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Daily News - Friday, 25 September 2009

Fernandez on Venezuela and Libya
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Leonel Fernandez justified strengthening relations with countries with controversial leadesr, such as Venezuela and Libya. He said that the DR needed to look after "its own interests" and that it sought to expand its international presence.
Fernandez said that the international community should not doubt the government or the country's democratic values just because it is associating with Venezuela through Petrocaribe or seeking support for building an oil refinery from Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.
As reported in El Nuevo Diario, Fernandez pointed out that Venezuela produces and sells oil and that even the United States purchases it, and "while we benefit from Petrocaribe, we maintain excellent relations with the United States."
The Dominican leader also took the opportunity to announce that the DR is willing to withdraw its ambassador to demonstrate its support for the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, as was agreed at Wednesday's OAS meeting. However, Fernandez did insist on continuing dialogue toward a solution of the Honduran political crisis.

Fernandez on IMF signing
President Leonel Fernandez assured reporters in New York that the government would be signing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in less than three weeks to finance the budgetary problems that he attributed to the impact of the world crisis on fiscal collections. "These are not agreements for structural adjustments to resolve issues of balance of payments", said Fernandez when interviewed in New York where he is attending the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations.
He said that imports and exports were down in the DR, as well as tax sales revenues. He stressed that this is not a fiscal deficit, but rather a shortfall due to the decrease in collections.
"In principle we are with the IMF, which gives us greater credibility in the international financial markets and will allow the Dominican Republic to place bonds at an interest rate that is within the country's aims," the President told reporters in New York.
President Leonel Fernandez returns to the DR on Sunday.

World Bank call for redirection
The strategy the World Bank is sketching out for the Dominican Republic is placing an emphasis on a redirection of the nation's development over a four-year period. The change in direction will focus on better quality in public expenditures, a stronger accounting of expenses and increased social and capital investments. The bank emphasized the existing high social inequality, as seen with steady economic growth over the past 50 years but with poverty reaching the 40% level.
The bank expects to quickly disburse some US$300 million before the end of the year. The government is hastening to structure the programs that will be financed with these resources.
World Bank country manager for the DR Roby Senderowitsch said that of that amount US$150 million are for quick disbursal and would be used for social areas. The idea, according to Sanderowitsch, is to improve the distribution of economic growth.
The overall objectives of the program are to promote competitiveness within a sustainable economic environment, expansion of public spending and institutional development, institutional strengthening, especially better accounting of expenditures, including public access to this information, and finally, the establishment of alliances to promote the reforms that will ensure better distribution of economic growth.

IMF demands fewer subsidies
In what can only be described as an unexpectedly blunt statement, the Minister of Hacienda has said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding that the government should increase its spending on infrastructure and the quality of its current expenditures. They are also demanding the reduction of tax incentives because they are considered to be excessive and damaging to the local economy. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa told Hoy newspaper reporter Mayelin Acosta Guzman that the IMF wants the country to readjust public expenditures to spend more on capital expenditures and less on current expenditures. Bengoa said that the IMF was going to disburse US$990 million this year, adding that tax incentives would be reviewed.

Banreservas + MoneyGram
Banreservas general manager Daniel Toribio has stressed the importance of remittances to banks in the DR and the economies of Latin America. Toribio was speaking during the official start of a joint remittance program by MoneyGram and BanReservas. He said that Banreservas was seeking to compete for a greater share in the remittance market with MoneyGram as a partner. MoneyGram has 180,000 offices all over the world and Banreservas has 193 branches in the Dominican Republic.
Toribio said that 1,205,000 Dominicans live overseas. During the first half of the year -January through June - overseas residents sent US$1.45 billion back to the Dominican Republic, according to Toribio. During 2008, remittances accounted for 7.5% of the nation's GDP.

Marranzini inspects generators
State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) boss Celso Marranzini was joined by the National Police chief on an inspection tour of power plants in the east and north yesterday. They visited the Sultana del Este barge, the Mitsubishi plant in San Pedro de Macoris and AES Andres in the east. In the north, they visited the San Felipe generator (the former Smith-Enron plant) in Puerto Plata.
When interviewed by reporters from Hoy, Marranzini said that he would be implementing a program to redistribute blackouts more equitably.
With police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin at his side, Marranzini said police units would be sent to areas where crime could increase during power cuts.

Official report on the blackout
The Superintendent of Electricity has released the official report on the national blackout that occurred on 2 September. According to the report, the mistaken opening of a switch at the substation that feeds into the main station of AES Andres was the root cause. The report did not mention sabotage or any suspicious goings-on beyond the "mistake."
AES Andres was supplying 285 megawatts when it suddenly went off-line, automatically disconnecting units such as San Pedro de Macoris (formerly Cogentrix) with 70 megawatts, San Felipe in Puerto Plata (formerly Smith-Enron) with 173 megawatts, Falconbridge with 60 megawatts and Jiguey with 46 megawatts. The imbalance threw the entire system out of kilter and shut off the other generators, collapsing the entire National Grid (SENI).

Empretec workshop in Santo Domingo
The National Competitiveness Council is sponsoring the United Nations Empretec program to support local entrepreneurs. The program will cost US$450 for a week of training. Empretec was established by UNCTAD (the UN Conference on Trade and Development) to promote the creation of sustainable small- and medium-sized enterprises. It seeks to help promising entrepreneurs to put their ideas into action and fledgling businesses to grow.
EMPRETEC's core product, the Entrepreneurship Training Workshop (ETW), is based on a unique Harvard originated methodology focused on a behavioral approach to entrepreneurship.
See www.cnc.gov.do

Book on Clusters available online
The National Competitiveness Council is distributing the Spanish version of the book "Clusters-Balancing Evolutionary and Constructive
Forces, published this year, free on their website. It is also available in English at www.cluster-research.org/redbook.htm.
The book was written by Orjan Solvell, professor of international business at the Stockholm School of Economics. Since 2005 he has also served as Director of the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness in Stockholm. The book can be downloaded in Spanish at http://competitividad.org.do/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/red-book-espanol.pdf
Since the mid-1980s Dr Solvell has worked closely with Professor Michael E Porter, studying international competitiveness and clusters in various nations and regions, and he is also a Senior Institute Associate at Professor Porter's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School.
In 2001-2002 Solvell created a new course together with Professor Porter, "Microeconomics of Competitiveness: Firms, Clusters and Economic Development" (MOC), taught at HBS and some forty universities around the world.
The book helps understand the clusters concept as a model for productive and competitive growth.

UASD can't preach
The president of the Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (Adocco), Julio Cesar de la Rosa says that state university UASD is not qualified to present a National Plan (2010-2020), as reported in Hoy. Important aspects of the UASD plan are educational system reforms, division of the powers of government and the elimination of unproductive jobs in government.
De la Rosa says that the UASD rector should preach by example. "What is happening at the state university does not correspond with the controls for transparency [he is calling for] in government," he said.
He criticized the university authorities for calling for more controls on the use of government funds, when the university itself doesn't update the information on their own payroll. He accused rector Franklin Garcia Fermin of increasing the payroll by RD$41.8 million in the 18 months of his administration, adding 455 new employees.

What Santiago wants
A poll by the Santiago Chamber of Commerce lists the areas that need to be granted priority attention by the government. These are education, health, crime control, fixing of streets, electricity, job creation, raising prices and tax reduction . Other priority areas are reduction of government corruption and a reduction in the bloated public payroll.
In its eleventh poll, the Chamber of Commerce found that Santiago's business leaders feel that these are the issues that require the attention of legislators, municipal authorities and the Executive Branch.
The most important public work for the community in Santiago is the construction of the north bypass (Circunvalacion Norte) to detour through traffic away from the city center.
See: www.camarasantiago.com

The country honors its patroness
With songs, applause and reverence, yesterday afternoon hundreds of worshipers honored Our Lady of Mercy, the Patroness of the Dominican Republic, during the traditional annual procession that is held in the Colonial Zone.
Flanked by two lines of ladies dressed in white and accompanied by the strains of music from the bands of the Presidential Guard and the Dominican navy, the image of the Virgin was carried through several streets in the area after leaving the church erected in her honor in 1555. The procession began with the National Anthem.
"Long live Our Lady of Mercy!" cried many of the bystanders, while others raised their hands and gazed at the statue surrounded by flowers. Besides the religious fervor of the Virgin's pious followers, the procession also aroused the curiosity of tourists and locals who visit the Colonial Zone who - with cameras in hand - including cell phones, recorded the details of this Dominican religious and cultural celebration. After going down Las Mercedes Street, the procession stopped in front of the National Pantheon on Calle Las Damas. There, once again, the National Anthem was played.
Ringing bells welcomed the Virgin as she returned to her altar. "Viva la Virgen de Las Mercedes" was repeated once more by the faithful. The patroness was granted this title in the year the nation gained its independence. (1844)
In La Vega, thousands of people visited the Santo Cerro sanctuary, attending Mass and the feast day celebrations.

Powerful tornadoes rip Valverde
Two powerful tornadoes, accompanied by hail and heavy rains, caused major crop damage and destroyed several houses in several areas of the northwestern province of Valverde. One of the tornadoes razed banana plantations, trees and signs in the communities of Palo Amarillo, Yerba de Guinea as well as in Barrio Los Restauradores in the city of Mao. Civil Defense brigades, units from the Fire Department and volunteers worked for several hours to clear the roadway in the sector of Yerba de Guinea on the road to Amina. Fallen century-old trees in these areas blocked traffic and destroyed fences, walls and the entrance to a hacienda. Eddy Ventura, who owns the Debra-James Johnson banana farm in Palo Amarillo, said that the farm suffered major damage, as did other plantations.
The regional director of the Civil Defense corps, Ramon Reyes, reported that two houses in Los Restauradores were completely destroyed by the strong winds, rain and hail. Reyes added that another tornado, accompanied by hail, flattened several banana plantations in Tierra Fria and Jinamagao in the municipal districts of Amina and Guatapanal.

DR defeats PR in volleyball
The DR women's volleyball team had a good day in Puerto Rico yesterday. It scored an important victory against the host country ( 25-21, 30-28, 25-16 and 25-22). The DR won Pool A of the North, Central America and Caribbean Women's Continental Championship. Annerys Vargas and Priscilla Rivera each scored 15 points and Lisvel Eve added 14 tallies. Altagracia Mambru and Milagros Cabral contributed 11 apiece. Auera Cruz and Sarai Alvarez compiled 16 and 14 respectively for Puerto Rico.
"We achieved one of our goals by qualifying first. Puerto Rico always plays hard against us but we need to continue training for the World Championship," said Cabral, as reported by Norceca. The Norceca 2009 tournament in Bayamon ends on 27 September.

Fernando Echavarria & Victor Victor
Great entertainment is booked for Santiago's TeTe Club Bar this Saturday, 26 September. Tete Restaurant of Calle El Sol presents Victor Victor & Fernando Echavarria as of 10pm in an evening of outstanding boleros, and Afro-Caribbean music. They have named their performance, "Tour haciendo punto en otro son." Not to be missed.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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