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Daily News - Tuesday, 04 March 2014

No new taxes through 2016 says Peralta
Administrative Minister of the Presidency Jose Ramon Peralta says there will be no new tax reform or new taxes. He said the government would be calling for discussions of a Fiscal Pact to be applied by the next administration as of 2016. Business sector representatives have called for the talks leading to the Fiscal Pact that was agreed upon in discussions for the National Development Strategy.

He said the Medina administration would work within its present taxation levels by making responsible use of revenues and keeping the fiscal deficit at 2.8%.

"For the rest of this government there will be no more fiscal reforms, we will adjust," he said, as reported in Diario Libre.

The business sector is asking for a fairer fiscal regime where more pay taxes.

Business representatives say that the present regime has not been capable of reducing informality in the economy and this places a greater burden on those who do pay taxes.

The World Bank says that the poor and most vulnerable pay high taxes while there are no guarantees of adequate goods and services. The World Bank recommends replacing indirect taxes with direct taxes and revoking taxes on several basic goods. It is also critical of the many tax exemption regimes. The World Bank also calls for improved public spending that should be a priority to facilitate key issues under the National Development Strategies. The World Bank is proposing a review of fiscal exemptions.

Meanwhile, economist Pavel Isa Contreras says that the government first needs to tackle corruption and impunity that has led to high levels of wasteful spending in the Dominican Republic. He called for more transparency in government spending and redirecting of spending. He said the government needs the population in general to perceive that public resources are being used in a more effective and efficient way to finance goods and services that citizens are demanding, starting with health and education, infrastructure and a functioning judicial system, efficient public security and environmental protection.





San Juan-Santiago highway construction to start in August
Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo has announced plans to start the San Juan-Santiago highway no later than August this year, 2014. The Medina administration has said it will not start any public work that it cannot complete by the end of its term in August 2016.

Castillo says that they have analyzed 17 options for which is closest, where structures are better, where most jobs can be created, and where the environment will be least affected. He said the tender for the highway would be announced in April, as reported in Diario Libre.

The highway is very controversial because it will require cutting through the Central Mountain range an area that is protected by several national parks.

Opponents say that the government should repair existing routes for the south-north connection that do not affect the vulnerable forest areas.


Vests and new plates for motorcyclists
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has announced that starting 15 March motorcycle drivers need to pay RD$100 for a kit with a license plate and numbered jacket. They will be compulsory for both public transport and private motorbikes. The new jackets and license plates are part of the Citizen Security Plan. DGII director Guarocuya Felix said that the plan is costing RD$1.3 billion. In a first phase, only public transport motorbikes will be regulated.

Private users need to wear the orange vest with a blue band, while motorcycle taxis will wear the same orange vest but with a yellow band. The kit includes a transparent sticker for the front light with the number assigned to the motorbike and other information.

Felix says that there are now 110,000 legal motorcycles transiting of about a million in circulation around the country.



Single window facility for foreign trade
The Customs department has announced a pilot plan for a one-stop shop facility for foreign trade starting next week. Gregorio Lora Arias, advisor to the Department, said that several public and private entities still needed to synchronize their computer systems for it to be fully operational, which will require both time and investment in equipment. The pilot program includes the ministries of Hacienda, Agriculture and Public Health and the Department of Taxes.


Academy of Sciences: Protect Enriquillo Lake flooded farmland
The Academy of Sciences says that the Ministry of Environment should draft a bill aimed at protecting the former farmlands affected by the rising waters of Lake Enriquillo by transferring them to the Enriquillo Lake National Park. The Academy says this is to prevent them from being resettled if the waters recede. The Academy suggested that the farmers who are being relocated should sign a document where they commit to transferring their plots to the National Park in exchange for the properties they are going to receive. The farmers are being relocated to the Boca de Cachon government project.

The Academy says this would help prevent conflicts in the future.

Since 2007, the lake has risen by 11.5 meters gaining 3.53 cubic kilometers in volume of water, affecting around 100,000 tareas (1 tarea = 629 square meters), as reported in Diario Libre.

Date for the next Haiti-Dominican bilateral talks?
No date has been set for the third meeting in the current round of high-level bilateral talks between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While they had initially been set for the first Monday of the month, at the Monday, 3 February meeting the March date was set for Wednesday 12, in Haiti. But now Minister of Interior and Police Jose Ramon Fadul says that although they are working on the agenda, it is unlikely that they will meet on the 12th. As reported in El Nuevo Diario, Fadul said that since this involves talks between two parties "sometimes we are prepared, but they (the Haitians) are not."

He said that Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo is coordinating the next meeting with the Haitian authorities.

Fadul said that the government is still working on the naturalization bill that will be presented to Congress.

The minister confirmed reports that the Haitian government had impeded the entry of Dominican farm products to Haiti on Friday, 28 February, but said it was not in reprisal for the government's delay in submitting the bill, originally set for the 27 of February opening of Congress. The minister said he was not aware of the Haitians notifying the Dominican government prior to stopping the entrance of some products, as had been established in the joint statement after the second meeting.

"No one has to tell us what we have to do with a bill or not, that is a commitment that the President of the Republic took on, to send a bill when it is ready to the National Congress, but it is not an imposition by Haiti or anyone else. That is our prerogative and we know that we have to send the naturalization bill or whatever to fill in a void there is between the Constitutional Ruling 168-13 of the Constitutional Court and the Legalization Plan," he said. Fadul went on to say that several government departments were discussing the bill in order to ensure that it is as polished as possible before being sent to Congress.

Fadul said that a meeting with former Haitian consul in the Dominican Republic Edwin Paraison had been postponed. One of the issues for discussion at the meeting was to be the controversial Taking Our Territory (TNT) campaign. Paraison suspended the meeting explaining he had commitments in Haiti.

In a commentary published in acento.com.do last week, Paraison denied that the campaign was about the fusion of the island of Hispaniola and said that TNT was an evangelical group.

But the president of the Council of Evangelical Churches (CODUE), Fidel Lorenzo said that the TNT campaign was not an evangelical initiative and called on former consul Paraison to clarify the campaign's true intentions to the Dominican people.

Minister of Defense Sigrido Pared Perez has said that if it is a religious group, it should be called "Taking our Faith," not "our Territory." He described it as "a confrontation with the Dominican Republic."


US Southern Command recognizes DR regarding Haitian immigration
In a posture statement before the 113th Congress House Armed Services Committee dated 26 February, the US Southern Command General John F. Kelly recognized the efforts of the Dominican Republic regarding Haitian immigration.

The US Southern Command told a hearing of the US Congress that the Dominican Armada and security forces were using valuable resources to deal with increasing numbers of Haitians who use Dominican territory to make boat trips to Puerto Rico. The Haitians are motivated by looser immigration procedures authorized for Haitian nationals since the 2010 earthquake. They are mainly fleeing the lack of human rights and work opportunities in Haiti.

Despite the situation, the US Congress chose to extend the temporary migratory benefit (TPS) to January 2016 to Haitian nationals. The privilege is in place since 15 January 2010. Haitians who reach US territory are authorized to work legally in the United States. Thousands are now using the DR waters and territory as a first step to reach US territory.

According to the posture statement presented to the US Congress by the US Southern Command: "It has been many years since US Southern Command supported a response to a mass migration event, but I am concerned by the trends we are seeing, especially in Haiti, where we have witnessed a 44-fold increase in Haitian migrants in the Mona Passage. As of February 2013, more than 2,000 Haitians had been documented trying to use this narrow passage as a migration vector, compared to less than 200 in the past eight years combined."

While Haitian immigration has increased dramatically, during the same period Dominicans have been discouraged by recent tragedies and are less likely to use the sea route.

"Smuggling operations have a high human toll; rough seas endanger the lives of rescuers and migrants and have resulted in the death of more than 50 Haitians to date," stated the US official in the document.

Kelly also acknowledged the plight of the Dominican Republic dealing with the mass immigration of impoverished Haitians. "Thankfully, the Dominican Republic is an important partner in stemming migration flows, and they are working hard to reach a solution on the issue of the roughly 200,000 Haitians residing in the Dominican Republic," he stated in the comments.

General Kelly said that the US Coast Guard and Dominican forces are already "overstretched" in the patrolling operations. "Absent resource adjustments, stemming these smuggling operations and preventing future loss-of-life will pose major challenges to the United States and our Caribbean partners," states the US military commander of the Caribbean Sea.


Santiago beltway cost RD$200m/km
The president of the Alianza Pais political party, former National District attorney Guillermo Moreno is requesting an audit of the recently inaugurated Santiago Bypass. He described the US$130 million cost of the 26-km road as "excessive," saying that an audit was needed to show why it cost RD$200 million per kilometer to build the beltway. Since the highway was first announced 19 years ago, successive governments promised to complete it and the Medina government completed its construction in eight months.

Environmental groups in Santiago say that the areas along the highway should be reforested given its impact on the area. They called for the creation of an ecological corridor that creates a tree-lined curtain of at least 50 meters, as reported in Hoy.

Today's Diario Libre, Tuesday 4 March reports that the high tolls are keeping traffic down on the road that opened on Monday 24 February. Reporters noted that only 60 vehicles used the road in one hour, which would mean around 1,440 per day on average. On the inauguration day Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo said that 10,000 vehicles would use the highway every day. The toll is RD$150 for vehicles, pickups and SUVs, RD$270 for small buses and RD$270 for buses and RD$360-RD$600 for trucks. The trucks continue to prefer driving on the usual road that crosses through the city center.

The 26-km road starts at Entrada a Canabacoa, going through La Delgada in Villa Gonzalez, and continues on the Autopista Joaquin Balaguer (Navarrete).


DR exports to Central America down 43.5% in 2013
Central American exports to the Dominican Republic are increasing, as opposed to Dominican exports. A report by the National Statistics Office (ONE) says that Dominican exports to Central America were down 43.5% in 2013. Dominican exports in 2013 were US$186.06 million, while in 2013 they totaled US$329.34 million.

In contrast, Central American exporters shipped US$655.06 million in goods to the Dominican Republic, up from US$610.77 million in 2012 for a 6.7% increase, as reported in Diario Libre.


Barrick Gold mine area families seek relocation
With drinking water sources contaminated by mining operations, residents in the communities of La Pinita, La Cerca, La Laguna and El Naranjo staged a work stoppage yesterday, Monday 3 March demanding their relocation and the resumption of the trucking in of water for household use that was suspended by Barrick on 13 February.

The residents blocked the main street in La Cerca from 5am, inconveniencing employees and vehicles traveling on the Maimon-Cotui road. Dozens of police and military personnel in the area threatened to unblock the road by force. Priest Wilfredo Acosta led the protest together with members of the Nuevo Renacer committee representing the communities in the mine area. He called on the governor of Sanchez Ramirez province Teresa Inoa to help resolve the situation. Arriving at the site at 10:30am, she told the protestors that President Medina had told her on Friday, 28 February that the government would supply five-gallon water bottles to the communities, while the relocation of the families takes place. She said that Agua Deny water supply truck would provide the service, the same one hired by Barrick. She committed to holding monthly meetings with Nuevo Renacer and Fr. Acosta to work on the families' relocation. The first meeting was set for 3 April at the Cotui provincial government headquarters. Following the agreements, the road blockage was lifted.


Everton moves to mine gold in the Dominican Republic
Everton has announced that it will be acquiring the Ampliacion Pueblo Viejo, Ponton and La Cueva gold mining concessions. The announcement comes at a time when the Medina government has made it clear internationally that it backs increased mining in the Dominican Republic.

Everton is actively exploring in the Dominican Republic next to the Pueblo Viejo Mine, owned by the world's two largest gold mining companies, Barrick Gold Company (60%) in partnership with Goldcorp Inc. (40%).


Loma Miranda group pressures Medina to state his position
More than 300 marchers from La Vega to Santo Domingo who wanted to deliver a letter to President Danilo Medina at the Presidential Palace on 27 of February were left outside when Palace spokesmen said that only security guards could receive the letter.

The protestors are calling on President Danilo Medina to give his opinion on the proposed mining in the Loma Miranda area. The protestors say that the President has sold out to Falcondo, the company that seeks to extract the minerals in the mountain.

The Chamber of Deputies voted to declare the mountain a national park in order to give it protected status, but the bill is on hold in the Senate.

Last year, the Medina administration asked the United Nations to give an opinion. The UN experts said that the impact assessment study presented by Falcondo was incomplete. But in contrast with the Los Haitises case when the UN conclusions led to a complete halt to the installation of a cement factory next to an environmentally vulnerable area, the Minister of Environment has been open to mining in the area if certain conditions are met.

The Academy of Sciences, the UASD state university environmental commission and United Nations Development Program experts have issued unfavorable statements about the proposed mining under the terms stated by Falcondo.

Mayor turns himself in for corruption investigation
The Mayor of San Francisco de Macoris, Felix Manuel Rodriguez Hernandez (PLD) turned himself in to the judiciary yesterday, Monday 3 March. The Mayor, who had been abroad, is being investigated for corruption in office. On Thursday, 27 February Nerys Lizardo Perez, in charge of the San Francisco de Macoris payroll, had turned herself in for investigations.

Rodriguez Grullon and financial manager of the city government Fiordaliza Genao Hernandez turned themselves in to the Attorney General office in Santo Domingo, as reported in Listin Diario.

The Federation of Dominican Municipalities (Fedomu) issued a statement in support of the mayor. During a hearing at the Attorney General office, an audit was read out with findings of the Chamber of Accounts. The municipal officials are accused of administrative corruption against the state for more than RD$100 million.

The Penal Chamber of the Judicial District of Duarte Province ordered that the mayor post bail for RD$5 million, and appear in court every Monday. He is not allowed to travel abroad. Meanwhile, bail for Lizardo was set at RD$500,000 and for Genao at RD$200,000, as reported in Diario Libre.

The San Francisco Mayor is the fourth mayor to be accused of administrative corruption in recent months. The others are the mayor of La Romana, mayor of Cabarete (Puerto Plata) and mayor of Villa Altagracia.



Constitutional justice conference in Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic is hosting the 10th Ibero-American Constitutional Justice (CIJC) Conference next week. Delegates from several countries and representatives from international organizations are expected. Dominican Constitutional Court President Milton Ray Guevara said the event would take place from 12-15 March at the Hotel Embajador in Santo Domingo. The central theme is "Regulation and Juridical Supremacy of the Constitution" (Normatividad y Supremacia Juridica de la Constitucion). Twelve presidents and 22 constitutional court judges from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Uruguay, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Spain are expected to attend.

The general coordinator for the Dominican Republic is Constitutional Court judge Justo Pedro Castellanos,.



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

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