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Daily News - Tuesday, 20 May 2014

DR economy growing well
According to figures released by the Central Bank yesterday, Monday 19 May 2014, the Dominican Republic's economy grew by 5.5%, based on the change in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2013. This compares to 7.3% in the last quarter of 2013.

Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu said that there has been positive growth in agriculture (6.2%), mining (35.3%), manufacturing (5.9%), construction (14.6%), energy and water (3.6%), commerce (3.6%), hotels, bars and restaurants (8.9%), transport (3.9%), financial services (14.6%), education (3.5%), health (5.9%) and other services (6.1%).

He highlighted that the growth in the construction sector was not only the result of private sector activity but also government investment in public projects, mainly schools.

He said that as a reflection of the growth in the first quarter of this year, government tax revenue was up 7.6%, and lending was up 13.8%.

Looking at the net employment statistics, during the period October 2013 to March 2014, there had been an increase of 72,003 net employees, which when added on to the 69,801 generated from October 2012 to October 2013 for a total of 141,804 net employees in the last 18 months.

Valdez Albizu went on to say that inflation was staying low at 1.10% during the first three months of the year, and in April was only 0.43% for a running 12-month figure of 3.49%, which was in line with the anticipated range of 4.5%1.0% for 2014. This puts the DR in fourth place on the list of countries with the lowest levels of inflation in Latin America.

Moving on to the Balance of Payments there was an excellent result for the first quarter of 2014 with a positive balance of US$93.4 million, the first time since 2007 that the country has had a positive balance in the first quarter of the year. The result was due to a 5.5% increase in exports, mainly due to national exports (7.1%), which include gold at 39.7%, ports (8.0%) and cacao (47.6%) as well as the Free Zones (3.9%).

Imports were down by 0.3% mainly due to a lower amount for petroleum, some US$129.8 million over the previous year, representing a reduction of 0.3%.



Two lines to reduce waiting time for IDs
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Roberto Rosario has announced that in order to reduce the amount of time people have to spend waiting in line, two lines will be created for people who are obtaining their new identity cards. There will be one for people who do not need any changes and another for those who need to change their data.

Rosario said that most applicants, 83% do not need to make changes to their ID cards. The process is slowed down by the 17% who do need the changes.

The two-line system will begin in the capital before being rolled out to other points around the country.

He also announced that the opening times for the places to obtain a new identity card would also be extended. The JCE recently announced that the ID centers would be open on weekends.


Public hospitals RD$3 billion in arrears
The Medina administration has eliminated the "recovery fee," a low services fee charged by public hospitals. Apparently, the Medina administration did not foresee that the elimination of the charge would result in a significant increase in people seeking the now free services.

The SOS Committee of the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital said that the situation has led to a financial crisis for the hospital that receives RD$7.2 million per month in government funding and has now accumulated RD$82 million in debts to suppliers that have shut down credit.

Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Pedro Sing and Maritza Lopez Mateo and Radhames Ovalles of the SOS Committee, held a press conference yesterday, Monday 19 May to press for more funds. They are also requesting repairs for equipment and improvements in water service. They say the hospital needs RD$18 million a month from the government.

As reported in Hoy, Minister Freddy Hidalgo told the doctors who met with him at the Ministry yesterday, Monday 19 May, that overall the public hospitals have accumulated RD$3 billion in debts after the introduction of free services.


Gallup-Hoy: Top problems in DR
According to the May Gallup-Hoy poll, the leading problems in the Dominican Republic are crime (68%), cost of living (50.7%) and unemployment (47%).

The breakdown for the previous poll taken in February was 66%, 63%, and 39%, respectively. The poll showed women are more concerned over the increase in crime, with 71% mentioning it as the top problem, compared to 65% of men.

The poll was carried out 8-13 May 2014 nationwide, with 1,200 people eligible to vote surveyed. It has an error margin of plus minus 2.8%.


Gallup: 30% say Leonel Fernandez will be President again
The May Gallup-Hoy poll reveals that 30.7% of citizens believe that former President Leonel Fernandez will return for a fourth term, while 29.1% of Dominicans believe that Danilo Medina will be the country's next President. In order for this to happen, the 2010 Constitution would need to be changed. Medina has the highest ever rating of a President into his second year. When asked who they would like to be the next President, 42.4% of those surveyed answered President Danilo Medina, 14.8% former President Leonel Fernandez, 9.8% former PRD vice presidential candidate Luis Abinader and 7.8% former President Hipolito Mejia, 7.4% Vice President Margarita Cedeno, 2.3% Miguel Vargas Maldonado, 2.1% Guillermo Moreno, 1.7% Francisco Javier Garcia and 1.2% Amable Aristy Castro.

The poll was carried out 8-13 May 2014 nationwide, with 1,200 people eligible to vote surveyed. It has an error margin of plus minus 2.8%.


Public perceives crime on the increase
According to research carried out by Gallup for Hoy newspaper, 45% of citizens think that there is more crime where they live now, compared to one year ago.

In the south of the country the figure increases to 51.4% and in the north to 47.4%.

When looking at public safety, 60% think it is very bad, 24% say it is average and 15.5% think it is good. The figures are worse in the east (66.9%), and the north (60.6%).

78% of those surveyed think it is now less safe to live in the country than before.


Less perceived corruption in Medina administration
Just released results of the Gallup-Hoy May poll show that 42.9% of Dominicans of voting age think there is less corruption in the Medina administration (2012-2016) compared to the Fernandez administrations (2004-2012). 35.8% say there is the same level, and 19.7% said there is more than before. The perception of corruption has decreased. In the previous poll in February, 38% said there was less corruption. Nevertheless, 51.4% say that corruption is increasing, 25% that it is declining and 20% that it is the same. 46.3% says there is less corruption in the private sector than in the public sector. 83.9% says that impunity prevails in the Dominican Republic.

The poll was carried out 8-13 May 2014 nationwide, with 1,200 people eligible to vote surveyed. It has an error margin of plus minus 2.8%.


Debating the right to sue government officials
The civil society organizations Participacion Ciudadana and Centro Juan XXIII have submitted a 24-page "amicus curiae" legal opinion at the Constitutional Court rejecting former Minister of Public Works Victor Diaz Rua's recourse in favor of changes to the Penal Procedure Code (Paragraph III of Art. 85) aimed at preventing citizens from suing government officials for corruption in office. They defend the constitutional right of citizens to complain against transgressions committed by public employees in office. They argue that if the recourse presented by Diaz Rua were accepted, it would undermine the legitimate right of citizens and support impunity.


Several flaws highlighted in audit
The Chamber of Accounts (CCRD) president Licelott Marte de Barrios has announced that they have found a large number of irregularities during an audit of the political parties.

Marte de Barrios said that the political parties need to improve their accounting systems and keep control of their expenses as they have budgets of more than RD$800 million a year.

She said that the weaknesses could be seen in a lack of receipts for most expenses, issuing checks without supporting evidence, rental payments without contracts and inadequate management of purchases and contracts for services.

In addition they found unpaid taxes, failure to abide by the rules established by government accountants, a lack of purchase orders and quotes from providers, and other irregularities.

The CCRD president said that the weaknesses were to be found across all political parties, but that some were managing their accounts properly.

So far this year 12 parties are in the final phase of the audit. The original plan was to audit 17, but this has now been extended to all 26 political parties, and will take place during the year.


Unionized cars in show of strength; AMET 'will not bend'
The Metropolitan Transport Authority says that this week's traffic jams on Santo Domingo's 27 de Febrero Avenue have been caused by unionized public transport drivers protesting because the authority is not allowing them to use the tunnels and overpasses. AMET announced via their Twitter account that respect for the law is not negotiable. Public transport cars affiliated to the Fenatrano union blocked traffic on the main west-east avenue in protest. The protest and traffic jams started yesterday, Monday, 19 May and continued today, Tuesday 20 May but returned to normal at around 10am. The drivers say there is no law that impedes them from using the tunnels and overpasses and that they will continue to use them.



Prosecutors and judges should respect each other
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito says that he agrees with the criteria set out by Supreme Court of Justice president Mariano German, who called on the Public Prosecution service to develop relationships with judges showing respect, balance and clarity of their respective roles.

Dominguez Brito said that they meant that everyone involved in the judiciary should work hard, both judges and prosecutors, so that the criminals didn't end up back on the streets and that they had to work to guarantee the rights of citizens and obtain the highest penalties in the cases of organized crime.

Speaking at the court, where the Bahia de Las Aguilas titles case was being heard yesterday, Monday 19 May, he went on to say that they needed to work together to deliver what the public expected of them.


Court case at last for Bahia de las Aguilas
After 17 years of being pushed around the real estate legal system, the case of the Bahia de las Aguilas will finally go to court. The Dominican state is accusing a group of people of fraudulently acquiring land in the southwestern protected area. The defendants had relied on delaying tactics in the case so it could expire in court and they would be able to retain the irregularly acquired prime beachfront property. The strategy almost prevailed, in complicity with the judiciary.

Judge Alba Beard Marcos of the Land Court in the National District, heard the 21 cases yesterday, Monday 19 May from the representatives of the would-be owners of more than 1,200 title deeds situated at the Bahia de la Aguilas that the state claims have been issued fraudulently. At the end, two lots were excluded.

The other 19 cases were either rejected or judgment reserved for the trial, which will begin today, Tuesday 20 May.

The judge said it was evident the accused were still trying to delay the process, which began seven months ago. The case dates back to 5 March 1997, when then-Attorney General Abel Rodriguez del Orbe and the Title Deed Registrar, the late Piki Lora, accused a group headed by the former director of the Dominican Agrarian Institute, Jaime Rodriguez Guzman, of fraudulently distributing the land.


French pilots' trial to begin
National District judge Elka Reyes has set the date of 26 May for the first hearing of a case against two French pilots, 44-year old Pascal Jean Fauret and Bruno Armand Ados, 54, as well as more than 30 military personnel and customs agents implicated in the discovery of a cargo of 700 kilos of cocaine confiscated at Punta Cana airport.

The case was originally heard in Higuey but has now been transferred to the National District with the accused having completed a year on remand in prison.

According to the case, on 20 March 2013 700 kilos of cocaine were found packed into 26 suitcases inside the airplane. Fauret and Ados have maintained they are innocent saying that as pilots they had no idea what was in the plane's luggage.


Peruvians arrested with drugs
National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) agents have confiscated 80 sheets of a substance presumed to be heroin or cocaine, found in the luggage of a Peruvian couple arriving at Punta Cana International Airport.

The couple has been detained and will be handed over to the Public Prosecution service and the drugs have been sent to the National Forensic Science Institute to determine the type of drug and the exact weight.


Rains to continue
Due to a weather front moving from east to west across the country, today, Tuesday 20 May, there will be more rain, occasionally heavy, with electric storms mainly in the morning.

According to the National Meteorological Office (ONAMET), the rain will be more frequent in the northwest, north, northeast and the central mountain area.

In some parts of the country it will be very warm, while in others it will be relatively cool as the front passes.


Minister of Industry to discuss DR-CAFTA
Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose del Castillo Savinon will be the keynote speaker at this month's American Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He will speak on "Making the Most of the DR-CAFTA Free Trade Treaty." The talk will be held at the Barcelo Santo Domingo Hotel on Av. Maximo Gomez on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 at 12:30pm.

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

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