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Daily News - Monday, 22 September 2014

Medina meets Rebeca Grynspan in New York
During his visit to New York, President Danilo Medina met with Rebeca Grynspan, the Secretary General of the Ibero-American Secretary General (SEGIB), which organizes the annual Ibero-American Summit.

An economist, Grynspan is a former UN Under-Secretary-General and was Vice President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. As reported, they discussed a range of issues related to the 24th Ibero-American Summit in Veracruz, Mexico scheduled for 8-9 December 2014. President Medina plans to attend the event, which will focus on the themes of education, innovation and culture.

The Presidency reports that Medina and Grynspan also discussed on youth and fiscal policy issues.

Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo, Foreign Relations Minister Andres Navarro and Administrative Presidency Minister Jose Ramon Peralta were also present at the meeting.

As reported by the Presidency, Grynspan expressed her wish and willingness to work towards making the summits more effective for the people, a position shared by Presidency Medina.

Grynspan said she would like to visit the Dominican Republic again. Her previous visit was in her capacity as director of the United Nations Development Program's Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (2006-2010).


Medina at AES Corporation in New York
President Danilo Medina met with AES CEO Andres Gluski, regional president Manuel Perez Dubuc, investor relations director Scarlett Alvarez Uzcategui and AES Dominicana president Marco de la Rosa while in New York City. President Medina was accompanied by ministers of the Presidency, Foreign Relations and Administration, Gustavo Montalvo, Andres Navarro, and Jose Ramon Peralta, as well as by the executive vice president of the Dominican Public Electricity Corporation, Ruben Jimenez Bichara.

According to the Presidency website, the company says it plans to make the most of the DR's good investment climate to continue its expansion plans. Yet, news reports speculate that the reported US$600 million in power arrears was also tops on the agenda.

Last year Gluski visited President Medina at the Presidential Palace to announce an investment in their energy platform of over a billion dollars over the next five years. AES facilities generate around 40% of the energy in the Dominican Republic.

In September 2014, the company announced a strategic partnership with the Estrella-Linda Group, which acquired an 8% minority share in AES's business in the DR for US$96 million. At the time, Gluski stated: "This transaction, valued at US$1.2 billion for AES Dominicana, highlights the value of our Dominican assets."

"We believe that Estrella-Linda represents a strong local player and will support our planned expansions, such as upgrading our DPP power plant. AES and Estrella-Linda are committed to bringing affordable, sustainable and reliable energy solutions to the Dominican Republic."

Grupo Estrella and allied companies are major government contractors in the Dominican Republic.

AES Dominican Republic's business consists of a LNG import terminal, a 319 MW combined-cycle gas-fired plant (Andres), a 236 MW open cycle gas-fired plant with potential expansion of the capacity to 358 MW in combined-cycle mode (DPP), and 50% ownership of a 295 MW coal-fired plant (Itabo).




President Medina at Clinton Global Initiative
President Danilo Medina is attending the opening ceremony of the 10th Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York City today, Monday, 22 September 2014. The event brings together over 1,000 leaders from the business, civil society, government and philanthropic sectors to take action on global challenges. The 2014 annual theme - "Reimagining Impact" - seeks to guide CGI members towards measuring and assessing the outcomes of their work more effectively, and in rethinking how they can create added value.

Medina is scheduled to return to the DR on Wednesday, 24 September.

US$2.5 million in monthly savings at Ministry of Foreign Relations
President Danilo Medina rescinded contracts for around 1,000 employees at the Ministry of Foreign Relations prior to appointing new Minister Andres Navarro last week. On Saturday, 20 September 2014, Listin Diario reported that this would represent US$2.5 million a month in savings for the Ministry budget.


Claro glitch affects 911 emergency calls
The Presidency reports that the 911emergency line services were affected from 9:10pm to 10:30pm on Thursday evening, 18 September 2014 due to a technical fault by the Claro telecom provider. The company said that calls made via other providers, including Orange, Tricom and Viva got through normally.


Piantini appointed UNCTAD board vice chair
The Dominican permanent representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva was elected deputy chairman of the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board for 2014-2015 during the 61st work session taking place in Geneva from 15-26 September 2014. Piantini is a former chairman of the board (2010-11).

Piantini is the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the World Trade Organization and Economic Organizations in Geneva.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is the UN body responsible for dealing with development issues. Piantini has also served as vice governor of the Central Bank in the Dominican Republic (1994-2003).



45% of DR wage earners make less than RD$10,000
Former president of the Dominican Small Enterprises Confederation (Codopyme) Yuri Chez has told Diario Libre that 45.3% of wage earners who report their income to the Social Security Treasury (TSS) are paid less than RD$10,000 a month. He also mentioned that micro and small and medium-sized enterprises sustain the TSS, with 94.6% of contributors.

He said that the SUIR database has registered 1,586,809 employees as of 31 August 2014 and of this total, 719,189 earn less than RD$10,000. A total of 63,181 active companies are paying social security.

He said that in the DR a micro company is defined as one with 15 or fewer employees.

The breakdown is:

1-15 employees: 52,902 (83.2%)
16-50 employees: 7,274 (11.4%)
51-100 employees 1,615 (2.5%)
101-500 employees 1,431 (2.2%)
501-1000 employees: 211 (0.3%)
1001-5000 employees: 167 (0.3%)
5000+ employees: 15 (0.02%)

The breakdown includes both private and government.


US$600 million in cigar exports
The Dominican Tobacco Institute (Intabaco) is projecting that total cigar exports will reap US$600 million by year's end. Juan Francisco Caraballo, director general of Intabaco said that 3.5 billion cigars were exported last year, and that the forecast for this year 4 billion, as reported in Diario Libre. He said that tobacco is now the country's main cash crop and that 89% of cigars are machine rolled, the rest being the premium hand-rolled variety.


Financing homes for the poor is good business
The president of the Dominican Association of Constructors and Housing Promoters (Acoprovi) Fermin Acosta has identified RD$8 billion in the Labor Risk Fund to invest in building low-cost housing for low-income families and informal sector workers. He said that 54% of people who do not own their homes do not qualify for bank mortgages. Acosta said that this fund would enable them to build 60 to 80,000 low-cost housing units. He believes that the housing fund should be administered by the Central Bank and said that the labor risk fund is now at RD$18 billion, with RD$12 billion deposited in banks. Acosta said that technically, only RD$4 billion is needed as experience has shown, and there is thus a RD$8 billion surplus that could be used to finance housing. He is suggesting a 3-5% interest rate. In an interview on D'Agenda TV program with journalist Hector Herrera Cabral, Acosta said that a home appraised at between RD$1 million and RD$1.5 million could reduce its cost by 40% with this scheme, meaning that the buyers could make monthly payments of around RD$6,000.

Acosta believes that lending money to poor people for buying their own homes is good business and that this is a way of reducing the housing deficit that he estimates at one million. He went on to say that by making the conditions more flexible, the purchasers could access the so-called ITBIS bond that the government instituted through the Trust Law 189-11. So far, only people employed in the formal sector and who pay social security are eligible for this discount.

He adds that this way 57% of the working class that is employed in the informal sector could take on credit to buy their own homes.

He warned that because of the current limitations, 70% of housing is being built without the correct supervision, which makes them vulnerable to earthquakes. Of the 45,000 homes that are built every year in the DR, he said, 15,000 are built by formal companies and 30,000 are constructed without minimum engineering standards.

Acosta says that the highest demand is for housing costing under RD$2 million. He said that the default rate is low at around 3%.



Fernandez visits UNODC and UNIDO in Vienna
The Global Democracy and Democracy Foundation (Funglode) announced yesterday, Sunday 21 September 2014, that it is now the Dominican Republic contact for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) agencies. The contacts will be both for academic and business programs to promote development programs and develop technical capacity in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Funglode will host workshops and short courses on these themes. The announcement was made after former President Leonel Fernandez visited both United Nations agencies in Vienna last week.

During his visit to the Austrian capital, former President Fernandez met with the director of the UNODC operations office Aldo Lale-Demoz and UNIDO directors Taizon Nishikawa and Carlos Chanduvi, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Department.

Fernandez also signed a cooperation agreement between his Global Foundation for Development (Funglode) and the University of Vienna law school. The main objective of the agreement is enable students, professors and law professionals in the Dominican Republic to receive a European perspective on global law. Dean of the Law School Helmut Ofner signed the agreement on behalf of the University of Vienna.

Fernandez also met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer.



Major changes expected for Roman Catholic Church
Who will reach the top echelons of the Roman Catholic Church now that many aging priests are due for retirement?

Both the archbishop of Santo Domingo and Santiago, Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez and Monsignor Ramon de la Rosa y Carpio have reached the 75-year retirement age for the Roman Catholic Church. Today's edition of El Dia, Monday 22 September 2014, comments on who may be in and who may be out.

The Vatican establishes that upon reaching the age of 75, a bishop needs to present a letter of resignation, but it is up to the Pope when this is accepted. Until it is accepted the priest will remain in his post, which has occurred in many cases, including that of Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Rodriguez himself.

Other bishops who are over 75 are Monsignor Antonio Camilo Gonzalez, La Vega (76), Monsignor Rafael Leonidas Felipe Nunez, Barahona (76), Monsignor Julio Cesar Corniel Amaro, Puerto Plata (75) and Monsignor Amancio Escapa (76), Auxiliary Bishop of Santo Domingo.

PUCMM University rector, Monsignor Agripino Antonio Nunez Collado, is also due for retirement. He is 81 years old.

Bishops who are 72 years old are Mons. Valentin Reynoso Hidalgo, auxiliary bishop of Santiago, Monsignor Fausto R. Mejia, bishop of San Francisco de Macoris who will be 74 this December, Monsignor Gregorio Nicanor Pena, Bishop of La Altagacia, who is 72, and Monsignor Jose Dolores Grullon Estrella, bishop of San Juan de la Maguana who will be 72 years old.

The "youngsters" in the Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic are bishops Monsignor Francisco Ozoria Acosta, who will be 63 in October 2014, Monsignor Freddy Antonio Breton Martinez, Bishop of Bani who is 67, Monsignor Espinal de Leon, Bishop of Mao-Montecristi who is 65, and Monsignor Victor Masalles Pere, who is 53 and is auxiliary bishop in Santo Domingo.

The report by journalist Jose Monegro says that the Roman Catholic Church plans to create three more dioceses: one for Espaillat (Moca) and Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), another for Samana, and a third for eastern Santo Domingo.

In the report Monegro speculates that other candidates for monsignor and bishop posts could include Benito Angeles, a former rector of the Universidad Tecnologica del Cibao who is now the communications director for the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo. Another candidate is priest Francisco Jimenez, rector of the Santo Tomas de Aquino seminary, and Carmelo Santana, secretary general of the Conference of the Dominican Episcopate. Abraham Apolinario of the Santo Cura de Ars in Capotillo parish, and the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, Gerardo Ramirez Paniagua are also on the list.

The reporter mentions two priests who are working at the Vatican n Fr. Rafael Rodriguez and Fr. Jose Pastor Ramirez could also be promoted to bishop posts in the Dominican Republic.

Last year the Roman Catholic Church announced the retirement of Pablo Cedano at the age of 77. Cedano made headlines for his strong opposition to the appointment of US Ambassador James Brewster, a prominent gay rights activist.


Recycling center at Galeria 360
Paper, plastic bottles, and Tetra Pak packaging is welcome at the Green Love recycling center now operating at the Galeria 360 Mall on Av. JF Kennedy, Santo Domingo.

27 de Febrero barrio murder investigated
Police are investigating whether police brutality was involved in the killing of an undocumented Haitian immigrant identified as 20-year old Cpedieu Jassone (Sedieu Yassainte) by a police officer, who is under arrest in the Santo Domingo barrio of 27 de Febrero, home to a large number of Haitian residents. News reports say that the victim was a street food vendor. Twelve people are under arrest as part of the investigation.

A cousin of the deceased told El Dia that the agent could have arrested him instead of shooting at him. According to initial reports, he was engaged in illegal gambling, and some witnesses claim that he had refused to pay the police in return for allowing him to continue gambling in the domino and cards betting room. Following the incident, violence erupted when Haitians in the area tried to prevent the authorities from taking the body for an autopsy as is mandatory. Six people were injured during the incident, including three journalists, Yasiris Sanchez and Jose Cruz from Telenoticias, and Silvino da Silva from Noticias SIN.





MLB to open Santo Domingo office
Major League Baseball will open its Latin American headquarters in Santo Domingo. The office will serve as the central location for MLB initiatives, including education, community affairs and coaching clinics, in addition to tournaments and showcases.


Orlando Sanchez invited to Knicks training camp
Dominican national basketball team player, Orlando Sanchez has signed a one-year deal with the New York Knicks. He was one of 18 chosen to the training camp to earn a spot with the team.

When playing at St. John's forward, Sanchez averaged 7.4 points per game, 5.6 rebounds/ game, 1.4 assists/ game and helped lead St. John's to an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), the men's college basketball tournament operated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

And as a member of the national basketball team, he was exposed to a high level of competition, including some of the best in the world. At the FIBA World Cup he averaged 2.2 points and 2.5 rebounds. The DR team finished 13 of 24 teams.

Comedy at Hard Rock Santo Domingo
Stand up comedian Carlos Sanchez will be at Hard Rock Cafe at the Blue Mall on Wednesday 1 and 8 October with his new show, Carlos Sanchez, unplugged. 9pm. Tickets are RD$800 and can be purchased in advance from Uepa Tickets or at the Hard Rock Cafe. 9pm.

Streetcar Named Desire at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Maria del Mar Perez and Felix German are in the starring roles of the Tennessee Williams 1948 Pulitzer-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, from 17-19 October 2014 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Santo Domingo. This is a Fidel Lopez production.

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

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