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Daily News - Friday, 19 September 2014

One Village, One Product movement in El Seibo
The Japanese movement, One Village, One Product (OVOP) is being implemented in El Seibo, the first in the Dominican Republic. The program promotes local artisanal products including the tropical cider-like beverage known as "mabi seibano," Dona Tula sweets, and includes the chocolate route and other products.

The Japanese initiative that began in 1979 has spread to more than 30 countries around the world.

Essentially, the OVOP movement is to encourage villages to come up with a product that is unique in the world. By focusing on differentiated products, the destinations can earn higher profits, at least in the short term. The focus is on encouraging communities to discover the special products that best represent each town or village and deserve national acclaim and promote them as a way of encouraging local development.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce under the Department for the Promotion of SMEs, headed by deputy minister Ignacio Mendez, is leading the initiative for the Dominican government. Mendez said that El Seibo was chosen as a pilot project because it already had a local development agency with good levels of efficiency and organization and because the people of El Seibo had shown an interest in the OVOP movement.

He said the government is open to backing other community entities. If they are interested, all they need to do is to visit the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to present their projects.

"The beauty of this is that it is the local people who choose the products and from there we intervene to support their efforts to achieve quality, packaging and all that," he said.

Mendez made the announcement on Thursday, 18 September 2014, after the opening of the III Regional OVOP Workshop, with 50 guests from Central America who have already adopted the Japanese movement. The Japanese Ambassador Takashi Fuchigami in the Dominican Republic and several representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also took part. Ambassador Fuchigami spoke at the event of the Turisopp project for rural sustainable tournament developed in Puerto Plata together with the Ministry of Tourism and the National Technical Professional Training Institute (Infotep) and JICA. The Turisopp project sought to create quality tourism products in rural communities to attract tourists who would not normally visit these areas.




Micro-credits requirements published
The Monetary Board reports that the ruling for information on how to apply for microloans is available on the Central Bank website. Micro-credits are described as an economic development tool and programs with flexible banking requirements have been created. The idea is to increase productivity for small companies and create jobs.

See http://www.bancentral.gov.do/normativa/normas_vigentes/financieros/Segunda_Resolucion_Junta_Monetaria_14_agosto_2014_aprueba_version_definitiva_Reglamento_Microcreditos.pdf

Green light to continue construction of coal-fired plants
The president of the Superior Administrative Tribunal, which is in charge of hearing recourses against rulings by first instance courts on government administrative matters, has revoked a recent ruling that ordered the suspension of a public tender for the construction of the Central Punta Catalina with its two coal-fired plants in Punta Catalina, Peravia. Judge Delfina de Leon Salazar argued that the circumstances had changed. She said that documentation provided by tender winner Odebrecht, and the Dominican Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE) had changed the arguments to justify the lifting of the recourse presented by the Chinese company Gezhouba Group Company Limited represented by Zhang Wei and Consorcio IMPE, C. por A., represented by Dominicans Raul Cabrera and Manuel Sebastian.

An earlier court ruling had ordered the suspension of the tender.

Lawyers representing Gezhouba was Angel Moreta and Samuel Orlando Perez represented Odebrecht.

The two coal-fired plants were contracted by Brazilian firm Odebrecht working with Italian firm Tecnimont and Grupo Estrella in the Dominican Republic. The contract is for the construction of two 337.39 MW coal-fired thermoelectric units. The Central Punta Catalina contract was signed on 14 April 2014 and the contractors have committed to delivering the works no later than 7 October 2017.

The power plant has also been opposed for contamination and a protest is scheduled for when President Danilo Medina appears at the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations this month. Central Punta Catalina spokespeople say that the power plant will include an air quality control system that includes a flue gas desulfurization system, the preferred process for coal-fired electric utility power plants burning coal, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.





Pedro Silverio Alvarez: Economic model must change
Former manager of the Central Bank, Pedro Silverio Alvarez writes an opinion piece in Diario Libre today, Friday 19 September, warning that time is running out for the Dominican Republic to change its economic model. Changes in the economic model would enable more resources to meet the financial obligations of the increase in indebtedness taken on by the PLD administrations.

Alvarez adds that the increasing debt taken on by Dominican governments is reaching unsustainable levels. He points out that the World Bank recently published an economic report revealing that during the past 15 months the DR has made three international bond placements for US$2.75 billion and the government is seeking additional financing for US$2 billion.

Debt levels have significantly increase in recent years. The non-financial public sector debt has doubled from 18.3% of GDP in 2007 to 36.6% in the first quarter of 2014. When the Central Bank debt is included, the debt level could be closer to 47% of GDP, points out the World Bank report. In 2011 economists Jimenez and Ovalle estimated the maximum debt level for the Dominican Republic in 2013 at 56.7%.

Alvarez writes that it has been a common practice of governments to be addicted to taken on debt as the easy option. This gives a false sensation of wellbeing. "But like all vices, sooner or later the reality will hit hard," he writes.

The bottom line is that the Dominican Republic will need to make payments on this debt that puts the welfare of Dominicans at risk. He comments that during his presidential election campaign, Danilo Medina promised a debt reduction policy, but this has not been implemented.

Alvarez's main point is that the current economic model is obsolete. He calls it "growth on steroids," which has not been able to provide an effective response to poverty, by developing a strong middle class or creating quality work opportunities. Instead, it is a model that depends on the government taking on debt and now the government is at risk of reaching its payment limit, which will force traumatic adjustments as has been seen in the past.

Unfortunately, Alvarez says that Medina is now entering the second half of his government, when politics may prevail.

The latest UNDP human development report found that the middle class in the Dominican Republic was in decline. Meanwhile, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu recently reported that the DR would post economic growth that was three to four times greater than the average for Latin America by year's end.



For history buffs: Dominican History Book fair announced
This is your chance to purchase books and increase your knowledge of Dominican history.

The General Archives of the Nation (AGN) has announced a Dominican History Book Fair for 6-12 October 2014 from 8:30am to 9pm. Some 2,000 history-related books will be shown.

The AGN says that over the past 10 years around 2,200 books on historic topics sponsored by several institutions have been published. The AGN has also published 214 works since 2005, when historian Roberto Cassa took over the leadership of the influential institution.

Cassa says that the fair seeks to encourage students, historians, researches, specialists and the general public to become aware of these publications that are an essential complement to the work of preservation and dissemination of Dominican historical memory. The fair also seeks to contribute to strengthening the national identity and will be a space for Dominicans to encounter their past.

The Fair will take place at the General Archives of the Nation, located at Calle Modesto Diaz 2 in the Zona Universitaria, Santo Domingo.


20 September 2014: Beach cleanup day
The Ministry of Environment is heading an operation scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, 20 September 2014 to clean up more than 150 beaches nationwide, in a major public-private initiative. 600 companies are supporting the operation. Refuse will be recycled when possible. 600 companies, city governments, non-governmental entities, neighborhood associations, schools and provincial governments will be taking part nationwide.

This will make beach going even more attractive after the cleanup operation is completed.

International Beach Cleanup Day was created in 1991 by Ocean Conservancy and has been followed all around the world on 21 September or on the third Saturday in September, as is the case this year in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic it was organized by the NGO Vida Azul, and now the Ministry of Environment is leading the initiative.

Beaches where volunteers will work include Montesinos, Fuerte San Gil, Guibia, Los Pescadores and Manresa in the National District, La Vacama, Macao, Uvero Alto and Cabeza de Toro in La Altagracia (Punta Cana), and Bayahibe, la Caleta, Isla Catalina and Saona in La Romana.



Dominican appointed vice president of IFAD
Josefina Stubbs has been appointed vice president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to ending rural poverty. She previously served as director of its Latin America and Caribbean Division. She has also been a senior social development specialist at the World Bank, and regional director for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean at Oxfam. She holds several degrees in economics and development, including a doctorate in Political Sciences and International Development from The Hague University, a masters in business management from the Universidad de Barcelona and in sociology from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.

Attorney General says homicides are down
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito says the homicide rate is the lowest it has been in the past 10 years. He said that in the first eight months of the year there were 1,063 murders, or 140 fewer than in 2013 when the total death toll in this category was 1,203. The DR has a rate of 16.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. This declined from 18.6% for the same period last year.

Interestingly, the provinces with the smallest populations are those with the highest number of murders, including El Seibo (28 per 100,000), Independencia (30 per 100,000), Pedernales (27.4 per 100,000 inhabitants) and Peravia with 29 per 100,000.

The provinces with the fewest murders per 100,000 inhabitants were Sanchez Ramirez (8.6), Azua (10.2), and Valverde (10.6)



High cost of tolls is roadblock for Samana development
The Samana tourism sector will be holding its main stakeholders meeting, the II Meeting for Tourism Development in Samana for 30 September 2014. Private business, national and regional government authorities and community representatives are invited.

The theme of this year's event is "Towards integrated tourism management". Speakers include Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, Asonahores president Simon Suarez, and the president of the Dominican Tourism Competitiveness Consortium Maximo Iglesias.

Upon making the announcement in a press conference, the president of the Samana Tourism Cluster Rafael Blanco Tejera said that while arrivals are up 7% by way of the El Catey International Airport (AZS), land arrivals are affected by the high cost of tolls on the Santo Domingo-Samana expressway. He said that tolls on the Autopista del Nordeste cost RD$1,014 to Las Terrenas, Samana, the main tourist area, a distance comparable to that between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana where the tolls only cost RD$330.

"Why is Samana being discriminated against compared to other destinations?" asked Blanco.

He also said: "Samana needs a different kind of tourism, one that integrates better with the community, so that they go out and visit our protected areas." There are around 3,000 hotel rooms in Samana, 50% of which are in all-inclusive hotels and the other 50% in small hotels with around 20 to 50 rooms.

During the event, other issues such as the lack of attention to historic Victorian houses in the area, need to improve garbage collection, lack of care for beaches, slumification of sidewalks by street vendors, and improvement in security are called for.

Speaking at the event, Samana Hotel and Tourism Enterprises Association (AHETSA) president Federico Schad said that for this cruise ship season they were expecting 52,000 passengers to visit on 32 cruise ship stops to be made in Samana.


Fenatrado: Show of strength on 23 September 2014
The Dominican National Transport Federation (Fenatrado) that represents the largest number of truck owners in the Dominican Republic has announced what it is calling "a show of strength" for Tuesday, 23 September 2014. The truckers have imposed a monopoly with government complacency that has enabled them to fix prices and force companies to use their services on their terms. However, a Santiago court recently ruled against a government resolution that benefits federation members with 50% of all cargo from air and maritime ports. The truckers are appealing the court decision while business groups are encouraging the decision to be applied nationwide.

The federation spokesman said that the exhibition would include a display of around 7,000 trucks on highways across the country to demonstrate the sector's strength. The trucks will be parked on main highways on a working day, but the federation spokesmen said their intention is not to create bottlenecks or to affect public order, as reported in Diario Libre.

"All our trucks will be parked on the main highways on that day. We have clarified that it is not a protest and we do not intend to disrupt public order. It simply is an exhibition of the equipment so that the population and our customers can perceive the transport potential that Fenatrado has, and especially the quality of the equipment used," said Enrique Arias, vice president of Fenatrado.


18 years jail in case of murder of Guillermo Moncada
Judges of the Second Penal Hall of the Supreme Court of Justice have confirmed the 18-year jail sentence imposed on Rafael Emilio Gonzalez Alvarez, accused of the murder of Guillermo Moncada in a row over a parking spot in a condominium in the upscale Santo Domingo area of Piantini. The family had opposed the sentence that was confirmed in the Court of Appeals of Santo Domingo on 17 January 2014.

The widow Juli Wellisch de Moncada and her children Gillermo Andres, Selma Isabel and Claudia Patricia sought to have the sentence anulled and a new trial held.


Globe and Mail reports on Derek Elliot + Maxim case
Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail has published an update on the case against Canadian Derek Elliott who along with a US business partner James Catledge of Rancho Santa Fe, California, is accused of having masterminded a fraud that raised US$91.3 million from hundreds of investors to renovate and launch a second luxury hotel in Juan Dolio that never opened. Elliot originally opened the luxury Sun Village Hotel in Cofresi, Puerto Plata that was co-branded with Maxim adult magazine.

Globe and Mail writes that Elliot pled guilty to a fraud charge in a US federal court in San Francisco. The charge carries a possible maximum jail sentence of 20 years, as well as fines. But the sentencing hearing is not scheduled until next year, when The Globe and Mail says that Elliott could see leniency applied for co-operating with prosecutors. Elliott's lawyer Brett Tolman told The Globe and Mail that Elliott is cooperating with the US Department of Justice and has agreed both to testify against Catledge and to try to return whatever funds can be recovered to investors.

Tolman also explained that Elliott is co-operating with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in its civil case alleging that the resorts were used in an international US$163-million Ponzi scheme. As reported, Elliott settled his side of the SEC allegations in 2012, without admitting or denying wrongdoing, but still could face up to US$250,000 in fines.


Miley Cyrus cleans backside with Mexican flag
Local authorities must be sighing with relief at their decision to ban Miley Cyrus from performing in Santo Domingo in October 2014 as part of her current international tour. According to news reports, when appearing in Monterrey, Mexico on 16 September 2014 in front of an audience of 16,000 fans, she used the Mexican flag to simulate wiping her behind as part of the show. The Mexican authorities are considering pressing charges for her violation of the law. The day commemorated Mexico's independence.



Art of Living: The Planet Meditates 2014
Join thousands of people who will gather in Plaza de Espana in Santo Domingo on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 4pm for an afternoon of meditation for world peace.

The event is organized by The Art of Living branch in the Dominican Republic as part of a global event by the Art of Living foundation in 100 countries.

The event is described as the largest worldwide simultaneous meditation for peace event. Event coordinator Carmen Julia Gomez Carrasco says that the event seeks to promote peace in our minds as a step to reaching peace in society.

The event, which has the sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism, is being held in support of the United Nations "International Peace Day" celebrated 21 September every year to strengthen the ideals of peace among all nations.

The event is free and no previous experience of meditation is required. There will be music from the group Ciguapiando, stretching exercises and breathing exercises as part of the event.

If you plan to attend, bring your own yoga mat if you have one, or a large towel or blanket for placing on the ground, and wear comfortable clothing.

For more information, contact Arte de Vivir on 809-338-4404, 809-982-5705 (Carmen Julia Gomez cell phone), or by writing to [email protected]. Read more about Art of Living in the Dominican Republic at http://www.artofliving.org/do-es

Romeo Santos, ex-Aventura, booked for Santiago show
Bachata star Romeo Santos will be giving a concert at the Santiago ballpark, the Estadio Cibao on 14 December 2014 at 9pm. Tickets are already for sale for RD$1,300, RD$1,600 (ground) and RD$6,000+ VIP.

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

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