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Daily News - Friday, 19 December 2014

Oil price drop could save DR US$1.2 billion
The Central Bank says the country could save US$1.2 billion as a result of the steep decline in oil prices. From US$107 in late June, the price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has dropped to US$55, a decline of around 40%, as reported yesterday, Thursday 18 December 2014. This is the lowest level in the past five years. The Dominican government had based its 2015 National Budget projections on an oil price of US$84 per barrel.

The Central Bank expects that the decline in government taxation revenue on fuel consumption locally will be offset by an increase in sales tax (ITBIS) revenue due to an overall increase in consumption.


Government to keep 18% ITBIS tax
The government could have cut the ITBIS tax in 2015 to comply with Law 253-12, but will be acting on the provision that made the decline in the tax conditional on achieving a 16% tax burden in 2015. As reported, the tax burden is 14%. In the DR, a small sector bears a much higher tax burden, but when spread over the economic population, a relatively low average of 14% is reported.

Furthermore, National Commercial Businesses Organization (ONEC) president Ernesto Martinez says that the tax burden will never truly reflect the taxes that are paid until there is a reduction in informal operations. Most businesses in the DR are informal and Martinez said that if the government had chosen to reduce the ITBIS the economy would have grown.

Tax Reform Law 253-12 establishes an increase in the ITBIS from 11% to 13% for selection of items. Other items, including milk, coffee, oil, sugar, chocolate, that paid 8% in 2014 will now be taxed at 16%.

The government told Diario Libre that the formal announcement would be made on Monday 22 December 2014.


Get your ID
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) is extending its opening hours for issuing new IDs to 7pm on Monday to Friday. The JCE says that the old ID (cedula) expires on 10 January 2015. On Saturdays the schedule will be 8am to 4pm and on Sundays from 8am to 2pm. The same schedule applies for issuing IDs to foreigners. ID centers overseas will continue with their same previous working hours.

The issuing of the document began in April 2014. There is no charge for changing the ID document for Dominicans or foreigners. A total of 176 centers are open in the National District and the provinces, as well as 75 mobile centers across the country that take the service to schools and companies where there are large concentrations of people.

The JCE said that the service would continue to be free at centers nationwide after the expiry date.

The JCE reports that 7,373,568 people are eligible for the ID cards of which 4,694,330 or 63.6% have already been renewed and another 71,046 cards are ready to be issued.

Yesterday, Thursday 18 December 2014, Senate president Cristina Lizardo asked the JCE to extend the expiry date.




Hipolito says he will run for President in 2016
Former President Hipolito Mejia aspires to be the presidential candidate for the Partido Revolucionario Moderno and Convergencia por un Mejor Pais, the dissident factions that broke away from the main opposition PRD party. Other former PRD members who have formalized their presidential aspirations include Luis Abinader, who was vice presidential candidate when Mejia ran for President in 2012, Amaury Justo Duarte and Geanilda Vasquez.

Mejia made the announcement at a meeting at his ranch in San Cristobal yesterday, Thursday 18 December 2014, with representatives from 155 municipalities, 31 provinces and the National District. The former President (2000-2004) said he would address the country on 8 January 2015 to explain his reasons for deciding to run on the PRM ticket in 2016. He said he would begin his campaign on 3 January with a first visit to Azua in the southwest.




Business protests any change to long weekend law
Last week, the Chamber of Deputies legislators voted to eliminate Three Kings Day (6 January), Duarte Day (26 January) and Labor Day (1 May) as moveable holidays in the Dominican Republic. The executive vice president of the National Hotel & Tourism Association (Asonahores) warned that if the bill were to be passed in the Senate it would have a negative effect on the economies of tourism regions outside the cities. If the bill is approved there will only be two moveable holidays n 16 August (Restoration Day) and 6 November (Constitution Day). Thousands of Dominicans make the most of the long weekends created by moveable holidays to vacation in resorts and hotels in beach and mountain areas. These domestic holidays also brings bonanza to inner cities and countryside that benefit from the city residents who return to their hometowns for the extended days off.

Villanueva said there is sufficient proof that the consecutive days off enable better time planning for people and businesses with lower levels of absenteeism, as well as promoting domestic tourism.

Spokespersons for the Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD), the Dominican Free Zones Association (Adozona), the Northern Region Industries Association (Airen) and the Dominican Tourism Real Estate Companies Association (Adeti) have all rejected the bill that would significantly change Law 130-97.



Cuba: Threat or opportunity for the DR?
Edwin Ruiz of Diario Libre writes that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba would take place in parallel to ongoing talks for a bilateral trade agreement between the European Union and Cuba, similar to the Economic Partnership Act that the DR has with the European Union that brings economic cooperation and free trade with the Dominican Republic.

Ruiz says that in post-embargo days Cuba will represent competition for the DR, but will also open up many new opportunities.

The DR cigar industry took off with the trade blockade on Cuba when many Cuban manufacturers relocated their operations to the Dominican Republic. The DR reaped US$600 million in cigar exports in 2013 and is now the world's largest exporter of cigars.

In June 2014, Cuba approved a new Foreign Investment Laws that reduces the tax on earnings from 30% to 15%. Cuba already has a major resort area in Varadero and a major logistic center at Mariel Port as a preparation for further opening of their economy.

He says that trade is already US$126 million a year and the two governments should strengthen this. The new Cuban ambassador in the DR, Carlos Raul de la Nuez, stated on 20 November that bilateral trade negotiations are expected to start.

Ruiz writes that the DR could make the most of multi-destination tourism with Cuba. "Cuba with a booming economy, rather than representing a threat, is an opportunity for the Dominican Republic."

On Wednesday, 16 December 2014, National Hotel & Tourism Association (ASONAHORES) executive vice president Arturo Villanueva stated: "We are not concerned about competing with Cuba for tourists." He predicted that the opening of Cuba would bring more tourists to the Caribbean.

President Danilo Medina described the news as "excellent."

Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia says that in contrast to what some may think, the opening will increase the flow of tourism to the Caribbean and to the DR especially because it offers the most diversified tourism product. "We have beach, the largest number of golf courses in the region (26), cultural and environmental tourism. But most importantly, we are the best hosts," he said. He said the country needs to continue increasing promotion and working closely with the private sector.

The DR already competes successfully with Cuba for the European and Canadian tourist markets.

Santiago Chamber of Commerce president Juan Manuel Urena also believes that the reopening of full diplomatic relations and the end of the US embargo with Cuba is highly positive for the DR. He does not expect Cuba to pose a threat to tobacco sales, tourism or investments in general. On the contrary, he said the new market access is a plus. "This is an opportunity to expand our markets and it will result in, once and for all, our productive and services structures becoming more efficient," he told the press.

The DR joined more than 118 countries in calling for an end to the US trade embargo on Cuba at the latest general assembly of the United Nations.



54,497 businesses in Santiago
Results released by the National Statistics Office (ONE) show that 54,497 businesses are located in the province of Santiago. ONE director Pablo Tactuk presented the results at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) recently. He said that 269,575 businesses are registered by ONE nationwide. He also announced that ONE will be conducting the eighth farming sector census in April.


Big Papi drives a Lamborghini in DR
A video on acento.com.do shows AMET agents stopping a Lamborghini Aventador on a city street in Santo Domingo, apparently for a traffic infraction. The video shows how AMET agents realize that it is David Ortiz, are seen making a phone call, and allow him to go.


22,000 Dominicans in US jails
More than 22,000 Dominicans are being held in US jails, according to a report in "La voz del periodista," a New York City-based Spanish language publication. 80% are jailed on drug trafficking charges. In recent years, the US government has deported 16,000 Dominicans who served time in US jails.


Man from Suriname murdered in Santo Domingo
The Police have identified a man who was murdered on Wednesday, 17 December 2014 after being shot in the head at the intersection of Marginal Primera Street at the corner with Miguel Angel Monclus street in Santo Domingo, as 32-year old Cedric Sergio Jadoe of Suriname. Listin Diario quotes a witness as saying that Jadoe stopped his white Mazda on the avenue to speak to another man who was also driving a white car and who "in a split second took out a gun, shot him in the head and left."


JetBlue Christmas feel good video
A Christmas video by the JetBlue airline company portrays a Dominican family living in New York City sharing their feelings about their ties with the DR and their lives in New York City. The moment when the large family receives a free trip to the DR to visit their grandmother for the holidays is captured on the moving video.


Jowell & Randy at Sans Souci
Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Jowell & Randy will be playing their concert Doxis at the Sans Souci events hall in Santo Domingo East on Friday, 19 December 2014.

Johnny Ventura Concert
Probably the most legendary merengue performer of all time, Johnny Ventura will take the stage at the Maunaloa Night Club in Santo Domingo this Saturday, 20 December 2014 at 10pm. Tickets RD$1,900.

Romeo Santos at the Olympic Stadium
A concert by Romeo Santos, formerly of Aventura, is scheduled for this Saturday, 20 December 2014 at the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo. The event is organized by SD Concerts and sponsored by Brugal Rum. Tickets for sale at Supermercados Pola, La Sirena, ticketexpress.com.do and tuboleta.com.do

Mal de amores at Hard Rock Cafe
Grupo mal de amores will be playing at Hard Rock Cafe on Saturday, 20 December 2014. This is a benefit for the worldwide campaign Imagine There's No Hunger, sponsored by Coca Cola. No cover. Donations requested. Blue Mall, Santo Domingo.


Merengue and bachata in San Cristobal
Fernando Villalona, Fefita La Grande and Anthony Santos will be performing onstage together at the El Viajero in San Cristobal this Saturday, 20 December 2014. For tickets call 809 462-8888 or go to ticketexpress.com.do

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

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