Medina administration again budgets to spend more than its tax revenues
San Rafael de Yuma hospital remodeled
Crunching the numbers for the Santo Domingo land use plan
Asset Assessment Ruling set for 2 January 2018
ECLAC forecasts 5.1% growth for 2018
Centro Economico de Cibao poll shows Danilo with 43% popularity
Mario Arvelo chosen to chair world FAO committee
Bicameral commission delegates open primaries decision on PLD decision
UASD law professor murdered
Judge: Do a DNA test to be sure who is the mother of rescued baby
German arrested for child pornography in Sosua
Russian woman killed when hanging out naked of moving car

Medina administration again budgets to spend more than tax revenue
Economists of the Regional Center for Sustainable Economic Strategies (CREES) alert that the 2018 National Budget Bill maintains the pattern, begun in 2001, of the state taking on debt to maintain high levels of administrative spending.

CREES recommends that instead the government implement budgetary restrictions for a more prudent use of taxpayer money. CREES also proposes increasing the tax collection capacity of the state by simplifying the tax system and reducing taxation rates. It makes the point that given the size of the informal economy in the country, the impact of such a measure would be considerable.

CREES says that since 2008, the government has been budgeting to spend more than it collects in taxes. The deficit is compensated by increasing government debt.

The Medina administration 2018 Budget Bill is for RD$814.8 billion, of which RD$687.2 billion have been allotted to government expenditures, or 17% of the Gross National Product. Of these RD$583.6 billion are allotted for current spending and RD$106.3 for capital expenditures.

CREES criticizes that the 2018 budget again is overestimating tax revenues and underestimating public spending.

San Rafael de Yuma hospital remodeled
President Danilo Medina was in La Altagracia province for the inauguration of the remodeled Doctora Evangelina Rodriguez Perozo Public Hospital that services the municipality of San Rafael del Yuma and nearby areas. As reported by the Presidency, the remodeling had been promised to the community during a Sunday visit by Medina to the area.

As reported, modern equipment was installed so that the community members do not have to travel to Higuey for medical services that require X rays, sonography and other diagnostics. The hospital has 14 beds. Carmen Guerrero, director of the hospital, said it will benefit around 22,000 inhabitants in San Rafael de Yuma, as well as those in Benerito, Boca de Yuma, Bayahibe, Los Bateyes, Chavón and Los Negros.

Crunching the numbers for the Santo Domingo land use plan
The City Government of the National District (ADN), now under Mayor David Collado after 12 years of the city government of former Mayor Roberto Salcedo, has made available online this week a draft of the National District Land Use Plan for public discussion. The city government is asking for comments from the general public. The ADN explains the city so far does not have a land use plan, only partial regulations for 45% of the territory, that also require revisions and updates.

Architect Amin Abel Santos, director of Urban Planning of the National District Municipality (ADN), presented the POT Capital, the land use plan carried out by the ADN with the collaboration of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ICMA, the world’s leading association of professional city and county managers who serve local governments. The plan proposes guidelines for improved citizen safety and the creation of a more livable urban environment.

Speaking at the event, Mayor David Collado called for building a new Santo Domingo that is sustainable and resilient. During the event, Mayor Collado said: “We are counting on the backing of all our inhabitants and I say that together we can build a new Santo Domingo.”

Also attending was chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy, Robert Copley. He spoke of the exchange of experiences of the city government of Austin, Texas with the Santo Domingo authorities for the studies on vulnerability, land use and processes for citizen consulting.

The POT Capital study on the National District reveals that around 1 million persons (965,040 people) live in the 91 square kilometers of the capital city of the Dominican Republic, also known as Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Nevertheless, an estimated 400,000 vehicles enter the city bringing one million more people who come to work, study, or for other activities every day. Most of these commuters reside in the Greater Santo Domingo (adding Province of Santo Domingo and Bajos de Haina), for an overall urban area of around 300 square kilometers and population of 3.5 million.

The National District is home to 12.72% of the total commercial establishments in the country, most located in the southern Circumscription 1. In financial aspects, the National District consolidates 56.4% of bank deposits nationwide.

The National District boundaries are the Isabela River to the North, the Caribbean Sea to the South, the Ozama River to the East and the municipalities of Santo Domingo West and Los Alcarrizos to the West.

The Circumscription No. 1 is to the south with 39.36 Km² and 38 barrios; Circumscription No. 2 to the northeast with 39.35 Km² and 18 barrios, and Circumscription No. 3, with 13.29 Km² and 14 barrios. Of the 70 barrios, 15 concentrate almost 70% of the total population of the city. The average population density is 10,537.67 inhabitants/km².

The POT Capital land use plan draft carried out by the National District Municipality (ADN) reveals that of the 965,040 inhabitants, 413,429 live in precarious dwellings. The average age is 31 years, and 85% of the population is under 50 years old, according to the 2010 Census.

The study reveals there is 16.5 km of coastal line bordering with the Caribbean Sea and 17 access points to the city, including five that feed the main highways of the country. The plan explains that the high connectivity of the city is also one of the reason or its traffic congestion, noting that thousands of vehicles are passing through the city when headed for places outside of the central metropolitan area.

The city’s highest concentration of residents is in Circumscription No. 3 (eastern Santo Domingo) with a density of 27,132.58 hab/km². Northeastern Santo Domingo also has the lowest income per capita, with 43.66% of its residents living below the poverty line. Circumscription No. 1 (southern Santo Domingo), the wealthiest area, has 7,887.70 inhabitants/km² and only 7.56% of households live below the poverty line. Circumscription 2 (northern Santo Domingo) has 7,471.70 inhabitants/km² with pockets of poverty that account for 27.49% of households.

The study reveals that the National District is the economically best off area of the country. The poverty records show a total of 272,669 inhabitants living in poverty (28.3%) and 44,076 in extreme poverty (4.57%).

The National District is 82.72% urbanized (75.76Km², with 331,108 dwellings).

The study also refers to two polygonal areas with residential and commercial mixed use and special characteristics:

Colonial City (Ciudad Colonial) with an area of 1.22 km², a population of 8,477 inhabitants or 6,948.36 inhabitants/km²

Central Polygon (Polígono Central) with an area of 4.34 km² and four barrios -- Paraíso, Piantini, La Esperilla and Ensanche Naco, 32,251 inhabitants for a density of 5,728.41 inhabitants/km²

Asset Assessment Ruling set for 2 January 2018
The Central Bank announced the approval of the Asset Assessment Ruling (REA) that will go into effect on 2 January 2018. The Central Bank said that exceptions to the ruling have been made in the cases of small and medium-sized business (SMEs), following recommendations of an inter-institutional technical committee made up by the Central Bank, the Superintendence of Banks, the Association of Commercial Banks, Dominican League of Loans and Savings Banks (LIDAAPI), Pro Competencia agency, Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD), Dominican Association of Investment Funds Societies (Adosafi), Dominican Society of Trust Funds (Asofidom), among others.

ECLAC forecasts 5.1% growth for 2018
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) revised its 2017 growth projections for economic activity in the region and foresees an average economic expansion of 1.2% in Latin America and the Caribbean this year, which is slightly above the forecast from last July. A rebound in the region’s economies is expected for 2018, with growth averaging 2.2%, which would be the highest rate since 2013, the United Nations organization stated in a press release dated 13 October 2017.

For the Dominican Republic, ECLAC also forecasts greater GDP growth, increasing from 4.9% forecast for 2017 to 5.1% now forecast for 2018, above the 3.5% average for the Central American region and 1.9% average for the English-speaking Caribbean. Growth for the Dominican Republic would be only second to the 5.4% forecast for Panama that is the most for the Latin American and Caribbean region.

According to ECLAC, the capacity of the region’s countries to generate a more dynamic economic growth process that is sustained over time depends on the willingness and capacity of countries to adopt policies that support investment, which will be fundamental for mitigating the effects of external shocks and averting significant impacts on economic performance in the medium and long term.

In this context, bolstering both public and private investment is essential, along with diversifying the productive sectors to spur value added industries and facilitate greater incorporation of technology and knowledge.

Centro Economico de Cibao poll shows Danilo with 43% popularity
President Danilo Medina is banned by the 2015 Constitution from running for re-election. What the Constitution says has traditionally not been an impediment for a President to seek re-election. The Constitution disqualified former President Hipólito Mejía from running for re-election in 2004 and President Danilo Medina from running in 2016, and both pushed forward constitutional changes in order to run for re-election. This time around, the Medina faction is majority in Congress, making it easier to propose the changes to accommodate re-election.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that presidential elections are not scheduled until 2020, polls are focusing on who are the most popular pre-candidates, including President Medina.

The Centro Económico de Cibao (CEC) poll reported voter preferences of possible 2020 candidates. The poll included President Danilo Medina supposing he would seek a third term that would require a change to the 2015 Constitution. The poll only included eligible voters in the National District, seat of the capital city of the Dominican Republic.

The results of the CEC poll are: Danilo Medina 43.2%, Leonel Fernández 17.5%, neither 32.5%. Among PLD followers, the vote is Medina 56.9%, Fernández 26.7%, neither 9.2%.

CEC reveals that National District voters are happy with Mayor David Collado. He received an approval rating of 74.4% for his municipal management. Those polled cited improved government services, such as garbage collection and the construction of public works under Mayor Collado.

Mario Arvelo chosen to chair world FAO committee
Dominican Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Mario Arvelo, was elected to chair the Committee on World Food Security at the FAO headquarters during a plenary on 13 October 2017. The vision of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is to be the most inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition around the world. The Committee reports to the UN General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to the FAO Conference.

Bicameral commission delegates open primaries decision on PLD decision
The bicameral commission that is studying the Political Parties Bill announced they will not proceed before hearing from the Political Committee of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), as reported in Diario Libre. The ruling PLD party has more than enough votes to push through Congress whatever its Political Committee decides. Moreover, the faction within the party that represents President Danilo Medina followers enjoys a majority in both legislative chambers.

The impasse of the Political Parties Bill is focused on the PLD faction that wants to impose open primaries for the political parties. This had been rejected by the Supreme Court of Justice that found it in violation with the Constitution in 2005. The Central Electoral Board has also rejected the open primaries on grounds of its high cost.

President of the PLD, former President Leonel Fernandez, is also against the open primaries. Likewise, Luis Abinader, former presidential candidate for the largest opposition party, the PRM opposes the open primaries saying the high cost of the open primaries scheme discriminates against the smaller political parties. Former President Hipólito Mejía, of a contending faction in the PRM, and Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas of the PRD back the Medina scheme for open primaries.

Nevertheless, the Political Committee of the PLD has decided to handpick five lawyers to give their opinion on the constitutional validity of the open primaries mechanism. Legislators in the Dominican Republic are not known for their independence of criteria, and most often have voted on key bills following party leader instructions.
The Political Parties Bill has been in Congress for more than 20 years without a decision because each time Congress has tried to accommodate the bill to those in power without reaching a consensus with those out of power.

The bicameral commission said it would begin to study the Electoral Regime Bill. Electoral experts have said the first of the two bills that should be approved is the Electoral Regime Bill.

Political analyst Rosario Espinal says the differences on the kind of primaries all come down to what group controls the organization secretariat of the party, what group has the most money and which pre-candidate is more popular outside of the party. She explains that the politician that controls the organization secretariat will prefer the closed primaries because he will register more of his followers; the one with more cash will prefer the open primaries, and the most popular will prefer the open primaries.

UASD law professor murdered
The remains of state university UASD professor, Yuniol Ramírez, who was known for his strong anti-corruption stand, were buried on Saturday, 14 October 2017 after being recovered from the waters of the Las Varias stream in Manoguayabo, in western Santo Domingo. Ramírez’s corpse was found tied with a chain and two blocks and a bullet wound in an eye. He had been reported missing since Thursday by his relatives. The body was first sighted by a young man who was fishing in the area.

The Santo Domingo prosecutor Olga Diná Llaverías announced on Sunday, 15 October 2017 in the evening that preliminary investigations into the case lead to believe that Argenis Contreras Gonález and José Antonio Mercado Blanco, two employees of the Metropolitan Bus Services Office (OMSA) killed the law professor because he was blackmailing the director of OMSA for RD$4 million. The press conference took place at the Palace of the Police with the participation of the head of the Department of Central Criminal Investigations (Dicrim), Brigade General Pablo Arturo Pujols and spokesman for the police, Colonel Frank Felix Duran.

In addition to Mercado Blanco, the director of the OMSA, Manuel Antonio Rivas, businessman Eddy Rafael Santana Zorrilla, accountant Faustino Rosario, who is also a police colonel, are under arrest. Rosario had a salary of RD$75,000 as financial director of the Omsa.

Rivas was arrested on Saturday evening at Las Americas International Airport, when he returned from Panama. Argenis Contreras González reportedly left the country after the killing.

As reported during the press conference, Santana Zorrilla had agreed to the RD$4 million and advanced RD$1 million in cash to the late lawyer.

Diario Libre reports that Ramírez had critical positions on corruption, impunity and public administration management. He was a former president of the Convergencia Nacional de Abogados (Cona) and in 2016 campaigned to be senator for his natal San Juan de la Maguana on the PRM ticket.

As president of Cona, he had held critical positions against the Super Tucano aircraft corruption case, the Banco de Reservas identity change, Odebrecht, Punta Catalina power plants, senator Felix Bautista, Omsa among others. In a recent interview with Salvador Holguin on Lo que Otros Callan he expressed his positions. During the interview he had called the Omsa, the next great Medina administration corruption scandal.

The installations of Omsa, the public bus transport agency, have been searched.

As reported in Diario Libre, the brother of the late Yuniol Ramirez, also lawyer Ramón Ramirez said he would sue the director of the OMSA and others the investigation reveals could be involved in the murder. He died his brother was involved in extortion and said that this would have to be proven.

Antonio Medina, dean of the UASD law school where Yuniol Ramírez was a professor, told Diario Libre: “We do not have to validate the statements by the prosecutors and the Police. We demand more in depth investigations into the case. This case is very delicate and they have sought not only to physically kill Yuniol, but also morally.”

The Central Criminal Investigations Agency (Dicrim) of the Police is investigating the case.

Judge: Do a DNA test to be sure who is the mother of rescued baby
Judge Alejandro Vargas, hearing the case of 25-year old Yohanni Martínez, accused of stealing the baby girl of a 15-year old Winifer Cruz from the La Altagracia Maternity Hospital, gave Martínez a break. Prosecutors had requested pre-trial custody on grounds of her deceiving hospital staff, but the judge said there were major breakdowns of procedures at the hospital and ordered a DNA test of the baby.

The court recounted the story by Martínez who said that after giving birth to a 3.5 lb premature baby on 27 July, she was called by the hospital and told her baby had died. At the hospital she noticed that her name was on the list in the intensive care unit with a baby in an incubator and she thought the baby was hers. She said a doctor called her and told her a mistake had been made and her baby was alive and that she should visit the hospital to breast feed, which was what she did. She said they delivered the baby to her on 29 September 2017.
Police searched for and eventually found the baby after the 15-year old alerted her baby had been taken.

Judge Vargas suggested the DNA test to be totally convinced there is not a mistake that has been made on one side or the other. He said that the authorities need to delve further into the case because in the hospital contradictory information was given.

“While the mother of the baby girl is very upset, we also have to understand the drama of the accused. She had a baby who died, and it is obvious the hospital had poorly managed this situation. And if that is the way the hospital deal with these types of cases, I would dread to be born at that hospital, because I would not know into whose hands I would be placed,” he stated.

German arrested for child pornography in Sosua
A German, Heinrich Christilieb (Sacha), was arrested in Sosua, Puerto Plata accused of sexually exploiting teenagers for pornography. He was arrested on Calle 21, El Batey, Sosua where a hard disk of a computer was seized with child pornography, clothing for girls and other articles.

Puerto Plata prosecutors said that the arrest operation was carried out by prosecutors Cinthia Bonetti and Warlyn Tavárez, with the backing of officers of the non-profit organizations Operation Underground Railroad and International Justice Mission (IJM).

State prosecutors said the man would be accused of violation of several articles of People Trafficking Law 137-03 and Child Protection Law 136-03.

Russian woman killed when hanging out of moving car
A Russian tourist was killed in the Dominican Republic as she was hanging out topless of the window of a moving car when riding with a 32-year old Ukranian girl friend, Ivanna Boirachuk, to Punta Cana. The video of the horrific accident was shared on social media. The victim was identified as 35-year old Natalia Borisovna Borodina. As reported, she worked as a real estate agent in Cannes, France, where she was a resident. She was vacationing in Punta Cana.

The tragedy occurred on 10 October 2017, in the afternoon when Borodina banged her head into a road sign poll after hanging out of the vehicle when her friend, who was driving and filming her in the vehicle, got too close to the road sign. The Russian fell to the pavement still alive and was taken to the Veron hospital, but doctors were not able to save her. Daily Mail of the UK reported that Natalia Borodina is survived by her 80-year-old mother, her sister and a minor son.