Hacienda takes on US$1.8 billion in sovereign bond debt
2 million motorcycles but only 300,000 motorcyclists have licenses
Pedro Silverio: Tax study left out most relevant points
2.4 million locally-issued active credit cards in DR
Judge gives Attorney General 4 more months to investigate Odebrecht bribe scandal
PRM announces new date for delegates’ conventions
Fast Company on Trump at Cap Cana
Criminal lawyer Ramón Pina Acevedo buried with honors
Father Rogelio says he’s not traveling to Colombia, Salesianos say it was his idea
No details shared, but artist missing in Holland is located
Quadruple family murder
Puerto Rico wins all its games and lands 2018 Caribbean Series
Santo Domingo Yacht Club announces fishing tournaments

Hacienda takes on US$1.8 billion in sovereign bond debt
Minister of Hacienda Donald Guerrero announced the new placement of Dominican sovereign bonds as contemplated in the 2018 National Budget. These are five-year RD peso bonds valued at RD$40 billion (US$822 million) at an 8.9% yield and another for 30-year US$1 billion at a 6.5% yield.

Guerrero says that the placement in pesos, a country first, reduces the exchange risk for the country. El Dia reports this is the ninth placement made by the Medina administration since 2013.


2 million motorcycles but only 300,000 motorcyclists have licenses
The executive director of the National Transport and Transit Institute (Intrant), engineer Franchesca de los Santos says that while there are an estimated two million motorcycles in circulation, only 300,000 motorcyclists have licenses to drive these. She said her office is giving the motorcycle issue priority as motorcyclists are involved in 60% of the traffic deaths in the country.

She explained that hundreds of thousands of motorcycles were assembled from spare parts, and are circulating without adequate documentation. Many others are in the hands of undocumented foreigners. She said her office is working with the Tax Agency (DGII) to find ways to regulate the motorcycles assembled from imported parts. But she said the situation is more difficult in the case of the undocumented foreigners and their legalization to drive the motorcycles.

She says since August 2017 they have three mobile licensing units and operations are being carried out to encourage the motorcyclists to regularize their situation.

De los Santos also announced that nine main avenues will soon be off limits for fare-sharing cars (conchos). These include J. F. Kennedy, 27 de Febrero, Máximo Gómez, Sabana Larga and Isabel Aguiar that De los Santos says should only be served by larger collective transport units such as buses.


Pedro Silverio: Tax study left out most relevant points
Former governor of the Central Bank Pedro Silverio advocates in an opinion piece in Diario Libre on 9 February 2018 for reduced tax levels, so that tax exemptions need not to be applied, while urging a reduction of government spending for an efficient fiscal system.

In his commentary on the recent World Bank study “Towards an Efficient Tax System,” he observes the tax proposal leaves out the most relevant points to achieve a sustainable tax efficiency and calls the proposal “isolated” and “a proposal presented in a vacuum.”

He observes that, for starters, the study acknowledges that taxes, particularly the income and sales (ITBIS) taxes, are higher those of other countries in the region. But the study does not discuss the effects these high tax rates have on tax evasion and growth of the informal business sector. He also remarks that the study does not focus on the relationship between high taxes and the need the country has had to implement tax incentive regimes to compensate for these high taxes in order to attract investment and create jobs.

Instead the study criticizes that the 14,000 jobs created by the free zone industries in 2015 were done at a high fiscal cost. Silverio doubts these jobs would have been created if the incentives had not been in place. He emphasizes that the elimination of tax incentives needs to coincide with reduction of tax tariff rates.

Silverio highlights that an ideal tax system is one that combines appropriate taxes with administrative controls, effective programs to mediate the risks of tax evasion and the transparent, efficient and ethical use of the generated public resources so that economic agents are encouraged to participate in the formal economy and meet their fiscal obligations.

Silverio criticizes that among the recommendations made in the World Bank study is an emphasis on tax education programs to increase the tax base, leaving out an analysis of the cost-benefit of the informal vs. formal economy.

He says that in the DR government has traditionally just focused on seeking new revenues by expanding the tax base or increasing taxes instead of controlling the fiscal deficit by critically addressing rising government spending. “The fiscal burden of the adjustment load cannot exclusively rest on taxpayers. Under the current system, the objectives of more tax revenue, more and better jobs, and a reduced informal economic sector will not be achieved,” he writes. In fact, if nothing is done, Silverio warns that the contrary could occur.


2.4 million locally-issued active credit cards in DR
Credit cards issued in the Dominican Republic as of the end of 2017 showed outstanding balances for RD$50 billion. Dominican banks have issued 2.4 million credit cards that are held by more than a million persons. Credit card growth was 8% in 2017, as reported by financial analyst Alejandro Fernandez in his Argentarium column in Diario Libre published on Thursday, 8 February 2018.

Fernandez highlights US dollar balances have shown significant growth. He said in 2008 debt taken on by local credit card holders in US dollars was around 14% of all consumption. By year’s end 2017, this had increased to 20%, reflecting increase in Internet purchases abroad by locals.

Fernandez says the average interest rate for consumers not paying within the allotted period is 60% annually, considerably less than the 91% average in 2010. Fernández himself lead a successful campaign to crack down on the high interest rates the banks were charging their customers.

He observes there are around 200 companies offering the credit cards. He says the market leader is the Banco Popular, first to offer locally-issued credit cards, with RD$15.4 billion, followed by Banreservas and BHD Leon.


Judge gives Attorney General 4 more months to investigate Odebrecht bribe scandal
Judge Francisco Ortega in charge of hearing the case of Dominican government officers and affiliates accused of taking bribes to pass Odebrecht construction work in the country accepted the postponing of the hearings for another four months through 9 June 2018. This is in response to a request from the Attorney General Office for more time for its investigations.

The Attorney General has accused 14 Dominicans in the case, but all have been awarded privileged pre-trial custody measures, with none obliged to remain in jail. The accused are: Juan Temístocles Montás, Tommy Alberto Galán Grullón, Julio César Valentín, Alfredo Pacheco, Ángel Rondón, Víctor Díaz Rúa, Cesar Sánchez, Radhamés Segura, Roberto Rodríguez, Andrés Bautista, Ruddy González, Bernardo Castellanos de Moya, Máximo D’Oleo and Conrado Pittaluga.


PRM announces new date for delegates’ conventions
The leading opposition political party, the PRM, announced their convention will be held on 18 March 2018 and not on 18 February as originally planned. This is the second postponing of the convention that originally would have taken place in November 2017. The convention will choose the party directors. Some 90,000 party members aspire to 40,000 positions.

Sonia Guzman, acting president of the PRM, also called for members meet on 8 April for the local delegate convention and on 22 April for the national delegate convention. Guzman said that the postponement is to give more time for the organization to prepare for the convention. She also explained a purge is being carried on the registered PRM voters list of 523,000 voters. "This decision aims to assure that this unique event in the history of political parties in the country is well organized and takes place with unquestionable transparency," said Guzman.

The president of the PRM, Andres Bautista is seeking re-election. He is also one of the 14 accused of corruption in the Odebrecht bribe scandal.


Fast Company on Trump at Cap Cana
A feature in Fast Company has shed light on the controversial change to height permitted for tourism residential property in the Punta Cana destination. At the end of 2017, the Ministry of Tourism confirmed it had issued a resolution changing the permitted height in Cap Cana from maximum heights of 4 floors to 22 floors in Macao and 17 floors in Cap Cana.

The “coconut height” limit had been instated since the early years of Punta Cana development to conserve the natural beauty of the area and not repeat errors of other skyscraper beach destinations in the country and abroad. In the Dominican Republic, high rises authorized in the past for the southeastern beach destination of Juan Dolio are considered to have not been a plus for that destination.

The National Hotel & Tourism Association (Asonahores) says the procedures used to pass the resolution are in violation with the law. A meeting since then is pending with Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García and Asonahores.

According to Fast Company, behind the resolution is the decision of the Medina administration to please US President Donald Trump. Fast Company says that while for Trump Haiti may be a “****hole”, the Dominican Republic “is a country that he clearly thinks could be a goldmine – and a potential windfall for his family’s business empire.”

Fast Company reports that its sources tell it that the Trump Organization is close to an agreement in the Dominican Republic with a developer to partner on the project Trump at Cap Cana on the southern end of the Punta Cana strip. While Trump had promised to avoid any new overseas deals while in office, the explanation given is that “this is not a new deal but just consistent with an existing licensing deal that the company signed with a local developer back in 2007.”

That 2007 deal for condos at Farallon Trump at Cap Cana, nevertheless collapsed leaving many Dominican investors with hefty losses.

Fast Company reports that in January 2018, “Trump’s partner on the island, the powerful Capa Cana Group, was granted permits and financial incentives to build 17 towers, including the Condos Playa Juanillo project, which has reportedly been linked to the Trump Organization.

Former Dominican ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Vega, is quoted giving insights into why the authorization: “Here in the palace, the president’s thoughts are that this U.S. president is angry and we better not get in his way,” says Bernardo Vega, the former Dominican ambassador to the U.S. “We don’t want to cross him.”

Vega told Fast Company that President Medina “wants the Trump family to invest in tourism in our country, and for that has forced the Minister of Tourism to change the rules and allow high-rises on the beach in Cap Cana and Punta Cana.”

Vega, nevertheless, would later tell Fast Company that the country’s tourism minister used the name of the Trumps to pressure the private sector into supporting the proposal “and not because they have decided to invest.”

Richard Painter, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, reportedly told Fast Company that the Dominican deal is an ethics problem for the Dominican Republic and “one more example of a foreign entanglement for the Trump business empire that creates conflicts of interest.”

Painter notes: “But to have U.S. public officials, as opposed to just U.S. companies, causing foreign governments to behave this way–in part to ingratiate themselves with our president–is very disturbing. The message is that you should destroy your environment for the benefit of the Trump organization as a way to get your country off the White House ‘s–thole list.'”


Criminal lawyer Ramón Pina Acevedo buried with honors
The presidents of the Constitutional Court, Milton Ray Guevara and the Supreme Court of Justice Mariano Germán Mejía, highlighted the achievements of 96-year old lawyer Ramón Pina Acevedo, best known as both a legendary criminal lawyer and for his efforts at promoting the sport of boxing. The nonagenarian died on Wednesday, 7 February 2018, after suffering a fall at home. He was buried with honors at the Máximo Gómez Cemetery in Santo Domingo.

He had a career of over 70 years in law and wrote several books on law that are obligatory reading for law students and professionals. The Association of Lawyers (Colegio de Abogados) declared three days of mourning.

He is the father of Cesar Pina Toribio, who served for many years as legal advisor to the Presidency, prior to being named ambassador in Argentina.

Ramon Pina Acevedo graduated in law in 1946 and held a private practice until being named attorney general in a Balaguer administration. He also served as a deputy in Congress and as a diplomat. He also served for more than 40 years as the president of the Dominican Boxing Commission. He was also vice president of the World Boxing Association and then the inaugural president of the World Boxing Organization. Pina was the supervisor for many important world title fights, among these the Leonard vs. Hagler fight.


Father Rogelio says he’s not traveling to Colombia, Salesianos say it was his idea
Outspoken Catholic priest Rogelio Cruz has said he is not leaving. He said he recently received instructions from his superior Father Francisco Batista at the Salesian congregation to pack to go take a four-month course in updating his spirituality in Colombia, starting 19 February 2018.

In October 2017, he had been ordered to no longer preside the non-governmental organization named for him. He told the press he stepped down and is just involved as another volunteer. The organization was created in 2005 by volunteers to back his community-oriented initiatives.

The 59-year old priest has gone to the media to declare that the order for him to relocate to Colombia is being pushed by the mining companies Falcondo, Barrick Gold and GoldQuest. He said they have used their influence in the Catholic Church “to get him out of circulation.” Father Rogelio said they have pressured his superiors because of his community advocacy against exploitation of mines in Loma Miranda (Falcondo) and San Juan de la Maguana (GoldQuest). Both companies seek the community green light to be awarded the Ministry of Environment exploitation permits.

Father Rogelio says he is not afraid to be expelled from the church for helping the poor.

This is not the first time the charismatic priest is opposed by influential sectors. He became well known for his extraordinary community work when parishioner in the slum area of Cristo Rey where his outreach efforts on behalf of at-risk youth resulted in a significant reduction in crime.

On Sunday, 11 February, nevertheless, the Salesianos reported that Father Rogelio Cruz had been invited to the three-month course at the Casa Sacerdotal de la Ceja in Medellín, Colombia to renovate his priesthood vows. The religious order says that in September 2017 it was Father Cruz who wrote to his superior expressing his interest in participating in priesthood courses in Bogotá and even indicated the dates he would be interested in traveling.

The Salesianos clarified: “Father Rogelio Cruz has not been relocated from La Vega, nor the country, this is misinformation,” stated the religious congregation. Father Rogelio is the parishioner at the Parroquia Santo Domingo Savio in La Vega.


No details shared, but artist missing in Holland is located
The family of Dominican artist Teresa Maria Diaz Nero reported that she was found alive. Little was shared by the relatives on why she was not in touch with her family for more than three weeks that caused their major concern and the taking public of the absence. The family reported she was “upset” and was at the Dutch police.

Quadruple family murder
The stink emanating from a closed house in Barrio Enriquillo, Av. Independencia (Carretera Sanchez Km, 8) in the National District alerted the neighbors who then called 911 on Thursday, 8 February 2018. When rescue workers entered the dwelling they found the corpses of three children, 13-year old Daniela Encarnación, 11-year old Rahamín Encarnación and six-year old Angela Encarnación. A further search found the corpse of the mother, Reyna Isabel González, in a closed closet.

Initial reports are that the family had been dead for several days. All the corpses showed signs of violence. The lead suspect is González’s spouse, 32-year old Víctor Alexander Portorreal Villalona. Diario Libre reports he confessed the murder to his mother by phone. The woman was arrested.

The neighbors said the family had moved there less than six months ago.

Chief of the Police Ney Aldrin Bautista said investigations show that Portorreal murdered his spouse on Sunday, 4 February, and later on that same day his two minor step- daughters and then raped them. He said that Portorreal later would sleep with the deceased in the house.

Portorreal has been under arrest since Friday, 9 February.


Puerto Rico wins all its games and lands 2018 Caribbean Series
The Criollos de Caguas, the 2017 defending champions, defeated the Aguilas Cibaeñas 9-4 on 8 February 2018 in Guadalajara, Mexico to deliver the 2017-2018 championship to Puerto Rican fans. The hero of the playoff game was Jonathan Morales who hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning when the DR was winning 4-3. This is Puerto Rico’s 16th tournament. The DR has won the most of the tournaments, 19. The DR has not won a series since 2012.


Santo Domingo Yacht Club announces fishing tournaments
The Boca Chica-based Santo Domingo Yacht Club announced the Pez Dorado Fishing Tournament would be held 16-17 March 2018. This would be followed by the International White Marlin Fishing Tournament hosted at the Nautico’s Cabeza de Toro installations from 26-29 April directed by Danny Medina. The Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament will be 26-29 August to be directed by past yacht club commodore Wally Heinsen. These are the most important fishing tournaments held in the Dominican Republic.