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Daily News - Wednesday, 06 October 2010

Juan Luis in China
Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra and his 4.40 band filled the Red Room of the Shanghai Expo Center with 2,600 smiling faces to mark the close of Dominican Republic Day (5 October) at the huge Expo-2010 event. According to Hoy, Guerra said he was "very happy" with the reaction to his music. He told Spanish news agency EFE, "I saw a lot of happy faces, that is what was important".
While the exhibition organizers were not too happy, many spectators got up from their seats and started dancing in front of the stage. 15 security officers patrolled the stage to keep spectators from climbing up and dancing. Apparently, the organizers had not removed some access steps from the previous day's events. Despite the police presence everyone seemed to enjoy the music, urged on by Guerra himself. "Ni hao, Shanghai!" was his opening line and it just got better from there.
As reported in the Shanghai Daily Press, the DR Pavilion, which is themed "Intelligent Tropical Lifestyle", shows the country's tourism and cultural activities, its economic development, innovation and use of technology.
The pavilion sets out to display the relationship between urbanization and the improvement of living standards, and to encourage a unique and intelligent tropical lifestyle.

Borderline Failed State under Fernandez
Haiti continues to be defined as a Failed State in the annual index published by the United States Foreign Policy magazine, as it occupies the #11 position out of 177 countries. Meanwhile, although it improved by five places and is located now at number 93, the Dominican Republic continues to be defined as a borderline Failed State. Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Pakistan are the leading countries on the world rankings that Foreign Policy develops together with the Fund for Peace, and which is detailed in the August-September edition of this year.
Haiti is the only country in the region that appears among the leading countries on the list, with Colombia at 46 and Bolivia at 53, slots that place these countries "at risk". Ecuador is at number 69, Honduras at 76, Guatemala at 72, followed by Cuba at 77, all nations that come before Venezuela that occupies the number 82 slot on the list.
Since 2007 Haiti has been ranked between 11 and 14. This year it achieved a score of 101.6 in the index that, according to the magazine, is based on 90,000 public information sources that evaluate the countries within 12 parameters of decomposition of the State, from refugee movement to economic implosion and human rights violations to security threats.
The Dominican Republic received a score of 76.8, according to the Spanish edition of the magazine that is edited by the Washington Post.
The publication stresses that there are countries that have managed to improve their situation over time and points out that "few remember today that the Dominican Republic vied with its neighbor, Haiti, for the title of 'worst case' in the Caribbean".

Odebrecht has a big piece of the pie
The Norberto Odebrecht Construction Company has contracts worth some US$500 million dollars in the Dominican Republic, according to the company's administrative and financial director, Claudio Madeiros. Madieros told El Caribe reporters that the company has four big projects that are of major importance to the nation: The Coral Expressway, the Duarte Corridor, the Palomino Dam project and the Samana Water Works. Madeiros said that the company has a sustainable social responsibility chapter at each of the worksites, in order to ensure ethical development. He said that 90% of the employees on these projects are Dominican. He also mentioned the creation, together with the First Lady's Office, of the Progresando Cultural Training Center in Samana, which provides cultural and artisan training for the local tourist markets.

"It's a good job if you can get it"
Song lyrics aside, Santiago city council members have begun to collect their RD$100,000 pay checks this month, instead of the RD$80,000 that they earned as their fixed salary. This has generated criticism from several quarters. The council members' salary was previously RD$65,000 plus RD$15,000 for commissions which brought the total to RD$80,000, as reported in Diario Libre.
The provincial coordinator of the Citizen Participation movement, university professor Paulino Sarita, described the pay increase as a joke and a provocation for the people of Santiago. "The people of Santiago cannot feel good about this increase because most of these salaries are unjustifiable", he said.
The president of the Santiago Traders Association (Asocosa), Jose Ceballos said he felt that the wage increase was disproportionate in relation to the work done by the council members. Nonetheless, PRD council member Carlos Juan Liz defended the increase on the grounds that the council members have a lot of "social commitments" within the districts that elected them. Early last year, Diario Libre revealed that the council members had approved a resolution that increased their salaries to RD$100,000, but former Mayor Jose Enrique Sued rejected the measure. In contrast, current Mayor Gilberto Serulle decided to approve the measure. However, he did not accept the RD$55,000 salary increase that was contained in that resolution.

First Lady's math and reading contest
First Lady Margarita Cedeno has presented awards to the winners of the annual elementary and high school mathematics, reading and spelling contests. During the ceremony, Cedeno said that the contests stimulated young people's intellectual development. She said that thousands of students from private and public schools all around the country have taken part. The winners received a trophy, a computer and a RD$50,000 cash award. Others received computers and Banreservas bank accounts for RD$10,000. The winners now go on to compete at the Latin American student level.

First Lady in trouble on Twitter
First Lady Margarita Cedeno tried to justify the government's spending on education on Twitter and got into a bit of hot water with some people telling her to "just shut up!" According to Hoy newspaper, Cedeno tried to compare the situation in Panama where the government is spending 9% of the GDP on education without much result. When she wrote this, @gabinha wrote back: "dear @margaritacdf, if you are not going to tweet productive things and you are going to try and defend the disaster of the 1% of GDP for education, SHUT UP!" The First Lady answered, "Don't be disrespectful. And it is not 1%, it is 2.8%. And I wish it could be more but for better quality not more expenses." That was not the end of the argument, which continued for some time. A few people seemed willing to support the First Lady, but she was definitely on the defensive.

Muchachos con Don Bosco plea
Writing in today's Listin Diario, Father Juan Linares, director of the Don Bosco children's educational programs in the DR, appeals to the government to increase their allocation. Father Linares says that last year they received RD$10 million, of a budget of RD$150 million, but the government did not disburse the last two monthly payments. This year, they requested an increase in the budget, but the money was not included in the National Budget sent to Congress. Most of the Don Bosco program budget for helping street children and poor Dominicans comes from private institutions that support their extraordinary work. "We can say we have structures and processes that are very well designed and if we had resources we would produce extraordinary and many results," he writes.
"It is about the dignity of our children to whom we provide these programs: girls and boys, to whom we are being unfair, by not fulfilling their right to good education, sufficient nutrition, stable health and recreation," he writes.
He complains: "If we start thinking of the millions spent on the last electoral campaign, we are indignant and we say, that is not how things are done!"
He writes of the work Don Bosco has done in the country for 25 years, and their efforts to keep 12 centers going. "Children and Don Bosco await a response!," he challenges legislators that are reviewing the 2011 National Budget.

47 years of Rehabilitacion
The country's leading center for physical rehabilitation and support for disabled people, the Asociacion Dominicana de Rehabilitacion (ADR), was founded when a mother chose to make a difference for her son, born with polio. Today her son, Celso Marranzini, is an eminent business leader and has taken on the challenge of fixing the electricity system, but his mom is pleased to note that the center she founded has served 720,075 people and provided more than 8 million services in its 47 years in service. She appealed for more support because the ADR operates with a deficit of RD$3 million.
The ADR offers services in 23 centers in the country. They hope to be able to open new branches in Higuey, Sosua, Neiba, Pedernales and Constanza, so that their patients in these areas do not have to travel all the way to Santo Domingo for treatment. In 2009, the ADR provided more than 400,000 services, seeing 27,927 patients. Of these 61% are from poor backgrounds. Dona Mary de Marranzini, founder of the institution, and its inspiration over the years says that the current budget is RD$247 million, of which the government contributes only 22%.

ADN answers back on Malecon
The National District City Government (ADN) has responded to recent statements from the president of the National Hotel & Tourism Association (Asonahores) on needed improvements to the Malecon. The city government says that ADN units remove tons of garbage from the Malecon every day. The ADN complains that the hotels and restaurants do not meet the schedules for taking out the garbage, and accuses hotel and restaurant guests of throwing garbage. "It is very easy to blame the authorities for the violation of responsibilities that others have, as in the case of the hotels and restaurants of the Malecon, companies that obtain many profit from their operation but do not share with the city government" says the press release. The ADN says that all around the world hotel chains pay municipal and federal taxes, but here the hotels do not give a cent to the city government.
The city government highlighted efforts already under way by the Public Electricity Corporation and Politur to improve lighting and security on the Malecon.
In the press release, the ADN also accused the hotels of being tolerant towards prostitution.
The ADN says that many hotels look the other way and that their premises are used by prostitutes, as they allow guests to bring prostitutes to their rooms, restaurants and other establishments well known for prostitutes, transvestites and homosexuals, under the argument that those are rights of their guests, especially of foreign tourists.
The ADN blames the hotels and restaurants for the increase in prostitution on the Malecon, adding that the ADN has been left to deal with the problems on its own.
Freddy Ginebra, president of the Santo Domingo Tourism Cluster describes the Malecon as the city's "great treasure", and says that it should not be an urban dump or a space for crime or prostitution, as reported in Hoy. He expressed regret at the way that Dominicans continue to live "with their backs to the sea", not taking advantage of the Malecon. He said that the neglect of the boulevard that has allowed it to be taken over by crime and prostitution would be resolved by decisive action by the authorities and the private sector. Ginebra says the Malecon needs to be turned into "the pride of the city".

CONEP calls for passage of Law 479-08
The president of the National Business Council (CONEP), Lisandro Macarrulla, has called on Congress to speed up the approval of the modifications to the General Law on Commercial Societies and Limited Responsibility Individual Companies (479-08). Macarrulla was speaking to news reporters as he and other top business leaders visited the Senate Justice Commission to try and speed up the approval of the legislation. He said that the changes had already been agreed upon within the business community, as well as with the civic entity Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice - FINJUS.
The urgency stems from the fact that the current law sets a December deadline for the approval of the changes. The changes in the law will facilitate commerce, correct errors and omission in the original legislation, and include new entities that will stimulate foreign and local investment. Macarrulla said that since there is a December deadline for companies to adjust to the 2008 legislation, the approval of the modifications would prevent the work from having to be duplicated all over again.

No export culture equals trade deficit
High manufacturing costs, due in part to the high cost of electricity and labor, and government taxes and red tape have deterred Dominican companies from exporting. Nonetheless the president of the Dominican Association of Exporters, Kai Schoenhals and the executive vice president of the Association of Industries of the DR (AIRD) Circe Almanzar, say that Dominicans have yet to develop an export-oriented culture and lose their fear of exporting. Meanwhile, the DR drags a US$7.4 billion trade deficit in 2009 with fellow DR-CAFTA trade agreement signatories.
The country exported products for a value of US$4.69 billion to DR-CAFTA nations in 2009, while it imported goods and services for more than US$12 billion, producing a deficit of over US$7.3 billion, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Exports to the United States alone accounted for US$3.3 billion in 2009 while imports were for US$5.27 billion, according to the Ministry of Hacienda.
Schoenhals and Almanzar are calling for a new economic model for the country to take better advantage of the trade agreements. Schoenhals says that in the face of the large trade deficit, the government has to start giving incentives and facilities such as speeding up paperwork, and eliminating unnecessary expenses so companies can compete in the free market. According to Schoenhals and Almanzar, the lack of an export culture is what aggravates the problem.

Children rob ITESA students
Students from the Salesian Technological Institute (ITESA) on Albert Thomas Street and local residents in Santo Domingo's Maria Auxiliadora neighborhood have complained about a gang of minors that is operating in the area and which has committed at least nine robberies in the last 90 days.
Student Elanna Baez said that her cell phone was stolen at gunpoint at the beginning of the school year. She told Diario Libre reporters that three men closed in on her and threatened her in broad daylight. General Miguel Raul de la Ruz Reyna, national coordinator of the Safe Barrio Program, said that after holding a meeting with several religious leaders, he instructed his men to step up security measures at all educational centers in the sectors that come under the Democratic Security programs.
ITESA teaching staff would not comment on the problems that mostly affect their students, although the assistant director authorized reporters to speak with the students. The gang of assailants moves about on bicycles and is made up of young men "who are clearly minors", said Ramon Soto, who lives near the school. They are said to be backed by adults who step in if the victims do not comply with their demands. The leader is alleged to be a resident of Guachupita called Ramoncito.

DNCD head recovers at Cedimat
National Drug Control Department (DNCD) chief, Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo, has been moved out of the Intensive Care Unit at the Cedimat center at Plaza de la Salud. He is now recovering in a regular ward. Neurosurgeon Diogenes Rivera said that he could be sent home today or tomorrow. Dr. Rivera said that the DNCD chief's driver and assistant are also recovering from their injuries. The three were injured in a serious car accident caused by a tire blowout, as reported by the DNCD. The Toyota Land Cruiser SUV they were traveling in was totaled.

ONAMET forecasts rains
A low-pressure system to the south/southeast and moving to the northwest will cause moderate to heavy rains with occasional thunder and lightning and wind gusts over much of the DR. The rains will be heavier during the afternoon and will continue for perhaps two days, according to the National Meteorological Office (Onamet). The local forecasts are predicting rains throughout the day over most of the country.
For 24/7 updates on weather in the DR, see www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/102242-h-season-outlooks-2010-a-71.html

26 Dominicans in MLB playoffs
Dominican pitchers Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano will open for their teams in the MLB playoffs that begin this afternoon. Cincinnati Reds' manager Dusty Baker chose Volquez to open on the grounds of his experience in the Dominican Winter Professional Baseball League. "Having pitched some championship games in winter ball and in the Dominican (sic), he shouldn't be affected by the pressure," Baker said. "Anybody's who has been there knows there is more pressure there than there is here. Plus, Edinson is very calm, cool. He's a good-time Charlie."
The Minnesota Twins named Francisco Liriano their number one starter.
Others are Johnny Cueto, of Cincinnati Reds, who will pitch in the game 3.
The Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants both have five Dominicans players.
Dominicans on the rosters of MLB playoff teams are:
Phillies: Placido Polanco (3B); Wilson Valdez (SS); Antonio Bastardo (P).
Cincinnati: Edinson Volquez (P), Johnny Cueto (P), Francisco Cordero (P).
Giants: Jose Uribe (SS), Jose Guillen (OF), Santiago Casillas (P), Ramon Ramirez (P), Guillermo Mota (P).
Braves: Miguel Cabrera (OF), Diorys Hernandez (SS).
American League:
Yankees: Alex Rodriguez (3B), Robinson Cano (2B).
Texas: Julio Borbon (OF), Vladimir Guerrero (DH), Neftali Feliz (P), Alexis Ogando (P), Nelson Cruz (OF)
Twins: Alexis Casilla (2B), Francisco Liriano (P)
Tampa Bay: Carlos Pena (1B), Willie Aybar (3B), Joaquin Benoit (P), Rafael Soriano (P)

Great shows, but what prices!
Liza Minnelli will be giving a performance at the National Theater on 22 November, but tickets to see her cost US$800 (RD$29,200) US$500 (RD$18,250), US$300 (RD$10,950), Listin Diario reports.
Yanni is booked for Altos de Chavon on 13 November, but tickets to see him cost RD$15,000, RD$8,000 and RD$4,000. The Jonas Brothers performance costs RD$12,000, RD$6,000 and RD$4,000 at the Palacio de los Deportes. Tickets to see Spanish pop star David Bisbal are RD$3,500 at the Gran Arena del Cibao on 22 October and 23 October at the National Theater. Brazilian singer-songwriter Djavan will be here for the first time, with tickets costing RD$3,500.
For more on ongoing and upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

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