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Daily News - Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Colonial City restorations
The Ministry of Tourism (MITUR) has announced that as part of the Colonial City Tourism Development Program, a thorough restoration of the area is planned, including roads, historical facades, parks, squares and bastions in order to provide Santo Domingo with an historic center to boost the economy and improve the quality of life of its residents.

Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia stated that this restoration program would be limited to the area inside the walls of the Colonial City and that the controversial remodeling at the Conde Gate was not part of the MITUR work. According to the Minister, this project came under the control of the Office of Supervising Engineers for State Works (OISOE). However he said that they planned to meet with the Ministry of Culture and OISOE to coordinate the works.

The Minister said that there was a need for integration, and gave the example of Independence Park, which will be linked to the work being carried out in El Conde pedestrian shopping street.

He spoke about the Revitalization of Priority Roads Project that seeks to level the pavements, and improve drainage and lighting, as well as the installation of underground electricity and telecom cabling.


Economy to continue growing
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that the Dominican economy will grow by 4.5% in 2014, up from 4% of GDP in 2013. The IMF mission visiting the DR last week has concluded that the economy had developed "better than expected" and welcomed the government's commitment to macroeconomic stability.

The mission recommends broadening the tax base and lowering tax exemptions as well as continued expenditure restraint. The IMF mission statement, released yesterday, Monday 17 March, also calls for the development of a comprehensive electricity strategy that includes an automatic tariff adjustment mechanism. In the monetary aspect, it recommends increased exchange rate flexibility and monetary tightening to respond to market conditions and external pressures. In its conclusions, the mission advised against further borrowing by the public sector.

Dominican public debt increased 5% during the first year of the Medina administration, moving from 32.6% of GDP in 2012 to 38.5% in 2013. The government says that in 2012 the public debt was US$19.23 billion, and this increased to US$23.20 billion by year-end 2013, up US$3.96 billion. Of the total US$14.92 billion is foreign debt contracted with multilateral institutions, commercial banks and bonds. The internal debt is US$8.23 billion, including loans with commercial banks, bonds and the inter-governmental debt.

During the past five years (2009-2013) the public debt increased from US$13.25 billion to US$23.20 billion, and compared to GDP it grew from 28.4% to 38.5%. GDP increased from US$46.7 billion to US$60.2 billion.


Family Code to be reviewed
Presidential legal advisor Cesar Pina Toribio told the press that he has requested the return of the Family Code bill that was sent to the Senate last week. Vice President Margarita Cedeno coordinated the bill that has met with widespread rejection.

The many changes proposed in the bill include the creation of a Ministry of Family that is said to duplicate various other government institutions. It also allows for more than one family residence, enabling the mother to live in one, and the father in another.

Pina Toribio said the bill, which was being recalled at Vice President Margarita Cedeno's request, would be reviewed to be presented to Congress at a later date.



Progress made on Haitian identity cards
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has delivered a report to the Ministry of Foreign Relations that details the progress they have made on issuing identity cards to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The work is due for completion in the next few weeks.

The meeting took place in the Ministry with the Deputy Minister Cesar Dargam, representing Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso, OAS representative Araceli Azuara, the director general of the Haitian National Identification Office (ONI), Jean-Baptiste Silf Saint-Cyr and OAS specialist staff.

At the end of the meeting, Dargam expressed optimism and recalled that President Danilo Medina had offered to provide the necessary installations and infrastructure so that the Haitian government could issue identity documents to their citizens who are in the Dominican Republic as part of a major drive to regularize the immigration status of temporary Haitian workers in the country.

The report estimates the time needed for issuing the identity cards, purchasing materials, transporting equipment and the staff needed.


Talks with Haiti postponed again
The Dominican government has announced that the high-level monthly talks scheduled for March are being postponed until 8 April. The meeting, originally scheduled for 8 March, was postponed until 20 March due to US Vice President Joe Biden's visit that was also subsequently cancelled, reportedly due to the Ukrainian Prime Minister's visit to Washington.

Presidency Minster Gustavo Montalvo said that prior to the meeting teams from both countries would continue working on proposals related to transport, trade, health, tourism and migration.

He added that the successful establishment of constructive dialogue over such a range of themes that looked to provide real solutions was an unprecedented event in the history of both countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Relations of Haiti has apparently made the continuation of talks conditional on the presentation of a naturalization bill to the National Congress, according to a statement issued by the Ministry after the bill was not presented on the occasion of the opening of the legislature on 27 February 2014.

Haiti and the DR had agreed to meet monthly to discuss key issues in the presence of UN and European Union observers.


Former Haitian Consul meets with Interior Minister
Former Haitian consul in the Dominican Republic Edwin Paraison met with Interior and Police Minister Jose Ramon Fadul yesterday, Monday 17 March. The minister had questioned the alleged involvement of the former consul's Zile Foundation in the controversial "Taking Our Territory" campaign.

Fadul said the visit was aimed at 'clarifying concepts,' and Paraison said that his foundation was not connected with the Taking Our Territory campaign.

United States donates equipment
The United States government has donated RD$42 million in medical equipment to the Ministry of Public Health to reduce infant and maternal mortality at public hospitals. The equipment will be installed at the San Lorenzo de los Mina Maternity Hospital. The Los Mina hospital records what is estimated as the highest number of cases of births by impoverished Haitian women in Santo Domingo.

The donation comes under the Maternity Centers of Excellence program that began in 2009 and finishes this year, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The five-year project has benefitted 10 public hospitals around the country with a total investment of RD$651 million.

US Ambassador James Brewster highlighted the success of the program and said that the United States government would continue to support the Dominican Republic in a series of development programs, especially health-related, to improve the local quality of life.

Public Health Minister Freddy Hidalgo thanked him for the donation and said that he hoped the project could be extended to another 26 maternity hospitals to help decrease maternal and infant mortality rates.


Red Cross commission arrives
A commission from the International Red Cross (ICRC) arrived in the country yesterday afternoon, Monday 17 March, to meet with a number of organizations and to promote human rights, as well as to introduce their new Haitian delegate, Agathe Stricket.

As well as Stricket, the mission comprises Patrick Zahnd, Eric Tardid and Jean Jacob Charles, global legal advisors at ICRC and also responsible for communication and cooperation.


National Police changes many regional commanders
Police spokesman Colonel Jacobo Mateo Moquete announced changes in regional commands throughout the country at a press conference yesterday, Monday 17 March.

General Juana Francisca Campusano, who used to head the Special Police for Juveniles has been appointed Head of the Southern Central region based in Bani, the second time she has held this position.

General Victor Hernandez Vasquez takes over the Central Branch of the National District replacing General Rommel Lopez, who has been sent to head the Northern Region based in Puerto Plata.

General Nelson Peguero Paredes is to be Regional Commander for Santo Domingo West, based out of Los Alcarrizos.

General Ciriaco Nunez has been designated Commander of the South West Region based in San Juan de la Maguana.

Based in Mao and heading the North West Region is Colonel Sanchez Mejia.


Another fatal crash on Azua-Barahona road
Last night, Monday 17 March, at least nine people were killed and another five were injured, including a child, when a truck hit a minibus at kilometer 16 at the Tabara crossroads on the Azua-Barahona highway. The high-speed, head-on collision occurred at 8:30pm. Night driving is strongly discouraged in the Dominican Republic.

The fatalities included Domingo Gerardo Figueroa, Pascual Cuevas Gomera, Wanda Gonzalez, Miguelina de la Paz, 46, Maria Encarnacion, 42, Maria Beltre Santana and Ronni Jose de la Rosa, 19.

The injured, Maria Luisa Santana, 19, Francisco Cordero Reyes, 40, the minibus driver Francisco Batista Nunez, a four-year old child and one other who is as yet unidentified were taken to the Dario Contreras Trauma Hospital in Santo Domingo.

According to initial reports, Francisco Batista (Mingo), the driver of the minibus, suffered fractures to his left leg.


TripAdvisor master class
TripAdvisor experts will be giving a masterclass in Punta Cana, Wednesday 19 March in Punta Cana at the Westin Punta Cana Resort & Club. There will be two free sessions, one from 9am to 12 noon and the other from 1pm to 4pm. The free educational seminars are targeted at hospitality professionals. TripAdvisor experts will discuss online marketing strategies and tools of the world's largest travel site. The event is held in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism.

To sign up, see http://tripadvisormasterclass.com/PuntaCana/

Gustavo Rodriguez at Terrazas del Meson
Enjoy a tropical evening to the tunes of tropical jazz this and every Tuesday in Santo Domingo. One of the best jazz pianists in the country, Gustavo Rodriguez and his quartet are booked for their regular Tuesday live music slot at the Las Terrazas del Meson in Santo Domingo this evening, Tuesday, 18 March. His son Gustavo Rodriguez (Guti) will be playing bass, Federico Mendez, guitar, and Carlos Herrand on drums. 8:30pm. Av. Mirador del Sur No. 1. Tel 809 930-1840.

Carlos Vives at Soberano Awards tonight
The red carpet is being rolled out this evening, Tuesday 18 March, for the biggest show business production of the year, the Soberano Awards. Tune in to watch the Soberano Awards with performances by Carlos Vives, Bonny Cepeda, Vakero, Mozart La Para, Nathalie, Raulin, Johnny Ventura, El Canario, Oscar de Leon, Rafael Solano, and Toque Profundo.


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

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