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Daily News - Thursday, 31 July 2014

President inaugurates schools in Nagua and Samana
With the 2014-15 school year scheduled to start on 18 August, President Danilo Medina is stepping up the pace of formal inaugurations of schools nationwide. Yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014 he was in the northeast, where he attended the formal opening of 108 classrooms at extended day schools in Samana and Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua) provinces. The schools will benefit 3,815 students and were built at a cost of RD$268.4 million, reported the Presidency.

The new schools in Samana province are the Centro Educativo Andrea de Pena, Juana Evangelista Maloon, Escuela George Dickson, Catalina Breffe and Agustin Bienvenido Veras Franco.

The new schools in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province are the Wellington Lewis Anderson, Los Yayales, Cano Abajo, Las Garza, and Antorcha del Futuro.

Speaking at the inauguration, Minister of Education Carlos Amarante Baret encouraged parents to send their children to school from day one in an attempt to end the common practice of waiting a week after school opens before sending their children to school.

Constanza forest fire almost out
Minister of Environment Bautista Rojas Gomez says that most of the fire affecting mountain forest areas near Constanza has now been extinguished. The Minister visited the area on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 and was satisfied to report the fire team work had extinguished the blaze earlier than expected. "The situation is very favorable and we will soon be able to announce that the fire has been completely put out," he said, as reported in El Nacional.

The best help came from recent rains and a drop in temperatures, in addition to institutional and community efforts. He said that around 700 men continue intense fire-fighting work in the area. The joint effort is being carried out by the ministries of Environment, Armed Forces, Public Health, Public Works, Comedores Economicos, Civil Defense, foundations and hundreds of volunteers.

Among the foundations, The Ornithology Society has secured funds from private companies, such as Tropigas, for fuel and water supplies to hundreds of volunteer firefighters. Constanza is an important birding habitat.

Poverty declines drastically in the DR, says Ministry study
Poverty levels in the Dominican Republic have dropped from 42.2% in 2012 to 36.2%, according to findings of a study just released by the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development. Minister Temistocles Montas announced the results of the study, "Update of the Official Estimates of Monetary Poverty in the Dominican Republic" to the press yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014. Monetary Poverty is poverty expressed in economic terms.

Montas said that the drop indicates that 534,139 people are no longer living in poverty and 240,205 are no longer in the category of extreme poverty.

He said that in September 2012, the Ministry reported there were 4,251,303 people living in poverty, of whom 1,121,642 were living in extreme poverty. Research in March 2014 found there are now 3,717,164 people living in poverty, for 36.2% and people living in extreme poverty are 881,437 for 8.6%.

The director of the Ministry's Economic and Social Analysis Consulting Unit (UAAES), Magdalena Lizardo, said that the pronounced drop is due to an increase in real per capita income in rural areas and the increase in people in employment. The nationwide real per capita income (March 2014 prices) is now at RD$8,822, up from RD$8,693 in March 2013. Likewise, in rural areas, the real per capita income increased from RD$5,569 in March 2013 to RD$6,139 in March 2014.



Government is country's main employer
Dominican taxpayers have to foot the bill for a state that officially has 575,532 people on its payroll. According to the Minister of Public Administration, Ramon Ventura Camejo, the rate is average for the region.

He said that the ministries with the largest number of employees are health with 163,000 and education with 118,000. He said that 50,000 employees are on municipal payrolls, 33,000 police and 53,000 military, among others.


130,000 illegal migrants deported in first seven months
The Minister of Defense Admiral Sigfrido Pared Perez said that in the first seven months of the year more than 130,000 Haitians have been deported to their country for illegal entry. A common practice by Haitians who have entered the country illegally is to request deportation in order to get free transportation to Haiti.

He said that the border security measures are implemented at the army security checkpoints and through the work of the Specialized Corps of Border Security (Cesfront).

Pared Perez said that surveillance cameras would be installed to monitor the soldiers at the border checkpoints. He said this would enable the Ministry of Defense to be more aware of what is happening in the border area.

The General Commander of the Army, Major General Ruben Paulino Sem announced that a recent purchase of 70 motorcycles, 10 four wheels, 20 pickups and four trucks would enhance border security.


Couriers protest taxation on Internet purchases under US$200
The Dominican Association of Courier Companies (Asodec) has described as illegal and irregular the 29 July 2014 notice from the Customs Agency stating that as of 15 August 2014 they will be taxing purchases made by Internet of goods costing less than US$200 that until now have been authorized to enter duty free. The notice was published in the media.

Asodec president Jose Burdiez said the announcement clearly violates Decree 402-05, the executive order that authorized that exonerated express shipments with values of less than US$200 from tax.

He said it was "outrageous" and "absurd" for Customs to seek to administratively modify an executive order. He quoted President Medina as saying that the privilege of importing goods costing less than US$200 was a right of the Dominican population.

Taxation on the goods had been included in the most recent 2012 tax reform law, but at the time this was challenged on the grounds that it was in violation of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement.

Burdiez said that the announcement could mean consumers would see additional charges of 18-38% on their purchases. But this could be much more as it takes into consideration the 18% ITBIS tax and on average a 20% import tax, but not the luxury tax taxation into account.

Burdiez said that the taxation would cause enormous delays in express shipment services offered by the couriers.

At present, Internet purchases costing less than US$200 pay a Customs fee of 0.25 cents per kilo (2.5 lbs) of the import, explains Asodec.

Over the last few years more and more Dominicans have been making the most of the lower cost of Internet purchases, sometimes 200% less than what the goods are sold for locally. It remains to be seen if people would be buying the same goods locally if the US$200 tax exemption on purchases did not exist.

The National Organization of Commercial Businesses (ONEC), the association of mall and superstore owners in the Dominican Republic, has campaigned intensely for the elimination of the tax privilege on the grounds that the provision makes for unfair competition with stores that pay high taxes. ONEC had advocated for the government to allow tax-free shopping on consumer purchases up to US$200 in order to compete with the Internet purchases.

Speaking at a press conference called to inform on the Customs Agency notification, Burdiez stated that it is of great concern that the government favors business groups versus the common interest of Dominican consumers.

Yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014, Minister of Economy Tomas Montas told journalists that they should ask the Minister of Hacienda for information on the decision to tax courier shippers for imports under US$200.





Cost of power is obstacle to free zone industries
The president of the Dominican Free Zones Association (Adozona), Aquiles Bermudez told the press yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014 that the deficient electricity service in the Dominican Republic is a main obstacle to the development of the manufacturing sector. Reporting that the industrial free zone sector had grown by 3.9% during the first quarter of the year, he said that the DR will not be able to compete and increase exports and offer quality products to its population without a constant power service with stable voltage at competitive prices.

Bermudez said that energy was a serious issue that had to be dealt with jointly by the public and private sectors. "The government has to issue clear rules of the game and say that everyone who consumes power has to pay for it," he stated.

He said that power served and not collected has resulted in government subsidies of US$1.2 billion to US$1.3 billion a year that could be used for investing in infrastructure.

Bermudez made the statements when being interviewed by the press after the signing of an agreement with seven institutions for the prevention of gender violence in industrial free zones.


Free Zones fight gender violence
Seven institutions have joined forces to prevent gender violence in the industrial free zones extended community. The agreement seeks to promote initiatives to favor non-violence against women in family, social and work environments and promote links between institutions to strengthen the prevention and intervention in cases of violence affecting the community of industrial free zones in the Dominican Republic.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 by Minister of Women Alejandrina German, Minister of Labor Maritza Hernandez, Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito, UNDP representative Lorenzo Jimenes de Luis, the president of the Dominican Free Zones Association Aquiles Bermudez and representatives of the National Competitiveness Council and the National Council of Free Zones.


Gildan manufacturing contributes to Dominican forests
The Gildan activewear manufacturing plant has sent 400 employee volunteers to the Parque Ecologico de San Luis to plant 3,200 Dominican mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), saman (Samanea saman) and ceiba trees. Dominican mahogany, the national tree, can grow to a height of 30 meters with a 10-meter diameter.

This is the sixth planting activity organized by the manufacturers.

The Deputy Minister of Forestry at the Ministry of Environment, engineer Manuel Serrano, was present during the event.

The company said that the initiative was an opportunity to promote awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. The initiative benefits the communities of San Luis, Bayaguana and Monte Plata in Monte Plata province in the south-central region of the country. Over the past six years, company volunteers have planted more than 20,000 trees.

Gildan Activewear is a leader in sportswear in the US and Canada. It began operations in the Dominican Republic in 2004 and since then has expanded its operations. It employs more than 2,200 people and makes exports of about $400 million a year from the country.


Rains expected on Friday and Saturday
A trough moving eastwards across the Dominican Republic is expected to bring rains today, Thursday 31 July and tomorrow, Friday 1 August 2014, reports the Meteorological Office. The rainfall will be especially welcome given the drought that has affected the country for several months.

Yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014, the director of the National Hydrological Resources Institute (INDRI) Olgo Fernandez said that the nation's reservoir levels were at critical levels.


Victor Estrella wins game 2 in ATP Citi Open
Playing in the Citi Open taking place in the Washington, D.C. stop of the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour yesterday, Wednesday 30 July 2014, Dominican tennis player Victor Estrella (ATP ranked 87th) defeated Feliciano Lopez of Spain (ranked 25th) to advance in the tournament. Today, Thursday 31 July 2014 before 6pm he will play against Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, ranked 34th in the world. Estrella has played Giraldo on three previous occasions, losing all three games.

Estrella is the first Dominican tennis player to break the 100th barrier of the ATP. The event has prize money of US$1,399,700. To follow the tournament, see http://www.atpworldtour.com/share/event-draws.aspx?year=2014&eventid=418&draw=ms

Tigres vs. Aguilas in Brooklyn
The Tigres del Licey and Aguilas Cibaenas will play two exhibition games in a baseball stadium in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, 11 October and Sunday, 12 October 2014 at the MCU Park in Coney Island. The stadium has capacity for 10,000 spectators. The games are a warm-up for the Dominican Winter Baseball League Championship that starts 16 October 2014. The games are endorsed by the Caribbean Baseball Confederation, the Dominican Baseball League (Lidom) and Major League Baseball. The series is organized by MediaWorld. Each team will receive US$10,000 plus transportation, housing and US$100 allowance for 40 people per team. Dominican baseball celebrities will be present for the game, including Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez and Sammy Sosa, it was announced.


Speed racing at the Mobil I Race Track
This Saturday, 2 August 2014 is the third round of the Drift Series at the Mobil 1 Track. The track is located off the Las Americas Expressway east of Santo Domingo.


David Clark and Libertad de Camps photography exhibition
Laboratorio Evolutivo de Arte Contemporaneo (opposite the Santo Domingo Cathedral) is hosting a photography exhibition "Entre Dos..." by David Clark and Libertad de Camps. The event is sponsored by the Global Initiative for the Environment and Gender. From Saturday, 2 August 2014 at 7pm through 12 August.

For more on ongoing and upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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