting to service. "What you are doing by providing service is getting away from competing with the guy in Bangladesh," he explained. Rather you are competing with the outfit in NY and Dominican companies have a cost-saving advantage to the customer, he explained.
For more information, contact Arelis Liriano at 809 575-3169 ext 235 or email
[email protected]

Indifference causes tensions
Sociologist Rosario Espinal and social scientists Pedro Catrain and Wilfredo Lozano say the rash of popular outbursts, confrontations, strikes, marchens and even "stations of the Cross" have been brought about by governmental indifference to the problems affecting the majority of the people.
Speaking during a Corripio Communication Group luncheon, Espinal says the tension is caused by government indifference to the accumulation of problems. Complicating matters is the fact that the world economic crisis gives the authorities fewer options to meet the demands of the people. Rosario observed that protests have increased in all of the provinces, but with an election year coming in 2010, these are expected to decline because of political patronage and the activities of the political parties that seek voters.
Political scientist Pedro Catrain criticized the lack of programming and rationalization in the public policies executed by the government. He said, "Since last November the ruling PLD government has entered a steep decline in popularity and this is due to the inability of President Leonel Fernandez to deliver answers to the fundamental problems". He sharply criticized the lack of transparency and he said that the levels of corruption are at unheard of levels.
According to Lozano, the inability to find solutions is tied to a political elite and unfettered government spending policy. He even questioned why the wave of protests had not spawned a greater crisis, adding that the containment of this potential explosion was due to the skills of politicians who manage to calm things down. He said, "The network of the political elite has no answers to the social and economic problems of the country and in general, takes on, if you wish, a conservative code of behavior that facilitates things for the very government."

Duarte Bridge closed at night
The Ministry of Public Works announced it would be closing Duarte Bridge to traffic for five days from10pm to 6am to carry out maintenance on the expansion joints of the bridge over the Ozama River. The Ministry says the pavement will be repaired, drains cleaned, and lights replaced. The evening closures will last until this Sunday.
The Ministry also reports it is closing the stretch of Luperon Avenue that goes under the overpass at Kilometer 9 of the Duarte Highway. This closure will begin at 8pm and is to facilitate repaving of the stretch. The roadway was damaged by problems in the sewer pipes that run under the road, and this situation was also corrected.

Police Chief removes Azua force
In response to a recent masacre of two civilians and a police sergeant in Azua, combined with the statements from Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero who called the province of Azua a "narco-province,"National Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin transferred the entire police force of Azua to Santo Domingo, and placed these on "administrative leave". This is a never-before-seen movement of 194 police officers. The National Police Internal Affairs was asked to investigate the contingent from Azua.
Earlier this year two smaller forces in Puerto Plata and Bonao had been removed from their posts and a total of 245 members of the force have been formally accused of criminal association and drug trafficking.
Chief Guzman Fermin says that the removal of the Azua force was not a direct reaction to Senator Guerrero's remarks. The Chief said that the Azua force had been under investigation since last 30 July, but he could not reveal the details to the press due to the confidentiality of the case.
Senator Guerrero said that based on private information that he had received, Police Lieutenant Alberto Arturo Lopez Segura, the commanding officer of the station at La Bombita in Azua, was the brains behind the "drug heist" carried out in the community on 30 July that caused the death of the three people.
Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero praised the move by the chief of the Police. "I think that is an appropriate reaction to the situation and I hope the truth surfaces from the investigation into the sad reality the people of Azua are going through," he told the press. Guerrero reaffirmed his description ofAzua as a "narco province" saying that it is a province where drug dealers have imposed their rules and their laws and all have to respect these.

Marketing fake cocaine
The president of the National Department of Drug Control (DNCD), Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez said that given the declining inventory of cocaine supply in the country, dealers are forging it to carry out ripoffs among themselves and this has spurred the violence of the last few days.
According to the chief of the anti-drug agency, all the 'cocaine' seized in Azua and Bani over the past two weeks showed up negative in laboratory tests.
At the same time, he said that the DNCD is seizing about a kilogram of cocaine every 4 hours. "This is the best demonstration of our efficiency as an institution that despite having few resources has seized more than 40 kilos each week for the last months," he said.
He pointed out to Diario Libre reporters that the seizures of narcotic drugs, especially cocaine is now near 192 kilos a month.
Delgado Valdez made these statements after the incineration of 2 tons of different types of drugs carried out yesterday at the installation of the First Brigade of the Dominican Army. The incineration included 1,228,799 pharmaceutical pills of controlled substances, 952 kilos of pure cocaine, 323.2 kilos of marijuana, and 1,511 vegetable plants, 46.5 kilos of heroine.

Earth keeps shaking
Several earthquakes have been registered in Puerto Plata and Higuey, Azua and Bani over the last two weeks. The Seismological Institute at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and the Seismic Network of the University of Puerto Rico reported two quakes on Tuesday morning. The earthquakes were 3.4 on the Richter scale and located in Higuey and Puerto Plata. According to the new agency Antena, the first quake was felt at 2am and the epicenter was located 83 kilometers from Higuey, 88 kilometers from La Romana and 186 kilometers from Santo Domingo.
In Puerto Plata, the earthquake was registered at 9:26 in the morning and the epicenter was 56 kilometers from Valverde Mao (sic), 76 from Villa Bisono and 221 from Santo Domingo, according to the Nuevo Diario.
Over the past two weeks that have been more than a dozen smaller earthquakes in different areas of the country. No damage to people or property has been reported.

Rains in the forecast
A low pressure area to the northeast of the country and a tropical wave to the East coming in from Puerto Rico will continue to keep the weather unstable for the next few days. The forecasts are calling for scattered showers mixed with thunder and lightening in the northeast, southeast, the Cibao Valley and along the border with Haiti.
Last night there were showers and thunderstorms in San Pedro de Macoris, Hato Mayor, Monte Plata, Duarte, Sanchez Ramirez, Monsignor Nouel, La Vega, Santiago, San Cristobal, Peravia, Elias Pina, San Juan de la Maguana and Dajabon.
Today there are cloudy skies and scattered rains in the afternoon for most of the regions to the northeast, southeast, Cibao and border provinces.
The Weather Department (Onamet) said the tropical wave now moving East from the Lesser Antilles will bring more scattered showers and thunderstorms.
For weather links to the DR, see http://www.dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml
 
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