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Daily News - Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Diandino promises Metro surprise
Diandino Pena, director of the Office for the Reorganization of Transport (OPRET) has promised that the first line of the Santo Domingo Metro will be ready by 2007, saying that it would be a great surprise in time for Christmas. The government hopes the modernity of the metro will convince Dominicans that it is the best solution to public transport in time for the May 2008 presidential election, when the re-election of President Fernandez could be decided.
Pena was pressed to make his positive comments in spite of the recent bad publicity the project received after a collapse at one of the Maximo Gomez stations on Sunday. Pena denied that there had been a collapse and said that a truck had rolled over a water pipe that was about a meter deep and damaged the pipe, causing some dirt to be moved. As reported in Listin Diario, Pena blamed the city water corporation for not keeping adequate plans on where their pipes are located. A section of the avenue has been closed off to traffic. Pena disclosed that 80 to 85 percent of the work on the metro would be completed within five or six months. OPRET sub-director for Evaluation and Communications Leonel Carrasco says that 50% of the Metro work in the National District has been completed and that the 10 stations in Villa Mella section of Santo Domingo are at the finishing stages.
Metro promoters say they will transport 250,000 commuters of an estimated total of 2,040,000 who use public transport in Santo Domingo and surrounding municipalities, as reported in Saturday's Listin Diario. The promoters say that the first tests on the Villa Mella - Centro de los Heroes line, which will be served by 17 trains and 65 cars, will be ready by spring 2008, shortly before the May 2008 presidential election. Engineer Leonel Carrasco said that the entire project envisions the construction of six other lines. The others would be Los Alcarrizos to San Luis, Haina to La Isabelita, Plaza La Bandera to Luperon with John F. Kennedy, La Isabelita to Carretera Mella, and a line to the Colonial City.

Stand-by agreement postponed again
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has postponed the review of the Dominican Republic's Stand-by agreement once again, but this time it's not because the Dominican side has not done its part. The meeting had been scheduled for 24 January, and is now being postponed until 14 February because IMF Managing Director and Chairman of the Executive Board Rodrigo de Rato has to travel to Washington DC and will be back in the country between the 12 and 13 February. The country's letter of intent for the fifth and sixth revisions and extension of the agreement until January 2008 will be discussed during the meeting.

Tax-free wage limit raised
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has announced that wages paid this month are exempt from income taxes up to RD$290,243 a year, or RD$24,186.91 per month, which is up from the 2006 exemption level of RD$23,035 per month. Anyone earning between RD$290,243 and RD$435,364 will pay 15% of the surplus of RD$290,243.01. People making RD$435,364.01 to RD$604,672 will pay RD$21,769 plus 20% on the surplus of RD$435,364.01. Wage earners of between RD$604,672.01 and RD$945,000 will pay RD$55,630 and 25% on the difference over RD$604,672.01. And people making more than RD$945,000.01 will pay 29% on the difference.
See http://www.dr1.com/news/2007/taxnews16Jan.pdf

CDEEE renegotiates Madrid Accord
The State Run Electric Companies' (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura has announced advances in renegotiations of power rates authorized by the Madrid Accord with private power companies. Private power companies have accepted 4 cent per kWh reductions in the cost of power for resale to the distributors. Segura said in Hoy newspaper that the CDEEE was on the losing side of the agreement signed during the Mejia administration. Segura explained that the CDEEE would adjust the price of 245KW of energy they currently have contracted with the energy distributors. This will result in a significant reduction in the price of 145KW of energy that have already been negotiated outside of the Madrid Accord.
Segura announced talks continue with power companies for better costs. Segura said that Cogentrix contract would not be renegotiated because of the deal with Basic Energy that would convert the plant to natural gas to cut losses. Likewise, Diario Libre reports that negotiations with Smith Enron are delayed because of a dispute over a US$48 million debt claimed by the company. The government only accepts US$31 million of the debt.

HOMS vies for health tourism
Santiago plans to become the leading medical city in the Caribbean, with the opening of its state-of-the-art Santiago Metropolitan Hospital (HOMS) this spring. The hospital's board of directors' president, Rafael Sanchez Espanol expects to see an increase in health tourism, with more visitors coming to the DR for medical services. HOMS is being built at a cost of US$50 million, of which the Dominican government has paid 20%, as reported in Listin Diario. The hospital is scheduled for inauguration on 30 March. Sanchez said that the hospital will feature the latest in medical technology and will become a national and international reference point in medical care.
Sanchez also announced that the hospital has already signed agreements with the University of Medellin in Colombia for organ transplants; with a clinic in Caracas, Venezuela for aid in spinal surgery and with the Technology Institute of Monterrey in Mexico for bone marrow transplants. The hospital will include a burns unit, full surgery services, an intensive care unit, emergency services, a maternity ward, and other facilities. The hospital has capacity for 200 doctors' offices and 200 hospital beds. The HOMS will be private, but Sanchez clarified that the hospital would also serve members of the government's new social security plan. The hospital will also have a charitable foundation to help with medical needs in the region.

Show your license plate
Yesterday the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) impounded more than 300 vehicles for failing to display their license plates in a visible place. AMET spokesman Major Jose Jaquez says that drivers who don't have their license plates in a visible place are breaking the law and will be detained. Jaquez says that AMET is working on implementing a system where officers can make a phone call, give the license plate number, and find out who the owner of the vehicle is. AMET head Jose Sigfredo Fadul explained that a Mexican company is training AMET officers in the new technology.

South Korean legislators visit
President Leonel Fernandez has held a 45-minute meeting with South Korean ambassador to the DR, Lin Byung-Taik, and a group of South Korean legislators, who are in the country with the hope of strengthening diplomatic and commercial ties between the two nations. During the meeting, which took place yesterday, the legislators and the President discussed technology, tourism, and the possibility of South Korea contributing to the solution of the energy problem. The South Korean delegation included Kinam Shin, Lew Leon Ho, Cheng Jony and Hin Ki Nana.

Libro de Extranjeria
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has announced the introduction of a Foreigners' Register (Libro de Extranjeria), where civil registry officers will record births of children born to foreign mothers who do not have legal residence status in the country. This new procedure is authorized by Art. 28 of the Migration Law. The book will organize immigrants so they are not in legal limbo. The procedure was approved on Friday, 12 January and establishes that offspring of foreign mothers who are not legal residents need to be registered.

DGA submits cases
The Customs Department has informed that the main parties involved in contraband cases over the last three months are to be charged today. The accused include customs agents Julio Alfredo Rondon and Esteban Baez Corporan, who are charged with smuggling more than 80 large containers into the country in order to avoid paying taxes. Rondon is also the person who bought the companies Gran Trading Company, CGV Commercial and Commercialist Copra, all of which were involved in importing contraband into the Dominican Republic. Rondon bought the companies from Judicial and Financial Councilors SA, and this led to speculations that the company's owners were involved in importing the contraband. Diario Libre adds that Rondon was also responsible for irregularities in transactions by Grey Marbel Investment. Rondon is in custody and is scheduled to go to the Attorney General's office at 9am today so that charges can be formally filed. He has so has refused to name his companies' previous owners, or to say who owns the 36 large containers of smuggled goods still left on the docks. Customs agents Nelson Octavio Camilo Moreno, Genaro Antonio Ayala Sanchez and Bremy Antonio Pimentel have all had their licenses revoked for their involvement in the contraband case.

French rapist arrested
Boca Chica Tourism Police (Politur) have arrested a Frenchman, Login Yuef for the attempted rape of an 11-year old boy who was on the beach with his relatives. According to Colonel Pablo Lugo Adames of Politur, rapid intervention by the police impeded the rape. The authorities said that this was not the pedophile's first offense, and he admitted to the perversion before the authorities. The boy was rescued when he cried out for help.

Baseball heats up
What a week in baseball it has been, and things are sure to intensify as the Winter League Semifinals are going into the home stretch. This has been one of the most exciting playoff seasons in recent memory with the top three teams edging themselves out and the quality of play elevating as each game has been played. In recent history Licey and Aguilas have dominated the post seasons, but this year the re-emergence of the Gigantes de San Francisco has added extra tension and drama to the baseball season, much to the delight of baseball fans. Last night the Aguilas dealt a heavy blow to the Gigantes championship aspirations as they swept the Gigantes in a day-night double header. In game one the Aguilas held on tight to a one run lead to win 3-2 and in the second game the Aguilas won 2-0. With the win the Aguilas secured a spot in the baseball finals. Licey did their part as they pounced on the Azucareros 5-0, giving the Azucareros their 16th loss on a row. The win by Licey tied them in second place with the Gigantes setting up what could be the definitive night in this year's season. There are two games left in the season and anything is possible.
Tonight's games:
* Estadio Quisqueya
Aguilas vs. Licey 7:30pm
* Estadio Francisco Michelli
Gigantes vs. Azucareros 7:30pm
 
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