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Daily News - Wednesday, 25 November 2009

RD$379 billion budget
The Executive Branch has sent the budget for 2010 to Congress. The budget is for RD$379 billion, up from RD$328 billion for 2009. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa and Budget Director Luis Hernandez submitted the budget to Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez. For the government, this is a most likely a record early delivery of the budget to Congress for deliberations.
The budget bill will now be studied by a commission made up of legislators from both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The budget allocates 72.6% to current expenditures and 27.4% to capital investments. The budget contemplates RD$263 million in tax collections and donations, and RD$115.9 million in credits. The budget contemplates donations for RD$4.1, and internal revenues for RD$258.9 billion, or 14.3% of the GDP.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa said that the government estimates inflation in 2010 to be at 7.2% and an exchange rate of RD$37.5 to the US$1 with the price per barrel of petroleum at US$72. He said the budget was prepared taking into consideration the signing of the International Monetary Fund Stand-by Arrangement that recommends reducing current spending, increasing public investment and social expenditures.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa justified the RD$50 billion increase in the budget of 2010 and 2009 by saying that it would be used in construction works and social spending.
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas rejected accusations that the funds would go towards supporting the political campaigns for the PLD candidates in the 2010 May municipal and congressional election. He said that spending on payroll should not exceed 4% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Just more money for government
As legislators prepare to discuss the 2010 budget, El Caribe journalist Hector Linares points out that the Dominican budget is always on a path of continuous growth. According to the writer, the DR budget will grow ten-fold between 2010 and 2020. And if the budget of 1990 is any indication, by 2020 the DR's budget will have grown 63-fold. Between 1990 and 1996, increases in the budget were slight, but since 1996 budget balloons have been more pronounced. The 1990 budget was for RD$6.7 billion, by 1996 it had grown to RD$24.7 billion, in 1997 it was RD$33 billion, while the 2010 budget is expected to be at RD$263 billion, according to El Caribe. While the government has been more efficient in generating revenue, especially through improved tax collections, a growing culture of clientelism, unrestrained public sector employment and benefits for government employees are prevalent in the use of revenues. Despite the bonanza in revenues, problems in key areas such as electricity, security, education and medical services have not seen improvements to reflect the amount of increased revenues the government has been handling.

Government wants more city councilors
The Senate and Chamber of Deputies have given priority to changing Law 176-07 to increase the number of city councilors for the National District and municipalities that will be elected in the May 2010 municipal election. The changes now increase city councilors to 5 for populations with up to 25,000 inhabitants, to 7 for municipalities with up to 50,000 inhabitants and to 9 for those with 75,000 and 11 for those with more than 100,000. Those with more than 100,000 can elect a city councilor for each increment of 50,000 and thereafter for each 25,000 increment. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) rejects the decision on the grounds that it will increase the government expenditures, in addition to inconveniencing the JCE in having to accommodate the increase in elected officials for the 2010 election.

Financial system grows
The DR's financial system grew by 8.8% in 2009, with assets increasing from RD$597 billion to RD$649 billion, for an overall liquid increase of RD$52 billion. Bank Superintendent Haivanjoe NG Cortinas said that this is proof that the DR has overcome the problems caused by the international financial crisis and that there is renewed public confidence. He said that in the last year the private sector has had a credit participation of 86% while the government share has been of 14%.
Of the total to the private sector, RD$229.7 billion was in loans to commerce sector, or 60% of the total RD$381 billion lent in 2009 from January to October. 22% of the total went to consumer loans or RD$85.1 billion and 17.3% to mortgage loans, as reported in Listin Diario.
Ng Cortinas forecast an increase in borrowing now that interest rates are dropping.

Toxic substances still imported
The DR is signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Montreal Protocol that limit the use or importation of deadly pesticides and substances. Despite all this, the importation of several toxic substances persists. Hoy attributes the situation to a weak legal and judicial system and inadequate controls on the Haitian/Dominican border.
For instance, bromothane (bromuro de metilo) is still being used to fumigate imported cargo shipments, according to the newspaper. A known carcinogen, the substance has been banned in the DR since 1991. Furosa is the only company that imports the substance.
Another powerful herbicide, Paraquat, is consistently imported to the DR. Its users argue there is no other powerful alternative to use for flower crop fumigation.
Hoy also reports that as of 2004 there have been reported cases on the use of lindane, a substance prohibited by the Stockholm Convention. Hoy reports that as recently as 2005 traces of DDT were found in Constanza, a major farming area, and that Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which are also on the prohibited list, are commonly used by the DR's energy sector. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitators and other electrical equipment because they don't burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the US in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can lead to harmful health effects.
According to Elsa Ferreras from the Ministry of Environment's Toxic Substance and Dangerous Residuals Department, the reason these substances still enter the DR is because as a developing country there are not enough funds to monitor for substances that have been discontinued.

Men living longer
Life expectancy for Dominican men is up this year compared to last.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), life expectancy for men is now at 70 years, up from 69.4 in 2008. Life expectancy is at 75.6 for women, the same level as in 2008. The maternal mortality rate remained at 159 per 100,000 births, while infant mortality went from 29 to 28 deaths per 1,000 live births. The birthrate for women between 15 and 19 years old went from 108 to 109 per 1,000 live births. The HIV/AIDS rate for people between the ages of 15 and 49 is at 1.1.
The report indicates that 66% of all men and 71% of women have at least a 5th grade education. And 72% of men and 87% of women have at least a secondary education. Illiteracy rates dropped from 13% for men and women in 2008, to 11.2% for men and 10.5% for women in 2009.
The report reveals that the DR's population now totals 10.2 million with a 1.4% growth rate and a 2.6% death rate. Seventy percent of the DR's population is urban.

Plastic surgery clinic closed
Following a Ministry of Public Health recommendation the Prosecutor General Office has closed the Clinica Brasil on Av. Paseo de Locutores 62 in Evaristo Morales, where Dr. Johan Tapia Bueno was practicing medicine. Tapia turned himself over to Police voluntarily and is currently under arrest at the Palace of Justice in Ciudad Nueva, Santo Domingo. The clinic was located on the first floor of an apartment building. Tapia is known as the doctor who botched TV personality Hermes Meccariello's plastic surgery. Now it has come to light that Tapia could also be held responsible for botched surgeries on other female patients.
Diario Libre reports that Tapia is neither a licensed surgeon nor is he registered to perform surgery in any part of the DR. He is not a member of the Dominican Plastic Surgery Society (SODOCIPRE) either.
Interviewed by TV journalist Alicia Ortega, Tapia said he had studied medicine in Brazil. Yesterday, the authorities seized a variety of surgical equipment from the clinic.

Feminicide rate down
A report by the DR's Prosecutor General Office has found that the number of women murdered has decreased in the DR. A total of 145 cases of deaths were registered during the first 11 months of 2009, compared to 204 in 2008. This is a decrease of 59 deaths. The highest number of deaths was registered in the National District, with 13, followed by Santiago, Samana, Puerto Plata and La Romana, with 5 each.

Ecstasy component confiscated
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has announced the confiscation of a shipment of 250 kilograms of phenylacetic acid, a chemical product used to prepare the drug known as "ecstasy" and amphetamines. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron said the product, which was seized at the Las Americas International Airport, had been imported from India by husband and wife Nicanor Rodriguez and Magalys Esther Rivas, consigned to the company Surgikon Pharma. The couple was arrested by the DNCD on 30 October when they tried to send more than 900,000 ecstasy pills to Honduras. That shipment, which had been imported from France, was confiscated with the help of French agents. Lebron said this is the first time this product has been confiscated. He said that a permit from the DNCD and the Ministry of Public Health is required in order to import this product. However, the company did not have this permit. The substance was intended for shipment to Honduras.

Raphael de Espana
Legendary Spanish singer Raphael de Espana has included Santo Domingo and Santiago in his "50 years in Song" anniversary tour. He will perform at the Centro Espanol in Santiago on 26 November and at the Palacio de los Deportes in Santo Domingo on the 28 November. Sell-out crowds are expected. Raphael recently released his 50 years anniversary CD where he sings duets of popular songs with other Hispanic musical legends.
See www.dr1.com/calendar for more current events.

El Hombre's MVP
There was really no surprise here. Albert Pujols has been named this year's National League MVP. This is Pujols' second straight MVP year and third overall. He joins some exclusive company. If there was ever any doubt of his talent, Pujols has all but erased those doubts, and in the process etched his name into the history books. All fans are waiting for is that when he retires he can be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Pujols' MVP award is even more spectacular considering that he obtained all of the 32 first place votes, a feat not achieved since 2002, when Barry Bonds did it. Only seven men have won the MVP award three or more times, with Bonds taking the award seven total times.
Asked about how he felt Pujols said, "Wow, I'm in the same place as Stan Musial." "It's pretty special to be on the same list with those guys." Pujols had a season for the ages, leading the NL in homeruns, with 47. He had a .658 slugging percentage, best in baseball, and a .443 on base percentage, which was second in baseball. The man also batted .327 and pushed in 135 RBI. Pujols will receive a US$200,000 for his post-season award and will enjoy his off-season with another piece of hardware. Pujols has had off-season elbow surgery to remove bone chips from the elbow. The man known as "El Hombre," has a US$16 million contract for 2010 and a club option for 2011. Pujols said he would like to retire with the Cardinals.

The baseball scores
The Leones keep on roaring and to the surprise of many are a mid-season favorite for a post-season birth. As any baseball mind will tell you, it's not tough to get to the top, it's hard staying there.
The Escogido took advantage of the Toros, yesterday, eking out a 4-3 win. Good teams always find different ways to win. In last night's other games the Gigantes clobbered the Tigres 10-, while the Estrellas finally got a win, over the equally lowly Aguilas, 4-3.
For the schedule of upcoming games, see www.dr1.com/calendar
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 19 - 11 .633 --
AZUCAREROS 18 - 13 .581 1.5
LICEY 17 - 14 .548 2.5
GIGANTES 15 - 16 .484 4.5
AGUILAS 14 - 17 .452 5.5
ESTRELLAS 11 - 20 .355 8.5
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