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Daily News - Friday, 19 January 2007

LF inaugurates public works in SPM
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to San Pedro de Macoris today to inaugurate several public works projects. The President is scheduled to formally open the bridge over the Higuamo River at 4pm, and will then go on to inaugurate 27 newly-paved streets in the sugar mill towns of Quisqueya and Consuelo, and the Punta Pescadora, Gautier and Jose Joaquin Perez schools. The government has spent RD$275,967,142 on these projects.

Pension funds make 11.5%
Pension funds yield was 11.5% last year, or 6.5 points above inflation. The Central Bank reported that inflation ended the year at 5%. Nevertheless, the yield would have been higher if the National Social Security Council (CNSS) had authorized new categories for investing the funds. The CNSS is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Labor, employers and workers. A study by Superintendence of Pensions (Sipen) technicians shows that the pension funds could have had yields of 20% if the funds had been invested in Central Bank certificates, or RD$2.59 billion more. Superintendent of Pensions Persia Alvarez said that this year her department would lobby to create the necessary instruments to diversify the funds into more productive areas. These are currently deposited in commercial banks and savings and loans associations. Alvarez also favors the funds being used to build highways and other infrastructure works under private concessions.
Dominican workers have deposited RD$33.5 billion in the pension plan funds, or 3.8% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Quicker Customs clearance
The Department of Customs (DGA) says that they have reduced the time for importers to clear customs to 4.2 days since November 2006, down from a 14-day average in January 2006. The DGA also announced that in the next few days importers will be able to present their manifests 24 hours a day via Internet, and that the procedure is already being used by the shipping companies, airlines and consolidators. Technicians Eduardo Rodriguez and Heriberto Minaya of the DGA say that the department meets with all the requirements for the implementation of DR-CAFTA. They reported that among the measures adapted are new procedures for claims to expedite these. The new measures are posted on the DGA website at www.dga.gov.do

Wage increase talks
A no-show by company representatives has led to the postponement of talks aimed at reviewing minimum wages in the construction industry. Labor representatives are proposing a 50-60% wage increase for workers earning up to RD$30,000. Industry spokesmen say that that proposal is illegal, because only the National Salaries Committee (CNS) has the authority to review minimum wages in the DR. In any case, construction companies are saying that the proposal is excessive.

Monitoring pollution
Santiago municipal authorities have decided to demand that many of the city's large companies stop polluting its main river, the Yaque del Norte. For years, large companies have been dumping their waste into the river that surrounds a large part of the city. Now, an estimated 100 companies will be subject to a monitoring process that will measure and control pollution levels. The companies include small and large businesses, such as restaurants, industries, laundry companies, gasoline stations, carpentry shops, metalworking shops, car repair shops, and others. These companies are known to dump grease, oil, garbage and even metals into the river.

JCE begins clean up
The Central Electoral Board is putting its austerity plan into action. 410 employees have been dismissed, including the Director of Inspections Jose Carela de la Rosa. These employees were either appointed between May and August 2006 (the period after the 2004 presidential election), or were temporary workers and workers who served no function. The JCE has also announced a set price of RD$500 and RD$1,000 for the third and fourth copies of the cedula identity card and has decided to charge foreigners for the printing of their ID cards. The austerity plan at the JCE includes the eventual dismissal of an estimated 400 more employees and a 5 to 15% cut in salaries of high-ranking officials and judges. The plan contemplates reductions in expense accounts and other incentives. First class flights for high-ranking officials are to be suspended. JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman says that the goal is to reduce the institution's budget by RD$12 million per month, from RD$64 million to RD$52 million. Castanos says that the JCE will meet next week to make additional restructuring decisions.

Government to keep GLP subsidy
Presidency Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti has announced that the government intends to keep the propane gas (GLP) subsidies. Bonetti says that the IMF has not voiced any objections to the move. The GLP subsidy on gas for domestic use was to be removed in February. Bonetti also said that the recent of GLP shortage is over. He explained that the situation had developed because a shipment of gas from Houston, Texas didn't contain the proper gas and this delayed delivery, as well as problems with a shipment from Trinidad and Tobago.

Metro accountability
As the Santo Domingo Metro project advances, usurping public funds, the chorus of naysayers and supporters continues to grow. Hoy newspaper page two columnist points out today that just because the project is moving ahead regardless of public opinion and controversy does not mean that the public should cease asking pertinent questions and demanding explanations when it is necessary? Today's "Que se dice" column in Hoy says that even if politicians and constructors are ignoring these criticisms, this doesn't mean that the public should stop asking for explanations for the project. The column refers to a report by geologist Osiris de Leon. De Leon explained that the Villa Mella viaduct cost an additional RD$500 million because the proper preliminary geological research had not been carried out to determine the ground's resistance. Although this and other criticisms have fallen on deaf ears, the columnist stresses that this and other comments should not be ignored. The columnist also observes that Diandino Pena and President Leonel Fernandez seem to have forgotten that the Metro is being built with citizens' taxes.

DR to open US trade offices
Industry & Commerce Minister Francisco Javier Garcia has announced that the Dominican government plans to open trade offices in 50 US states to promote opportunities for US investors arising from the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. As reported in Listin Diario, the government has prepared a development plan to promote Dominican exports. The plan focuses on selling to Dominicans and other Hispanic markets in the US and the installation of the trade offices. The offices will also serve as focal points for efforts to attract US investment to the DR.
On the question of DR-CAFTA's implementation, Garcia told Listin that the government has complied will all the requirements for the DR's entry into the agreement. He said that they are awaiting the US Trade Representative's recommendation to President Bush.

Government officers campaign for Leonel
President Leonel Fernandez has yet to officially announce his plans for re-election, but this isn't stopping a delegation of high-ranking government officials from making a trip to Europe to promote this possibility. Industry and Commerce Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, Labor Minister Ramon "Monchy" Fadul, National Lottery administrator Ramon Rivas, director of the Office of Supervising Engineers for State Works Felix Bautista and Presidential Palace press secretary Rafael Nunez flew to Europe yesterday to meet with political activists in Dominican communities in Europe to discuss Fernandez's re-election. The delegation will meet with Dominican emigre community representatives in Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. The meetings will begin on Saturday in the Spanish capital, Madrid. On Sunday the group will travel to Zurich, Switzerland before making their way to Genoa, Italy later in the day. This is the second trip by government officials supporting Fernandez's 2008 re-election. Francisco Javier Garcia recently traveled to New York on a similar mission.
Business spokesmen have complained that government officers are employing time and state resources in political matters, when there are too many pressing government issues that demand their attention.

PRD supporting Aristy
PRD party leaders, along with 40 of 53 PRD members, have decided to support Amable Aristy Castro's (PRSC) bid for re-election as head of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). PRD party President Ramon Alburquerque and PRD party Secretary General Orlando Jorge Mera both explained that by choosing to support Aristy Castro the PRD is fulfilling a commitment that they made when the PRD joined forces with the PRSC.

Boca Chica trash scandal
It seems like the LTP Verband S.A. trash collection company has just upped and disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving behind no clues. The refuse collection company's business address is nowhere to be found and it appears that the phone number they gave the Tax Department (DGII) isn't real either. When a call is placed to that number the response is from Leo Comercial de la Luisa, in Monte Plata. LTP was recently awarded a 20-year contract to collect trash in Boca Chica. Diario Libre writes that LTP's address was given as R No. 5 de Bajos de Haina, San Cristobal, but that this address cannot be verified because there are a number of streets with this very same name in San Cristobal. And adding to the confusion is the fact that the address that appears on the final contract signed, La Primera Calle No 377 del Ensanche Isabelita doesn't exist either. Yesterday, company president Alvaro Leger Alvarez refused to comment on the case, saying that he would give details about the company in a press conference today. Interestingly enough, Diario Libre writes that LTP was given the trash collection contract 17 days before they were officially incorporated as a company and seven days after Jocelyn Pena, Boca Chica's mayor, took office. Alvaro Leger's father, Jose Osvaldo Leger, known for his PRSC political party activism, denied any involvement with his son's activities or with the trash contract.

DR to host drug summit
The Dominican Republic will hold a summit this coming March to prepare a stronger regional action plan for combating the consumption and trafficking of illegal drugs. Attending the summit will be Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti and the United States - some of the countries in the region with the strongest ties to the illegal drug trade. The scheduled date of the conference is 15 March and the summit has been named, "Drugs, Security and Cooperation." Police and Interior Minister Franklyn Almeyda, who made the announcement, said that members from the UN, the Organization of American States, the European Union and Caricom are being invited to the summit. According to Almeyda, intelligence reports indicate that drugs that reach the DR depart from Colombia, and fly through Venezuelan airspace. The DR is then used as an intermediate distribution point between the US, Europe or the Lesser Antilles.

Cardinal recovering well
Doctors say that Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez is in high spirits after Wednesday's triple bypass heart surgery, and that he is making a satisfactory recovery. The Cardinal walked around a bit, spoke a few words and has begun a special diet. The medical team at Cedimat at Plaza de la Salud informed the public that if the Cardinal's recovery continues at this pace he could soon be moved out of the observation hall and into a private room. Yesterday morning President Leonel Fernandez, First Lady Margarita Cedeno, Vice President Rafael Alburquerque and several government officials attended a special mass to pray for the Cardinal's recovery.

Baseball update
For the 18th time in the history of the Dominican Professional Winter League the Aguilas and Licey teams will meet in the finals, adding another chapter to this historic rivalry. Of the 18 meetings in the post-season between these two teams Licey has won 10 titles and has 63 wins while the Aguilas have 51 total wins and 8 titles. The first time these two teams met was back in 1952 with the Aguilas taking the crown, but Licey came back to win the title in 1953 beginning what is now the most intense rivalry in the Dominican Baseball League. Tonight's first game will be at 8pm at the Estadio Cibao, and it's anyone's guess as to who has the advantage.
Tomorrow's game:
Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm
Sunday's Game:
Estadio Cibao 5pm
 
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