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Daily News - Friday, 14 November 2014

DR doing better than expected, says IMF mission
A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headed by Przemek Gajdeczka, which visited Santo Domingo from 3n12 November 2014, has concluded that the outlook for the end of the year is more favorable than expected.

But the mission observes the fiscal deficit by year's end will be at 50% of GDP and recommends more taxes instead of more borrowing in order to maintain the present government level of spending. The PLD governments are known for their wasteful spending, according to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness ranking, and have been reticent to cut spending, preferring to increase taxation over the years.

The IMF mission observed that after registering a 4.6% growth rate in 2013, real GDP growth has accelerated to 7% in the January-September 2014 period driven by a pickup in tourism and construction, and would close at around 6% by year's end. The IMF mission confirmed that unemployment had declined from 7% to 6% since October 2013 and that inflation remains low (2.9% in October), helped in part by a decline in tradable prices and slowing exchange rate depreciation.

The mission says that the external current account deficit is projected to remain broadly unchanged relative to 2013 (around 4% of GDP), but significantly lower from the 2010n12 levels. This improvement reflects the coming on stream of gold exports, favorable terms of trade, and strong remittances and tourism revenues. Gross international reserves stood at US$4.4 billion (about 2.9 months of imports) at end-October, an increase of US$1.1 billion since October 2012.

In its concluding remarks, the IMF mission stated:

"The mission supported the central government's efforts to control its expenditure while increasing spending on education, which would help to meet the 2014 budget target of 2.8% of GDP."

On the downside, though, the IMF mission observed that the Central Bank's quasi-fiscal losses had increased due to lower recapitalization transfers. In addition, it remarked that the continued losses in the electricity sector have contributed to an increase in arrears to private generators.

"These factors would lead to an increase in the debt of the consolidated public sector to above 50% of GDP by end-2014, which represents a cumulative increase of about 18 percentage points of GDP since 2008," states the IMF.

In its ending remarks, the IMF stated: "For 2015, the mission projects real GDP growth of about 4.5% with inflation remaining around the mid-point of the central bank's target range (3 to 5%). The external current account deficit is expected to contract further, to below 3% of GDP mainly owing to the decline in oil prices. The mission agreed with the authorities' objective to increase gross international reserves and maintain them at the equivalent of more than three months of imports in order to strengthen the economy's resilience to external shocks.

"The mission recommends continuing with fiscal consolidation to strengthen debt sustainability and lower external borrowing requirements. In addition, it advises a change in the balance of the fiscal consolidation toward increasing revenues rather than reducing capital spending. The mission also reiterates the importance of resuming the central bank recapitalization in line with the 2007 law, which will help to strengthen the credibility of the monetary framework.

"Financial system indicators are broadly satisfactory. The average capital adequacy ratio of the banking system as of September 2014 was 15.4% and the non-performing loan ratio declined to 1.7%. The mission advises that the strong growth in bank credit to the private sector merits close monitoring."

The IMF team assessed macroeconomic developments and discussed economic challenges, policy priorities and possible themes for the next Article IV Consultation mission, which is scheduled to take place in mid-2015. The mission met with Finance Minister Simon Lizardo, Economy Minister Temistocles Montas, Education Minister Carlos Amarante, and Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu, as well as other senior government and central bank officials, and private sector representatives.



Cuba, Haiti and DR working together for biodiversity
Environment Ministers from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic meeting in Santo Domingo yesterday, Thursday 13 November 2014, signed a three-year inter-ministerial agreement to promote sustainable environmental development in each country. The agreement strengthens existing cooperation in the framework of the Caribbean Biological Corridor to preserve biodiversity and integrate communities into harmonious development with nature. The CBC is coordinated by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and funded by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and the European Union (EU).

The participants agreed to implement rehabilitation work in degraded areas and develop work plans for improving the local inhabitants' quality of life.

Environment Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez signed for the Dominican Republic, his Haitian counterpart Jean Francois Thomas signed for Haiti, and deputy minister of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, Danilo Alonso Medina signed for Cuba.

The agreement was signed during the 5th Meeting of the Tri-national Ministerial Committee to Follow Up CBC held in Santo Domingo this week, 10-14 November 2014.


Puerto Plata gets safer
The Ministry of Public Works military-police commission for road safety, in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism, has announced the introduction of new patrols along Puerto Plata's Gregorio Luperon Avenue, better known as the Malecon that is around 5 km long. Three vehicles have been added to the patrol since yesterday, Thursday, 13 November 2014. Deputy Minister of Tourism for Puerto Plata Julio Almonte, provincial governor Ivan Rivera, Cestur director Ignacio Grullon and the director of the Ministry of Public Works Military-Police Road Aid Commission Estanislao Gonell attended a ceremony held to mark the start of the new patrols. The introduction of these new patrols comes on the heels an incident in which a tourist was robbed when strolling along the lovely avenue that borders the Atlantic Ocean. The Malecon is also a bicycle route and is popular with both tourists and locals.


DR dispute against cigar sales in Australia advances
The Dominican Republic has applauded the recent preliminary ruling (WT/DS441/19) by a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel that rejected all of Australia's procedural objections to the Dominican Republic's claims against that country's plain packaging law for tobacco products.

The dispute is being coordinated by Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic's director general of Foreign Trade in her capacity as a national expert, and by Dominican ambassador to the WTO Luis Manuel Piantini.

The Dominican Republic has now taken the important step of filing its first written submission in the dispute, using comprehensive analysis of data from the marketplace. They have noted that nearly two years since Australia's plain packaging measures took effect, the measures have failed to contribute to reducing smoking in Australia. Instead, the measures are threatening the position of the Dominican Republic's tobacco brands, and also the local industries that manufacture these products.


Santo Domingo East new court site disputed
Santo Domingo East mayor and Municipal Federation president Juan de los Santos is calling for the Supreme Court of Justice to find another location for the new court to be built for the municipality. De los Santos says that using the former site of the Textil de Los Minas factory will cause traffic jams and will endanger public safety. The Judicial Branch wants to use the site because it was donated by the government, but De los Santos says that the EDE Este power distribution company installations are there, there are two giant tanks holding natural gas in the area, and Sabana Larga is a narrow street along which many family homes are located. He said he has spoken to Supreme Court of Justice president Mariano German about the situation, but the only response has been the start of the demolition of what was left of the textile manufacturing plant.

De los Santos suggests locating the new courthouse near the Megacentro shopping mall, at the intersection of the Mella Highway and Av. San Vicente de Paul.



Leonel defends government rejection of IAHCR court order
Speaking on "The OAS, Democracy and Human Rights" at the 57th OAS Lecture Series at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters yesterday, Thursday 13 November 2014, former President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez defended the Dominican government's position in the dispute with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the right to nationality of children of undocumented migrants. During the talk, he called for the OAS to be re-launched.

In his speech Fernandez said the recent IAHRC decision violates Dominican sovereignty by ordering the country to change its Constitution and laws. He specified that there is no "jus soli" law (a legal concept that grants citizenship to those born in a country) in the Dominican Republic and therefore "Dominican nationality is not acquired simply by having been born in our territory." In this regard, he disagreed with the Court for ordering the Dominican State to take steps to rescind all legislation that conditions the recognition of nationality via the "jus soli" principle. Fernandez concluded that not granting automatic citizenship by way of jus soli is not a violation of human rights, and has been misinterpreted by the Court.

Broadening the context, he noted that of the 194 member states of the United Nations, only 30 unconditionally support the jus soli system, which means that 164 states, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Costa Rica, have chosen not to automatically recognize the citizenship of people born in their territories.

In his extensive talk in Spanish, the former President called for a re-launch of the OAS. Fernandez said that in the second decade of the 21st Century the OAS must rethink its goals and redesign its institutions to re-launch itself in new areas to ensure peace, security, prosperity and welfare for the people of the region. Fernandez said that the Human Rights Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have created tension in states as a result of the inconsistency of their decisions that has led the court to loose legitimacy due to issuing rulings that are beyond their scope of competence.

Read the speech in Spanish at:



Judge orders notification of proof to Felix Bautista
Supreme Court of Justice special instruction judge Alejandro Moscoso Segarra has ordered Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito to notify senator Felix Bautista and Soraida Antonia Abreu Martinez, Jose Elias Hernandez Garcia, Bolivar Antonio Ventura Rodriguez, Carlos Manuel Ozoria Martinez, Gricel Aracelis Soler Pimentel and Bienvenido Apolinar Breton Medina who are also under investigation, of the proof that support the accusations against him. Bautista and seven others are accused mainly of asset laundering since the charges were presented on 22 October 2014.

Felix Bautista is accused of violating the Constitution, forging public and private documents, using fake documents, malfeasance, embezzlement and other deeds that are incompatible with a public office. The others are accused of complicity with Bautista.

Bautista is also organizational secretary of the ruling PLD party. He has argued that he is a "victim of political persecution by the Attorney General." The Attorney General has placed restraining orders on around RD$3 billion in assets allegedly owned by Bautista.

The defense lawyers, Juan Antonio Delgado, Pedro Balbuena and Ramon Emilio Nunez, argue that the timeframe for notification of proof has expired and thus the right to defense and due process of their clients are being violated.

The Attorney General lawyers are Pedro Castillo Diaz, Laura Guerrero Pelletier, Pelagio Alcantara and Narciso Escano.


ECLAC calls for public policies to reduce teenage pregnancies
The teenage pregnancy rate in the Dominican Republic (19.7%) is second only to Nicaragua (19.9%), according to a new report published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released yesterday, Thursday 13 November 2014. This compares to the teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe, which is around 2%.

ECLAC stresses the need for sex education and reproductive health services to be made a public policy priority. It points out that nearly 30% of young women in Latin America become mothers before the age of 20 and most are socio-economically underprivileged, which perpetuates the intergenerational reproduction of poverty, and hinders women's autonomy and life projects.

A recently published study "Reproduction in Adolescence and its Inequalities in Latin America" (only available in Spanish) shows that the proportion of mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 in relation to the total adult female population has remained steady over the past 20 years.

This early teenage pregnancy rate is reflected in the fact that nearly 17.5% of all babies in Latin America and the Caribbean are born to teenagers, a higher rate than in Sub-Saharan Africa (15%) and the global average (11.2%).


Juan Vicini calls for business initiatives on Haitian border
During the closing ceremony of the II Entrepreneurs' Fair at Santo Domingo's Acropolis Center yesterday, Thursday 13 November 2014, businessman Juan Vicini announced new projects for the border with Haiti.

He said the potential projects would benefit around four million young Dominicans and 4.5 million Haitians through the new jobs that would be created. "I think it is possible. The economic growth rates that can be generated there are greater than those for other parts of the country when taking into consideration the infrastructure works that are needed." He commented that border trade is worth around RD$1 to RD$2.5 billion a day, and that most of it is informal. Haiti is the country's second largest trading partner. Vicini added that the land border makes the cost of exporting to Haiti lower compared with the cost of exporting to other parts of the world.

He encouraged businesspeople to go ahead and make the deals rather than waiting for the conclusions of the government meetings. He believes that governments would only have to make minimal investments, mostly in areas like contract regulation, while businesspeople and international organizations would provide the funds needed to kick-start the projects.

Vicini said that the business talks have concentrated on investing in three points between Ouanaminthe-Dajabon, Pepillo Salcedo-Macasias and the Artibonite valley, to make the most of that watershed to increase irrigation for Haiti.

The Entrepreneurs' Fair was organized by legislator David Collado (deputy PRD National District) who maintains a TV program and magazine dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship.


Pepin Corripio Awards for entrepreneurs
The winners of the first Dominican Entrepreneur Awards were BHD-Leon president Luis Molina Achecar, Giuseppe Bonarelli of Pizzarelli and El Catador, and the country brand award winner, Hector Jose Rizek. The three businessmen spoke about the most important part of being an entrepreneur, saying it was about being willing to fail and try again.

They were taking part in the II Entrepreneurs Fair at Santo Domingo's Acropolis Center, which was organized by legislator David Collado.

Young entrepreneurs who also won awards were Gian Luis Pereyra for Kikaboni (cash prize of RD$250,000), Gustavo Toca for Power Coup, and Daniel Guzman for Robotek.

Speaking at the event, leading businessman Pepin Corripio advised the new entrepreneurs to remember that "luck" passes by everyone's house at 5am, but one has to be up to catch it.

United States Ambassador James Brewster, who also attended the ceremony yesterday, Thursday 13 November 2014, commented that great entrepreneurs are visionaries who have known to forge ahead in difficult times and circumstances.

More Dominicans than Puerto Ricans in NYC
An analysis of US Census data reveals that the Dominican population in New York City is now greater than Puerto Ricans. The study found that 747,473 Dominicans were living in the five boroughs in 2013, compared with 719,444 Puerto Ricans. The study is part of the Latino Data Project by CUNY's Center for Latin American, Caribbean & Latino Studies under professor Laird W. Bergad.

The researchers say that the extraordinary increase of more than 140,000 Dominicans in the three years between 2010 and 2013 demands careful analysis, as it was substantially larger than the overall Dominican population expansion indicated in the decade between 2000 and 2010.

The researchers point to a renewal of large-scale migration from the DR, with 55,436 immigrants between 2010 and 2013. Another factor is the relatively high birth rate among Dominican women living in the city. Data showed that Dominicans had the highest absolute number of live births among all of the Latino nationalities in the city, according to the New York City Bureau of Vital Statistics. The researchers also point to the arrival of Dominicans from other areas of the US or Latin America to New York City. The study established that 14,046 Dominicans had relocated to NYC from other US states or nations in the hemisphere.

Researchers say that these three factors meant that 102,687 Dominicans who were not living in New York City in 2010 were added to the population by 2013. The figures do not permit a determination of where the other 38,000 or so Dominicans originated from, but part of the explanation may be arrivals in the City from other areas of New York state.

All this is at a time when a significant outmigration has been occurring among Puerto Ricans who are known to have relocated in states where traditionally there have not been large Puerto Rican populations.

Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are followed in numbers by Mexicans, Ecuadorans and Colombians.




Voters support Constitutional change for re-election
Noticias SIN (Channel 9) hired Penn, Schoen & Berland for an electoral results and political opinion poll. Take note that 50% + 1 of the vote is needed for a first round win, and President Danilo Medina is banned from running for re-election by the Constitution.

The findings:

Pre-candidates eligible to run in the 2016 presidential election and how they would fare in the 2016 poll, according to Penn, Shoen & Berland:

Former President Leonel Fernandez (41%) vs. Former President Hipolito Mejia (36%), PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado (13%). The poll revealed that only 67% of those who say they are PLD party members would vote for Fernandez.

Senator Reinaldo Pared Perez (PLD-National District) 36% vs. Hipolito Mejia (36%). Pared Perez would secure 58% of the PLD vote. Mejia would get 69% of the PRD vote.

Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia (33%) vs. Hipolito Mejia (37%). Garcia would receive the vote of 54% of the voters of his political party.

Economy Minister Temistocles Montas (28%) vs. Hipolito Mejia (39%).

The poll again confirmed the strong Dominican voter support for removing the ban on re-election in the 2010 Constitution. A total of 77% agree with the Constitution being changed so that Danilo Medina can seek re-election. The poll says he would obtain 70% of the vote.

The poll was taken 29 October to 4 November 2014 with 1,000 participants. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.10.


Is the country heading in the right direction?
In a poll held between 29 October and 4 November 2014, Dominicans eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election were asked if the country was on the right track. The Noticias SIN-Penn, Schoen & Berland poll of 1,000 participants (error margin of +/- 3.10) revealed that 47% think so. 56% of younger Dominicans told the pollsters they believed that the country was on the right track.

Nevertheless, 61% of those polled said that the economy was headed in the wrong direction.

The most important issues for Dominicans likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election are: crime (36%) and jobs (21%). This is followed by cost of living (15%), government corruption (6%), blackouts (3%), the presence of Haitians (3%) and the deficiency of the public health system (3%).




People perceive Fernandez government as the most corrupt
This year's Noticias SIN-Penn, Shoen & Berland poll focused on administrative corruption.

The findings show that 58% of Dominicans eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election consider the Leonel Fernandez governments as the most corrupt, 34% say so of Hipolito Mejia and only 3% say so of incumbent Danilo Medina.

To the open question of who were the most corrupt individuals in the Fernandez administration, 52% mentioned Felix Bautista as the most corrupt, 42% Leonel Fernandez and 13% Victor Diaz Rua.

When people were asked if the Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito did the right thing in asking the Supreme Court of Justice to arrest senator Felix Bautista, 77% responded positively.

When asked if the Dominican government should prosecute the individuals who accepted commission in the Tucano jets purchasing process, 81% were in agreement.

The poll was taken 29 October to 4 November 2014 with 1,000 participants. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.10.



Most popular politicians according to Penn, Schoen poll
The October-November Penn, Schoen & Berland poll shows President Danilo Medina as the most favorably regarded politician, with 68% approval. Next is former President Leonel Fernandez with 23%. Former President Hipolito Mejia follows with 22%, Luis Abinader with 19%, Guillermo Moreno with 14% and Miguel Vargas Maldonado with 7%.

When people were asked to classify the Danilo Medina government as very good, good, bad or very bad, 90% answered he had done a very good job, and 61% said good.

When comparing voters' perception of the Medina administration with the Leonel Fernandez governments, Medina fares much better. 87% said they favored the Medina administration.

The poll was taken 29 October to 4 November 2014 with 1,000 participants. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.10.


"In the Heights" at Palacio de Bellas Artes
"In the Heights", the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical on Dominicans in New York City, is being staged at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Santo Domingo. It started last Thursday, 6 November and continues until this coming Sunday, 16 November 2014. This is an Amaury Sanchez production.

Tickets are RD$1,600-RD$1,100 and are for sale at La Sirena and the Bellas Artes box office.

Starring Javier Grullon, Laura Lebron, Checho Lora, Dolly Garcia, Hector Anibal, Diana Pou, Ian Castillo, Sonia Alfonso, Diomaris La Mala, Karla Fatulle, JJ Sanchez and Alejandro Moscoso. Directed by Waddys Jaquez, choreography by Isadora Bruno. Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the book by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes.

"In the Heights" tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood n a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.

It's a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. The musical won the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

Listen to music from the original musical at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSQFjtszBYg

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

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