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Daily News - Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A wave of inaugurations
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurates today the Pinalito Hydroelectric Dam in the Province of Monsignor Nouel. The dam's construction began in 2004, and it cost US$300 million. The project will supply 50 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.
This same week, on Thursday, the nation's leader will inaugurate a National Water Quality Reference Laboratory at the headquarters of the National Institute for Water and Sewers (INAPA) in Santo Domingo. This is the first of this type in the country, and it will contribute to guarantee the optimum quality of drinking water from the source, the aqueducts, the water tanks, the water pipes and into the people's houses.
Next Friday, 14 August, the Chief of State will go to Elias Pina on the border with Haiti where he will inaugurate an electricity sub-station, a bridge and the building for the house of culture.
Fernandez could also inaugurate the stretch of highway between San Cristobal and Bani this month. By the end of the month it is expected that the Rodolfo de la Cruz Lora Hospital in Pedro Brand would be ready for a presidential ribbon-cutting.
The government seeks to take advantage of the inaugurations to improve its public image, as reported in Diario Libre. The first year of the second consecutive term of the Fernandez administration is commemorated on 16 August of this year. President Fernandez's popularity and that of his party are at an all time low, primarily due to major cases of corruption in government and the government's failure to successfully tackle electricity and security problems.
With the sudden rise in strikes and protests organized by popular groups nationwide demanding drinking water, electricity, highway construction, streets and other community projects, President Fernandez is reported to put into play what he himself has called a new style of governing. This consists of listening to the requests of the people and checking out for himself to see if the promises are fulfilled.
Last Thursday, 20 July, the nation's leader met with cabinet officials in the areas of construction and social projects, and talked about the issue of the project being demanded by the resident of the areas where he had held a sort of town hall meeting. He announced the expenditure of RD$1,785,227,649 on projects in San Cristobal and El Seibo.

Festival of Ideas
The Presidency is sponsoring a Festival of the Ideas from 10 August to 16 September, an event that seeks to highlight the ideas of leading Dominican thinkers. The first of several sessions, on 11 August, the works and thoughts of Pena Batlle, Joaquin Balaguer, Fabio Mota, Rodriguez Demorizi and Arturo Logrono will be discussed by a panel made up by Andres L. Mateo, Bernardo Vega, Franklin Franco and Richard Turts (USA). Wilfredo Lozano is the coordinator. The event is organized by the Press Office of the Presidency, the National Archives and UNIBE university. It will take place at the main hall of the UNIBE university on Av. Francia from 5 to 7pm. During the inaugural event of the Festival of the Ideas held at the Presidential Palace yesterday, President Fernandez explained that the event seeks to promote the historic memory of political and social thought in the DR.

100 Constitution articles ready
The Verification Commission of the Constitutional Revisory Assembly announced yesterday that they have prepared 100 articles for submission to the full Assembly. Martinez told Hoy reporter Pedro Germosen that his commission approved the report on the first 100 articles and he assured the reporter that next week the work on the total 254 articles would be about 80% complete.
According to the chairman of the commission, Frank Martinez, the commission checked the articles with the present Constitution, with the proposal submitted by the President, and with the initiatives approved by the Assembly members in order to avoid contradictions.
These articles will go into a report, and the Assembly will either approve or disapprove the report.
He pointed out that for the final editing of the new Constitution the articles approved by the Assembly have to be checked then by the Commission on Style and Final Editing.
Martinez called on the political parties to reach agreements so that no more than two legislators from each party would speak regarding the party's position on each article of the Constitution draft. He says this would be the only way for the Assembly to finish its work by September. Work on the new Constitution began 14 April.

Capital spending down 63%
While current expenditures were down 7.7% for the first half of the year, capital expenditures, needed for economic growth, were down nearly 64%, as reported in Hoy. In large part, this was attributed to the 93% reduction in disbursements for government constructions. These figures do not include government arrears with electricity generators, estimated at US$700 million for all of 2009, nor does it include the debt the government has with other suppliers.
Part of the issue is the fact that there was a13.41% decrease in the tax collections during the first half, which in real terms meant RD$17.45 billion less in the Treasury. This decrease is attributed to the 21.3% decrease in Customs revenues, a 20.8% reduction in Treasury income and a 9.44% decrease in internal taxes (DGII).
For example, sales covered by the local VAT (ITBIS) fell by 16.45%, but collections of the VAT only fell by 0.62%. Again, in absolute terms, the distribution of the sales covered by the VAT was RD$60.16 billion, but the VAT tax collections only fell by RD$127.9 million, which, as interpreted by the DGII, means that tax collection was efficient.
Overall, ITBIS revenue is evidence of the economic contraction. This is so because both statistically and econometrically there is an evident correlation between GDP growth and sales-collections. Therefore, when the sales and collections increase, the GDP increases in the same proportion. This is why some economists doubt the 3% GDP increase estimated by the Central Bank for the first half, when ITBIS revenues have declined during this period.
According to Hoy, the analysts point out that there is still room to reduce ITBIS tax evasion. With an estimate that sales subject to ITBIS taxation was RD$305.59 billion in the first half of the year. This means ITBIS tax revenues should have been RD$48.89 billion and not the RD$20.57 billion that entered the Treasury, even when taking into account a small part of the ITBIS is returned to some businesses.

Dialogue with doctors not possible
The Minister of Public Health expressed his displeasure with the CMD (Dominican Medical College) and censured once again the incidents that occurred at the Francisco Moscoso Puello Hospital, emphasizing that there was no way to talk with the doctors. Yesterday, hospital director Roberto Lafontaine was injured in his bottom lip. He suspects this was for his not heeding the call to strike. The injury led to consultations to be suspended at the hospital.
Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado and the Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez said, after a meeting at the Presidential Palace yesterday that the conditions were not there for a meaningful dialogue regarding a salary increase with the leaders of the CMD.
The mediator, PUCMM rector Nunez Collado, and the minister visited the Presidential Palace last night and tried to avoid the reporters. However, inside sources told the Nuevo Diario that the two men met with President Leonel Fernandez and talked about the doctor's strike for higher wages.
Waldo Ariel Suero, the CMD president, said that his people would not allow military doctors to break the strike line, but he added that he is open to talks but not at the expense of stopping the protests in the hospitals. Currently, around 14,000 medical personnel is on strike at the nation's public hospitals and the hospitals of the Dominican Institute for Social Security.
But small contingents of strike breaking physicians and military physicians have been offering consultations at the public hospitals.
President Fernandez recently said that there is no money to provide a pay increase for the doctors this year.

Puig: what's behind the MD strike
Labor Minister Max Puig says that behind the extended public hospital physician strike is a covert plan to sabotage the Family Health Insurance plan (SFS). Puig is also president of the National Council of Social Security (CNSS). He told Diario Libre that the strikes at the end benefit private health providers that continue to offer their services. "For the new health model to work it is important that the government hospitals develop the set of skills needed for them to compete on equal conditions with private hospitals. But as these strikes continue, the private clinics are those that benefit," he says.
Rafael (Pepe) Abreu, representative of Dominican workers to the CNSS, said the strikes are but distractions to avoid discussing the issues pending for the implementation of the SFS.
Bernardo Defillo, a former superintendent of health, says that Law 87-01 that created the SFS contemplated wage increases for the physicians, in addition to eliminating the possibility of public hospital physicians being employed at more than one job at the same time. "It is that there is not an adequate strategy, and while the talks continue to just focus on wages, nothing will be achieved," he said.
In his opinion, once a good health system is in place, there will not be a need for periodic wage struggles because these are contemplated in the law. Defillo says that transparency is lacking from both the talk of the physicians and government officers.

AMET removes clunkers
The director of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) began a sweep to rid Greater Santo Domingo of abandoned cars and other vehicles. Basically, these "clunkers" are left, stripped of anything useful, along the streets of the city.
As he headed the pick up of the junk vehicles in Santo Domingo, together with the prosecutor for the city, Perfecto Acosta, and the regional director of the National Police in the province of Santo Domingo, General Hector Garcia Cuevas, Major General Rafael Oscar Bencosme Candelierof AMET said that so far his men had picked up 124 abandoned or junk vehicles in the National District and in the Province of Santo Domingo they had hauled away 84. He assured El Caribe reporters that these numbers would grow as they combed through the different barrios. The vehicles are being taken to the Duquesa Garbage Dump. If any owner should want their vehicles returned they can fill out a form and pay the fines.

DR is major organic exporter
The DR continues to consolidate its position as a leading producer and exporter of organic farm products. Organic exports include coffee, cacao, mango, oriental vegetables, nursery vegetables, lime, orange and zapodilla, says a report in Diario Libre today. The Center for Export and Investment forecasts organic produce exports to be US$200 million, this year up from U$175 million in 2008.

Finjus supports Conep proposal
The Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) supported the call by the president of the National Council of Business for a new economic and social model, one based on production, rather than consumption. The foundation also backed a more profound institutional reform needed for the sustained development for the country.
In a document signed by executive vice president Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, Finjus says that the request made by Lisandro Macarrulla of the Conep is based on the urgent need to reinforce the rule of law, which is considered to be the key to judicial security in the DR.
The Finjus document says: If the judicial security deteriorates, the investment climate will be especially affected, aggravating the economy. He called for the separation of the public powers.
The foundation said that "in this sense it is completely necessary that there be an independent judiciary, backed by laws that are clear and modern, with the will to act and without fear of applying the law, especially laws that penalize corruption, both public and private."
Finjus also said that the new economic and social model calls for a Congress that is responsible for the control of the state in such a way that corruption be halted and punished without worrying about who promoted it or who did what. Finjus argued for a stronger Congress and Chamber of Accounts, the government body in charge of auditing government funds management. Finjus also rejected the use of state funds for anything other than national development.

Hipolito files an appeal
Former President Hipolito Mejia, together with some of his followers, presented their appeal of decisions taken by the XXVII Convention of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) to the Disputes Chamber of the Central Electoral Board (JCE). The appeal says that the resolutions were illegal, irregular and unlawful under the party statutes and violate Resolution 049-009 of the JCE that only allows for the proclamation and swearing in of the president of the "white" party.
The 15-page appeal, signed by the former President, challenges what happened in the PRD convention that led to the violations of Resolution 049-009 and the party statutes. These include the designation of a interim de facto president as well as the secretary general and the secretary for organization, when the sentence established in a clear and definitive manner, only and exclusively, the proclamation and swearing in of the party president.

Mob lynches thief in La Julia
A mob lynched an alleged criminal who was would have been surprised stealing in a house on the Jose Contreras Avenue in the La Julia section of the capital. This is the fourth known case so far this year that has had fatal consequences for the suspect thief. It is a phenomenon that according to experts is caused by the generalized feeling of insecurity, due on the one hand to rising crime and on the other to the weakness of the justice system.
Yesterday in Santiago, another man was seriously injured when a mob tried to lynch him under the suspicion that they were dealing with a thief trying to steal in the Cienfuegos barrio.
The most recent lynching came in July on the Charles De Gaulle Avenue in East Santo Domingo, where the neighbors took justice into their own hands and killed Frank Eduards Johns Oviedo, who minutes before had tried to assault the administrators of the Estrella mini-market in the Villa Carmen section. In yesterday's case, the Police reported that the victim, still unidentified, was a male, 30-35 years of age, wearing blue pants, black sneakers, and a red T-shirt. He died as he was attended in the emergency room of the Marcelino Velez Santana Hospital.

Kaisha suspect to La Victoria
Judge Keila Perez ordered one year in prison to Dellin Oscar Perez Paredes, chief suspect in the death of Kaisha Requena Grullon, a banker who was shot to death in an attempt to steal her handbag when she had arrived to her El Millon home. A 15-year old boy is also suspect. Perez Paredes was sent to La Victoria jail. The case against the youth would be heard in a court for minors. News reports reveal that Perez Paredes had a long history of crimes.

Flu cases now number 182
With the confirmation of 28 new cases of the A (H1N1) human influenza, the total number of cases reached 182 persons infected by the new virus. Nevertheless, the number of deaths has remained at 5. These numbers were part of Bulletin 16 from the Epidemiology Department of the Ministry of Public Health that reported that the number of cases examined by the laboratory up until last 3 August was 1998, and included 69 persons that were hospitalized.
The official report says that within the increase in the cases are those of the National District (84), the province of Santo Domingo (38), and the appearance of the first case in the province of Santiago Rodriguez.
On the international level, the A(H1N1) virus has affected more than 98,179 persons, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) press release, which included 1,008 deaths in the Americas. A total of 35 countries have been identified as part of the A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic.

Tropical wave would bring rains
A tropical wave to the south of the country, with most of its activity in the Caribbean Sea, and a high level ridge over Jamaica continue to influence the weather in the DR, bringing scattered showers and thundershowers to the Northeast, Southeast, and Central Mountains. According to the report from the Weather Office (Onamet), the tropical wave is located next to the Lesser Antilles, moving to the West at some 24 kilometers per hour.
Onamet says it is monitoring the storm that is southwest of the Cape Verde Islands as it moves to the West, given that it has a 30%-50% possibility of developing into a tropical cyclone.
Onamet recommended that small craft should be cautious and not go far out to sea.
Yesterday afternoon scattered thunder storms occurred in Samana, Duarte, Hato Mayor, Hermanas Mirabal, El Seibo, Monte Plata, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Sanchez Ramirez, La Vega Monsignor Nouel and other provinces.
To follow storms in the DR, see http://www.dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml
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