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Daily News - Friday, 30 May 2014

National Competitiveness Roundtable
The Executive Branch has ordered the creation of the National Competitiveness Roundtable, a mixed public and private sector space, for joint work on reforms aimed at significantly improving competitiveness and the business climate in the Dominican Republic for 2016. Decree 158-14 issued by President Danilo Medina on 15 May establishes that the new entity will follow up on proposed changes and propose corrective actions to the President aimed at overcoming obstacles to doing business and competitiveness. The long list of participants include:

President Medina, who will chair the roundtable, the ministers of Economy, Industry and Commerce, Hacienda, Public Works. The member institutions, Central Bank, City Government of the National District, Superintendence of Banks, Superintendence of Stocks, Supreme Court of Justice, Department of Customs and the Public Electricity Corporation.

For the private sector, the member are the Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD), the National Business Council (Conep), the National Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE), the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), the Herrera Industries Association (AEIH), the Commercial Banks Association (ABA), and the Small and Medium Business Confederation (Codopyme).


Chikungunya campaign starts today
Starting at 8am today, Friday 30 May, thousands of Dominicans will join in the National Mobilization for the Prevention of the Chikungunya, convened by the President, Danilo Medina, to try and stop the spread of the epidemic. The public institutions' agendas, starting with Public Health, have set this time for their employees and executives to go into barrios and communities house by house, and provide information and explanations about this disease and dengue. The invitation by the President also found responses in private and decentralized institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, professional associations, such as the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) and the Dominican Teachers Association (ADP), universities, city governments and community and barrio organizations.

Each institution will send its personnel to join the three-person brigades going into the homes to explain to the families how to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds in order to lower the high incidence of Chikungunya. The challenge is to remove the greatest part of the breeding grounds of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, reduce the incidence of fever from the virus that is attacking the country for the first time to a minimum, as well as the endemic dengue, in order to control both diseases. The plan is to begin the campaign simultaneously all over the country in the provinces and cities. The Ministry of Public Health has prepared thousands of posters and brochures for the employees and volunteers to distribute during the home visits. The printed materials define the Chikungunya fever and what people need to do to prevent and control it. The authorities appealed for active public participation in order to lower the spike in the epidemic.

The Art of Living Foundation is asking the government to look into recommending the use of dry leaves of the Juan Primero tree (Simarouba glauca n whose common names in English include Paradise Tree and Bitterwood) to shorten the duration of the sickness. Carmen Julia Gomez, instructor at the center, says that it is used in India to treat viruses.

She said that patients who drink the tea report that the unpleasant effects of the disease can be relieved in two days compared to a week otherwise.


Central Bank argues against debt ceiling by law
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu has warned that putting a ceiling on the Consolidated Public Sector debt at 40% of GDP is an unrealistic proposal set out in the legislative proposal called Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency, which is being studied in the Chamber of Deputies. His opinions are contained in a letter that he sent to the Chamber of Deputies Public Debt and Financial Assets Committee. Also expressing their opinions yesterday were Joel Tejeda, the deputy manager of Monetary, Exchange Rate and Financial Policies, and Central Bank Monetary Planning director Julio Andujar, who met with the members of the lower house commission. The Central Bank officials brought up the need for the approval of a less rigid Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency Law, with simple rules and of ease of control and without ambiguities. For this reason they proposed that the deputies consider reaching the debt ceiling and other goals established in the proposal, but more gradually.

Valdez Albizu mentioned that the current Consolidated Public Sector debt was 46.6% of GDP, and suggested that the ideal would be to establish a timeline to reach the desired level of debt (40%) or whatever they decide, "...as debt reduction is not obtained through a decree." He said that he felt that those who wrote up this legal proposal incurred, either consciously or unconsciously, in conceptual and methodological errors that need to be reconsidered according to the reality that the country and the world is experiencing. Albizu expressed his concerns over the proposal to establish a limit to the real increase of the operating expenditures of the Public Financial Sector, including the Central Bank because this measure could violate the autonomy and independence of the institution established by Law 183-02 and the Constitution, which would affect the proper working of the monetary policy.

Government wants pension money to fund Bandex
As of 31 March 2014, the pension funds reached the sum of RD$261.4 billion and of this money, the government wants to oblige them to deposit at least RD$26.14 billion (10% of the total) in the National Housing and Production Development Bank (BNV) after it is transformed into the Dominican Export Development Bank (Bandex). The Executive Branch sent the bill aimed at legalizing the change of role and name and authorizing the use of the funds to Congress on Tuesday, 27 May.

Article 26 of the bill says "that every Administrator of Pension Funds (AFP) should keep on deposit in the Bank (Bandex) at least 10% of the funds they administer for the workers or any other concept, in bonds, securities, deeds, quotas, values or other obligations that the bank issues."

However, the Superintendent of Banks, Rafael Camilo, seemed surprised when he was asked about the disposition of Article 26 following an event hosted by the AIRD yesterday, Thursday 29 May. "I took this out and they put it back in. This is not going in. This was put in by the government and this is bad," he told reporters.

Dominican Republic Industrial Association (AIRD) executive vice president Circe Almanzar said: "I thought that they were going to eliminate this. When we talked with all the entities before the proposal was submitted, many had said that 'this is going to create a problem." So it appears that many people were surprised. The business leader reported that obligation to deposit 10% or the pension funds in Bandex was contained in the proposals by the current BNV authorities, and by the Dominican Republic Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD).

At the end of his presentation, in response to questions from reporters, Camilo said that the Bandez has to be a highly-technified bank: This is the government's idea and they will go so far as to put new people at all levels of the bank."

The concerns from the business sector are focused on the independence of the Board of Directors of the re-born entity.

The Superintendent of Banks mentioned the government's plan to expand business sector representation at this management level. Barely 10 years ago the BNV was "reformed" so that it could develop production, "but it continued financing even vehicles," recalls Almanzar.

The business community is concerned about the fact that the appointment of the general manager and the bank president will be by presidential decree, and not by a shortlist of three candidates.

"This could lead to the conversion of the entity into something merely political and for use in election campaigns," declared Almanzar.

Despite everyone wanting the Bandex, the bad memories of the past worry them that the "reformed" entity will continue being the BNV, but with another name.



Biden to visit DR in June
The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, will travel to Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic over the weekend of June 16, according to an announcement from the US embassy in this country. The note states that in each nation that Biden will visit he will meet with senior leaders with whom "he will discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues."

The press release adds that in Brazil, the Vice President of the US will attend the football game between the United States and Ghana in the city of Natal, and continue on to Brasilia to meet with President Rousseff and the Vice President Michel Temer.

In Colombia he will meet with President Juan Manuel Santos in support of the bi-lateral prosperity and to the Security agenda. Then, in the Dominican Republic, although the date is not given, Biden will meet with President Danilo Medina, with whom he will discuss bilateral agenda issues as well as regional cooperation.

It will be recalled that Biden was originally scheduled to visit the country in March, after attending the inauguration of the new Chilean President, Michele Bachelet, but the trip was postponed reportedly so he could join in the White House diplomatic response to the political crisis in the Ukraine.

Biden's visit is in time for the opening of the new US Embassy and Consulate installations in the Dominican Republic.

FDI down 37% according to ECLAC
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), the Dominican Republic is in the top 10 in foreign direct investment in Latin America. Nevertheless, the flow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to the Dominican Republic slowed down by 37% last year compared to 2012. The report, released yesterday, says that FDI in the Dominican Republic was US$1.99 billion in 2013, which was US$1.52 billion less than the US$3.14 billion in 2012. Of course, the report also mentioned that the 2012 figures were influenced by the sale of the Dominican Brewery (Presidente) to a Brazilian brewery (Ambev). Latin America and the Caribbean reached an all-time high in direct investments last year as US$184.9 billion (5% more than 2012) came into the area.


DNI says 10-year old caused SDQ bomb scare
The National Investigations Department (DNI), the local FBI, says that a 10-year old boy was responsible for making the hoax bomb scare call to Las Americas International Airport that activated a full emergency alert and practically closed down the airport, with estimated losses of more than US$600,000 as a result of the flight delays, as reported in El Nacional.

The DNI Anti-Terrorism Division and assistant prosecutor Jose Miguel Cabrera traced the calls made to the airport to a home in Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo North. The DNI says they found a document with a list of several government security bodies. As disclosed by the DNI, the boy made the first call at 3:26pm on Tuesday, 27 May identifying himself to the operator as Pablo Escobar, the famous Colombian capo. He made the second call at 8:20pm, confirming the arrival of the flight with the bomb.

The DNI said that the president of the Airlines Committee at Las Americas International Airport, Dorian Martinez, reported that the hoax call had caused losses of between US$600,000 and US$1 million.

The DNI says that the boy made around 60 calls that day to a number of public and private entities that provide security and emergency services, including the Police, National District Fire Corps, the Weather Office and the National Police Hospital.

The calls were made just before the start of the 911 Emergency System precisely today, Friday 30 May. The authorities are urging the public to only use the number in genuine emergencies. DNI chief Major General Maximo William Munoz Delgado called for greater responsibility from citizens.

The child lives with his grandmother, Maria Altagracia Espinosa Feliz. His sister, Ana Luisa Espinosa was also arrested for questioning, but both women were later released without charges. A due process will be followed.

The official explanation has been received with skepticism. Some wondered if the 10-year old boy must be gifted to be so convincing, and others commented on radio programs that the government should ask TV channels to halt the transmission of the so-called narco-soaps that glorify the drug trafficking capos.


Judge to hear arguments in Diaz Rua case today
Judge Leomar Cruz Quezada is getting ready to settle a request for annulment of the investigative process being carried out by the District Attorney Yeni Berenice Reynoso against the former Minister of Public Works, Victor Diaz Rua today, Friday 30 May at 9am. The interim magistrate of the Fifth Court of Instruction of the National District convened the parties in order for them to present their points of view with respect to the request. He had previously ordered that each and every piece of the evidence that is in the case file be placed at the disposition of the parties, so that they can proceed with their examination within the corresponding deadline. He also ordered the notification of the decree of fixation Number 513-2014 to the District Attorney of the National District and the other parties so that they are properly notified and convened. The judge of the Second Chamber of the Special Traffic Tribunal was appointed to hear the case by the coordinator judge of Instruction Roman Berroa Hiciano, after judge Margarita Cristo's inhibition was accepted.

Police know who murdered police lieutenant
The National Police have named their two suspects in the murder of 41-year old second lieutenant Mercedes del Carmen Torres Baez assigned to the Metropolitan Transport Authority (Amet) and the reports are truly depressing. The suspected killers are a 21-year old man named Juan Carlos de la Cruz Adames (a.k.a. Yancarlos) and a 16-year old whose name cannot be released for legal reasons but whose father is a 32-year old man named Deivi Adames de Leon (a.k.a. El Sicopata, the Psychopath) with a long criminal record. Yancarlos is listed on Police records as having killed several people and is also wanted on weapons charges. He has been a fugitive from justice for some months.

The late officer was directing traffic on the Jacinto Peynado bridge on the Villa Mella side around 7am on Monday 26 May when two men on a motorcycle shot her in the back, stole her service weapon and rode off.

Bahia de las Aguilas once again into the fray
The District Attorney will go to court for the third time today, Friday 30 May to seek an annulment of the decision that decreed the application of the statute of limitations on the charges stemming from the Bahia de las Aguilas case. The defendants in the case, according to El Nuevo Diario, are charged with expropriating thousands of meters of land in the area surrounding one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, located in the southwestern province of Pedernales. The District Attorney's appeal for a reversal of the decision by the First Collegiate Tribunal of the National District is based on what she calls "contradictions and a manifest lack of logic by virtue of which the tribunal of the first degree stressed that it would carry out an overall analysis of the process but only analyzed the behavior of the Justice Department and not that of the other actors in the process." The earlier decisions claimed that the statute of limitation in the case was applicable despite having recognized that the process had not passed the limitations at the moment of the request carried out by the accused in 2012.

Fiesta del Chivo: 53 years since Trujillo killed
Today, Friday 30 May is the 53rd anniversary of the killing of dictator Rafael Trujillo. At times, according to Listin Diario, the date is called the Day of Democracy or the Day of Freedom for the Dominican people. The fact is that Trujillo governed for 31 years with an iron and bloody fist. The assassination of the man called the Benefactor of the New Fatherland was a complex conspiracy involving an action team and military and political elements as well. Antonio de la Maza, Antonio Imbert Barrera, Salvador Estrella Sadhala, Amado Garcia Guerrero, Pedro Livio Cedeno, Huascar Tejeda Pimentel and Roberto Pastoriza Neret composed the action team that finally, after three failed attempts to ambush the dictator, were able to carry out the heroic deed on the night of 30 May 1961. According to reports, the coup de grace was fired by De la Maza who said: "That hawk has killed his last chick".

Joseph Gatti and Adiarys Almeida at the National Theater
The 8th Benefit of World Dance Stars opens tomorrow, 31 May at the National Theater's Carlos Piantini main hall. This time, audiences in Santo Domingo will be able to watch classical dance performances alongside hip-hop. The event is a benefit for the Nest for Angels Foundation for children with cerebral palsy. Internationally renowned Joseph Gatti and Adiarys Almeida, formerly of the Cincinatti Ballet, will dance Bajadere and Nothing, Anna Merkulova and Jon Vallejo will dance Vertigo, and Florian Lochner and Garazzi Perez will dance New Sleep. Dinu Tamazlacaru will dance Le Burgeois and Gopak. There will be performances on the 31 May and 1 June at 8:30pm. Tickets: RD$1,500 at the National Theater.


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

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