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Daily News - Thursday, 10 December 2009

The holidays are here
Although the holiday season in the DR starts in late November, the "official" start to the holiday season is the day the government disburses holiday bonuses. Today an estimated RD$6 billion will begin to circulate in Christmas wages paid by public institutions. This doesn't include the regular salaries that employees receive on the 15th, 25th and 30th of the month. In all, RD$50 billion in "extra" money will be in circulation. The private sector will pay out an estimated RD$21 billion, the public sector will pay out RD$12 billion, and the informal sector will generate RD$17 billion for a RD$50 billion total of extra funds. According to the National Treasury, 90% of all payments will be made electronically.

The DR's tragedy
World Bank DR country representative Roberto Adrian Senderowitsch admits that the DR's greatest tragedy is that despite sustained high levels of growth it has not been able to reduce levels of social inequity. Senderowitsch told Hoy that the country had maintained annual growth rates of 8% and 9% but was not able to significantly lower poverty or reduce social inequality. He said that there needed to be a change in the quality of government spending if this is to change.
Senderowitsch says that the WB is not concerned about the DR's debt levels because this represents 36% of its GDP. He continued by saying that the DR's debt is under control and that all the government is doing is following through with a plan of public spending, "because investment can't stop at a time of crisis. But what is important is that it should be quality [investment]."
Senderowitsch said that when a country applies for a loan, its sustainability in the short and long term is studied and if the country doesn't pass, the loan isn't approved. The DR has had US$650 million in loans approved by the World Bank in the last two years, with most of the funds being directed towards the energy sector.

DR and France
The Dominican Republic has joined French initiatives in the fight against drugs and will designate a permanent liaison to their Fight Against Drugs Program, based in Martinique. This is another step forward in joint efforts between both countries to fight the drug trade in the Caribbean. The agreement was made during President Leonel Fernandez's recent trip to France.

IDB donates money
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has donated US$700,000 in funds to the DR that will be used to fund teaching programs and evaluating basic levels of education in the DR. The program will be implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education. Listin Diario reports that US$250,000 will be given to the Ministry of Education and a further US$350,000 will be given to the Ministry of Higher Education. The IDB funds are part of their Fight Against Poverty Program, as part of the their support towards the fulfillment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Montas defends debt
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas has once again come out in defense of the debt being taken on by the government, justifying it in the context of the international financial crisis.
He added that the private business sector has seen a paralysis on a global level and government needed to take steps to stimulate the economy. About 30.3% of the 2010 budget is made up of loans, an estimated RD$115 billion, out of an RD$378.9 billion budget.
Montas made his comments in response to a paid advertisement by the opposition PRD party that criticized debt-taking by the Fernandez administration.

PRD on government performance
The PRD opposition political party says that with the RD$379 billion of the 2010 budget included, the PLD government will have received RD$1.7 trillion in revenues from 2004-2010 but has not resolved any of the problems that affect Dominicans.
The PRD says that: "Hundreds of jobs have been destroyed, thousands of companies have gone bankrupt, crime is at its highest levels in Dominican history, food prices are unaffordable for households, blackouts and the electricity sector are unprecedented, the quality of Dominican public education is regarded by the World Economic Forum as the worst in the world, public health collapses with the indifference of a government that is postponing the fair demands of doctors, transport, despite the enormous resources spent on the metro, is in chaos, corruption, the highest in Dominican history is on the rise, drug trafficking prevails, despite the PLD's rhetoric declaring that this would not happen, and it has found its main protector and ally in this PLD government."
The PRD says that the 2010 budget violates several laws. [Vicente Bengoa, minister of Hacienda, admitted that 24 laws that allocate percentages of budgeted funds to specific sectors or programs are being violated by the 2010 Budget.]
On the public debt, the political party says that for the second consecutive year, the Budget exhibits a serious fiscal deficit for RD$47.8 billion, that if the arrears on interest payments by the Central Bank (RD$14.5 billion) are included it will come to RD$62.3 billion. The results couldn't have been worse when one takes into account that in 2009 a deficit of RD$30.8 billion was budgeted, but this ended up at RD$68 billion including the arrears on payment of interest by the Central Bank.
Says the PRD: The fiscal deficit will be financed by a substantial increase in the public debt, which will reach US$20.3 billion by the end of 2010. The level of debt taking included in the budget for RD$115.9 billion, or 31% of the budget, is the highest in history. For every 100 pesos in tax or donation revenues that the government will receive, the government will receive 45 additional pesos in internal and external loans, which is proof of the uncontrollable adiction to taking on debt by the government and the PLD Congress. This debt total does not include the forecasted increase of RD$2.5 billion in the Central Bank's debt, given the PLD government's decision not to pay interests to the Central Bank on the recapitalization bonds. When that amount is included, the total indebtedness for 2010 will total more than RD$140 billion.
The PRD criticizes the fact that the money has been used to pay for "botellas" (jobs for political appointees) in government. The party says that even the Ministry of Hacienda had to admit the government did not have money to pay its public employees in November or December and was only able to do so thanks to the support of loans from the IMF, the IDB and the World Bank. As is observed, the PLD government is taking on debt not only to increase the number of beneficiaries of its Solidarity program, but also to pay a padded government payroll.

Responding to Andy Dauhajre
Writing in today's Listin Diario, economic advisor to the Central Bank Olga Diaz Mora explains how come Central Bank figures show growth when Tax Department (DGII) indicators have declined. She was challenging recent comments by Andres Dauhajre, former economic adviser to the Hipolito Mejia government. She says that there are no contradictions between CB and DGII stats. She explains that the economy responded to the prudential monetary measures that were adopted at the end of 2008 and throughout 2009, which enabled the country to mitigate the effects of the US financial crisis.
"As I have explained on previous occasions, a country's economic growth is measured in constant prices. For this reason it is incorrect to use the sales reported by the DGII at current prices and compare those to the value added of activities at constant prices, especially in the light of the low levels of inflation reported this year".
She says that no country uses the sales tax levels of economic activities to calculate economic growth. She explains that the DGII records are not automatically comparable with how the Gross Domestic Product is measured because reported sales only include companies that are paying taxes and in the national accounts.
Following recommendations of the National Accounts Manual SCN93, the Central Bank quantifies all the transactions in the economy, including informal businesses that do not pay taxes and that employ 56% of the active labor force in this country.
She complained that Andres Dauhajre selectively used indicators to reflect the least growth and confuse readers by presenting a scenario of economic recession.
Among the measures that activated the economy, she mentions: liberalization of the exchange reserve to stimulate financing of farming, construction, local manufacturing and small business sectors, for their effect on the creation of jobs and economic reactivation. She said this resulted in a decline in the interest rate, and the recovery of the financing of the private sector that grew by RD$33 billion between April and November 2009, which is a reflection of the economic growth registered in the first nine months of the year.
Furthermore, she highlights that the farming sector was one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy, but this is not reflected in DGII stats because this sector does not pay taxes.
She makes the point that tax revenues were down because of a decline in consumer goods imports for US$1.58 billion, while at the same time there was an increase of 30% in imports of goods that were exempt from paying taxes, according to the Competitiveness Law and other laws.

Marranzini pushes for privatization
Vice president of the State-owned Electric Companies (CDEEE) is once again expressing his support for the privatization of the nation's energy distributors, arguing that this is the best option for the sector to recover. He added that the role of private investment in the generation sector must be increased to reduce the perception that investing in generation is risky business.
Marranzini also criticized the government's continuing subsidies to the energy sector, calling them large sums that become losses. He says that the US$3 billion given yearly to the energy sector is equivalent to the level of remittances the DR receives each year.

Follow up on port conflict
The Dominican Port Authority (Apordom) announced yesterday that it was lifting the embargo against power generation and shipping companies on condition that they pay for leasing space in port areas in the future. El Caribe quotes Apordom Public relations director Alicia Custals, as saying that the embargo would be lifted. The embargo affected Ege Haina and Seaboard. Zaida Lugo Lovaton, executive director of the Dominican Association of Electric Industry said that the companies had not reached an agreement with Apordom. She said that this year they received bills totaling millions of pesos from Apordom for the use of port areas by electricity barges. In a press release, Apordom says that on Tuesday, AES-Andres and Itabo power plants made payments of almost RD$20 million and the Dominican Association of Shippers agreed to pay balances on its debts from 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Security conference
The Caribbean Nations Security Conference, coordinated by the US Southern Command, is meeting with senior Caribbean security officials at the Hotel Santo Domingo. The annual conference focuses on improving security cooperation in the region, with discussions on drugs, human and weapons trafficking in the Caribbean. According to the US Southern Command, 90% of the cocaine and 40% of heroin that moves through the Caribbean is shipped here from South America. Of that, 5% will enter the US.

Cocaine confiscated in La Romana
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has confiscated 51 packages of cocaine, 24 of which were in a freight container that was going to be transported on Leviston flight LM-107 to Milan's Malpensa Airport from the La Romana International Airport. The drugs were packaged in newspapers and covered with menthol. The drug was found by members of the Information and Joint Coordination Center (CICC) and the DNCD internal affairs department.
A further 27 packages were found in Haina, when Jose Manuel Bautista (El Cojo) and Eduardo Octavio Reyes were arrested by members of the eastern division of the DNCD at an address behind Colmado Blanco. The drug haul was found hidden in an old mattress in an empty lot. The pair was already sought on drug charges. The case will be heard in San Cristobal.

4 bodies on Duarte highway
The bodies of four men have been found dumped on the side of the Duarte Highway at Km. 30 between Pedro Brand and Villa Altagracia. Each of the men had been shot in the head. A source from the National Police told Listin Diario they suspected this was an execution. Police arrived to recover the bodies around midnight after receiving a report. The source told the newspaper they suspect the men had been killed somewhere else and dumped on the highway verge. Only three of the four bodies have been identified. Hoy names them as Helbin Noel Dominguez, 37, Ramon Leonardo Paulino, 32 and Carlos Manuel Vicente Rivas, 33.

Priest sued for child support
Cuban Yelaine Valles Desten is the first woman in the Dominican Republic to seek childcare support from a priest in court. She told her story to investigative journalist Nuria Piera.
She submitted her claim against priest Arturo Sanchez of Santiago province. The priest has admitted to having a relationship with the woman over an 8-year period. The child is now 5 years old.
Valles wants the priest to acknowledge paternity and provide RD$20,000 in child support. The priest is offering RD$3,500 per month, as reported in El Caribe.
The newspaper says they met in Cuba when she was 18 years old. "It was a human error, mistakes that one makes," said the priest in admitting his guilt. Valles said that she had tried to get the priest to formalize his support for their child when she lived in Cuba. When that was unsuccessful, she moved to the DR where he is currently based.
The Catholic Church has not yet determined his future as a priest.
The show will air this Saturday, 12 December on Channel 9, Color Vision as of 9pm.

Brito stays in jail
It looks as if Eddy Brito, former husband of escaped drug wife Sobeida Felix, will be staying in jail for the time being. Brito seems to be taking the fall for the disappearance of Felix and her drug trafficker partner Jose Figueroa. He had been released on bail, but after Felix Morel jumped her bail, his privilege was revoked. He is accused of money laundering.
Judges say that the charges against Brito are too serious to set him free and that he is a flight risk. No concrete leads on the whereabouts of Figueroa or Felix have been announced and the investigation, after many twists and turns, has come to a screeching halt. The media debate about the pair has now centered on whether Dominican officials in the previous administration personally knew Figueroa and whether they made special petitions to get him a cedula.
Brito's lawyer Luis Aybar had asked the court to revoke the prison order dated 18 November. Aybar presented the court with a certified copy of Brito and Felix Morel's recent divorce papers.

Martha's night
Last night was Martha's night. Martha Heredia, on what could have been the most important night of her life, didn't disappoint the crowd, the Latin American Idol judges or her millions of fans back in the DR. The Santiago-born songstress surprised the jury panel, made up of John Secada, Mimi and Oscar Mediavilla, as she sung her renditions of "Soy rebelde," "Oye," and "Musica." Because of her performance and the energy with which she sang, many, including the judges have pointed to Heredia as the likely winner of Latin American Idol's fourth season.
Heredia's talent and voice have made their way to the Presidential Palace, where President Leonel Fernandez confessed to the media that he was impressed with the young singer's performances on the show. Even PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado and other politicians have provided support by handing out calling cards to Dominicans so they could call and vote for the young singer. The final is tonight on Telesistema, Channel 11 between Martha and her rival, Costa Rican Eduardo Aguirre.
Anyone wanting to vote for Martha can send a text message, "Martha" to the number 43657.

Long Night of Museums
If there is a museum you've always wanted to visit and have been postponing it, on Thursday, 10 December, Dominican government-sponsored museums and some private museums will be open from 9 am to 12 midnight and admission will be free. The event is known as "The Long Night of the Museums" and is in its second year. Special activities are planned for the participating museums. The event is held to mark the Day of National Heritage and is organized by the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture.
Participating museums are: Alcazar de Colon, Museo de la Familia, Fortaleza Ozama, Museo Trampolin, Museo de las Casas Reales, Museo Naval de Rescate Subacuatico de las Atarazanas, Plaza de la Cultura museums in Santo Domingo, and Centro Leon in Santiago and Fortaleza San Felipe in Puerto Plata.
Several cultural centers are also scheduling special events including Casa de Teatro and Quinta Dominica in the Colonial City and the National Theater. The National Theater announces a 90-voice choir and a quartet of musicians directed by Mayra Peguero. Soloists for the evening are sopranos Pura Tayson, Maryam de Soto, tenor Luis Guillermo Puello and baritone Arturo Lamarche. The choir will perform at the entrance steps of the National Theater.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

The baseball scores
The Escogido are staying strong atop the Dominican Winter League standings. Last night they beat the Toros 7-2 and added a 2-game cushion to their lead. The Aguilas beat up on the Estrellas 4-2, while the Gigantes beat the Tigres 6-4.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 25 - 16 .610 --
LICEY 24 - 18 .571 2.0
AZUCAREROS 24 - 18 .571 2.0
GIGANTES 21 - 21 .500 5.0
AGUILAS 20 - 22 .476 6.0
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