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Daily News - Monday, 23 November 2009

Fernandez inaugurates El Seibo works
President Leonel Fernandez was in El Seibo, one of the country's poorer provinces, on Saturday to inaugurate an announced RD$600 million in public works. The President cut ribbons on newly paved streets, with sidewalks and gutters, and several stretches of the highways to the cities of Higuey and La Romana. The government contracted merengue stars Ramon Orlando, Kinito Mendez and Sexappeal to provide an aura of celebration to the inaugural events.
The investment, though, could be a major planning mistake. El Dia newspaper reports that 60% of the streets paved in El Seibo will have to be dug up to complete the installation of the sewage system that is so urgently needed in the community. City mayor Reynaldo Valera says that only half the installation of the sewage pipes has been completed. "We are grateful for the paving of the streets, but one of our most serious problems is the lack of sewage pipelines. Most of the houses pipe their sewage straight into the gullies that feed the El Seibo River, adding to pollution," he told El Dia. He said that whoever uses or bathes in the river is doing so in septic water. He said they also urgently need a sewage waste treatment plant because the town's plant has not been operational in 20 years.

What to expect from the IMF
In an interview in Listin Diario, Alejandro Santos, chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to the Dominican Republic, said that growth prospects for 2010 are good, with recovery expected in the second half of the year. He promised that the Stand-by Arrangement the government signed recently would not bring tax reform or new taxes. He told the newspaper that the Central Bank would continue to manage the exchange rate, to prevent sudden shocks. He said the projected level of reserves is consistent with limited interventions in the exchange market. He forecast "sustained yet gradual recovery."
"The program involves implementing anti-cyclical policies during the last quarter of 2009 and the first two quarters in 2010. These policies are designed to stimulate domestic demand by an expansive fiscal position and flexible monetary policy. We expect that these policies will result in a more robust economic growth for the second half of 2010."
He said the government expects to reduce the debt-GDP level in the medium term. The level of debt is estimated to reach 40% of GDP in 2011 to decline to 35% of GDP in 2014, and continue to drop in following years. "To achieve this goal the government goal is a primary surplus of 2% of GDP for the public consolidated sector in 2012 and thereafter," he explained. He forecast the economy would grow 0.5% to 1.5% for 2009, but 2-3% in 2010.
He acknowledges the DR has been affected by the international financial crisis. "Nevertheless, with a growth rate of 1.5% in the first half of the year, and negative inflation, the Dominican economy continues to be one of the best performing economies in Latin America," he said.

Remittances down 12% this year
Freddy Ortiz, president of the Dominican Currency Remittance Companies Association (Aderedi) warns that remittances will be down 12% this year, even more than the 10% drop he forecast in March. This compares to a 6% increase last year and the usual 8-9% annual increases the country experienced from 1995 to 2007. He said that the lull is due to job losses among Dominican migrants living in the US and Spain, who are among the first to feel the effects of the crisis given their low educational level. He said that 82-84% of remittances come from Dominican expats in the US, which is heavily affected by the financial crisis.
As of October this year, family remittances had reached the US$2.279 billion level, according to Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu. Valdez says this is a worldwide phenomenon, and mentioned that Mexico and Guatemala are showing steeper declines of 12.9% and 9.7%, respectively.
An estimated 40% of Dominican families receive remittances. Ortiz said that in some communities many do little more than sit and wait for the remittances to arrive. He gave the examples of towns in the Cibao Valley like Sabana Iglesia and others near the border with Haiti like Vicente Noble and Tamayo where the panorama has changed notably this year.
The decline in remittance levels comes at a time when tourism and industrial free zones contracting revenues have also decreased. Ortiz does not expect recovery to begin until the middle of 2010.

City renews garbage contracts
The National District city council (ADN) has recognized the efficient work of five community foundations in the northern part of the district, and as a result, has renewed their garbage disposal contracts and increased their payments by US$5 per ton, according to Jose Miguel Martinez, director of the city council's urban sanitation department. Martinez told Hoy newspaper that Mayor Roberto Salcedo was pleased with the results of the work by the community organizations in charge of the refuse pick-up and the environment in their local neighborhoods, mostly along the banks of the Ozama River. The community groups use equipment adapted for the narrow alleyways in these low-income neighborhoods. The programs started three years ago with the city paying US$13 dollars a ton for the refuse. The current price is now US$20 per ton. Following an increase in operational costs, the ADN conducted a feasibility study and found that an increase of US$5 a ton was needed in order to continue the clean-up initiatives in these barrios, home to more than 200,000 people.
The city regards these foundations and their good work as a way of preventing the buildup of garbage dumps on street corners and the carpet of refuse along the Ozama River. The community organizations are: the Foundation for the Environmental Clean-up of La Cienega, Guachupita, Los Guandules and 27 de Febrero (FUCOSAGUSCIGUA-27), FUNSACO, FUNDSAZURZA, the Escoba Foundation in the barrio of Capotillo, and the Foundation for the Clean-up of La Puya.

Easier to change ARS
New regulations make it easier to change health service provider known here as ARS. The Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks (Sisalril) has established a new procedure that provides better guarantees to Payroll Contribution for Family Health Insurance affiliates who request transfer from one health provider to another when their access to health care has been affected by slow payments, suspension or denial of service.
The disposition is contained in Resolution176-09 on the process for transferring from an ARS due to delays, suspension or denial of service to affiliates of the Family Health Insurance program.
Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks Fernando Caamano pointed out that while Law 87-01 establishes that affiliates can change from one ARS to another once a year, he says they can also change at any other time when they feel that the service of their health service provider does not satisfy their needs. For instance, if the ARS denied coverage to one or several services covered in the Dominican Program of Social Services, or that due to negligence it did not authorize or administer a procedure, with the exception of cases mentioned in Law 87-01.
Caamano said that the new resolution establishes a mechanism that allows faster processing between the entities involved in the transfer request and the company that is processing the Dominican Social Security System database, Unipago.
The resolution establishes that the affiliate can request a transfer if they or any of their dependents have been denied health service for an unjustifiable reason such as non-payment by the ARS to the Social Security Plan. Other reasons are when the lead affiliate or their dependents are subject to periods of minimum payments that are not in the law or the regulations or when coverage is denied to them or their dependents or reasons of age, pre-existing conditions, genetic or hereditary conditions in violation of the legal dispositions contained in Law 87-01 and its regulations.

Blue Mall ready for summer
Venezuelan investor Luis Emilio Velutini has told Listin Diario that the Blue Mall shopping center that is being built on Gustavo Mejia Ricart and Winston Churchill avenues with an investment of US$100 million will be opening up in time for summer 2010. He said that 100% of the commercial units have been rented. The mall will bring many new brand stores to the Dominican market.
He also announced that starting next year they would also begin construction of the Blue Mall Punta Cana, covering a total area of 100,000 square meters and with 33,000 square meters of store space, a US$60 million investment.

Williams slapped with Senate censure
In a rare case of Senate censure, the Dominican upper house has issued a public rebuke for one of its members, the senator from San Pedro de Macoris, Alejandro Williams, for "his inappropriate actions" against three Dominican journalists, including the editor in chief of Listin Diario. In an 8-point declaration, the Senate described Williams' actions as "attacks on press freedom", when he tried to find the sources of information for stories written by Maria Isabel Soldevila of Listin Diario, Margarita Cordero and Norma Shepard about alleged problems that the usually-absent senator had pending with Medicare investigators in the United States.
Williams runs dental clinics in New York and when stories appeared about some irregularities linked to his clinics he sent henchmen "disguised as FBI agents" to threaten the journalists. The Senate ordered the Note of Censure to be published in all the nation's newspapers. Williams attended just one of the Senate commission's 9 sessions, accompanied by his lawyer and refusing to comment on any of the accusations in the newspaper articles.

Cold cases nothing new here
Twice dead. That is how dozens of people who were murdered remain, and their judicial cases seem to have followed them to the grave, reports Diario Libre. Nobody talks about them, despite the fact that they made headline news in their time. And, even worse, those responsible for the deaths were never caught, in clear cases of impunity, often supported by the deficiencies of the judicial system, according to some specialists.
The most recent commotion tends to obscure the previous one, as if it were destiny's strategy to shut them up. These include the case of Vianessa Capellan Perez, known as Vianca La Gorda, who was shot dead last December. No one has been apprehended or charged with the murder of the 38-year old woman, said to be a famous madam.
Also, last June, engineer Hector Virgilio Ortega Castillo was murdered in the Hotel Jaragua and not even one suspect has been detained for questioning, despite the fact that the police said they had good information and leads in the case.
The same plight surrounds the case of National Drug Control Department (DNCD) agent Guillermo Antonio Tejada, murdered by persons unknown in San Cristobal on 28 March. His killers are thought to be involved in drug trafficking.
Those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Caucedo Multimodal Port employee Ramon Argenida Guerra Florian, who manned the surveillance camera, have not been caught either. This crime took place in March this year.
Other cases in limbo include that of Civil Aviation Institute official Angel Christopher Martinez after he ordered the grounding of planes owned by Dominican airlines on suspicions linking these to drug trafficking, lawyer and leading PLD member Federico Nina and Santiago cameraman Normando Garcia.
Daniel Pou, a sociologist and public safety specialist, says that most cases remain unsolved due to deficiencies in the system. One example of this is the lack of coordination between the work of the Prosecutor General Office and the National Police, as well as excessive judicial bickering, hindering their ability to handle and keep track of every case.
The specialist warns that impunity reigns due to the scant attention given to these cases. "There is a reticence about crossing certain lines that could complicate the cases, and the case is shelved, because when it reaches a certain stage, it could cause problems and lead to questions about powerful figures", he said. Pou also asked why in so many cases the role of the Justice Department has to be performed by the affected party, the only ones who keep track of the case.
He maintained that the changes to the Penal Procedures Code would not resolve the problems of the justice system without a Prosecutor General staffed with officers with solid training to respond to society, and a professional police force to carry out investigations without having to respond to special interest groups or influential persons, as reported in Diario Libre.

US donates 25,000 tons of wheat
The Dominican government will receive 25,000 tons of wheat worth US$7 million, following an agreement signed by Economy, Planning & Development Minister Temistocles Montas and the United States Embassy Charge d'Affaires Christopher Lambert. A Ministry news release said that the income from the wheat sales would be used to strengthen the country's capacity to trade and compete on world markets with Dominican agricultural products. According to the US diplomat, the funds will be used to improve laboratory facilities and the capacity to use analytical methods, and to develop vegetable and animal health standards.

PUCMM earthquake conference
Expert seismologists and structural engineers are warning that a least a dozen public and private buildings in Santo Domingo and in the province of Santiago are highly vulnerable to earthquakes, as reported in La Informacion. The experts attribute the situation to the poor technology and quality of materials and workmanship used in their construction. They claim that these buildings include schools, hospitals and other places where people congregate.
The issue was discussed during a conference on the Evaluation of the Buildings of Santo Domingo and Santiago, held as part of an international seminar on Seismic Resistance and Engineering that took place over the weekend at the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) main campus in Santiago de los Caballeros. Delegations from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina attended the event, as well as the host country.
The experts said that the Cabral y Baez Regional University Hospital, the main health center in the north of the country, does not provide even a minimum guarantee of safety in the case of a seismic event. Neither does the headquarters of the Fire Department in Santiago.
Pedro Reyes, professor of engineering at the UNPHU, said that over 60% of buildings under construction in Santo Domingo do not meet official standards. The engineers gave the example of the building housing the Salome Urena Institute for Young Women in the Ciudad Nueva sector, which although nearly a century old is paradoxically much better built than many new constructions.
The conference was sponsored by the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA) with the participation of the UTESA, UNPHU and PUCMM university engineering schools.

Weak front to bring rains
Don't forget your umbrella today. According to the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) there is a weak low front over the Windward Passage that will cause light rains in the northeast, the north, over the central mountains and along the frontier. The Onamet bulletin said that the winds would be predominantly from the east-southeast, bringing lots of clouds and brief rain showers to the eastern region. Although Onamet has lifted the small craft warnings for the Atlantic coast and around Samana Bay, it is warning that small craft should stay close to the coast due to high waves caused by minor storms.

Comedy at Casa de Teatro
One of the most popular comedies by Argentinian playwright Hugo Marcos will be staged at Casa de Teatro in Santo Domingo this week. Starting on Wednesday, 25 November, the comedy that hails from successful presentations at the Navarrete Culture House First Festival in the US and the IX Candilejas Theater Festival in New York will open for Dominican audiences. It is being performed by the Las Tablas theater group of New York and is directed by Yolanny Rodriguez and Zulaika Velazquez. After Santo Domingo, it will move on to Santiago.

Baseball round-up
On Friday night at Santo Domingo's venerable Estadio Quisqueya, John Halama turned in another fine pitching performance and Cory Castro hit a spectacular 3-run homerun to guide the Aguilas to a 6-1 victory over the Tigres de Licey.
In San Pedro de Macoris, Nerio Rodriguez pitched near-perfect ball, allowing just one hit and a base on balls over 6 innings and the Leones del Escogido defeated the Estrellas Orientales 6-0. In San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao triumphed 6-1 over the league-leading Toros del Este. Jose Capellan tossed 6 innings of excellent baseball, giving up just 4 hits and striking out 6, as the Gigantes won handily.
On Saturday, the Toros went to Santo Domingo to meet the Tigres de Licey and were defeated by a score of 6-5 on a single in the seventh inning by catcher Matt Tupman that brought in the winning run. Oneli Perez got the save with good pitching in the ninth.
In San Pedro de Macoris the Estrellas Orientales are learning to lose games in many different ways. For the third consecutive game the opening pitcher for the Estrellas was knocked out of the box with 6 runs and only one out in the very first inning. Although the remaining pitchers gave up only one run in 8 2/3 innings, the damage was already done and the Estrellas fell to the Gigantes by a score of 7-1.
In Santiago, a larger than usual crowd came to see the Indios de Mayaguez (Puerto Rico) play the Aguilas Cibaenas in the start up of inter-league action. Thanks to a bases-loaded hit by Dionys Cesar in the bottom half of the ninth inning the Aguilas were able to eke out a victory, 5-4. Fiery Julian Tavarez pitched 5 good innings, giving up just one run on 4 hits with 4 strikeouts.
In Puerto Rico, the Leones del Escogido defeated the Gigantes de Carolina 3-1 with 2 hits by Carlos Gomez.
On Sunday in the old Quisqueya Stadium, the Tigres de Licey took vengeance for Friday's loss and beat the Aguilas 3-2 behind very good pitching by Ramon Ortiz and timely hits by Willie Mo Pena and Timo Perez. The Aguilas got off to a 2-0 lead in the very first inning but Licey came back with a 2-run homer by Willie Mo in the bottom half to tie the score. Later, in the fifth inning Timo Perez drove in the winning run with a double.
The game between Escogido and the Lobos de Arecibo was postponed due to rain.
In San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao were able to defeat the Toros del Este once again (7-4) and climb to within half a game of the vital fourth place slot in the standings. In San Pedro de Macoris, the Estrellas Orientales were able to win a game! This time it was against the Indios de Mayaguez, by a score of 6-4, and coming from behind.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 18 - 11 .621 --
AZUCAREROS 18 - 12 .600 0.5
LICEY 17 - 12 .586 1.0
AGUILAS 14 - 16 .467 4.0
GIGANTES 13 - 16 .448 4.5
ESTRELLAS 10 - 20 .333 8.0
Today's game
* Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya: 7:30pm. Gigantes (F. Castro) vs. Licey (J. MacDonald)
For the schedule on upcoming games and other events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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