Food will suffice says Agriculture Minister
Debtors can request end to debt collection calls at work
PISA 2015 reflects poorly on DR education
Medina’s excuses for officials criticized
DR to expand early childhood education with IDB support
Santo Domingo stock market moves billions
Public Health issues instructions for preventing disease
Fidelio Despradel rejects vehicle and other legislative perks
USCG and Dominican Armada arrest 64
An app to find beaches
Baseball roundup

Food will suffice says Agriculture Minister
Agriculture Minister Angel Estevez says that despite the damage caused by the rains during October, November and December 2016, they are not expecting shortages or price increases of basic food items such as plantains, cassava (yuca), plaintains or bananas. He also ruled out the need to import any farm product as has been suggested.

Speaking on Wednesday, 7 December 2016, Estevez added that poultry and pork supplies were guaranteed during the month of December. He said in the case of poultry, the Ministry has reached an agreement with the producers to make 18.5 million units available. In addition to this number, there is a reserve of two million frozen units that could enter the market immediately if necessary.

In reference to the damage caused by the rains, the minister said that it has not yet been added up because some areas are still under water. He did say however, that 9,700 tareas (a tarea = 625 square meters) of bananas were completely lost and several thousands more were affected by the rainfall. He said that 127,000 tareas of plantains and 57,000 tareas of cassava have also been affected by the rains.

Ever the optimist, Estevez told reporters from El Nacional newspaper that the loss of the banana fields would allow farmers to overhaul and restructure their farms, many of which had been in production for 10 or 15 years.

He told reporters that the farmers affected by the floods would receive long-term, low-interest loans with the least a one-year grace period in order to restore their farms.

Debtors can request end to debt collection calls at work
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) board of directors issued a resolution that establishes that debtors can take actions to prohibit collection calls to their work places. The calls are made by specialized debt-collection companies.

This decision, announced on Wednesday, 7 December 2016, represents a partial agreement to repeal Resolution 010-16 passed recently by Indotel under new director José del Castillo Saviñón, which for the first time has allowed debt-collection calls to be made to the workplace.

The Indotel board also agreed, partially, to a request to publish statistics of complaints about companies’ failures to comply with these regulations.

The board was responding to a request made by the online financial magazine Argentarium, which filed a case against Indotel’s Resolution 010-16 that allowed the debt-collection calls to the workplace and extended debt-collection call hours to homes.

PISA 2015 reflects poorly on DR education
According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 report published on Tuesday, 6 December 2016, when parents in the Dominican Republic choose a school for their children they take into account distance and the cost of the institution. Nevertheless, the report establishes that students whose parents considered low cost important or very important tended to obtain 30 points less than students whose parents said that low cost was not so significant when it came to registering their children.

Parents in the Dominican Republic considered distance as important or very important in nearly 80% of cases; expenses were cited by more than 60% of the parents and reputation was mentioned by 90%.

Overall in the survey, children whose parents placed greater importance on the distance between the school and home obtained considerably lower grades in science even after weighing the social economic profile of the students.

Diario Libre points out that competition among schools influences the decision in countries such as Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Ireland, where four of every five parents reported that there was at least one other school competing in their area. In contrast, in the Dominican Republic, Georgia and Italy, under half the parents reported this situation. Except in the case of students in South Korea and Scotland, those students also had a greater chance of obtaining higher scores in their science assessment by PISA before examining the social economic profile of the students and the schools.

After taking into account the social economic status, in seven of 17 educational systems students obtained significantly higher scores in science when their parents reported that there was a certain level of competition among schools in their area.

Medina’s excuses for officials criticized
President Danilo Medina’s statements in which he was heard making excuses for government officials who have not yet filed their asset statements, have been met with considerable public criticism. Interviewed by journalists on Tuesday 6 December 2016, the President justified the fact that several officials have yet to present their sworn declaration of assets, as required by law, which some are saying makes the fight against corruption even more difficult.

According to Law 311-14, officials have 30 days from the date of their appointment or election to file their sworn statement of assets. Nonetheless, several officials have yet to present this documentation despite the insistence by the Chamber of Accounts and pressure from several sectors.

At the insistence of reporters, Medina, who had not spoken on this issue, said that public servants who are obliged to present their statements have not done so “because perhaps they don’t know about this and what is most likely is that they don’t know that they have to do this.” This comment generated strong criticism. Medina did say, however, that the officials concerned would be called in and if they do not produce this documentation they would not be paid their salary.

DR to expand early childhood education with IDB support
The Inter-American Development Bank has announced the approval of a US$200 million loan to the Dominican government to expand early childhood development services for the country's poorest population groups.

It also is intended to strengthen management capacities at INAIPI, the National Institute for Comprehensive Early Childhood Care. The government recently appointed the widow of former Santo Domingo East Mayor Juan de los Santos, Berlinesa Franco to head Inaipi. The appointment has been criticized because Franco is not known for her experience in the early childhood education field.

The IDB reports that through this initiative the country will work to improve the low rates of access to early childhood services and address the inequality created by the limited offer of such services by the public sector. Data for 2016 show that only 18% of children under the age of five are covered by child-care services nationwide. In addition, 85% of children under the age of five who do receive early childhood services do so in private centers, involving an expense for families and raising a major access barrier for the poorest.

The IDB project will fund early childhood services that will include: early stimulation for children from 0 to 2 years of age; early education for children from 3 to 5 years of age; nutrition monitoring and promotion for children; and a training program for parents on good child-rearing practices. By targeting children in vulnerable areas, the project aims to guarantee that all students have access to quality early childhood education that will enhance the country's human capital.

The IDB loan is for a 25-year term, with a five-year grace period, and a LIBOR-based interest rate.

Santo Domingo stock market moves billions
The Superintendence of Securities (SIV) reports a 30% growth rate in securities operations in the Dominican Republic. In November 2016 security operations in the national stock market totaled RD$147 billion pesos. At the same time it reports that from January to November the stock market has handled RD$1.65 trillion, a 30.2% increase over the same period in 2015.

According to the Superintendent of Securities (SIV), at the end of November 2016, some RD$747 billion was in the custody of the Centralized Securities Deposit, S.A. (Cevaldom), an 18% increase over the 2015 figures.

Superintendent of Securities Gabriel Castro told Diario Libre reporters that there were 59,429 accounts at the stock market. The official said that when these operations are analyzed they are seen to be generating more than RD$3 billion every year.

The Superintendent called on Congress to approve the new Stock Market Law which has been languishing in the Chamber of Deputies since March 2016.

He said that Cevaldom has more than RD$700 billion, which he said was a significant part of the nation’s savings and that new legislation was needed in order to protect it as well as the public interest.

Public Health issues instructions for preventing disease
The Ministry of Public Health has issued guidelines for the public to help prevent the outbreak of diseases that tend to affect flooded areas, such as leptospirosis. The document was also produced for distribution by health personnel as well as providing a tool for treatment and handling of possible cases that reach hospitals, primary healthcare units, private clinics and other medical establishments.

The preventive measures for reducing the risk of infections include: (1) Avoid swimming and walking in water that might be polluted. Avoid contact with water, mud and vegetation that could be contaminated with urine, especially if you have skin lesions. (2) When exposure is essential, use adequate protection (rubber boots, gloves), eliminate rats and mice in housing and in communal areas and avoid accumulations of waste, clothes and old papers in and around the living quarters. (3) Finally, keep latrines and sanitation facilities covered, remove water and food for pets at night, wash containers for juice, soda drinks and food before opening and maintain general hygiene both at work and at home.

Fidelio Despradel rejects vehicle and other legislative perks
Recently elected deputy Fidelio Despradel is putting into practice what the ethics he has preached. He announced he would not accept the two unlimited tax exemptions for the import of vehicles that come with his position as legislator for the Alianza País political party.

In a letter to the president of the Chamber of Deputies Lucía Medina, Despradel also says that he will not use funds the Chamber of Deputies makes available for social assistance and other events that do not correspond with the legislators’ roles according to the Dominican Constitution.

USCG and Dominican Armada arrest 64
Dominican Armada (Navy) and United States Coast Guard units have arrested 30 Cubans and 34 Dominicans who were trying to reach Puerto Rico in small makeshift craft departing from several areas.
Armada spokesman Augusto Lizardo said that the group of Cubans was intercepted near the Mona Passage and taken to the commander’s office in Bayahibe in the southeastern province of La Romana before being transferred to Armada headquarters in Santo Domingo East.

According to El Nacional newspaper, Naval Intelligence members detained the 34 Dominicans as they were boarding a small craft in an attempt to reach Puerto Rico. The detainees included the organizers of the thwarted attempts to migrate to the neighboring island.

The Cubans were sent to the Directorate General of Migration by the commanding general of the Armada. The Cubans, who were in the country as tourists, told the authorities that they had paid varying sums of money to the individuals who organized the failed trip to Puerto Rico. Several of the Cubans had been in the country for several months.

The arrested Dominicans told authorities that they had paid the human traffickers sums ranging from RD$50,000 to RD$60,000 but claimed not to know their identity. This money has not been recovered.

So far in 2016 the Dominican Armada has arrested more than 100 Cubans, Brazilians, Pakistanis, Haitians and members of other nationalities who try to use the Dominican Republic as a bridge to reach Puerto Rico illegally.

An app to find beaches
In an article sponsored by the Banco Popular Dominicano, several newspapers are talking about a new application called Costa Dominicana, which is available for iPhones and Android devices. The app covers 133 beaches, 18 of which are shown in virtual reality.

Sponsored by the BPD, the content is based on the work of agricultural engineer Domingo Marte, who traveled from the mouth of the Dajabon River in Montecristi (northwest) to the mouth of the Pedernales River on the southwestern coast.

Most of this was done on foot or by boat and covered the 227 beaches along the Dominican coastline. The app encourages everyone to emulate Domingo Marte and explore the coastline.

The app filters beaches by geographical region and allows the user to find out if there are any options such as the availability of food nearby, or whether access is easy or difficult and finally what kind of infrastructure is available.

The app is synchronized with Google Maps, which allows the user to select the best route for reaching a new beach.

All this is available at

Baseball roundup
As the 2016-2017 Dominican Professional Baseball Championship enters into the final stretch of the regular portion of the season, six teams are fighting for the final four positions to begin the semi-final Round Robin section that will determine the finalists. During the Wednesday 7 December 2016 games the Toros Del Este once again held last year’s champions, the Gigantes Del Cibao to a single run as they won by a score of 4 to 1. In Santiago, the Aguilas Cibaeñas bounced back from Tuesday’s defeat, which ended their first three-game winning streak and handed the Leones Del Escogido an 8 to 1 defeat. The Estrellas Orientales defeated the Tigres del Licey 4-3.

Teams Wins – Losses Percentage Games Behind
Gigantes 21 – 15 .583 ----
Tigres 19 – 17 .528 2.0
Aguilas 19 – 19 .500 3.0
Estrellas 18 – 19 .486 3.5
Escogido 16 – 19 .457 5.0
Toros 17 – 21 .447 5.5

On Thursday evening, 8 December 2016, all games start at 7:30
In Santiago, at the Estadio Cibao, the Aguilas Cibaeñas will play the Leones del Escogido
In San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes will play the Toros del Este
In San Pedro de Macoris the Estrellas Orientales will battle the Tigres del Licey.

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