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Daily News - Thursday, 03 April 2014

Medina opens mega shoe factory in Santiago
President Danilo Medina was in Santiago for the Wednesday, 2 April inaugural of the US$35 million Hong Fu Group from Taiwan and VFCorporation USA shoe manufacturing facility. The plant is located in the Sun Jade International complex and is part of the Tamboril Free Zone of Santiago. The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Jose del Castillo, said the plant employs 11,500 workers and currently there are job openings for 1,600 shoe operators. The footwear sector has received a boost with Decree 58-14 of the Medina administration that created the National Commission for Footwear to facilitate, design and implement strategies and policies for the continued development of the sector. The new company will inject around RD$100 million to the economy of Santiago in the wages paid to the operators. It has capacity to manufacture 20 million shoes a year.



Danilo is the most popular leader in Latin America
President Danilo Medina is the most popular statesman in Latin America, with an approval rating of 90%, according to a survey done by the Mitofsky Consulting Group.

The survey included 19 presidents in Latin America and 10 in Europe, Asia and Australia. The Dominican leader tops all of Latin America. According to the poll, Rafael Correa, of Ecuador received a 75% approval rating and Paraguay's Horacio Cartes received a 74% rating.



Pact for Education gets good grades from many
The signing of the National Pact for Educational Reform has brought hope to different sectors of society. Positive evaluations have flooded in from community and civic groups. It was agreed that if the Pact is implemented and there is good compliance, there will be better quality of teaching.

The Pact was signed on Wednesday, 2 April in the Presidential Palace. It outlines the policies to follow in the national education sector through to the year 2030.

The Business Action for Education (Educa) considers the agreement to be an achievement of Dominican society bringing a transcendental turnaround towards educational excellence. Educa president Elena Viyella said that the pact represents a tremendous national commitment that should be complied with, without a doubt. Viyella says the Pact reflects the consensus of all of national leaders in education. She explained that the leaders contributed to a collaborative effort to achieve progressive transformations in the education system that will lead to a sustainable improvement in the quality of education. The businesswoman also acknowledged the importance of the commitment expressed by the teacher's unions, especially the promise to comply with the full school work day and the academic calendar.

The Unicef representative in the country, Maria Jesus Conde stated that the Pact reflects the unanimous consensus of the political leaders, representatives of the civil society, public institutions, the educational community and of the private sector to improve the Dominican education system, and clearly integrate education into a cohesive state policy. "It is important to stress that the Pact strengthens the social policies that support education, promote equal opportunities, equality and inclusion. Conde specifically singled out issues and policies such as the registering of birth certificates, curriculum in nutrition, sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and implementing incentives for attending school, including offering scholarships.

The former president of the Dominican Teachers Association (ADP), Maria Teresa Cabrera said she also feels that the Pact makes important contributions to the improvement of the educational system, and she cited among these the commitment to guarantee primary education starting at three years of age and the establishment of a competitive process to enter the teaching profession. Finally, Cabrera noted that the Pact called for a debate regarding secular education in the country. However, she said that the issues of assuring the integrity of teaching as a profession and policy concerning teachers' salaries were not as strongly articulated as other themes in the Pact.

Senate approves more borrowing for government
The Senate authorized the Medina government to place bonds to finance government spending and its social programs. The PLD majority senators approved RD$33.6 billion in foreign financing, and another US$1.5 billion in sovereign bonds.

Government studies financing proposals
Minister of Hacienda, Limon Lizardo Mezquita has reported that he has received offers from banks and agencies of foreign governments to finance the Santo Domingo Metro 2 East extension and a coal-fired electricity generation plant. According to the Nuevo Diario, the minister said that the generator would be a 720 megawatt unit, and that there were offers for other projects as well.

The minister had just returned from the 55th Annual Meeting of the Assembly of Governors of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the 29th Annual Meeting of the Assembly of Governors of the Inter American Investment Corporation (IIC) that were held in Brazil. The meetings dealt with issues related to the economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the press release from the ministry, the Italian Export Credit Agency (SACE) expressed interest in investing in the construction of the coal-fired 720 MW generator at a cost of US$500 million. The Medina administration has already committed nearly US$2 billion for the construction of two 300 MW coal fired units. SACE will present the Dominican government their proposal in the near future.

In addition, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency has expressed interest in participating in a project aimed at stimulating energy efficiency in the Dominican Republic. Similarly, the BNP Paribas of Brazil offered funding for participants in its "Investment Academy".


DR-CAFTA opens in 2015, will DR goods be able to compete?
As we close in on the date for the removal of tariffs for a range of industrial products imported from the member countries of the free trade agreement between the five Central American countries, the United States and the Dominican Republic (DR-CAFTA), Dominican authorities have begun to take greater interest in the details of the agreement.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce yesterday launched the strategy called "Reroute to 2015, strengthening the capacity to compete". The strategy calls for training programs and workshops in facilitating international cooperation assistance and how to support local manufacturers to stimulate exports, as reported in Diario Libre.

The removal of tariffs is expected to have a strong impact on the national industrial sector. For some industrial sectors the removal of tariffs or zeroing out taxes on imported industrial products starting in 2015, could cause the loss of thousands of jobs due to a lack of competitiveness in certain production sectors in the Dominican Republic. The measure affects 1,018 tariff items (962 products).

The president of the Association of Herrera and the Province of Santo Domingo Industries (AEIH), Victor Castro made it clear that the removal of tariffs will result in a loss of jobs in manufacturing. "When we open the markets, we are going to allow many products, which today are manufactured in the country, to be imported and compete directly with our products under unfair conditions by manufacturers that do not have to pay electricity rates that are double the cost in other DR-CAFTA countries," he noted. But the industrial leader said that "we cannot wallow in self-pity, we have to get prepared, so that we can transform the country's industries. And the government has to come up with strategies to increase competitiveness in our country."

The removal of customs tariffs includes products such as malt extracts, some meats, baking products, juices, liquors, fermented drinks, tobacco, blocks, bricks, tubing, cables, re-bar and welding supplies.

By removing tariffs in 2015, products that will be imported generated from member countries that have higher levels of competitiveness than the Dominican Republic. To highlight the issue of competitiveness, it should be noted that the Dominican Republic ranked 105th in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum in 2013-2014. Most other DR-CAFTA countries fared much better in the Index, in which the United States was ranked in 5, Costa Rica ranked 54, Guatemala ranked 86, El Salvador ranked 97 and Nicaragua ranked 99. Only Honduras, with a rank of 111, had a competitive index lower than the Dominican Republic.

Pedro Perez of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce said that the trade deficit with the United States has ballooned to US$3 billion in 2013 from US$1.8 million in 2007.

Speaking during the event, the executive vice president of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Circe Almanzar explained that the new strategy seeks to stimulate an export culture.

In the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), while not ignoring the brutal reality, we have concentrated on designing and implementing proactive policies to make the Dominican Republic an export nation for manufactured goods, with a focus on incorporating thousands of small and medium sized companies, with the conviction that only when a country's small business sector targets export markets can a nation be an export nation that stresses improvements in social welfare, said Almanzar in her words at the meeting.

Speaking at the event, the US Ambassador James Brewster said that there are innumerable opportunities within DR-CAFTA for the Dominican Republic that have not yet been explored. The Dominican Republic has unique characteristics for its geography, low labor costs, port infrastructure, duty free industrial parks, and strong cultural ties that can stimulate continued and permanent growth. He said that in China and other countries, labor and transport costs are increasing, and this is creating new opportunities for the DR to capture those markets.



DR received nearly US$3.3 billion in remittances
Mercado magazine highlights that the country has received at least US$3.26 billion in remittances from family members living abroad in 2013. The number is expected to be larger when other sources are added. In 2012, the Central Bank registered US$3.16 billion in remittances, but the total was later adjusted to US$4.0 billion. Over half of the money received came to residents in Santo Domingo, Santiago and La Vega. And 65% of the money comes from the United States, followed by Spain with 12.5% and Puerto Rico with 3.3%.


Environment dismisses exploitation of Loma Miranda for now
The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources alleges that the social and economic conditions do not exist for the exploitation of Loma Miranda at this time. The Ministry has sent to the Superior Administrative Court a document that states that, for the moment, it has rejected the granting of an environmental permit that would allow for the exploitation of the area.

According to El Dia, the document was given to the court as part of the hearing of an appeal by the Justice and Transparency Foundation. The ministry said, in part, "that it has denied permission of the Loma Miranda project to obtain environmental authorization, until the socio-economic conditions and environmental issues and the proposed technologies used for the mining operation can be guaranteed to sustainably use the natural resources."

Property owned by Falcondo in the mountains around La Vega would have been exploited for its mineral resources. But community, environmental and religious leaders objected to the exploitation, pointing to the company's poor environmental track record in previous authorized exploitation areas.

More commentary on Penal Code changes
Lawyer Namphi Rodriguez, the president of the Press and Law Foundation, has pointed out an important issue for women in the changes in the Penal Process Code: victims of rape, incest or women pregnant with deformed children will be forced to carry their pregnancies to full term or face jail sentences of up to three years. As reported in El Nuevo Diario, Rodriguez says that the changes are against women's rights and the Constitution. He noted that these changes in the Penal Code would contravene articles 38 (human dignity), 43 (freedom of personal development), and 61 (the right to health) of the Constitution of the Republic. He said that by not having grounds for exemption, the new Penal Process Code would "be in a swamp of unconstitutionality....and push poor women to the edge of death or to the indignity of forcing them to retain their pregnancy under inhumane conditions."

The changes approved by the Congress in the Penal Process Code contemplate a series of elements, among which are the night searches, the civil responsibility of the Justice Department and the definitive filing of a case file six months after the provisional filing. Paragraph 2 of article 151 says that the expiration of deadlines act as civil and personal causes for poor performance by the prosecutor in charge of a particular case. Meanwhile, article 179 orders that searches can be carried out during night hours when the judge expressly orders it by a reasoned resolution.

As an exception of procedure, article 181 establishes that the search without judicial authorization is possible only when it is necessary to avoid the commission of a violation in answer to a call for help, if a suspect is being pursued and entered a building or house belonging to someone else. "Breaches of private action while in preventive custody cannot be ordered, nor house arrest nor placement of electronic locators can be made," orders article 226.

According to the modified article 255 of the Code, when, because of a revision of the sentence, the defendant is absolved or is given a lesser sentence, that person should be compensated by the state for the time he or she was in prison or disenfranchised or for the excess time served. The case file cannot be modified while the circumstances on which it is based do not change or the obstacle which impedes the development of the process is maintained. Nonetheless, article 281 says that the Justice Department will have a six month deadline to back up the modification of the case file, and if they do not do this, it will be definitive.

The code that has passed in Congress is controversial and is being debated in the media. Legal advisor to the President, Cesar Pina Toribio says the code has not yet been received in the Presidency for signing into law.



Good diplomats pay high price for chaos in the service
Excess staff hired to the Dominican foreign service is causing major difficulties to those that are hard at work representing the Dominican Republic abroad. It is known that hundreds of staff appointed to the missions do not carry out any role, and many spend more time in the Dominican Republic than abroad. Diario Libre editorialist Adriano Miguel Tejada says that while the government knows who is who, differences haven't been highlighted and restrictions affecting the flow of wages and expenditure allotments are affecting all in the same measure.

Tejada writes that the Dominican foreign service is paralyzed at a time when the country most needs it.

"Everyone knows that the foreign service is a bottomless pit, because politicians have claimed it as war bounty", he writes. Thus, no one can criticize the cleaning up of the payroll mess, that some should be penalized, he explains. "What is incorrect is that those people should be made to pay for the sins of others, especially when there are more sinners than honest workers".

Tejada makes the point that the ambassadors and consuls have sent to Santo Domingo the lists of those who truly work at the missions on three occasions. "So it is easy to know who to penalize and who not. But that has not happened, at a high cost to the service and to those who really are working."

"The government has to clean up the foreign service (something we would be surprised if they did, because there are the sons, the wives, the mistresses and the party members of the two parties that have a hold on the Ministry of Foreign Relations). But they do not have the right to affect the service. With what enthusiasm will our diplomats stand up for the country when they are hiding from debt collectors? For these sorts of things we are called a Banana Republic.


Supreme Court orders Ramos Group to pay up for stolen vehicle
The Supreme Court of Justice rejected a motion to dismiss filed by the Ramos Group and the Multicentro La Sirena Charles de Gaulle, and ordered the company to pay for the vehicle stolen from their parking lot. As a result, the SCJ confirmed the sentence that ordered them to pay RD$400,000 to Yolanda Martinez, whose vehicle was stolen from the parking lot of the department store on Charles de Gaulle Ave.

In their decision, the magistrates said that the warning of "We are not responsible for theft or damages which might occur to your vehicle in this parking lot" does not exempt them from responsibility for the clients who own cars parked in their lots that are under their watch. They said that the warning was ''a unilateral decision which was not expressly accepted by the users of the service and in no way can it be imposed on them to their prejudice."

The Ramos Group had argued that parking was a free service, but the court said that it was an accessory of the economic activity of the establishment and constitutes part of the price of the articles purchased.

As a result of this ruling, it is expected that major stores with parking areas will improve the surveillance at parking lots nationwide.

JCE proposes 50% of deputies should be women
Rosario Graciano de los Santos spoke at the roundtable on "Difficulties of the Political Representation of Women in Latin America, the road to equality", and she suggested that the Central Electoral Board has recommended that the candidates to the Chamber of Deputies and city councils should be 50% female under an alternating system. The issue was debated yesterday at the roundtable discussion, organized by the JCE and the Spanish International Agency for Development and the United Nations Development Program. Graciano de los Santos said that "parity with respect to the fielding of candidates cannot be put off." The titular member of the Central Electoral Board said that the JCE had included such a measure in its suggestions for changes to the Election Law with reference to article 39 of the Constitution that guarantees equality between men and women. The legislative proposal is currently in the Chamber of Deputies. At the present time the law requires a 33% participation of female candidates.

Successful enforcement of the noise law brings peace to eastern city dwellers
The Unit for Noise Pollution (Unidad de Atencion a Casos de Contaminacion Sonica) of the Province of Santo Domingo is an example for the rest of the country, reports Diario Libre today. The report highlights how authorities have gotten liquor stores, colmadones and bars and dance clubs to reduce noise pollution by enclosing their establishments in sound-reducing glass structures. The unit has closed down around 300 businesses, many in the popular Av. Venezuela area, and required them to considerably reduce noise as a condition to reopen. The owners of the businesses are now complaining of their high cost of electricity. Meanwhile, city area residents celebrate the measures.


Marc Anthony inaugurates La Romana orphanage
Puerto Rican salsa singer Marc Anthony was in La Romana this week for the opening of the Orfanato Ninos de Cristo undertaken by Anthony and Henry Cardenas under the Maestro Cares Foundation. Vice President Margarita Cedeno and the president of the Senate Reinaldo Pared Perez were special guests at the opening of the Orfanato Ninos de Cristo in La Romana. The orphanage was built on a lot of 10,000 meters donated by Central Romana. It has capacity for 100 children. The orphanage is located in Bella Vista Norte, La Romana.

Also attending the inauguration were Colombian actor Manolo Cardona, merengue singer Rubby Perez, bachata singer Romeo Santos. The ribbon cutting ceremony was also celebrated with a group of children singing Marc Anthony's hit song "Vivir Mi Vida".

Jorge Pineda exhibit continues at Museum of Modern Art
Not to be missed by those who admire contemporary art, Jorge Pineda's exhibition, "After all, tomorrow is another day", featuring 20 of his works continues at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Plaza de la Cultura. The exhibit will be open through 3 May.

The exhibit includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations, and has been described by critics as the best exhibit this year at the museum.

MAM director Maria Elena Ditren said that Pineda has achieved a balance between ethics and esthetics in his works. Pineda has also exhibited in Madrid, Valencia, Gijon, Lima and New York. His works are in collections at the MUSAC, DA2 (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Salamanca), IVAM (Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno), Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Casa de Americas, Osaka Museum of Contemporary Art, Centro Leon and the MAM.

The exhibit was first shown at the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (7 Feb to 1 May 2013).

The exhibit is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm. The Museum is on Av. Pedro Henriquez Urena, Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo. Take note the Museum is closed on Mondays.

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

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