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Daily News - Monday, 29 September 2014

2015 National Budget: RD$630.9 billion
Following a cabinet meeting on Friday, 26 September 2014, the Presidency announced that it would submit the 2015 National Budget to Congress for RD$630.93 billion. This is RD$17.80 billion more than the budget for 2014.

The ruling PLD party has a large congressional majority, including 31 of 32 senators in the Senate, where the bill will be sent first.

During Friday's cabinet presentation, Minister of Hacienda Simon Lizardo said that the government expects revenues to be RD$455.43 billion, while spending will be RD$529.3 billion with RD$175 billion in funding.

Lizardo said that 46% of the budgeted total would be spent on government social programs. He said the budget includes the wage increases announced earlier this year for public employees working in education, health, and under the Ministry of Defense, Interior & Police, representing around 70% of all public employees.

He said the government has budgeted a RD$46-US$ exchange rate, 4% inflation, and 5% growth of GDP, with a 2.4% fiscal deficit. Some RD$79.12 billion in capital investments are planned.

The Ministry of Education will receive the highest allocation with RD$119.36 billion, or 4% of GDP. Ministry of Public Works will be next with RD$24.89 billion, while another RD$4 billion has been separately allocated to building the extension of the second line of the Santo Domingo metro.

Lizardo added that the electricity subsidy would be RD$40.9 billion.

Medina outlines small farmer program at FAO meeting
President Danilo Medina gave the keynote address to delegates from around the world attending the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Committee (COAG) on Agriculture's 24th session in Rome today, Monday 29 September 2014.

Medina described his weekend surprise visits to small farmer organizations, saying they have helped trigger the process of empowering small-scale farmers. He told the audience that in the past two years he has made 76 visits nationwide to help boost farming-related projects. He says 504 commitments have been made for 303 productive projects and 198 community projects worth US$283 million, creating 50,841 direct jobs and 127,700 indirect jobs.

"You can be sure that in the next two years of government we have before us we will continue to work hard so that farming and rural communities stop being a pending task and become, on the contrary, a solution to many of the challenges of the 21st Century. We are going to continue working with responsibility to ensure that the Dominican Republic can feed all of its sons and daughters," said Medina.

He highlighted that poverty had declined by 6% and 9% in rural areas in the first 18 months of his administration, benefitting 528,061 people. He highlighted that of 155 municipalities in the country, in 133 municipalities, people make a living in farming for 14% of the population. Farming represents 5.9% of GDP.

During his speech he explained advances the Dominican Republic has made in farming and food security.

The COAG is held to discuss issues such as family farming, sustainable agriculture, food safety, sustainable livestock production, the global soil partnership and agricultural heritage systems. The committee is one of FAO's leading governing bodies. The event takes place in Rome from 29 September to 3 October. The COAG usually meets every two years.

Medina is scheduled to return on Wednesday, 1 October 2014.





Medina meets Dominican IFAD VP in Rome
During his visit to Rome, President Danilo Medina met with Josefina Stubbs, recently appointed vice president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

IFAD is a specialized United Nations agency dedicated to ending rural poverty.

President Medina surprises DR volleyball team in Rome
On Sunday, 28 September 2014, the Dominican Republic defeated Italy (15-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-16 and 8-15) to win all five matches in the first round of the FIVB World Volleyball Championship.

In keeping with his tradition of Sunday surprise visits, President Danilo Medina dropped in on the team in Rome to personally congratulate each player and take "selfies" with the group.

President Medina was in Rome to attend the opening session of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meetings in the Italian capital.

"You are doing what was never done before," Medina told the volleyball team members, echoing the motto of his presidential campaign two years ago. "You have been able to defeat stronger opponents."

As reported, the players were caught by surprise when President Medina made his appearance. He encouraged them to continue battling, remain focused and giving their best to win the women's volleyball world championship.

President Medina also took opportunity to congratulate Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, president of the women's national teams program with a warm hug for his dedication and laudable work.

The DR is now one of 16 teams (of 24 initially) that will play the second round of the FIVB World Championship. The DR finished the five-match first-round round robin winning all five of the matches in Pool A. The DR finished second to Italy (4-1), nevertheless, due to being extended to five sets on three occasions that reduced their standings points to 12, one shy of Italy. The DR defeated Italy on 15-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-16 and 8-15 on Sunday, 28 September 2014.

Earlier, the DR defeated Germany (3-2), Tunisia (3-0), Croatia (3-2), Argentina (3-1) and Italy (3-2).

The DR will now play Pool E competing against China, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Croatia, Azerbaijan and Germany. Its first game will be on 1 October against Belgium.



First phase Santo Domingo bypass ready by December 2014
The Ministry of Public Works reports that the first part of the Haina-Santo Domingo bypass will be ready by December 2014. The highway will link Haina Port in the west of Santo Domingo, passing by the Sanchez and 6 de Noviembre highways to connect to Duarte Highway at Km. 24. Chief engineer Guillermo Alba told reporters that 16 km of the new roadway are already being paved in the final stage of construction. Engineer Ramon Antonio Pepin of the Ministry of Public Works said the work will have a major impact on the industrial, business, farming and cargo sectors with savings in time and fuel costs.

The complete work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015 when it will connect the port with Duarte Highway and then on to the Multimodal Caucedo Port in eastern Boca Chica.

As reported, the bypass will be 72.63 km long in total. The stretches are: Haina-Duarte Highway (16.90 km), Duarte-Boca Chica (45.10 km). Access roads to La Isabela Airport-Higuero (2.83) and Ozama area (7.80 km) are also being built.

Works were contracted to Compreica-Alba Sanchez engineering firm.

The new highway will connect Haina, El Cajuilito, Monte Adentro, La Pared, Palave, Caballona, Lecheria, Hato Nuevo and Pedro Brand.

Time for Primary Health Care
Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks, Fernando Caamano Valdez is calling for Congress to pass the bill that seeks to create the Single Public Health Network integrated with the Ministry of Public Health. He believes that the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) should be eliminated. He said that although this had been the plan at the start of the Medina administration, it had been stopped by private interests. The network would open primary care centers nationwide where patients would go first, before being referred to a specialist. He said that most patient care cases could be treated at the primary care level. At present, patients usually decide which specialist to go to on their own, rather than consulting with a general practitioner first. He said this would free up specialized centers to deal with the more complicated cases.

He also commented that by introducing a primary health care system the country would also reduce the high cost of assisting women from Haiti coming to give birth here.



Victor Castro: eliminate duplication in government
The president of the Association of Herrera and Santo Domingo Province Industries (AEIH) has expressed his disappointment at the Medina administration for continuing to maintain duplication in government entities in the 2015 National Budget. The Presidency has presented a National Budget for RD$630,934 billion for 2015.

Castro commented that while President Medina is giving priority to social spending, it is also true that resource allocation would be more efficient if known hindrances were eliminated.

"It is essential to put an end to political patronage that keeps alive certain government entities where all they do is duplicate roles, create obstacles, spend lots of money and serve as centers for private business deals," said Castro.

He said there is no sense in keeping a Fund for Farm Development (FEDA) when there is already a Banco Agricola, or transferring resources to the Office for Supervisory Works of the Presidency when there is a Ministry of Public Works.

He also mentioned the Unit for Rural and Suburban Electrification (UERS) as a department of the CDEEE that has its own board, provided each of the members with SUVs and earning very high wages. He mentioned that the three power distribution companies should be merged into one, with fewer staff. He said it is absurd to continue paying wages to the State Sugar Council (CEA), the Rosario Dominicana and Corde, entities that no longer have productive units.

Castro added that only political patronage and the "political pinata" could justify the maintenance of the Price Stabilization Institute (Inespre), the Dominican Sugar Institute (Inazucar) and the National Sewing Institute (Inaguja). He also mentioned the many state institutions that tread on each other's toes in the transport sector.

He asked why the government continues to maintain the Community Development Office (ODC) when there is such a strong Social Cabinet. He also questioned the need for the National Cooperative Credit Institute (Indecoop) when there is a Banking Superintendence.

He also wondered why the country needed a Ministry of Youth, a Ministry of Women and what was the role of the CDEEE when there is a newly created Ministry of Energy and Mines.

He commented that big political and economic interests have impeded the operation of the costly Commission for the Defense of Competition (Pro-Competencia).


Seven million undocumented in Haiti
Writing in Listin Diario today, Monday 29 September 2014, journalist Alfredo Freites speculates that the call for international help in providing Haitians with documentation will again go unheard. He estimates that seven million people in Haiti do not have legal documentation and commented that when President Danilo Medina appealed to the international community to help the people of Haiti get legal documentation during the 69th General Assembly, Haiti appeared to have two Presidents.

"An estimated seven million Haitians are living without official legal documents that identify them. They are men and women, children without a juridical status; they have no legal first or last name. They live there and request an identity here," he writes.

He writes that for many it is easier and faster for the Dominican Republic to put aside legal procedures and distribute nationality like a godsend. "It would be to issue nationality to millions of citizens for charity, solidarity, as people from here and there are asking," he writes.

He comments that what many are asking for is to put aside red tape. "Many think that it will have no implications, just use the name that anyone says they have and write up the birth certificate," he writes. "As easy as that."


Fernandez: PLD is civilization versus barbarism
The president of the ruling PLD party, three-time former President Leonel Fernandez has told his followers in New York City that the PLD is the only political party that has a clear vision of civilization. He said that politics in the DR today is the struggle of civilization against barbarism. "The other is chaos, disorder... and that leads to nowhere," said Fernandez, referring to the political parties that oppose the PLD.

Fernandez stressed that anyone visiting the Dominican Republic today can see the major changes that have occurred as a result of good government by the PLD administrations. As reported, he said that the Dominican population could see this situation clearly into the coming elections.

El Nuevo Diario reports that the committee that accompanied Fernandez during his visit to New York included controversial former government officers, senator Felix Bautista, former Minister of Public Works Victor Diaz Rua, former Minister of Industry and Commerce Luis Manuel Bonetti, and former Minister of Agriculture Salvador (Chio) Jimenez.

In reply to the statement by former President Fernandez, former Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch (2000-2004) said that the country had inherited the highest public corruption ever from Fernandez and the PLD, as well as the deterioration of its institutions, the lack of ethics and morals in politics, and a foreign debt that makes development higher to achieve.

Speaking for the newly created Partido Revolucionario Moderno (PRM), made up of PRD dissidents, Ortiz Bosch said that former President Fernandez talks abroad thinking that people have not kept up with his unfortunate governments, or his open intentions to become a caudillo and head of the only political party in the country.

She commented that Fernandez spoke in New York at a time when publications like the Wall Street Journal were questioning corruption in his government, such as the purchase of the Super Tucano jets.

"I think that decent citizens aspire to a better society and we would like to practice the so-called civilization that former President Leonel Fernandez speaks of abroad," she commented.

As reported in El Nuevo Diario, she said everyone suspects why Fernandez invested RD$200 billion to corrupt the democratic bodies in the country and conquer political parties, taking hold of judicial bodies and his government officials and closest collaborators now enjoy the most embarrassing judicial impunity in the country.

She commented that Fernandez was not the best person to speak about civilization because he had the opportunity to lead the country to become more civilized and did the contrary.




Francisco Javier Garcia pushes for middle class
On the campaign trail in Madrid, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia told the Dominican community in Spain that if he should be elected President he would work to strengthen the middle class in the Dominican Republic. He empathized with Dominicans who despite receiving postgraduate education decide to remain abroad for the lack of better opportunities in the Dominican Republic.

He said more than a million Dominicans live a sort of "economic exile" abroad, including many young people who have graduated from foreign universities but have not been able to find suitable work at home.


DR officers train with Homeland Security in US
On Friday, 26 September 2014, a group of Dominican law enforcement officers graduated from the International Taskforce Agent Training (ITAT) program hosted by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS). The course was held from 13 to 26 September at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia.

The group was made up of 17 national police officers, two prosecutors and officers from the tourist police (Cestur), Border Force (Cesfront), Armada (Navy) and Army. Officials from the Attorney General's Office and the Customs Agency (DGA) also took part in the course as instructors.

Students spent two weeks in classroom seminars and practical exercises as part of the ITAT program, which provides vetted foreign law enforcement officers with training very similar to that of HSI's special agents.

This is the second class of Dominican law enforcement officials that has graduated from the program. The first class, 14 students, graduated in May 2010.

"Transnational criminal organizations respect no nation's boundaries, so it is vitally important for law enforcement agencies to work together across borders to ensure these criminals have no place to hide," said Alexis Torres, HSI operations chief for Central and South America and the Caribbean, highlighting the importance of the course.

"We have already seen the increased skills this training provides to our nation's law enforcement programs," said Dominican Republic National Police chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo.

"This new class of graduates will have an immediate impact on our ability to counter the criminal organizations who threaten public safety in our communities," commented Castro in an official press release on the graduation.

Speculation: Tom Perez to replace Holder in US government?
Speculation is rife in the US media that Tom Perez, son of Dominican immigrants, recently appointed Labor Secretary in July 2013 by US President Barack Obama, could replace resigning Attorney General Eric Holder who had been in the post for six years. Holder has said he would remain in office until a successor was confirmed. President Obama has yet to name his replacement.



Victor Estrella wins Challenger in Colombia
With wins over Nicolas Jarry (Chile) 6-4, 7-6, Chase Buchanan (USA) 6-2, 6-4, Daniel Munoz (Spain) 7-6, 6-4, Guido Pella (Argentina) 6-4, 6-2, and Joao Souza (Brazil), Dominican top-ranked tennis player Victor Estrella has won RD$5,750 in prize money of the Challenger Cup in Colombia. He has earned more than US$297,000 in prize money this year. He is ranked 71st in the world according to the Association of Tennis Professionals.



Dominicana Moda on from 20-25 October 2014
Indian-American fashion designer Naeem Khan is the special guest for Dominicana Moda 2014, the leading fashion week in the Dominican Republic. The event kicks off at the Hotel Embajador in Santo Domingo from 20-25 October. Khan will present the closing runway show. He is known for his romantic designs marked by embroidery. The event is being sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism.

Outstanding Dominican-based designers also exhibiting on the Dominicana Moda runway this year are:

Leonel Lirio, Giannina Azar, Jose Jhan, Moises Quesada, Jacqueline Then, Sissy Bermudez, Larissa Salcedo, Carlos de Moya, Luis Dominguez, Karlos Nunez, Jusef Sanchez, Arcadio Diaz, Yndra Rodriguez, Keyter Estevez, Angie Polanco and Miguel Genao. The brands Camila, Blue Country, Cosita Linda, Cayena, Chacabanas Dominicanas, Pamplemousse, and Mango will be holding runway shows, too. Children's shows include fashion by Blue Island by Madelaine Morel, Rayuela Kids and Vittoria by CDM.

The emerging designers this year are: Mayle Vasquez, Ingrid Recio, Michelle Ortiz, David Dovente, Michelle Cruz, Maria Fernanda, and Estefania Lozada.

The program also includes a Chef a la Moda runway show with Rafael Rivero.

Runway shows have a cost, but the general public can attend the exhibition hall where more than 50 fashion-related companies will be exhibiting.



See Naeem Khan's designs at: http://www.style.com/slideshows/fashion-shows/spring-2014-ready-to-wear/naeem-khan/collection/1

Conjunto Quisqueya announces concerts for November and December
Puerto Rico-based Dominican group Conjunto Quisqueya announces it will be playing in 10 concerts in the Dominican Republic to celebrate its 40 years in music. The group members met at the University of Puerto Rico 40 years ago when Dominicans got together to play merengue for Puerto Ricans and started playing as a perico ripiao group.

The group will go on tour in November and December, in a production by Amable Valenzuela. The group members are Adib Melgen, Chucky Acosta, Javish Victoria and Elias Santana, who inherited the group leadership after the death of its founder, Aneudy Diaz. The scheduled tour stops are coordinated by Raffy D'Oleo, and Anthony Rios is scheduled to be a guest performer.


Drama "At the President's Office" at the Sala Ravelo
Giovanni Cruz presents "At the President's Office" (En el despacho presidencial) on Thursday, 2 and 9 October, Friday, 3 and 10 October, Saturday, 4 and 11 October at 8:30pm. Sundays 5 and 12 October at 7pm. Tickets RD$500. Sala Ravelo of the National Theater, Santo Domingo.

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

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