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Daily News - Thursday, 16 October 2014

Hacienda says: No budget increases for anyone
The Minister of Hacienda Simon Lizardo has excluded any possibility of the 2015 budget bill being modified to accommodate demands.

The draft budget bill that the Executive Branch submitted to the Congress is more than RD$630 billion, including RD$455 billion in income and another RD$175.5 billion in financing.

After a meeting lasting more than three hours with the Joint Congressional Commission yesterday, Wednesday 15 October 2014, Lizardo said: "If the President would have had any option of modifying the budget, he would have done so earlier; this is why we have delivered it, complying with the constitutional requirement before the due date. This document contains the work of the Executive Branch with more than four months of study and verification of what we can do," he stated.

The government entities demanding budget increases include the Central Electoral Board (JCE), the Ministry of Public Health, the Justice sector and the Chamber of Accounts, along with other state dependencies.

Lizardo said that the budget demands would always be impossible to fulfill, because income has a ceiling. "If we were to satisfy all of the demands, we would need a budget that is 24% of the Gross Domestic Product. And with the income that we have we are going to be more than 200 billion short, and this is impossible within the context that we have."

After yesterday's meeting with the Joint Commission, the Minister of Hacienda said he had answered all of the legislators' concerns correctly, while adding that there will be other meetings to continue dealing with the issue.

The Budget General Director Luis Reyes Santos and the tax department (DGII) director Guarocuya Felix also took part in the meeting.

The Joint Commission is made up of 20 senators and deputies, including commission chairman Tommy Galan, Dionis Sanchez, Rafael Calderon, Jose Rafael Vargas, Victor Sanchez, Vinicio Castillo Seman and Ruben Maldonado.

The ruling PLD party has the majority in both houses of Congress.


Senate approves US$400 million for highway improvements
The Senate ratified a further US$400 million in loans on Wednesday, 15 October 2014. The funds will be used to build and improve highways. The first loan for US$200 million will be spent on rebuilding the highway between the Cibao and the south west, from Piedra Blanca to Cruce de Ocoa. The other US$200 million will be used on financing the Pontezuela Ecological Corridor in the province of Santiago. Both projects will be implemented by the Ministry of Public Works, as reported in El Nuevo Diario. Financing will be provided by the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimiento Economico y Social (BNDES), the Brazilian export promotion bank. BNDES has financed highways built by the Brazilian company Odebrecht. The road would be a stretch of the Cibao-Sur highway.


Free zones lunch with President Medina
The President of the Dominican Free Zones Association (Adozona), Aquiles Bermudez, said on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 that the country is enjoying macroeconomic stability and has high potential to attract foreign investments.

Bermudez made the comments during Adozona's annual luncheon, which was attended by President Danilo Medina.

Bermudez spoke of the favorable conditions that the Dominican Republic enjoys in the international markets and the availability of an abundant labor pool.

His talk focused on economic development and job creation. He mentioned that the latest statistics from the Central Bank for the first half of the year show that free zone exports grew by 5% and direct jobs now total 150,000.

Haiti to ask for an extension of legalization deadline
During a visit to Santo Domingo yesterday, Wednesday 15 October 2014, Haitian Foreign Relations Minister Duly Brutus said that his government might ask for an extension of the deadline for the Dominican Republic Foreigner Legalization Plan in order to have more time to sort out "the problems with documentation." Most people in Haiti do not have legal documentation that has caused major problems when they apply to legalize their status for residence in the Dominican Republic.

After recognizing that they are "aware of the fact that there have been problems" with the delivery of documents to their citizens, Brutus said that "we are going to ask our Dominican counterparts for an extension of the deadline in order to be able to resolve the problems with the documentation."

The legalization plan started on 2 June 2014 and will end on 31 May 2015.

The Haitian minister was answering questions during a press conference at the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Relations, together with his Dominican counterpart Andres Navarro. The ministers said that they met to deal with a broad agenda of bilateral issues.

Navarro said that they have appointed representatives of both countries to provide follow-up on the economic political and social capital agendas set forth by both countries.


Red Cross proposes O-negative Club
Dominican Red Cross director Ligia Leroux is calling for the creation of an "O-negative Blood Donors' Club".

She said that potential donors must be identified because of the shortage of this blood type and the frequent urgent need to locate O negative donors in emergencies to save other people's lives. She said the Red Cross is launching a public awareness campaign aimed at individuals and companies that may employ people with this blood type. She is optimistic the results will be positive and that more donors will come forward. She appealed to the media for support.

Leroux said that people with O-negative blood could only receive blood from another O-negative donor, but that they themselves were universal donors, meaning that they are compatible with all other blood types.

She urged people with O-negative blood type to contact the Dominican Red Cross and join the project.

"We want this blood type to be available when there is an emergency, for example an open heart surgery, or when there is a traffic accident," she said. According to Leroux, there have been many cases recently where they have not been able to help patients, so they want to prevent these situations.

The Dominican Red Cross is located at Calle Juan Enrique Dunant #51, Miraflores in Santo Domingo, Tel 809 334-4545. The Blood Bank Tel is 809 412-8383. Their email is [email protected]


CONEP warns salary increase equals closures
The National Business Council (Conep) is forecasting that many companies may close if the government orders a raise in the minimum wage as is being demanded by the labor unions. Rafael Paz, vice president of the business organization that is the country's largest, warned that an obligatory wage increase would lead to job losses.

The business sector believes that before deciding on a salary increase as called for by labor unions, companies must be helped to improve their competitiveness.

Management and unions continue to argue over a salary increase. Labor sector representative Rafael (Pepe) Abreu says that through a court order they have they are asking the two parties to sit down at the discussion table to review salaries this year after business representatives turned down union requests for new salary talks, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.

Energy from beer
President Medina attended the Dominican National Brewery's (CND) inauguration of a steam generation plant powered by biomass yesterday, Wednesday 15 October 2014. The biomass consists of the residue from malt production, cardboard and scrap wood, and it is used to produce high-pressure steam for the brewery, as reported in El Caribe. CND industrial director Alejandro Fernandez said that the plant's operation would reduce the company's total natural gas purchase by 27%. The plant itself will reduce the carbon footprint by 13,000 tons per year. Another of the collateral advantages is that the new plant will eliminate 3,600 trips by garbage trucks from the brewery carrying residue and other trash in the city each year.

INCA and Metaldom form Gerdau Metaldom
The country's two leading steel manufacturers, Industrias Nacionales (INCA) and the Complejo Metalurgico Dominicano (Metaldom) have announced the completion of a merger that has resulted in Gerdau Metaldom.

As reported, INCA has the capacity to produce 850,000 metric tons and Metaldom has a capacity for 400,000 metric tons. Combined production of both in 2013 was 570,000 metric tons.

INCA was a subsidiary of Brazil's Gerdau. The company produces long and flat steel for the civil construction, industrial and agricultural sectors, and also has operations in scrap processing and PVC pipes. Metaldom mainly manufactures metal from scrap and was fully owned by the Vicini Group. ?

The owners of the new company are now: 45% Gerdau S.A., 45% Vicini Group and 10% company headed by INCA general manager Carlos Valiente. The central offices of the company will be located at the La Isabela Industrial Zone (ZILI) in Santo Domingo province.

Credit risk analysts Feller Rate says that the merger will have a positive impact on the profile of the company that will be able to position itself as a leader in the Dominican Republic with a strong presence in the Caribbean and Central America. Likewise, there are expectations for significant synergies, economies of scale and a more efficient cost structure taking advantage of installed capacity of both plants.

Gerdau Metaldom combines Inca's and Metaldom's three plants, and a distribution center in Costa Rica. Integration is expected to last one to two years.


Some congressional perks in numbers
A report in Diario Libre today, Thursday 16 October 2014 points out that legislators will still have many pockets for political patronage left over even after cutting the RD$50,000 a month assignment that was announced by Chamber president Abel Martinez. The discretionary assistance fund called the Social Management Fund by the legislators is better known as the "barrilito'" or little barrel.

The newspaper report says that the fund was first created in March 2007 by then president of the Chamber of Deputies Julio Cesar Valentin and since then it has allocated RD$839.9 million to the deputies for political patronage disguised as social assistance.

The fund assigns RD$50,000 to each legislator for use at his or her discretion. Around 30 deputies had voluntarily resigned from using the fund.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies has offered the Central Government the assignment for the next two months and that the funds be reassigned in the 2015 National Budget.

Diario Libre clarifies that while the president of the Chamber of Deputies has accepted a cut of the RD$50,000 monthly allotment, there has been no mention of other allocations made to the legislators for distributing to their constituents, such as allotments for Mother's Day, Christmas and even sweet beans for Easter. For Mother's Day this year the legislators received a fund of RD$176.9 million. For Easter sweet beans distribution, the legislators received RD$14 billion. For Christmas, they received RD$82 million for use at their discretion.

Diario Libre also looks into the consistent wage raises the legislators have approved for themselves. While in 1990 a deputy received a fixed wage of RD$4,600, per diems for RD$400 and expenses of RD$6,000, by 1996, the deputies had gradually upped their wages so that they received RD$59,600.

By 2006 a RD$116,983 wage was approved, and to this was added in 2007 and 2008 RD$23,396 for expenses, RD$45,000 for per diems and the RD$50,000 social fund assignment plus a wage No. 14 for RD$116,983.

Civil society groups, including the Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (ADOCCO), are calling for reductions in the perks received by the legislators.



Felix Bautista case could become a milestone
Senator Felix Bautista has become the first major PLD figure to be the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department for possible acts of corruption and asset laundering. These actions have also included the legal restraint advisory on hundreds of assets that the Attorney General has identified as the senator's property and said to be worth more than RD$3 billion.

All of this carried forward by the Attorney General, Francisco Dominguez Brito, a former possible nominee for the presidency and a comrade in the party where both men are members of the principal organization, the Central Committee.

Bautista is the Organizational Secretary of the ruling PLD and the operational hand of the political team of former President Leonel Fernandez. During most of the Fernandez government he headed the Supervisory Office of Public Works of the Presidency. After the end of Fernandez's first term of office in 2000, Bautista was arrested on 20 November 2000 during former President Hipolito Mejia's administration, accused of inflating the cost of the highway built between San Juan and Vallejuelo by some RD$50 million. He was later cleared in the courts.

Analyzing the case, political scientist Rafael Toribio said that due to Bautista's closeness to the PLD president, the action started by Dominguez Brito could not have been undertaken without consultations.

"Everything makes you think that President Danilo Medina is au fait with the situation because it would be very risky for the Attorney General to embark on an initiative of this scale," he says.

Toribio estimates that this case creates a difficult political situation within the PLD because people close to former President Leonel Fernandez are saying that it is part of a plot to reduce the former President's chances of returning to power. He points out that from the beginning, the Bautista case has been having repercussions in the internal struggle that he says exists within the PLD.

It is noteworthy that no defense has been forthcoming from the top leadership of the PLD towards Bautista, which could be attributed to the fact that they see this as a clash between the Fernandez and Medina loyalists.


Judge sets aside Diaz Rua case
The interim judge of the Fourth Court of Instruction of the National District, Leomar Cruz Quezada says that the actions of the District Attorney of the National District against the former minister of Public Works, Victor Diaz Rua, violated his right to a defense and due process. Diaz Rua was minister of Public Works during President Leonel Fernandez's government.

The judge states his position in his Resolution Number 08 n 2014, of some 117 pages, in which he bases his arguments of fact and law to declare the case completely null and void along with each one of the acts which up to the date make up the process of investigation regarding the former official and the alleged corruption.

Consequently, he ordered the dismissal of the activities of the District Attorney Yeni Berenice Reynoso.

He specified that according to the elements and documents supplied by the parties there is no trustworthy proof that Diaz Rua had received a formal notification of all of the elements of the investigation carried out against him, previous to or at the moment of the imposition of the measure consisting of the embargo of funds.

The court believes that the freeze on the funds constitutes a real coercive measure, against which the PLD Secretary of Finances could not defend himself.

He said that the sanction resulting from the irregular activity consisting in the failure of the duty to inform the defendant as established in article 95 of the Penal Process Code is the annulment of the acts.

He suggests that prior to the imposition of the request for resolution of the petitions on 4 April, and after having evaluated the documents that make up the process, "there does not exist any proof of notification of the defendant of the complaints, the elements of proof, or the circumstances relating to the process of investigation followed against citizen Victor Diaz Rua."

The magistrate said that he believes that no procedure was registered that coincides with the date of the freezing of funds or before this, "the reason for which it is not been able to prove that in the present case they have fulfilled what is established in article 95 of the Penal Process Code."


Baseball starts today
The good news is that the 61st Dominican Winter League Professional Baseball Championship begins today, Thursday 16 October 2014 at 7:30 pm at the Francisco Micheli Baseball Stadium in La Romana. The Toros del Este will be hosting the Estrellas Orientales. The two teams that finished at the bottom of last year's tournament will seek to regain some of their former glory during the tournament dedicated to Carlos Manuel Bonetti. The pitchers will be Radhames Liz and Raul Valdes.

Tomorrow, Friday 17 October 2014 the champions of last year's tournament, the Tigres del Licey, the Leones del Escogido, the Aguilas Cibaenas and the Gigantes del Cibao will all see action.

For this year's schedule, see http://www.lidom.com/home/index.php/calendario

India Gastronomy Festival at Santo Domingo Hilton
The Embassy of India in the Dominican Republic is holding an India Gastronomical Festival at the Santo Domingo Hilton this week (13-17 Friday October). Three chefs have come from India for the event. This is an opportunity for food lovers to sample the flavors of Indian cuisine.

For more information, call 809 685-0000.

Platero y yo
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the publication of the iconic Spanish children's book "Platero y yo," a stage version of the story will be performed by Compania de Teatro Guloya on Saturday 18 October at 7pm at the Centro Cultural Espana in Santo Domingo. It will be accompanied by a photographic exhibition "Juan Ramon: Space and Time". This event is co-sponsored by the Fundacion Zenobia-Juan Ramon Jimenez.

Santiago Ecotourism Fair
Starting this Saturday, 18 October 2014, an Ecotourism Fair will take place at the Central Park of Santiago, the former Cibao Airport. The event, which is being organized by the Fundacion Arte y Ciencia will continue through 26 October.

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

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