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Daily News - Monday, 26 October 2009

Valdez Albizu sees growth
During a speech to celebrate the Central Bank's 62 anniversary, the Bank's governor Hector Valdez Albizu said that the Dominican economy would end the year with some growth despite the sober international scene. He also pointed out that in order to achieve sustained economic development the problems in the energy sector needed to be resolved. He said that the US$990 million that the country is due to receive as a result of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund would lead to macro-economic stability and improve the country's image with potential investors.
Valdez Albizu said that the Stand-by arrangement with the IMF would provide for the continuing process of Recapitalization of the Central Bank, easing the process of stabilizing long-term monetary policy. He said that he would ask Congress to extend the timeframe for the recapitalization from 10 years to 15 years. The governor predicted that inflationary pressure would remain under control, and that there would be no changes in the exchange rate, monetary policy or financial policies designed to stimulate investment. Among the more interesting details that were revealed was that remittances had fallen by just 2.2% and tourism had decreased by only 5.8%.

Most fuels go up, LPG stable
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has announced price increases of RD$5.77 for premium gasoline, RD$3.40 for regular gasoline, Avtur and kerosene. The fact that LPG, regular and premium diesel fuel prices stayed at the same level was good news for lots of people. The press release says that there is strong pressure for price increases for most fuels. According to the Industry and Commerce Ministry, the market was encouraged by the weekly reports from the United States Department of Energy on petroleum reserves in the United States, the world's largest consumer of crude oil and pushed by a weakening dollar. Investors took to commodities - oil and grains - as a way of hedging against the weakening dollar.

Debts could corral DR economy
According to the president of the Dominican Republic Industrial Association, Manuel Diez Cabral, the public debt could reach as much as US$24 or US$25 billion, nearly 50% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In his opinion, the foreign indebtedness could put the relatively stable macro-economic situation of the country at risk, and he said that the greatest danger is the lack of political will to change the economic model. Diez Cabral was speaking at a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the Dominican Traders Federation (FDC).
FDC president Ivan de Jesus Garcia said that the government should gradually phase out the 0.15% tax on checks and money transfers. He used the example of a million peso loan at 18%, which would pay RD$500 a day in interest. However if a supplier were to be paid one million by check, a RD$1,500 charge would be added, or the equivalent of three days interest. As a result, according to Garcia, this tax is forcing traders to use more informal commercial methods, since businesses that work on slender profit margins such as warehouses and distributors see RD$10 million in sales paying RD$15,000 in this tax, which is the cost of two employees. Garcia said that he and his group recognize the fact that in the face of the current decrease in government collections it is simply impossible to eliminate this tax, but that at least it should be removed over the next three years so that traders may operate with more transparency and fluidity.
In a further suggestion, Garcia pointed out that the Social Security fund will end the year with RD$100 billion, RD$70 billion contributed by the commercial sector and RD$30 billion from employees. He suggested that some of this money should be spent on constructing low-cost housing for employees who contribute to the SS. Finally, Garcia questioned the system of workers' severance pay and the fact that the banks are loaning money at 18% and 30% but are only paying 4% interest on certificates of deposit.

Overseas deputies only get 4 years
With surprise and indignation, the overseas Dominican community has learned of the National Revisory Assembly's approval of a transitional disposition, number 13, which changes the election date for overseas deputies to the third week in May 2012. The National Revisory Assembly established that the deputies elected would serve 4-year terms.
The disposition that was approved as part of Title XIII, "Of the General and Transitional Dispositions" says that:
"Thirteen. The deputies to be elected at a national level by accumulation of votes, as well as those representing the overseas Dominican community, will be elected exceptionally on the third Sunday of May 2012, for a period of 4 years".

FINJUS and PC divided on Tribunal
The National Revisory Assembly's decision to limit the Constitutional Tribunal's scope of action has led to a difference of opinion between the country's two main civic groups, the Institutional and Justice Foundation (FINJUS) and Citizen Participation (PC). FINJUS executive vice-president Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman said the decision was "unhealthy" because it limited a citizen's power to appeal and obtain Habeas Corpus. Castanos Guzman said that while it was good that the new tribunal would not decide on cases that had already been through the courts, he questioned the decision to limit the ability to appeal future decisions. He stated that the Constitutional Tribunal acts in a different manner than the other powers of the state, and went on to point out that if the tribunal can review actions of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, "The fact that it cannot review Supreme Court decisions does not make sense."
In contrast, Citizen Participation (PC) believes that the Assembly's decision is significant because these limitations address the fears from some sectors of society with respect to the idea that the tribunal would try and review cases that were already settled by the high court, above all, cases involving people involved in fraud and corruption. PC executive director Javier Cabreja said that the decision to limit the tribunal also prevents confrontations between the two courts.

Illegal charcoal rivals drugs
The illegal commerce in charcoal made from trees on the Dominican side of the border and smuggled to Haiti is now rivaling the drug trade. It is organized and controlled by gangs on both sides of the border. According to people in the area, this was the motive behind the murder of three Haitians in Pedernales last week. Listin Diario reporters learned that charcoal trafficking, either for use in Haiti or for local consumption, rivals the earnings of the drug trade, gun running, contraband appliances, alcoholic beverages or consumer goods such as rice and other forms of illegal trade in the frontier area.
Jimani is the second largest market along the frontier after Dajabon. It is the center for the illegal charcoal trade and the area where gangs fight over territory and where the charcoal ovens are built. There are several actors in the charcoal trade, including the Dominicans who hire Haitians to build the ovens and the Haitians who buy and re-sell the charcoal in Haiti. A RD$1000 bag of charcoal from the DR can fetch RD$1500 in Haiti.

Yamasa remains 'not Almonte'
The remains of one of the two bodies found in a burned-out vehicle in Yamasa are not those of the missing leader of the Dominican Unity Movement (Mundo), Juan Almonte Herrera, according to DNA done in the Patria Rivas Laboratory at journalist Nuria Piera's request.
Initially, one of the victims found in the Mitsubishi appeared to match Almonte's dental records and family members had thought that the body belonged their relative, one of the men the National Police claimed was involved in the kidnapping of young Eduardo Baldera Gomez. The test result complicates the case of Almonte Herrera's disappearance even further, because according to his relatives he was seized by a group of men on 20 September and his vehicle was left abandoned in the street.
In the beginning, before the Baldera Gomez kidnap case had ended with the young man's release, the Police reported that they had detained Almonte Herrera, but this was later changed to a statement saying that he was a fugitive. A Police press release published in El Nacional newspaper on 3 October said: "In relation to this incident (the Baldera kidnapping) the Police arrested Juan Almonte Herrera and seven other people, who have been issued restraining measures".

25 new AH1N1 cases
The Public Health Ministry has confirmed 25 new cases of the AH1N1 influenza over the last three weeks, but says that the number of deaths remains at 22. The ministry issued Bulletin 25 from the Epidemiology Department, saying that there have been 2,693 cases of suspected AH1N1, and of these, 452 have been confirmed and 203 patients have been hospitalized. The health officials said that people under 29 years of age are the most likely victims, with 79% of the cases. Of the fatalities, 82% are women and more than half of them were pregnant, an important risk factor. The provinces with the highest number of cases are the National District with 143 cases, the province of Santo Domingo with 102, Santiago, 61 and Puerto Plata, 27. Likewise, in La Altagracia there have been 21 cases, Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris) 14, San Cristobal 13, Espaillat (Moca) 9, Valverde (Mao) 7, Peravia (Bani) 6, La Vega 5, Monte Cristi 5, and San Pedro de Macoris 4. The flu has affected 30 of the nation's 32 provinces. According to a World Health Organization report, 160,020 cases of the AH1N1 influenza have been confirmed in the 35 countries of Latin America, and 3,539 deaths have been attributed to the illness.

Natural gas on the way
The natural gas era has arrived in the Dominican market. As of next month, the Soluciones en Gas Natural (SGN) Company, part of the Plaza Lama Group, will inaugurate two sales points in Isla gasoline stations. The natural gas service stations will be located at the Isla stations on Maximo Gomez and John F. Kennedy avenues in Santo Domingo. The aim is to open 4 this year, the result of an agreement signed with Isla to gradually convert their stations to sell natural gas, so that all fuels are available in one place. Isla Dominicana has a nationwide chain of gasoline service stations. What is significant is not just the opening of the two new stations, but the benefits in savings for natural gas users. The Group has already begun to distribute natural gas to industries.
This way, for example, vehicular natural gas costs RD$18.09 per cubic meter.
SGN executives Miguel Guerra, Rafael Antonio Ubeda Heded and Dayanne Grullon told Diario Libre that if a driver uses LPG that costs around RD$68.00 a gallon, in order to obtain the same results with natural gas, s/he would need 2.36 cubic meters, which would cost RD$42.69, for a savings of RD$25.31. Compared to premium gasoline, which is RD$153 for a gallon, in order to have the same result, a driver would need 3.38 cubic meters, or RD$61.14 for a savings of RD$90.00. In comparison to regular diesel that costs RD$123, in order to get similar results it would take 3.68 cubic meters of VNG at a cost of RD$18.09, which is the cost at the station, or a total of RD$60.59. Another detail, which is the cost of traveling 1000 kilometers, a VNG vehicle would cost RD$1,425, premium gasoline would cost RD$3,624.93, LPG would cost RD$1,982.88 and diesel would cost RD$2,367.43.
Guerra, Ubeda and Heded said that they have informed the Ministry of Industry and Commerce that they will begin with two stations in November, but their main objective is for the government to use natural gas.
There are ten workshops for converting vehicles to run on natural gas across the country. One, PIMAX, has been authorized, according to the executives.
The other nine shops that do the work are Auto Aire Jimenez, Auto Centro Jimenez, Dominican Glass Repair, Hermanos Duran, Inversiones Penafa and Hermanos Grullon. SGN reached an agreement with Isla Dominicana to operate in their stations due to the high cost of building separate stations just to sell natural gas.

Rains to continue today
The country will experience rains accompanied by thunder and lightening today, caused by the approach of a trough of low pressure that is moving westwards. The effects of the atmospheric phenomenon will be mostly felt in the northeast, southeast and the Central Mountain Range. A report from the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) says that last night the low was located just east of the Lesser Antilles. Onamet said that the thunderstorms and strong winds would continue to be influenced by the low as well as cloud cover over much of the Caribbean. As a result, the meteorological conditions would continue under the effects of the humidity provided by the predominant winds from the east-southeast and the clouds and rains located to the southeast over the waters of the Caribbean. Onamet issued a special warning for residents of Pedernales, Barahona, Independencia, Azua and Peravia (Bani) to be on the lookout for sudden rains.

People back Walkers for Life
The "Walkers for Life 2009" started at 9:00 o'clock yesterday morning with thousands of people accompanied by relatives and friends marching in support of cancer patients. Hoy newspaper says that some 50,000 people took part in the walk. The day, which began at the Plaza de los Heroes and went to the streets close to the Botanical Gardens, is already being described as a huge success. The chant "Yes you can!" echoed in the gardens all morning. There was no traffic to stall the walkers. The organizers had managed to get the authorities to block off the streets. The "Walkers for Life" project aims to raise public awareness of cancer and the funds raised will go to five institutions that work with people who suffer from the disease. Personalities from the political and business world took part in the walk. Frank Reyes, Milly Quezada and Frank Ceara provided the entertainment.

Baseball Round-up
The weekend saw a lot of changes in the Dominican Winter Baseball League standings. The Leones del Escogido got really hot, winning three straight games over the Gigantes del Cibao twice and the Aguilas Cibaenas yesterday. The Estrellas shut out the Tigres del Licey on Friday night, but got beat by the Tigres on Saturday. They lost once again to the Gigantes in San Francisco de Macoris 13-5 in a slugfest. The Aguilas had a bad weekend. The very popular team from Santiago lost to the Toros from La Romana on Friday, and then went home to play the Toros again on Saturday where they lost a pitching duel 2-1. In Santo Domingo the Aguilas fell to the Leones 4-2 on Sunday.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
LICEY 5 - 3 .625 --
ESCOGIDO 5 - 3 .625 --
AZUCAREROS 5 - 3 .625 --
GIGANTES 3 - 5 .375 2.0
ESTRELLAS 3 - 5 .375 2.0
AGUILAS 3 - 5 .375 2.0
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