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Daily News - Friday, 02 October 2009

President inaugurates housing in Ocoa
President Leonel Fernandez handed out the keys to two housing projects in San Jose de Ocoa and Sabana Larga, built at a cost of more than RD$111 million. The 160 units were given to victims of tropical storms Noel and Olga in 2007. National Housing Institute (INVI) director Alba Fernandez made the opening speech. She said that the new homes in Ocoa had cost RD$66 million and the units in Sabana Larga had cost RD$45 million, according to Hoy.
Sabana Larga is historically important as the site of a famous battle during the 19th century struggle for independence.

US$70 million loan with IDB
The Presidency's Social Policies Coordination Cabinet will receive US$70 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) over a period of 18 months. The Social Cabinet programs are managed from Vice President Rafael Alburquerque's office. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa announced the signing of the 25-year loan agreement with the IDB. The program provides health, education and nutrition programs for the poor. The budget is divided into three parts: US$65.4 million for poor families, US$4 million to strengthen institutional information systems and US$450,000 to evaluate the impact of the program. US$100,000 is set aside for managing and auditing the program.

Tuition needs to be paid in advance
Education Minister Melanio Paredes discarded his department could overrule Resolution 1-2009-2010 that establishes that tuition need to be paid in advance. He said that his department could not rule the schools' economic affairs. However, he said the Ministry would call a meeting to discuss what measures could be taken to reduce the impact of the decision.
Private schools have agreed that as of the 2010-2011 school year tuition fees need to be paid in advance. The Private Schools Association agreed to work with local credit bureau Data-Credito and report any parent who has failed in making timely payments.
The argument is that the Code for the System of Protection of the Basic Rights of Children and Young People establishes that schools cannot discriminate or penalize children in any way. The code also establishes that if a school needs to suspend a child from school because the parents have failed to pay tuition, it can only do so at the end of the school year.
The private schools association argues that many parents use these two articles of the law to avoid paying for the school year. The schools say the parents just move their child to another school. The school then has to absorb the loss.

Assembly bans corruption
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly of the Constitution (ANR) approved an amendment within the Statute of Public Function that makes corruption illegal. It establishes that penalties will be imposed on anyone who steals public funds or takes advantage of their position in a government department to obtain any economic advantages for themselves or for others.
Moreover, according to Diario Libre, the provision establishes that "no public institution or autonomous entity that handles public funds may establish rules or decrees aimed at increasing the remuneration or benefits of its leadership or personnel, but rather for a period after that to which they were elected or appointed. Disobedience of this disposition will be punished in accordance with the law".
In one of the numerals it is established that people convicted of crimes of corruption will be sentenced to civil demotion without prejudice to any other punishment set out in the laws, and the person will be required to return what was illegally taken. In the same way, the ANR approved that "the law could order longer than usual statutes of limitation for cases of crimes of corruption and a restrictive regulation of trial benefits".
Within Chapter 1 on the makeup of the Legislative Branch, the legislators encouraged colleagues to do well. But in the new Constitution, it was determined that "senators and deputies are not bound by imperative mandate, they may act always with strict adherence to the sacred duty of representing the people who elected them, to whom they must be accountable".
The assembly also approved the increase in the legislative terms from 90 to 150 days. The number of deputies was increased from 178 to 190. Another seven will be elected to represent Dominican expatriates. The president of the Chamber of Deputies had favored reducing the number of deputies to 150.

Environmentalists: the backward Constitution
Dominican environmentalists say the Constitution that is about to be approved by the PLD and PRD majorities in Congress reverses progress that has been made on sustainable environmental protection. At a press conference yesterday, the environmental campaigners said that the new Constitution goes against world trends. "It is contradictory that at these times when international forums discuss coastal management and free public access to beaches, their privatization is encouraged here.
The environmentalists say that in the Constitution as drafted, full of ambiguities and denial of rights, the country would be in violation of international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Dominican Environmental Movement (MAP) says that the decisions reached in the Second Reading of the Constitution "are not consistent with the general interest of the Dominican nation".
They went on to say: "We invite each community and each citizen to let their representatives know that their rights have been violated, that they did not elect them so they would remove their protection and leave them on their own. An explanation is required".
The environmental movement say changes in matters regarding to environment and natural resources were made to please private interests, a cruel sort of joke and deceit to the Dominican people.
The movement says it now becomes urgent and necessary to call for a true and coherent constitutional reform that adequately incorporates environmental issues and that is discussed and approved by constitutional reformers elected by popular vote only for that purpose and that represent the real interest of the entire nation and not that of particular groups.
The environmentalists say that they want to express that this is not the Constitution that they spent hours working for nor is it the Constitution that the country deserves.

Deputy criticizes colleagues
Speaking during yesterday afternoon's session of the Constitutional Revisory Assembly, PLD legislator Isabel Bonilla said that with the latest decisions during the second reading of the new Constitution, Congress is just earning the public's contempt. She said that these latest changes went against what had been approved in the first sessions and had enjoyed a broad consensus.
Upon announcing that she would not register to stand for any PLD party office, she said that the assembly members are acting "like idiots" as they support the proposals that have been imposed by the PLD and the PRD without arguments. "It seems that they have put a tape on their heads that says that they are prohibited from thinking", and suggested that the parties wanted the dumbest possible deputies.

Country in Intensive Care Unit
Listin Diario today editorializes on what it calls the five cancers affecting Dominican society:
The massive influx of narcotics and increasing consumption of drugs.
The massive penetration of illegal Haitians, and the tsunami-like vocation of this migration to depredate natural resources.
Generalized corruption in public and private sectors with bribes prevailing for the obtaining of advantages.
The prevailing attitude whereby men and women impose their individual interests.
Growing poverty with thousands of youths losing hope that there may be better times ahead.
"We hope that these ingredients in time do not explode and provoke greater damages than those that already we are experiencing at a moral, ethical, political and cultural level. Dominican society has to shake these cancers and move to a general catharsis before the danger of a catastrophe on all our values takes place. Many foresee this explosion of wills but few are acting to prevent it," reads the newspaper's editorial today.

PRD declares Jorge Mera winner
Late Wednesday night the National Organizing Commission of the PRD's XXVII Ordinary Convention declared that the winner of the post of Secretary General was Orlando Jorge Mera and the winner for the post of party Organizational Secretary was Geanilda Vasquez. In the last bulletin issued by the organizers, Jorge Mera had obtained 286,525 votes for a 58.06% plurality, which, added to the 14,551 votes cast for Henry Blanco gave a grand total of 301,076 or 61% of all the votes cast. His closest opponent, Guido Gomez Mazara received 192,449, or 38.99% of the total.
In the race for party Organizational Secretary, Geanilda Vasquez received a total of 195,712 votes, 48.48%, and Tony Pena Guaba received 157,218 for 38.95%. Meanwhile Fausto Liz received 50,752 votes or 12.57%.
The Electoral Commission declared the winners in Resolution 193, read by commission president Tomas Hernandez Alberto. The resolution also establishes the annulment of the 367 polling places that were missing, annulled because more than 72 hours had passed without filing their reports to the PRD computer center.
The commission also ratified Miguel Vargas Maldonado as party president, after he received more than 539,000 positive votes in the so-called plebiscite. Finally, the commission declared the abolition of Article 185 of the PRD statutes. This statute prohibited the party president from running for President of the Republic. While not the same number as Vargas Maldonado received, there were still more than 495,000 votes in favor of the change.

Economic drop is pronounced
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculates that the Dominican Republic will see growth of 0.5% this year and 2% in 2010, the same numbers that it predicted for the country last April, according to its latest "World Economic Outlook" report.
Last year the country's GDP grew by 5.3%, according to the report. The IMF did improve, nonetheless, the predictions for inflation, which they had originally calculated at 1.7% for 2009 and 5.8% for 2010. Finally, IMF specialists are expecting a 0.9% inflation rate for 2009 and 5.4% for 2010. Last year, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Dominicans grew by 10.6%, reminds the report. On the current balance of spending, they expect a deficit of 6.1% of the GDP in both 2009 and 2010.

DR right about taxing Costa Rican wires
The technical report on the import of electrical wires from Costa Rica confirms that Dominican Customs should charge import duties. The DR has a free trade agreement with Central America, but it was determined that these products violate rules of origin set out in DR-CAFTA, the regional free trade agreement. Likewise, the electrical wire producers are located in enterprises that receive special fiscal considerations in Costa Rica.
As reported in Hoy, the former chief of Trade Negotiations for Panama, Leroy Sheffer, said that in order for a product to qualify for tax free status it has to be transformed sufficiently to be re-classified from one customs category to another.
He added that in the case of the electric wires from Costa Rica, in order for them to classify for duty free status, the Central American country would have to demonstrate that the materials or the product were produced in Costa Rica, had been processed or manufactured from completely original materials. Sheffer cites Article 4.05, paragraph d) of the agreement as to what are considered to be original goods:
i) The merchandise manufactured exclusively in territory of the Parts from original products
ii) The merchandise produced in the territories of the parts that incorporate raw materials or non-original products that result from a process of transformation that gives them a new identity
To ensure that there is no doubt in the case, Sheffer said that for the electric wires from Costa Rica to qualify for special duty-free status under DR-CAFTA, the copper used in the wiring has to come from Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic and in this case it comes from Chile. Thus, they do not comply with the requisite of origin.

Clinton in Haiti
United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, former US President Bill Clinton went to bat for Haiti yesterday in Port-au-Prince. He led a two-day visit of a delegation of 500 business leaders from around the world, including around 200 businessmen from the US, that met in Haiti to do business. Clinton wants the business community to focus on what he calls Haiti's great potential for development.
Addressing the businessmen at the meeting called by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Port-au-Prince, Clinton said: "This is the right time to invest in Haiti, to help build a better neighbor, a reliable business partner, an alluring tourist destination and a more prosperous home for its hard-working, resilient people". In Haiti, Clinton visited the Sans Souci Palace, the World Heritage UNESCO national park located in Cap Haitien. He also met with President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis. This is his third visit to Haiti since being appointed as special envoy by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in May. He was accompanied by Paul Farmer, his Deputy Special Envoy, who is a physician and Harvard University professor, with work in Haiti.

Orange and Codetel go at it
Number portability means that Dominican telephone users now own their telephone number. In other words, they can pick up their number and move to a new service provider. The idea is for telecommunications companies to strive harder to provide a good service to keep their clients. But what seems to be happening is that each provider is trying to make the other company look bad.
The Orange Telecommunications Company apologized to the public yesterday, Thursday, for the problems that some of its clients were experiencing. Orange attributes these to issues of interconnecting with other service providers. In a press release published in most national newspapers, Orange explained that the problems developed on Wednesday afternoon. They added that their technical team was able to resolve the issues successfully and they continue working to prevent a repetition of similar incidents. They ended by reiterating their commitment to provide high quality service to the public.
At the same time, the Dominican Telephone Company (CODETEL) reported that since Monday its clients have been experiencing problems accessing phone numbers belonging to Orange. Codetel said that despite numerous reports submitted to the Orange technical team since early Monday morning, the tests on call successes indicated that the situation has not been solved completely and that their clients continued to report problems.
A day and a half after the start of numerical portability, Spanish company El Corte Ingles registered 980 requests from customers wanting to switch to another company. Jose Rafael Vargas, president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel), considered this to be an "impressive acceptance of number portability by customers".

Centro Leon celebrates 6th anniversary
The Centro Cultural Leon is celebrating 6 successful years promoting Dominican culture in the country. For the celebrations, in recent weeks a discussion with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was held, and this week a special exhibition in coordination with the Louvre is coordinated. In time for the 6th anniversary celebrations, the Centro Leon is showing the traveling exhibit, "Merengue, Visual Rhythms" that has toured seven cities in the US. The international promotion work of the Centro Leon was recently commended by the Santiago Chamber of Commerce that awarded it a diploma during its ExpoCibao 2009 trade exhibit: "Centro Leon - principal effort to export Dominican culture".
"It is the first time that a business organization distinguishes a cultural institution for working for our culture so that it can be valued as an exportable asset, to attract foreign investment, stimulate the tourism industry, a leading factor in the creation of the country brand. That is, culture opens the roads to export," says the institution.
See www.centroleon.org.do

Oviedo, Merengue, Bachata & Son
An outstanding evening, starts with a 6pm conference by Mexican Miguel Angel Munoz on Maestro Ramon Oviedo on Friday, 2 October at the Auditorium of the Museum of Modern Art. This is to be followed by a review on the work of Maestro Ramon Oviedo by Sara Hermann and Carlos Acero. Dustin Munoz will act as moderator. The evening closes with Ramon Orlando presentation of merengue, bachata and son at 8:30pm. Plaza de la Cultura.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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