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Daily News - Thursday, 05 November 2009

Proposals to improve energy sector
Speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, Celso Marranzini, vice president of the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE), called for ridding the energy sector of politics, as reported in Listin Diario. In his talk on the "Present and Future of the Electricity Sector in the DR", he mentioned the installation of new meters using financing from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). He said this would be part of the new efforts to improve collections and reduce the distributors' losses. He said that distribution and generation should be in private hands. The CDEEE is currently responsible for power distribution in most of the national grid, with the exception of pockets of privatized areas in La Romana, Samana and Punta Cana. Marranzini says that transmission and hydroelectric power generation should continue to be government-run.
Marranzini suggested that pension funds could be used for the electricity sector.
He also spoke out about enforcing the electricity law that establishes a limit on the term of the present Superintendent of Electricity, calling for a change of superintendent.
He mentioned plans for 600 megawatts in a natural gas-fired generator in Manzanillo, and work entrusted to SCN Lavalin for installation of 150 megawatts that should be available by 2011.
As reported in Diario Libre, he said that when he took office two months ago, the debt with the generators was more than US$500 million, with six months in arrears. The CDEEE and affiliates also held commercial debt for US$1.0 billion. He said in his first 75 days on the job, he had reduced sector expenses by RD$44.6 million a month, a 40% reduction compared to the former periods. Furthermore, he announced the state subsidy to the sector was reduced from US$65 million a month in August to US$23 million for this October, while at the same time covering 90% of commitments with generators.
Marranzini cited the fact that in August collections were RD$4.15 billion, for a 23.5% increase. He commented the country loses US$3.0 billion a year due to inefficiency in the sector.

Pay up or go to jail
November 17 looks to be a day of reckoning for the DR's energy sector. It will confirm whether Celso Marranzini can actually back up his big reform talk. On that day the 15-day period for consumers with illegal electricity connections to "standardize" their situations will come to an end and, according to Marranzini, who says he will implement the law that penalizes energy theft.
The two looming questions about Marranzini's threat is whether the DR courts have the resolve to follow through with the prosecution of energy thieves and whether Marranzini and the courts will judge the larger companies and richer individuals in the DR who evade electricity payments in the same way as the smaller non-paying companies and individuals.
Marranzini, vice president of the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) made his comments during a luncheon meeting at the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). He said that once the 15-day grace period was over, the matter would go to the courts.

Debt on the rise
The DR's non-financial public debt for the third trimester was registered at US$11.435 billion, an increase of US$117.4 million. This is a 1% increase from the levels registered on 30 June. In a report given to Congress by Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, the DR has received US$505.9 million in foreign direct investment. From those funds US$224.9 million has been directed towards investment projects and US$281 million went towards budgetary support.

Gigantism in government?
Business and civil society experts agree that the size of government is already at a fiscally unsustainable scale. But now proposed changes to Law 176-07 could make matters even worse, according to Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman. Castanos says that the modifications would mean an increase in the number of municipal employees that would create a "gigantism" in government with unnecessary and disproportionate number of government offices. The bill has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and Castanos fears that its implementation would have repercussions on the electoral administration process and on the municipal budgets. The JCE president says that before approving these changes, which could lead to more nepotism and excess employment, legislators should ask themselves what the real benefits of these changes would be.

Political parties and democracy
In today's Diario Libre, editor Adriano Miguel Tejada writes that Dominican political parties have become estranged from democratic ways. "They are, in themselves, instruments of manipulation and political mobilization of the elite, feeding on the entities that control them, and for that reason and because they have no fundamental ideological reasons among them, they have become sources of personal enrichment for their leaders at different levels and in obstacles for the development of public policies that can make a difference for the large majority," he writes.
He sums up: "The national political parties have become enemies of democracy, even if they use the tools of a democratic system to achieve their objectives."
Tejada puts into words what many Dominicans have been thinking: "Will democracy and national prosperity have to do without the political parties in their present state and seek ways that are more participative and attract people less tainted by corruption, to achieve the regeneration the country needs?"

Doctors resume talks
The DR's doctors have left the picket line once again and are resuming talks with the government in a latest attempt to resolve their ongoing wage and benefits dispute. The doctors had been barricaded in a health center opposite the Presidential Palace. The doctors at the center had some minor confrontations with police, but after a meeting with journalists Miguel Franjul and Danny Alcantara the doctors decided to return to the negotiation table with Public Health Minster Bautista Gomez Rojas. Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero said that the doctors were confident that a conclusion to the dispute was imminent. The CMD has used all forms of non-violent protest over the last year and half to get the government to respond to its demands, so far to no avail.

Dengue preventable
Dengue has once again become a cause for concern, but Dr. Clemente Terrero Reyes of the Robert Reid Children's hospital says the spike in dengue cases could have been prevented had there been better coordination between the Ministry of Public Health and the municipal authorities. Terrero says that had there been efforts to fumigate and clean in specific areas that are known to breed the mosquito that transmits the diseases the rise could have been avoided.
The DR's mortality rate is still many times higher compared to other countries like Mexico and Puerto Rico. The difference demonstrates how the disease has affected the DR in 2009. Terrero added that too often dengue sufferers are only diagnosed when it is too late. Furthermore, the figures also appear to show that Dominican public hospitals have not been able to complete the time-consuming process of constantly monitoring the patient, which is essential when treating dengue.
While there have been 4,800 cases of dengue in the DR, there have been 40 deaths. This contrasts with 120,542 cases in Mexico and only 5 deaths there, and 3,877 cases in Puerto Rico and 1 death, according to the Pan American Health Organization, as reported in El Dia.

Leptospirosis rears its head
The Ministry of Public Health has confirmed that the three deaths reported this week in the province of Bahoruco were caused by leptospirosis. There has been a great deal of concern in Bahoruco since 22 other people have since been confirmed as suffering from leptospirosis. Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that although the situation is under control and they know it is a minor outbreak, samples have been sent to the US Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia for further study. The victims had all attended the same family gathering before falling ill.

Killer rapper gets time
Rapper Jean Luis Valdez has been sent to jail for one year's preventive custody for the brutal motel murder of media personality Miky Breton. Earlier this week Valdez admitted to Breton's killing after a sexual encounter on Sunday did not go as planned. In an interesting twist of self promotion, as Valdez was being hauled off to jail he was heard telling onlookers to look out for his album that is coming out at some point next year.

Dominican men cheat
The perception that Dominican men are unfaithful to their wives might be the elephant in the room, but a study by Omnicom Media Group is proving some initial figures into how big the elephant really is. According to the survey of 2,400 people, 73% of men admitted cheating on their partners, while only 26% of women admitted to their infidelity. There is a 5% margin of error in the study, one of few on Dominican sexual behavior. Participants logged on to comportamientosexual.org and filled out a quick questionnaire, which was then evaluated by Omnicom.

It wasn't Pedro's day
The hype was bigger than the man and his myth. Pedro Martinez walked into the shadows of his legacy with a wave to the New York Yankee crowd, in what can only be deemed a disappointing end to his season, and maybe his career. Martinez came with his moxie, but Hideki Matsui, the anti-Pedro, equalized Pedro and etched another chapter in Yankee post-season history. The Bombers pounded on the Phillies, last night, and gave New York its 27th World Series title. The plots and sub-plots were many, but the 7-3 pounding reassured fans never to wager against the Yankees in the World Series. Although the victory will be shared and savored by all in Yankee Universe, Alex Rodriguez, a previous post-season goat, will enjoy not having the post-season burden on his back anymore. It's been nine seasons since the Yankees' last championship. Martinez seemed uncomfortable from the beginning, failing to get into a real groove. His first mistake was giving up a 2-run home run to Matsui, who ended the night with a record 6 RBI and became the first Japanese-born player to win an MVP. For Pedro's legion of fans, they are left with the memories of what he once was.

MLB donates
Continuing with their presence and support for youth in the DR, yesterday, Major League Baseball, through their local offices donated US$200,000 worth of shoes and baseball equipment. The items will be donated to local institutions that support baseball and softball teams. Ronaldo Peralta, MLB office director in the DR, will help distribute the equipment to all the beneficiary organizations.

Baseball scores
There were no shifts in the standings last night except for a minor change at the bottom with the Gigantes, Aguilas and Estrellas all moving in to a tie for last place. They are all 4 games behind the surprising leaders, the Azucareros. The Aguilas are trying to get on a hot streak and beat the Toros 2-0, while the Gigantes pounced on the Leones 4-1. Finally, the Estrellas Orientales were beaten by the Tigres, 7-2. For baseball game schedules and more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
AZUCAREROS 10 - 5 .667 0.0
ESCOGIDO 9 - 6 .600 1.0
LICEY 8 - 7 .533 2.0
ESTRELLAS 6 - 9 .400 4.0
AGUILAS 6 - 9 .400 4.0
GIGANTES 6 - 9 .400 4.0
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