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Daily News - Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Medina meets Dominican businesspeople in Italy
President Danilo Medina met with Dominican-Italian businessmen on Monday, 29 September 2014 at the Waldorf Astoria Cavalieri hotel in Rome, Italy. The group included brothers Frank and Fernando Rainieri, and Felipe Vicini. The welcoming speech was made by Renzo Seravalle, president of Casa de Italia in Santo Domingo. Jean Alain Rodriguez, executive director of the Dominican Republic Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) spoke on behalf of the government, focusing on the business links between the DR and Italy, which date back 120 years. "We have had diplomatic, cultural and trade relations for more than a century," he stated. He said that it is evident that the trade relations should be maintained and increased for the benefit of both countries. He said that of US$5 billion in foreign investment received over the past two years, Italian investments totaled approximately US$500 million, or 10%.

The meeting took place at a time when the Italian community in the Dominican Republic is lobbying for the Italian government to revoke its decision to close the Italian Embassy and consulate in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican government would then have to reciprocate by shutting down the Dominican Embassy in Rome.

There is a large Italian community living in the Dominican Republic and thousands of Dominicans have immigrated to Italy. Italy is also a major source market for tourists to the Dominican Republic.


President Medina receives award in Rome
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized that the Dominican Republic has reached level C of the First Millennium Development Goal, a year ahead of schedule.

The goal was to reduce the number of people going hungry by half between 1990 and 2015 as part of the first goal, which is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

FAO Director General Jose Graziano Da Silva handed over a medal to President Danilo Medina in recognition of the achievement during a ceremony held at the FAO headquarters in Rome yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014.


Budget delivered to Senate
The national budget bill was handed over to Senate president Cristina Lizardo yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014, and Simon Lizardo, Treasury Minister, read out a letter from President Danilo Medina that accompanied the request for RD$630.93 billion.

The President wrote that the budget was calculated taking into account five fundamental issues: responsible management of public funds, supporting the production sector, strengthening public safety programs and continued progress in the transparency of public activities and strengthening institutionalism.

Medina highlighted the fact that the budget included 5% of GDP for pre-university education, the new contributory benefits for health insurance and an increase in the Solidarity welfare program. He said that they would also continue to support the Agriculture Bank (Banco Agricola), Housing Bank (Banco Nacional de la Vivienda), Special Agriculture Development Fund (Feda), Solidarity Bank and the Fundacion Reservas del Pais.

58.9% of revenue is assigned to the public payroll (RD$138.8 billion or 4.6% of GDP), payment of interests on borrowed moneys (RD$88.01 billion, 2.9% of GDP), and the CDEEE electricity subsidy (RD$40.9 billion or 1.4% of GDP), as reported in Diario Libre.

Otherwise, the biggest allotment is to the Ministry of Education (RD$119.3 billion or 4% of GDP).

Cristina Lizardo thanked President Medina for delivering the budget on time, and said that it would be sent to a bi-chamber committee on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 to be studied in detail.



Government seeks RD$115 billion in bonds for 2015 Budget
The Executive Branch via the Ministry of Hacienda sent to the Senate a bill for placement of bonds for RD$110.8 billion. The bill authorizes the Ministry of Hacienda to issue the public debt bonds for RD$110.8 billion or their equivalent in US dollars. The funds will be included in the 2015 National Budget. The explanation is that the placement will reduce the cost of government financing of debt in the medium and long range, as well as contributing to the development of the domestic capital market.

First 200 legalized foreigners
The Ministry of Interior and Police has announced that they have carried out the biometric registration of 68,814 foreigners in the country in the first 119 days of the operation of the National Foreigner Legalization Plan that began in June this year.

According to the Deputy Minister of Interior and Police, Washington Gonzalez, around 90% of those registered will receive their cards before December 2014. The Legalization Plan offers free and expedited legalization, but paperwork must be started before May 2015.

He said that there were sufficient funds, some RD$200 million, to be able to continue with the plan to regularize the status of foreign immigrants this year and the budget for 2015 would be more than RD$219 million.

According to Luis Fernandez, in charge of immigration matters, the first 200 cards will be issued next week.


Dominican Republic congratulated on arms work
A Workshop or Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Control of the Illicit Traffic in Handguns and Light Weapons in the Caribbean, which took place in the Bahamas on 24 and 25 September has congratulated the Dominican Republic for its good practice in recording firearms and setting up the Ballistic and Biometric Fingerprint laboratory.

The TWG also valued the initiatives by the Dominican authorities to create new legislation to control firearms.

During the event, funded by the United States State Department, several discussions were held on arms traffic in the Caribbean and each country highlighted their experiences.

The Dominican Republic was represented by the Deputy Minister of Interior and Police, Brigadier General Ricardo Rosa Chupani, who shared the DR's experience with Caribbean nations, delegations from Caricom and the Regional Center of the United Nations for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).

He also highlighted the work being done by the Vice Ministry for Arms Control, which has been working with intelligence, carrying out operations to seek out illegal weapons in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Arms, the main organization in the United States for combating arms traffic.


Free trade agreements work against sustainability
Corporate empowerment at the expense of a sustainable planet was a main theme for protestors on the occasion of the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations held over the last week in New York City. An article in The Huffington Post presents several cases in the Dominican Republic where big business is using the DR-CAFTA to sue when they do not get their way, despite major environmental concerns.

The item comments that provisions called "investor state dispute settlements" have been included in free trade pacts. They empower corporations to sue governments over nearly any policy that a corporation claims would reduce its expected future profits.

As reported, the Dominican Republic, for example, faces two new corporate challenges to its environmental policies.

Corona, a Florida-based construction materials company (not to be confused with the beer), has announced a case against the Dominican Republic for US$100 million because the Dominican Republic denied Corona an environmental license to mine for construction materials after raising concerns about the proposed project's risks to waterways.

It also mentions the case of three US investors that are threatening to sue the DR if it does not allow the extension of a resort that already includes luxury homes, a restaurant with a rotating floor and tennis courts - into a neighboring national park.

The blog feature by Courtenay Lewis, responsible for the Sierra Club trade program, says that the United States is pushing to expand these investor rights into new trade agreements under negotiation, including the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the European Union.


Teachers on strike in Santiago
Dominican Teachers Association (ADP) members in Santiago went on a 24-hour strike yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014, affecting classes in several schools. Students were sent home due to the strike.

Teachers' representatives said that they were on strike because some teachers had had their salaries cut for no justifiable reason, while others had not been paid. They attribute the situation to a lack of organization in the Regional Education authority.

According to the teachers, the education system in Santiago is in a real mess. They are also accusing the regional educational director, Tercida Franco, of discrimination against teachers who are not supporters of the ruling PLD party.

School is back to normal today, Tuesday 30 September 2014, but the teachers have not ruled out other one-day strikes.


Water crisis in Santiago
The president of the northern region chapter of the Dominican Teachers' Association (CMD), Manases Pena, has warned that the decision by the Santiago Aqueducts and Sewers Corporation (Coraasan), to distribute water to homes using trucks, due to the serious drought, could provoke a surge of infectious diseases unless the distribution is accompanied by a public education program.

Yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014, local people and community organizations in Baitoa and other areas in the south of Santiago took to the streets in protest at the lack of water.

Water levels in the Tavera-Bao dam have fallen drastically and Coraasan has decided to start delivering water to the worst affected areas using tanker trucks. Pena stresses that these deliveries should be accompanied by an educational campaign to explain that users must keep the water storage areas clean and use bleach if an increase in dengue and chikungunya cases is to be prevented.

He also pointed out that the water in the trucks was unlikely to be of good quality and that families should be told not to use it for drinking.


Close call on Constitution change
In a survey of online readers of El Nacional Digital, 58% disagreed that the Constitution should be changed to allow for consecutive Presidential re-election, while 42% were in agreement.

A large number of current PLD members believe that it should be changed to allow Danilo Medina to run again, reflecting his exceptionally high popularity that makes him the ideal candidate for the 2016 elections. The PRD has warned that its legislators would vote against any attempt to change the Constitution.


Dominican Republic excluded from US visa lottery
From Wednesday, 1 October 2014, the United States federal government will open the 2016 Visa Lottery, which is totally free and will hand over 50,000 legal permanent residencies to immigrants via the Visa Diversity Program. However, Dominicans, along with some other nationalities, will not be allowed to take part.

The other countries that have been excluded are Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Nigeria, United Kingdom (apart from Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. The reason being that these countries have sent over 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the last five years.

The immigrants who can take part are those who meet the conditions and who have completed the requirements for study or work experience.

The participants will be chosen via an electronic lottery and can only submit one entry each. The deadline for submissions is 3 November.

In 2011, 13.6 million people took part. More than 12 million submissions were received in 2012 and 2013.


Customs still wants to revoke US$200 Internet exemption
Customs Agency (DGA) director Fernando Fernandez continues to argue that the government lost out on RD$765 million in taxes after the Superior Administrative Tribunal ruled in favor of maintaining the tax exemption on online purchases under US$200. He said that Customs lawyers would be taking the case back to court. According to Fernandez, the original opinion issued by the court was only partial, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.

DR benefits from US$700 million a year in financing from Venezuela
The DR is currently receiving US$700 million in petrol financing from Venezuela, says Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose del Castillo. He said the ongoing PetroCaribe financing is long term and at low interest rates. The worsening economic situation in Venezuela places the Dominican Republic in a vulnerable situation.

Russians could source fruit and vegetables from DR
A Russian company is exploring options for sourcing fresh produce from the Dominican Republic. The director of the Center for Development and Competitiveness (ProIndustria), Alexandra Izquierdo recently met with Russian investors who may relocate here. The Russian company Panorama imports fruits, vegetables and flowers. The investors are making contacts with local producers to export to Russia where imports of fresh produce from Europe have been banned. It is estimated that total European farm exports to Russia were worth some EUR11bn a year, with 29% of all fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the European Union itself. Overall, the European market is estimated at 450 million people.

DR ranked 68th in World Press Freedom Index
The Dominican Republic is ranked 68th on a list of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by the Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent.

In the Americas, the DR is listed below Jamaica (17), Canada (18), Costa Rica (21), Uruguay (26), Belize (29), Suriname (31), Antigua and Barbuda (36), El Salvador (38), Trinidad & Tobago (43), United States (46), Haiti (47), Argentina (55), Chile (58) and Guyana (67).


Silvio Rodriguez and Maridalia Hernandez concert in Bani
The Ministry of Culture has announced that Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez will be taking part in next month's 250th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the city of Bani. Dominican singer Maridalia Hernandez is another star of the evening. The concert is scheduled for 7pm on 25 October 2014 at the Luis Maria Herrera stadium in Bani.

Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez said that Silvio Rodriguez is coming to commemorate the land where General Maximo Gomez was born. The general is one of the heroes of Cuban independence from Spain in 1895.

Rodriguez is expected to sing many of his greatest hits, including: 'Ojala', 'Tu fantasma', 'Adonde van' and 'Mi unicornio azul'.

Bani will also be hosting the 10th Regional Peravia Book Fair dedicated to journalist Rafael Herrera, a native of Bani who was director of the Listin Diario in its heyday. The book fair will last from 24 October to 2 November and will take place at the Marcos A. Cabral city park.

Amelia Vega and Al Horford expecting baby boy
Dominican Republic's 2003 Miss Universe Amelia Vega used Instagram and Twitter to announce that she is expecting her first child, a baby boy, with husband Atlanta Hawks basketball player Al Horford.

She said she is four months pregnant.

"With great joy we announce that we are expecting our first son. A beautiful gift that we will gladly receive from our Heavenly Father in March, 2015," she captioned the picture unable to contain her excitement.

When Vega and Horford celebrated a surprise wedding at the house of her uncle, Dominican singer/composer Juan Luis Guerra, many speculated that she was pregnant, the reason for the wedding on 24 December 2011. But Vega said time would prove speculators wrong, as it has. The couple justified the wedding by attributing it to Horford's NBA commitments.

Arawak presents II Drawings Festival
This is a great opportunity to purchase illustration art at excellent prices. Leading art connoisseur Mildred Canahuate brings together the work of many acclaimed artists in October and November. Calle Polibio Diaz No. 11, Evaristo Morales, Santo Domingo. Tel 809 563-7860


Ernesto Nunez Quartet at Terrazas del Meson
The Ernesto Nunez Quartet is playing a live set at the Terrazas del Meson this evening, Tuesday, 30 September 2014, from 8:30pm. Av. Mirador del Sur, Santo Domingo. Tel. 809 930-1840

Cousinhood at the Cinemateca
Cousinhood, a 2011 Spanish comedy, is showing at the Cinemateca in Plaza de la Cultura as part of Weeks of Spain, a series of events sponsored by the Spanish Embassy. The movie tells the story of three cousins who return to the village where they used to spend their summer vacations as kids. Tomorrow evening, Wednesday, 1 October 2014. Av. Pedro Henriquez Urena, Santo Domingo. Tel 809 685-9396.

Fiesta Sunset Jazz: Claude Diallo from Switzerland
On Thursday, 2 October 2014, pianist, composer and vocalist Claude Diallo takes the stage of the Dominican Sunset Jazz at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel rooftop nightclub. He will be accompanied by Jordi Massales (drums), Hector Santana bass) and Carlito Estrada (saxophone). Diallo takes his inspiration from the music of Oscar Peterson. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. 8:30pm. Free admission. Av. Anacaona, Santo Domingo.

101. Reservations recommended at Tel 809 562-8222.

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

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