DR1 breaks to celebrate Duarte Day
Central Bank says economy grew 6.6% in 2016
Customs director is working on new Customs Bill
Agriculture: RD$2.5 billion to Northwest for flooding remediation
AmCham urges ratifying Bali trade facilitation agreement
Finance sector grows 11.8% in 2016
Adozona says Trump TPP cancellation is good news for DR
Johnny Jones reelected to LMD
March organizers call for UN to assist in Odebrecht probe
Duarte Museum opens to celebrate Duarte Day
Death by a Thousand Cuts
Polo Challenge finals in La Romana
Aguilas vs. Licey in the last game of the finals

DR1 breaks to celebrate Duarte Day
While Duarte Day actually took place on Thursday, 26 January 2017, the Ministry of Labor ordered that Monday, 30 January 2017, be a holiday in the Dominican Republic. 

As is customary, DR1 Daily News will not be updated on the holiday. Headline news over the Duarte Day long weekend will be compiled for the Tuesday, 1 February 2017 issue. 

For breaking news and commentary 24/7, see the DR1 Forums at http://www.dr1.com

Central Bank says economy grew 6.6% in 2016
In a press conference called on Thursday, 26 January 2017, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu announced that the preliminary data indicates the Dominican economy grew 6.6% in 2016. This would be the third time the Dominican Republic reports the largest GDP growth in the Latin American region. 

The annual rate of inflation in the Dominican Republic came in at 1.70%, which, according to the Central Bank, is the second lowest rate ever recorded in the country in the past 33 years. Valdez also said that the current account deficit closed at -1.5% of GDP, the lowest in this decade. 

Other good economic news is that the country’s gross international reserves are at a historic level of US$6,047.4 million, while net international reserves are at US$6,046.7 million, equal to 3.9 months of imports.

The Central Bank also reported that US$24.3 billion in foreign exchange entered the country in 2016. Tourism receipts reached US$6,721.5 million.

The official open unemployment rate is recorded as 7.1%, with almost 150,000 jobs created in 2016. 

The Central Bank also reports that 1,072,400 Dominicans moved out of poverty, and 480,692 Dominicans from extreme poverty in the past year. 

Central Bank statistics for the year show that the most dynamic sectors of the economy were: Mining (up 26.5%), Financial Intermediation (11%), Farming (9.6%), Construction (8.8%), Other Services (6.8%), Hotels, Bars and Restaurants (6.4%), Commerce (5.9%), Transport and Warehousing (5.3%), Education (5.2%) and Local Manufacturing (4.8%). 

Data shows that remittances at US$5.3 billion for the first time surpassed the five billion mark, for a 6.1% annual growth. 

Total exports were up 3.5%, including 8.6% growth in non-free zone exports. Imports were up 3.1%, given the reduction of US$216.7 million due to the decline in fuel import prices. 

Direct foreign investment was US$2,593.4 million, for an inter-annual increase of 16.7%.

The Central Bank governor highlighted the exchange stability in 2017. He said the peso depreciated 2.5%, ending with a relation as of 30 December 2016 of RD$46.71 to the US$1.00. This was below the forecasted for the 2016 National Budget. 

Valdez praised the financial system, saying total assets increased 12% with a bank payment delinquency of only 1.6%. 


Customs director is working on new Customs Bill
The director of the Customs Agency (DGA), Enrique Ramírez Paniagua, favors changes to Customs Law 3489 that dates back to 1953. He highlighted earlier efforts at the Customs Agency to update rules and regulations were filed away by his predecessor who believed that the current customs law was working and didn’t need fixing.

Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Ramírez said that the new times call for the drafting of a new Customs Bill that would increase juridical security for commerce stakeholders. He said an industry commission is working on updating the law with the participation of public and private entities. 

Ramírez said that in 2016 only one sector, that of free zone exporters, accounted for US$10 billion in goods shipped by airports and land ports between imports and exports. 

During the talk he made it clear that the DGA would not cause obstruction or uncertainty to the export sector. On the contrary, he said the role of the DGA was to facilitate trade and reiterated that his agency is a strategic ally that facilitates economic growth and guides the business sector. 

Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce audience, Ramírez highlighted that the Dominican Republic is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to allow for a 24 hour customs clearance in normal conditions, while most goods clear customs in an average maximum of 48 hours, as established by the DR-CAFTA. 

He mentioned as accomplishments of the DGA, the operation of the Single-Stop Foreign Trade Window (VUCE), the Authorized Economic Operator (OEA) provision, and the notification of measures in Category A of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. 

Ramírez also expressed his support to public-private actions to turn the country into the Logistics Hub of the Caribbean. 

In his talk, he highlighted the importance of the free zone export free zone industries that employ 163,000 in direct jobs and another 300,000 in indirect jobs nationwide. 

He said the DGA would continue to fight contraband. He reported that in the past five months the agency had seized and incinerated 12 freight containers with more than 80 million cigarette units, the largest operation since these were started in 2014. He said since he was appointed in 2016, munitions, firearms of all calibers, machines to manufacture munitions and non-declared cash has been seized at unprecedented amounts. In addition, Ramirez said they have seized more than 310,000 articles in contraband. 


Agriculture: RD$2.5 billion to Northwest for flooding remediation
Agriculture Minister Ángel Estévez says the government has made available RD$2.5 billion to help farmers recover from their crop losses in the Northwest. Farms along several rivers were damaged due to the flooding when the government ordered the release of water in dams in the highlands to avoid the failure of these dams.

Estévez said that RD$1.33 billion would be used to rehabilitate primarily the banana farms in the area. The funds are available through the Banco Agrícola. 

Some RD$124 million has been set aside to improve rural roads that were damaged. Estévez also said the Ministry is working on rehabilitation of 155 kms of rural roads in Montecristi that were damaged by the flooding. Drainage structures will be built to prevent future road damage. He also highlighted that the INDRHI is working on the installation of breakwaters in the Yaque River basin to avoid future damage. 


AmCham urges ratifying Bali trade facilitation agreement
The American Chamber of Commerce (AmChamDR) at its January 2017 luncheon urged the National Congress approve the World Trade Organization Bali Declaration, a trade facilitation agreement. Approval is pending since 2013. 

The Trade Facilitation Agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process. 

The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other related agencies on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

The following WTO members have accepted the TFA: Nepal, Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Viet Nam, Brunei Darussalam, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, Cambodia, Paraguay, Turkey, Brazil, Macao China, the United Arab Emirates, Samoa, India, the Russian Federation, Montenegro, Albania, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Madagascar, the Republic of Moldova, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Senegal, Uruguay, Bahrain, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Iceland, Chile, Swaziland, Dominica, Mongolia, Gabon, the Kyrgyz Republic, Canada, Ghana, Mozambique, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Nigeria.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

Full implementation of the TFA would reduce members’ trade costs by an average of 14.3%, with developing countries having the most to gain. The TFA also has the ability to reduce the time to import goods by over a day and a half while also reducing time to export by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47% and 91% respectively over the current average. The TFA also has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to US$1 trillion.

AmCham stresses the Dominican Republic stands to gain with the approval of the agreement.


Finance sector grows 11.8% in 2016
The Superintendent of Banks Luis Armando Asunción said that at the close of 2016, data shows that the Dominican financial system had grown 11.8%, more than the 11.5% reported for 2015. Asunción said that assets had increased to RD$1.52 billion.  


Adozona says Trump TPP cancellation is good news for DR
The executive vice president of the Dominican Association of Free Zones (Adozona), José Manuel Torres, said that the confirmation by the Trump Administration that the United States would not seek to be part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is good news for the Dominican Republic and Central America region in general. 

Manufacturing in the Dominican Republic was especially concerned about competition from Vietnam. Vietnam, already, with no special concessions from the United States, is the second largest supplier of apparel and footwear to the United States. 

Johnny Jones reelected to LMD
PLD mayors backed Johnny Jones of the PRSC allowing him to lead the Dominican Municipal League for another four years. The new PLD government ally, the PRD, had sought to be rewarded for PRD legislative support in securing for President Danilo Medina the necessary votes to change the 2010 Constitution to allow him to run for President in 2016. 

Johnny Jones of the PRSC received 109 votes in favor. José Leonel Cabrera (Neney) of the PRD received 30 votes. 

140 mayors participated in the assembly that took place on Thursday, 26 January 2017, at the Santo Domingo Sheraton. The mayors that had voted for Cabrera did not stay to hear Jones’ acceptance speech. 

At the General Assembly, Jones was sworn in to continue in the post by ex officio president of the Municipal League, Minister of Interior and Police Carlos Amarante Baret. 

Although the LMD is the body charged with developing policies and strategies for municipal city government development, it is best known as a conduit for political spoils.

The executive editor of Diario Libre writes in the 27 January 2017 editorial to explain the politics behind the election of Johnny Jones. He writes: 

“In a country where everything is political or viewed in this light, the explanation on the street about the recent events has to be political. On the Dominican Municipal League, the above comment affirms that the inside struggle within the Dominican Liberation Party is so intense that Danilo was not going to be so clumsy to give that beachhead to Leonel Fernández. So far, Danilo has managed to get Leonel’s people out of budget management and was not going to open that gate with the League.” 


March organizers call for UN to assist in Odebrecht probe
The organizers of the successful Sunday, 22 January 2017, March Against Impunity visited the Attorney General’s Office and asked that an independent commission with the support of the United Nations investigate the Odebrecht bribes in the country. Natalia Mármol, spokesperson for the group, told the media that they would continue the peaceful demands until those that accepted bribes from Odebrecht were identified and prosecuted. She and others of the group visited the Attorney General’s Office wearing the green shirt that identified protestors on the Sunday march. 

Fellow march organizer, Bartolomé Pujals expressed his skepticism that the interrogation of former government officers by Attorney General Jean-Alain Rodríguez and anti-administrative corruption prosecutor Laura Guerrero of PEPCA would lead to any charges being brought against officials who may have taken bribes. Pujals said the actions of the Attorney General follow the same pattern of previous administrative corruption cases handling. Virtually all cases of corruption heard by the judiciary have been blocked from moving forward for alleged lack of evidence or on a legal technicality.  

"It is important to point out that neither the Attorney General of the Republic nor the President of the Republic, Danilo Medina, who is also compromised because bribes have been reported as having been paid during his management, can be a judge and part in designating commissions that at the end of the day will ensure impunity for any act of corruption that can be verified,"he said.

Also meeting at the Attorney General’s Office were members of Frente Amplio, deputy Fidel Santana and Dionisio Restituyo. They presented to the Attorney General a file with the overpricing of budgets for 24 projects carried out by Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic. Reportedly, the document does not include works carried out during the Medina administration, such as the coal-fired Punta Catalina power plant or the Duarte Corridor roadwork. 

The Medina administration has reacted to the public uproar for action by issuing a temporary suspension of the license of Odebrecht to participate in tenders for public works. The Attorney General Office announced on Friday, 20 January 2017, it had reached an agreement with Odebrecht for the later to pay US$184 million in compensation to the Dominican state. This would be double the US$92 million the company admitted to having distributed in bribes to Dominican government officers. Meanwhile, abroad, media report that Odebrecht is having financial difficulties in making payments on similar commitments reached previously with other countries.  In the Dominican Republic, only commercial representative of Odebrecht, Angel Rondón, has admitted to receiving the US$92 million bribe money but has said these were not bribes but rather fees for securing construction contracts. 

There has been no information forthcoming on the destination of the US$184 million or the names of the person who in addition to Rondón would have received a portion of the US$92 million. Furthermore, there has been no information provided that explain the major differences in budgeted works and final cost of the projects nor an accounting of the real costs of these public works carried out by Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic. 

Likewise, deputies of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRM), the leading opposition party, called for the Attorney General to request the immediate cooperation of the US Department of Justice and that of the Brazilian Federal Public Ministry in the case. Deputy Faride Raful of the PRM said that Rodríguez should be obligated to request the collaboration of the jurisdictions that have headed the investigations into the corruption case. 

Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez has said that his office has concluded the first phase of the investigation and now the findings will be verified. On Thursday, 26 January, he questioned Frank Rodríguez, former director del Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hydraúlicos (INDRHI), and Rafael Suero Miliano, former administrator of the Empresa Generadora Hidroeléctrica Dominicana (EGEHID). These former government officials of the Leonel Fernández presidency had no comments to make to the press.

Rodríguez said that already 16 present and former government officers, legislators and former legislators and others with known ties to Odebrecht have been interrogated in the ongoing investigation. 

Meanwhile, Diario Libre in an editorial on 27 January 2017 hints to the little expectations for Dominican government officers to be fined in the case of overpricing and bribes of Odebrecht. Executive editor Adriano Miguel Tejada writes: “Meanwhile, the serum that they have put to Odebrecht continues doing its work. What may explode will come from outside because here only locally made firecrackers of dubious origin will explode. “


Duarte Museum opens to celebrate Duarte Day
The Duarte Museum located at Calle Isabel la Católica in the Colonial City opened on the birthday of the founding father of the Dominican nationality, Juan Pablo Duarte on 26 January 2017. The renovations to the Duarte Institute, where a wax museum honoring Duarte is now open, was undertaken by the Presidency Office of Supervisory Works of the State (OISOE) under Francisco Pagán.  The curator of the exhibition was Juan Gilberto Núñez. 

The museum is divided in two sections. One section is dedicated to telling the life story of Duarte and the Duarte-Díez family in 13 full life size wax figures. A second section houses the Instituto Duartiano where the historic items it had previously are on display after being restored. Núñez says the intention of the museum is to tell Duarte’s life story and to provide highlights on his legacy. 

The wax figures show Duarte at the time of his baptism, the arrival of the Haitians that dominated the country for 22 years, Duarte at nine years of age, his adolescence, when he leaves on a sailboat and his confrontation with the sailboat captain showing his bravery. Also presented are depictions of Duarte when he was teaching his friends what he learned abroad, the founding of the La Trinitaria society that served as the platform to promote the independence movement, his return to the nation once independence was restored, and the declaration of Duarte as founding father. Finally, the museum depicts the episode where Duarte renders accounts for his assignment to the army in the south, when he opposed the government board under Bobadilla that sought to annex the country to France. 

Visitors are able to view a painting that shows the moment when Duarte leaves for exile, when he presents the restoration government and the episode of his death in Caracas, Venezuela. 

Death by a Thousand Cuts
If you have not had a chance to see the documentary on one of the biggest environmental crimes in the Caribbean, here is your chance. Death by a Thousand Cuts will be showing on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 7:30pm at the Cinemateca Dominciana. Admission is free. This is a production directed by Jake Kheel/Juan Mejía Botero. 2016. 

Polo Challenge finals in La Romana
Watch some of the best polo in the world played on the Club de Polo of Casa de Campo. Bronze Cup finals of the Polo Challenge Dominican Republic 2017. The Polo Challlenge 2017 then continues with the Silver Cup played 9-15 February, the Gold Cup from 4-26 and the Caribbean Open from 20 March to 15 April. For more information, contact 809 723-7353. 

Aguilas vs. Licey in the last game of the finals
The Aguilas Cibaeñas, playing in their home Santiago stadium, defeated the Tigres del Licey on Thursday, 26 January 2017, taking the 2016-2017 Dominican Winter Professional Baseball Championship to play for the championship game at the Quisqueya Ball Park in Santo Domingo starting at 7:30pm. 

The Licey now leads 4-3 over the Aguilas. If the team wins tonight, they win the championship. If they lose, the series returns to Santiago for the final game of the win-five-of-nine-games-series. 

Ronny Rodríguez was the hero of the game. He scored two home runs in the 3-2 game the Aguilas won over the Licey on Thursday. The first was to tie the game, and the second gave the Aguilas the victory in the 10th inning. 

Follow the series at http://www.lidom.com

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