1,200 students go overseas|
These are golden years for university students in the DR. Never before had so many scholarships to study abroad been available to Dominican students. The Fernandez administration has allotted millions to subsidize scholarships that have been negotiated with leading universities in Europe and the Americas.
Some 1,201 student were given a farewell ceremony at the Presidential Palace yesterday where they were hosted by President Leonel Fernandez, Higher Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo and other officials. 700 returning graduates of the scholarship programs were also celebrated during the encounter.
The students will travel to 15 countries for undergraduate and graduate studies. President Fernandez said that his goal was to have half of all students in the DR continue on to university studies by 2018.
So far as part of the program begun in 2005, 4,910 students have received scholarships to study at graduate and post-graduate levels abroad.
President Fernandez told the departing students that in 1961 there were only 3,200 university students in the country, maybe 1% of the young people between the ages of 18 and 24. Today there are 350,000, which is equal to 30% of the same age group.
Speaking at the event, Fernandez said: "We can put aside other things. We can let go other commitments, due to the constraints of the economy. But what is sacred is our commitment so that 10,000 youths can study abroad on scholarships," said Fernandez.
"The future of this country, the future in terms of development, progress and modernity of the DR rests precisely on the accumulation of knowledge that the new generation of Dominicans can have," said Fernandez, as reported in El Caribe.
The new group will be studying at 88 universities in 15 countries. Of these 975 will travel to Spain, 120 to the US, 19 to France, and the rest to Cuba, Argentina, Sweden, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, South Korea South, Holland, England, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Government on its deficit|
The Fernandez administration seeks international and domestic financing to meet the present budgetary cash flow crunch estimated RD$891 million so far this year. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa told the press after a meeting with the President on the issue that these are not times to create new taxes. Instead he says the funds must come from efforts at the Department of Taxes to reduce evasion even further. Bengoa also mentioned the government seeks funding from the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank to fill the gap in the government's present level of spending and its revenues. Bengoa mentioned the International Monetary Fund has recommended the government step up capital investments.
Fernandez met yesterday with Bengoa, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu, Economy & Planning Minister Temistocles Montas, the new vice president of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) Celso Marranzini and the administrator of Banreservas, Daniel Toribio.
SNC-Lavalin to generate power?|
SNC-Lavalin Power Group of Canada is interested in entering the Dominican power market. Celso Marranzini, recently appointed head of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) said he presented the company's interest in developing a combined cycle power project to produce 500 megawatts to President Leonel Fernandez. The possible site of the plant has yet to be determined.
The Dominican energy sector is well behind in plans for installing new capacity. Thus, securing new supply is tops on the agenda of new head at the CDEEE.
According to their website, SNC-Lavalin is ranked first in Canada and recognized internationally as a leader in engineering and construction in the fields of hydroelectric, nuclear and thermal power generation, power system studies, power sector reform, transmission and distribution projects and energy control systems.
SNC-Lavalin's power projects represent an installed capacity of nearly 250,000 MW, more than 90,000 km of transmission and distribution lines and some 1,500 substations. The Power Group also owns and operates several generation and transmission facilities, a number of which it designed, built and financed.
SNC-Lavalin offers full engineering, procurement and construction services on a cost reimbursable and lump-sum turnkey basis. It also arranges financing and participates in ownership.
The company operates as SNC-Lavalin Dominican Republic S.A. in the DR. In the past it was entrusted with a major water project in the southwest.
Electricity needs US$3.4 billion|
Within a few years demand will exceed installed electricity generation capacity in the DR. That is known, but the fact today is that the many contradictions within the system are what produce the long blackouts.
At the Corripio Group's monthly luncheon, executives from the Dominican Association of the Electricity Industry (ADIE) identified as a crucial problem in the sector the 40% loss suffered in transmission alone.
Marco De la Rosa, the president of ADIE, said that US$300 million needs to be invested in transmission lines and US$600 million in distribution lines of medium and low tension as a way to broaden the coverage and reduce losses. He pointed out that currently demand is between 1900 and 2000 megawatts during the peak hours.
Marco de la Rosa, the president of ADIE, said that an injection of US$3.4 billion in the sector is needed in the areas of generation, transmission and distribution over the next 5 years.
He outlined how US$2.5 billion of these funds should be used to diversify how electricity is generated and to improve the existing generators.
De la Rosa heads the AES Dominicana power generation group. He said that the rescue of the electricity sector in the Dominican Republic needed the application of a plan that focuses on infrastructure, subsidies, governance, and the response to the consumers. Infrastructure needs, he said, include the expansion and improvement of the distribution networks, the integration of the transmission systems and the diversification of the generation systems.
Regarding the subsidies, De la Rosa said that the Program to Reduce Blackouts (PRA) should be eliminated and subsidies applied to those who consume less than 200 kilowatts. He explained that the ADIE proposals also include incentives for private investment, penalizing those who steal electricity, fulfillment of payments down the supply line and a strengthening of institutions.
Mothers get RD$357 million|
In the 11 months of the Maternity and Nursing Subsidy, the Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks (Sisalril) has paid RD$357,648,742 to workers. At the same time the Sisalril has obligations for RD$89,827,484 for the monthly payments for affiliates that are enjoying their maternity leaves and those that are still nursing.
The director of the Subsidy Control program, Fausto Perez Espinosa explained that of this amount, RD$325,189,302 have been used to pay for maternity leave and RD$32,459,439 is part of the nursing subsidy.
JCE against people shufflers|
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman proposes that politicians that move voters from one locality to another to benefit a candidate or party be severely penalized.
According to the Diario Libre, he invited Senator Tommy Galan to present his complaint before the JCE. Galan had said that union leader Blas Peralta, a candidate for deputy in San Cristobal province, transfered hundreds of "cedulas" (the ID and voting card) of residents in Pedro Brand to Villa Altagracia and from Bani to Yaguate in order to pad his vote count.
Castanos explained that the citizens have until 16 January to request changes in the data contained in their cedulas such as their addresses.
The commission in the Chamber of Deputies that is studying the legislative proposal on the Law of Political Parties should meet today or tomorrow with Castanos and the president of the Administrative Chamber of the JCE to analyze several other points in the proposal. Just yesterday Rosario supported Castanos by telling reporters that if it is not approved in time, this law will be impossible to apply for the 2010 elections. The bill had expired, but was again introduced into the legislature.
Constitution reviewers will meet Tuesday|
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly will meet again next Tuesday to review a selection of articles in the new Constitution. Julio Cesar Valentin, vice president of the legislators study group, said they would discuss articles still pending prior to the second reading of the entire bill. Among the points pending is establishing the number of judges in the Central Electoral Board (JCE), he said.
Once the first reading of all of the articles approved by the National Assembly has been completed, the second reading will begin. It is expected that this process will take place in early September.
The work the National Revisory Assembly began on 15 April of this year and the first reading has taken nearly 4 months. There were 41 different articles that were sent to special commissions for in depth study.
The president of the Senate, Reinaldo Pared Perez has said they are working so the new Constitution can be passed by 16 September.
Barrick & copper mining|
The director of the Department of Mining, Octavio Lopez reported yesterday that the Barrick Gold Corporation's mining project has dismantled the old mining structures of the Rosario Mining Company in Pueblo Viejo, Cotui, and is preparing to install new equipment. According to the director, the construction of the new facility will take three years and cost US$2.7 billion. The investment for this year is expected to be US$900 million and US$300 million in working capital.
The new mine is currently employing 2,368 persons in the area and once operations begin this number is expected to increase. Lopez praised Barrick's vision for community development.
He pointed out that Barrick has 20 years of work ahead, which means that the reserves are sufficient to merit a project of this size.
Lopez also announced the start of mining of copper in the Dominican Republic for the first time. The mine, located in Cedro Maimon has proven deposits of between 8 and 10 million tons of oxides and sulfates. Regarding the production of copper he said that the "novel thing of this mine is that the plant that they have installed is open to process any type of minerals from satellite deposits that are found in this mining district but that are too small to merit their own processing plant."
DR and the US Census|
The US Congress still has to vote on a legislative bill that would authorize a reprint of the US Census paper form to include a stand alone check box for the Dominican nationality in the 2010 US Census. Nestor Montilla, president of the Dominican American National Round Table, the leading lobby group for the change, says "this hasn't happened yet."
Montilla clarified the confusion in the Dominican press today that had carried a statement by Dominican ambassador Roberto Saladin that has led to the erroneous perception that a separate box was included.
Corroborating the statement, Cid Wilson, a former DANR president, explained that in the present form, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are still the only Latino groups that have a separate checkbox. The DR is still listed in the "Other Hispanics" category with just a line where the polled individual could write in the nationality. This was decided in 2005.
"As of today, that has not changed and will not unless Congress passes the bill authorizing the Census to add Dominicans as a separate stand-alone category. The magic word is "stand-alone", says Wilson.
The way things stand now will still lead to an undercounting of the Dominican population because second and third generation Dominicans are less likely to write in the nationality, he explains. Research has shown more would do so if there was a check box.
Nestor Montilla says DANR will be issuing a statement later today to clarify the confusion after contacting Groves of the Census and Ambassador Roberto Saladin.
DANR has underway the Uno + Uno initiative that supports legislation submitted to Congress by Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), for a reprint of the paper form to include the stand alone box for Dominicans in the 2010 Census.
Justice sought for abused journalist|
The president of the Dominican College of Journalists (CDP), Mercedes Castillo participated in a picket yesterday at the Palace of Justice to protest that state prosecutors have not moved on the case of journalist Vianco Martinez. Martinez is a victim of a physical attack by the bodyguards of artistic impresario Saymon Diaz on 23 August 2008.
Journalist Juan Bolivar Diaz, press director of TeleAntillas, also spoke at the protest. "If this happens with a reporter, what would happen with a common citizen," he asked.
Journalists and members of the public questioned the lack of judicial response to the case. Martinez said that his case against Josue Vargas and Rafael Emilio Vargas for their physical attack on him at the National Theater has stagnated because the state prosecutors have refused to move the case.
Garage sale in POP|
Retired Canadians Les and Lynda Lehmann are making theirs the North American tradition of holding garage sales. They have even taken it a step forward. They also invite to a table top sale, open market or what is known here as a "pulga" every Saturday at Vecinos, located on the main Puerto Plata highway, 300 meters east of the Texaco at Cabarete's east edge.
Every Saturday for the past three months they've hosted the flea market, offering a place to shop for treasures, sell one's unwanted stuff, or just a place to get together for lunch and catch up on the latest neighbourhood news buzz with friends. "It is a place where internationals and locals can mingle in their treasure-hunt, with hot buttered popcorn in hand," says Lynda Lehmann.
Among their weekly vendors are Christine + Margit, "the German ladies" from German Homestyle Cakes, who supply fresh pastries. Deb Suwala, from Cabarete Organics brings a freshly picked assortment of organic vegetables. Her basil, arugula, spring mix lettuces, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and even flowers are very well received.
Lehmann explains that expats moving back home find a good outlet at the Market to liquidate their household items. Other vendors (200 pesos gets you a table for the day) have tables full of material, curtains, bed linens, clothes, books, puzzles, kitchen ware, paintings, electronics and other various treasures. Some even drop off pets, vehicles, furniture and appliances for sale (at a 10% commission).
They can be contacted at 809 571-0260 or by email at [email protected] to reserve a table. The hosts serve coffee (hot or iced), limonada, beer, the best crisp pizza slices around, and free popcorn for those going on the Saturday bargain hunt.
Best Hits Night at the National Theater|
The Santo Domingo Pops Orchestra, directed by maestro Amaury Sanchez, and guest stars Victor Victor, Pavel Nunez, Miriam Cruz will be on stage at the National Theater, this Wednesday, 26 August at 8:30pm for a benefit for the Fundacion Dr Juan M Taveras. This will be a Best Hits Night. Tickets: RD$1,200 and RD$700.
For more upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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