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Daily News - Monday, 05 March 2012

Presidential debate for 17 April 2012
After around 10 years of trying, the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs has finally convinced the main presidential candidates to sit together for a televised debate. In previous years, the presidential candidates only ever agreed to separate televised questioning by a panel. ANJE announced that the first joint debate would take place on Tuesday, 17 April, a month before the 20 May 2012 presidential election. Pollsters Asisa Research, Benenson Strategy Group, Insight, Hamilton Campaign and Penn, Shoen & Berland show Danilo Medina of the ruling PLD in the lead, but Hipolito Mejia of the PRD is close.

Yesterday it was announced that the debate would be televised by Grupo de Comunicaciones Corripio media stations with one local moderator and another from CNN en Espanol, taking the telecast into a potential 31 million households in Latin America and the United States. Corripio operates Telesistemas, Channel 11, TeleAntillas, Channel 2 and CDN Channel 37 on Cable TV.

Prior to the ANJE debate, the candidates will appear separately as keynote speakers at American Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Hipolito Mejia is scheduled for Wednesday, 14 March, and Danilo Medina for Wednesday, 28 March. Their talks will be followed by question and answer sessions. The luncheons will take place at the Barcelo Santo Domingo Hotel. Reservations are needed for attending.


Adding Central Bank debt to get real public debt
Economist Miguel Ceara Hatton is calling for the government to quantify the public debt adding that of the Central Bank, following recommendations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As reported in Hoy, Ceara Hatton said: "If the government does that, the ratio of debt-GDP will go from 29% to 40.3%. He said to the government debt of US$17 billion (about 29% of GDP), one has to add the US$6.2 billion of the Central Bank, which brings the total government debt to almost US$23 billion. Ceara Hatton said that the public debt statistics published by the Ministry of Hacienda include foreign and internal debt, but exclude the Central Bank debt. As reported in Hoy, Jose Lois Malkun, governor of the Central Bank during the Hipolito Mejia presidency and the 2003 banking crisis, said that in 2004, when the government changed from Mejia to Fernandez, the public debt was around US$9.7 billion.

Earlier last week, Ceara Hatton argued that the Fernandez government was leaving the new government a time bomb. He said the administration would have to disburse 5% of GDP in 2013 and 5.6% of GDP in 2014. He said that the public debt, excluding that of the Central Bank, has been growing fast since 2008. He said that 68% of the US$13.3 billion of new debt taken on from 2000 to 2011 was taken on from 2008 to 2011.



Government payroll up tenfold in 15 years
A report published in today's El Caribe examines the sharp increase in government jobs, in contradiction to a more efficient state. For many years, the Fernandez administration has touted its computerized government, but the increasing number of jobs raises doubts about the efficacy of this so-called modernization process.

In 1996 after the 10 consecutive years of the Joaquin Balaguer government, there were 293,058 government employees. 15 years later, the number has practically doubled to 580,445 public servants. El Caribe makes the point this number does not include the so-called "nominillas" or little payrolls where thousands of Dominicans get paid, most without working.

El Caribe reports that in 1996, the government paid RD$6.45 billion in public workers' wages. In 2011, the government spent RD$79.46, or 1,131% more, 10 times more.

El Caribe reports there has been an increase in government departments that did not exist in 1996, including the ministries of Environment, Youth, Women, Public Administration and the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) and the Metropolitan Bus Services (Omsa). But it makes the point that even entities that were closed during privatization continue to operate, like those under the defunct State Companies Corporation (Corde) and the State Sugar Council (CEA). The CEA no longer manages sugar mills, but keeps thousands on its payroll.

80% of the formal government payroll is in centralized departments, and 20% in the municipalities. As of 2011, the Central Government had 464,358 employees, and the decentralized public sector had the remainder, or 116,087 employees, for a total 580,445.

Interestingly, the Central Bank statistics show that of 1.6 million employed in the formal sector, only 192,109 are employed in government, that is well below the actual total.

El Caribe makes the point that in his 27 February address, President Leonel Fernandez hailed as an achievement the fact that the GDP in 2004 was US$22 billion, and today, eight years later it is US$55 billion. "And then, to show that it is not true that his government spends much money on the government payroll, he said that the annual average of his government in wages was equal to 3.7% of GDP, while during the previous four years of the PRD government the annual spending on payroll was 4.9% of GDP." El Caribe disputes the President's statement.

"A mathematical exercise when taking as reference the years 2004 and 2008 with their respective GDP and assigning the percentages in wages mentioned by the statesman, it is evident that the government spent RD$89.46 billion last year alone, while the PRD government spent RD$42 billion, meaning the government payroll has almost doubled, in a proportion much greater than the number of employees.

El Caribe points out that in December 2004, there were 314,190 public employees, and at the end of 2011 there are 464,358 public employees registered in the Central Government alone, without counting the additional 116,087 registered for the decentralized sector.

Vehicular stats in the Dominican Republic
Motorcycle and SUV sales are up, according to a report in today's Diario Libre. The report says that there was an increase of 121,977 vehicles in the Dominican Republic's vehicular inventory from 31 December 2010 to 31 December 2011, according to statistics from the Department of Taxes that issues the registrations. In 2011, 71,280 more motorcycles were in use, up 5.1%. SUVs were up 20,766 units, for an 8.2% increase. Government departments have purchase plans that facilitate the purchase of the luxury SUVs by government officials. SUVs are also popular because of their high road clearance in a country where roads are often in poor condition, or prone to frequent flooding due to inadequate drainage.

There were 2.4% more automobiles sold last year, with 16,099 new vehicles. Of the total vehicles in circulation, 50.8% are motorcycles, then automobiles with 23.3%, cargo vehicles 12.2%.

63% of vehicles are registered to individuals and 37% to companies. 76% of vehicles are Japanese-made. 95.9% of the vehicles are from 2006 or older. The most popular colors are gray (17.8%), blue (17%) and white (16.8%).

What's your idea for idea for sustainable energy?
The Inter-American Development Bank is backing the 2012 Ideas contest that calls for innovative proposals to promote sustainable energy technologies in the Caribbean. Awards of up to US$200,000 are made for projects and enterprises that promote energy efficiency and access to renewable energy in the Caribbean. The 2012 Ideas Energy Innovation Contest is also backed by UKAid (DfID) and GVEP International (South Korea).

Individuals, enterprises and organizations based in the Caribbean are invited to submit proposals focusing on adoption, innovation, assimilation, development and transfer of technologies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation and fossil fuel substitution by 30 April 2012. Applications should be submitted electronically - details and guidance are available at www.iadb.org/ideas. Grant winners will be announced on 15 July 2012.

US$937,500 for bioenergy studies
The Dominican Republic's National Energy Commission (CNE) signed a technical cooperation agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank on the development of bioenergy on Friday March 2, reports the Caribbean Journal.

The agreement will lead to a series of studies on bioenergy, taking into account the country's cooperation on biofuels with Brazil and the United States.

The IDB is funding US$937,500 towards the project that will have two components: technical studies on bioenergy and on the sustainability of agricultural projects.

Enrique Ramirez, president of the National Energy Commission, says his agency will look to establish the feasibility of various bioenergy projects, with a focus on the cultivation and industrialization of sugar cane.

Ramirez signed the agreement with Manuel Labrado, the Inter-American Development Bank's representative in the Dominican Republic. The CNE president said he planned to identify companies involved in the Dominican Republic's agricultural market, with particular attention to those working with sugarcane and fruits and vegetables.

Colombians invest US$850 million
Dominican trade with Colombia totaled just US$33 million over the past five years, with Colombia exporting US$3,585 million to the DR. But the DR benefited from US$850 million in Colombian investment. The Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD) held a workshop on Friday, 2 March where director Eddy Martinez pointed to how construction, manufacturing, textile, services and other sectors have benefitted from Colombian investment. During the workshop, Strategic Alliances and Business Opportunities between the DR and Colombia," it was revealed that in the past five years trade with Colombia has reached US$3.585 million. The workshop was sponsored by the National Commission of Trade Negotiations (CNNC), the Embassy of Colombia in the DR, the Colombian Agency for the Promotion of Tourism, Investment and Exports (ProExport). Colombia is seeking to sign a free trade agreement with the Dominican Republic.

Speaking at the workshop, Industry and Commerce Minister Manuel Garcia Arevalo said that the workshop was aimed at making people aware of the products and services that could be traded, as well as laws and regulations for doing business in both countries. He said there is interest in expanding trade and investment opportunities from businesses in both countries, as reported in El Caribe.

Investors want Roco Ki completed
A Wall Street Journal follow-up story on the would-be Westin Roco Ki resort and residential development in Macao beach, north of Punta Cana on the east coast, concludes that most purchasers in the development want to hang in there and see their homes finished. They are hoping for an investor to rescue the project that came to a halt when the US recession and financial crisis ended the flow of new investors bringing cash into the project in 2008.

The project still has a nine-figure debt, including at least US$82.4 million owed to the Bank of Nova Scotia and US$31.5 million owed to the European Investment Bank, according to a project outline circulated to potential new investors last year. Two Dominican banks also have US$12 million in loans on the resort, according to the WSJ article.

It carries a statement by Robert Sterling, a Charlotte paper broker who paid $900,000 in deposits for a four-bedroom, beachfront home at Roco Ki, saying that he and fellow buyers are willing to be accommodating of any new investor and wait another couple of years for the resort to be completed and are not trying to get a refund. Instead, they want their vacation homes completed. "I'm not really interested in getting my money back," he said. "It's a wonderful place, and it would be spectacular to have a home there and have friends join us down there."


Superheroes in El Caribe
The local newspaper El Caribe is distributing nostalgic Superhero comics, bringing back the characters of Batman (Bruce Wayne), Superman (Clark Kent), Wonder Woman (Diana), Cat Woman, Green Lantern and Flash, and baddies Lex Luthor and the Joker. The comics are not as well known among the younger generation, but the newspaper is betting the characters will be just as attractive today as they were when initially released in the first half of the 20th Century. The first comic to be released on Monday, 5 March is Batman. Subscribers will receive a 15% discount on the purchase of the whole collection of comics.

More drugs confiscated now
National Drug Control Department (DNCD) chief Rolando Rosado Mateo says that the perception that there are more drugs now in the DR is created by the higher confiscation rate. "In the past it was not confiscated, and it was not visible, because the drug traffickers do not go around showing off their cocaine," he said. The DNCD has reported many successful confiscations, but makes the point that the weak link is still the judiciary. Reported corruption in the judiciary leads to many drug traffickers being released.

Rosado said that some airplanes loaded with drugs do not enter national territory and go on to Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Lesser Antilles because the DR has developed a greater capacity to fight drug traffickers, as reported in Listin Diario. He said that is because the DNCD agents are less likely to be corrupted, as they are being coordinated directly with the Armed Forces and the Police, and have the backing of the United States and Europe.

"Compare the amount of drugs that the Dominican Republic confiscates with that confiscated in other places, such as our neighbors. Is it that in Haiti there are less drugs? No, it is because we have developed capacities and we and other nations are backing our Haitian brothers, for example, to be able to do likewise," he said when interviewed after attending mass on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the Police. He said the fight against drugs is more efficient now and the word out to drug traffickers is to move elsewhere.

Rafael Corporan de los Santos passes away
Former mayor and communicator, Rafael Corporan de los Santos died of a heart attack in the early hours of this morning. He had attended a commemorative event at Color Vision, Channel 9, on Saturday when the studio that hosted his Sabado de Corporan Show was given his name. Corporan was mayor of Santo Domingo from 1990-94, representing the PRSC. He founded the Popular and Galaxia radio stations and was famous for his innovations on radio and TV.

His wake is taking place at the Funeraria Blandino on Abraham Lincoln Avenue in Santo Domingo.

Movie Festival in Santo Domingo
In its 14th year, the Muestra Internacional del Cine will be held in Santo Domingo, this time from 15 to 24 March. Films from 20 countries will be shown. The festival opens on 14 March with the screening of My Grandfather (Mi abuelo), a Dominican film directed by Albert Xavier. On the opening evening, Colombian film Greetings to the Devil (Saluda al Diablo de mi parte), directed by Juan F. and Carlos E. Orozco will also be shown. The films will be shown at Fine Arts Cinema of Novocentro on Av. Lope de Vega.

The films and links to read more about them include:

My Grandfather (Mi abuelo), 2012, Dominican Republic. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Albert-Xavier/187657377570

Sleeping Sickness (La enfermedad del sueno), 2011, Germany. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Sickness_(film)

No Rest for the Wicked, 2011. (No Habra paz para los malvados) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1661862/

The Sleeping Voice (La voz dormida), 2011, Spain. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1688649/

Route Irish (2010, France) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1528312/

Salve (2010, Iran)

Rista (Polland)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Tan fuerte, tan cerca), 2011, United States http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477302/

3 (Tres), 2010, Germany. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517177/

The Human Resources Manager (El viaje del director de recursos humanos), 2010, Israel. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1311075/

So hard to forget (Como olvidar), 2011, Brazil. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuLebLGlJZY

En nombre de la hija, 2011, Ecuador. http://www.romacinemafest.it/ecm/web/fcr/en/home/film-2011/content/en-el-nombre-de-la-hija.0000.FILM2011-EN5667

El gato desaparece (2011, Argentina) http://peliculas.labutaca.net/el-gato-desaparece

The Return (El regreso), 2011, Costa Rica http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1052685152/costa-rican-feature-film-the-return

The Rumble of the Stones (El rumor de las piedras), 2011, Venezuela. http://www.psfilmfest.org/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=23100&FID=53

Greetings to the Devil (Saluda al Diablo de mi parte), 2011, Colombia. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/risky-business/maya-entertainment-acquires-greetings-devil-192672

Violeta se fue a los cielos (Chile) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2014392/

Melancholia (Denmark) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia_(2011_film)

A separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin), 2011, Iran. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1832382/

Black Bread (Pa Negre), 2010, Spain. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454523/

For more information on the festival, call 809 686-8212

For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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