Tax-free wages to RD$30,915|
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has announced that wages exempt from taxes have been increased to RD$30,915 a month, taking inflation into account. As reported in Listin Diario, the number of people in formal employment as of 31 December 2010 was 1.3 million. Of these, 92.5% would be exempt from paying taxes on their wages. The measure came into effect on 1 January. This represents a RD$3,248.70 increase over last year's exempt level that was RDR$29,111 a month or RD$349,326 for the 12 months of the year. The Central Bank estimated the year-end inflation at 6.2%.
Back to school|
Education Minister Melanio Paredes urged students and teachers at the country's 5,578 schools to return to classes on Tuesday. In the DR, 1.3 million children attend public schools and a further 1.2 million are in private schools.
Classes resume on Tuesday and Wednesday after the long Christmas holidays that ended with the celebration of Three Kings Day on Monday, 10 January. It has to be taken into account that coming up later this month is a very long weekend extending from Friday, 21 January through Monday, 23 January. Paredes said there will only be 13 days of classes this month, so teachers and students must to return to classes on Tuesday.
Check the quality of your water|
The Ministry of Public Health says that epidemiologists believe that most of the cases of cholera registered in the DR were caused by people consuming contaminated water. The Ministry is advising everyone to make sure that the water they use has been treated or is from a safe source.
The Ministry study showed that of 146 cases studied out of 152 cases since the outbreak in October, 60% occurred because the people affected had consumed water from a non-treated source. About 65% of the men who came down with cholera were farmers who consumed contaminated water.
To understand how cholera can affect you, see www.dr1.com/travelnews/archive/2010/tnews120710.html
City council taxes challenged|
A recent decision by the National District Municipality to tag on a new tax on real estate in Santo Domingo is being dubbed illegal. El Caribe interviewed tax advisor Jose Segura who says that the creation of new taxes on constructions and on empty lots, condominiums and single-family homes violates the Constitution that establishes that only Congress can create new taxes. Furthermore, El Caribe reports that it becomes a charge parallel to that established by the central government in Law 18-88 on luxury housing and empty lots. City council members approved the new taxes in December.
These are lots from 1-200m2 that would be subject to a municipal tax of RD$750, those 201-400m2 RD$1,500, 401-600m2 RD$3,000. From 601 to 1,000m2 RD$4,500 and from 1,000 to 2,000m2 RD$6,000. Over 2,000m2 the rate is RD$7,500. In addition, the dwellings will pay RD$300 per street-facing lineal kilometer.
Moreover, single-family houses up to 150m2 will pay RD$18,000, from 151 to 300m2 RD$30,000 and from 301 to 500m2 RD$60,000. From 501-600 RD$150,000 and 601m2+ will pay RD$200,000.
Apartments of up to 100m2 will pay RD$9,000, 101-200m2 RD$15,000, 201-300m2 RD$30,000, 301-400m2 RD$70,000, 401m2+ RD$100,000.
Motels would pay RD$7,500 per room, apart-hotels RD$5,000 per room and hotels up to 25 rooms RD$4,500 per room.
The National District Municipality argues it needs the funds to meet the city's needs. The Municipality came under criticism for spending upwards of RD$11 million to build the so-called Zooberto Park in Santo Domingo.
The new taxes are due on 15 February and 1 August of every year.
Where's the plan B?|
Today's Listin Diario editorial focuses on the increasing pressures on Haitians seeking to cross the border. Following the 12 January 2010 earthquake, reports are that only 10% of the 1.6 billion dollars pledged in aid has entered. Meanwhile, the pressures on Haitians desperate to seek jobs in the DR continue. The Department of Migration does not have the budget to deport the illegal migrants who enter, whether by paying bribes, or just by crossing the border away from the legal entry points.
Listin Diario asks if the DR has a military Plan B to respond to the deteriorating social peace in Haiti, and urges the government to reinforce its logistics. The editorial writer recalls the Mexican saying: "In Mexico nothing happens, until it happens."
25% of Robert Reid patients are Haitians|
A quarter of all patients seeking medical attention at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital in Santo Domingo are Haitians. El Caribe reports that last year the hospital treated 400,000 patients, carried out 5,000 surgical procedures and admitted 14,280 sick children. In 2010 there were 763 deaths at the hospital, or 6%. This is down from 844 in 2009. Medical statistics from the hospital show that 25% of all children treated were Haitian nationals.
The center has 350 beds. The average stay is 7 days, and it operates year round with 100% occupancy.
As people gradually got back into working mode after the long holiday break, the reality of price hikes has begun to sink in, mainly a consequence of the fuel price increase.
El Caribe reports that public transport fares are up 15% (from RD$15 to RD$20 for short routes), 11% increase in electricity rates, increases in freight charges, propane gas, gasoline and diesel. Diario Libre reports that mortgage interest rates increased by 2% for this year, from 12.95% to 14.95%.
Meanwhile, Labor Minister Max Puig appealed for an increase in wages saying that no one can make do on the minimum wage, but Fernando Capellan, speaking as a businessman, responded that instead of increasing wages ways would have to be found to reduce costs. He said that if wages were increased, thousands of employees would find themselves out of work. Capellan is president of the Dominican Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Companies (Codopyme) but said he was speaking in a personal capacity because the association had not met to issue a group statement, as reported in Hoy.
Miguel Vargas' helicopter crashes|
Helicopter specialists have arrived in the DR to investigate a crash involving a helicopter manned by Air Force pilots that was at the service of PRD presidential pre-candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. As reported in Listin Diario, the helicopter, which was on its way to pick up Vargas from La Romana to take him to a campaign event, was forced to make an emergency landing at 7:10am near the La Isabela Airport in northern Santo Domingo from where it took off.
The Bell 427, registration N-926-MF helicopter with a capacity for seven passengers, was totaled in the crash when the craft hit palm trees shortly after take off from the airport near Villa Mella.
Pilots Osvaldo Perez Feliz and Mario Rivas Diaz were injured. They are being treated at the Ramon de Lara Air Force Hospital, but are said to be recovering and are no longer in the Intensive Care Unit. Both suffered multiple traumas.
Diario Libre reports that three members of the Air Force and two members of Vargas security detail have impounded the wreckage of the helicopter as the investigating committee looks into the causes of the crash. As part of international helicopter crash protocol, Bell helicopter technicians have joined the investigating committee, which is headed by Air Force pilot Enmanuel Souffront, director of the Aviation Accidents Commission. Listin Diario reports that the helicopter was routinely used by Miguel Vargas in his political and private activities.
Another helicopter being used by Miguel Vargas crashed into houses in Santo Domingo during the 2008 presidential campaign, injuring the pilot.
Dominican crowned Colombian Coffee Queen|
The new International Queen of Coffee (Reina Internacional del Cafe) is Sofinel Baez Santos from the Dominican Republic, who was crowned during a ceremony in Manizales, Colombia on 9 January. She will represent Colombian coffee worldwide.
The contest is one of the world's oldest and more traditional beauty pageants and is part of the Manizales' Annual Fair to promote Colombian coffee. In last year's pageant, the title of Second Princess went to Audris Rijo of the Dominican Republic.
A professional model, Sofinel Baez is 22 years old and 5'11" tall. Last year she represented the DR at the Miss International 2010 beauty pageant held in Chengdu, China.
Choco Maple Ice Cream|
Writing over the Three Kings holiday, Diario Libre editor Ines Aizpun highlighted the way in which several leading Dominican companies have become involved in campaigns to save the country. "Some care for beaches and corals, promote recycling, and others sponsor hills and forests, those that are concerned about water resources," she writes.
"On of the most comprehensive campaigns begun in 2010 with that vision of corporate responsibility is the one aimed at saving the Bicknell Thrush bird, sponsored by Helados Bon and its new Chocolate Maple flavor ice cream.
The story is that a small bird migrates from the southeast of Canada and the northeast of the US and travels to the Dominican Republic to seek refuge in the forests of Loma Quita Espuela and Loma Guaconejo scientific reserves in the central/northeastern part of the country.
"Curiously the females separate from the males during their stay in the Caribbean, and remain in different forests. The degradation of their habitat both here and in the north has endangered this unique species, encouraging scientists, companies and Dominican organizations to organize campaigns to rescue the habitat that these birds need so they can continue to sing.
She emphasizes that precisely the collaboration of companies, scientists and citizens gives a very valuable angle to this example of social corporate responsibility.
Helados Bon introduced the flavor on 3 November 2010. It is a combination of organic chocolate, macadamia nuts and maple syrup, elements from the thrush's breeding and wintering ranges. The company says that when buying the flavor, consumers are helping the rare Bicknell Thrush bird. A portion of proceeds from the sales help protect the bird's natural habitat in the DR.
The Toros won three games over the Three Kings holiday to continue to lead in the Winter Baseball Professional League Championship that is coming to an end. The Gigantes and the Estrellas are the contenders for the second slot in the playoffs.
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