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Daily News - Thursday, 25 January 2007

6% growth forecast for 2007
The Central Bank is forecasting a 6% growth in its Monetary and Financial Program for 2007. The program's executive summary is published at www.bancentral.gov.do/politica_monetaria.asp?a=Programa_Monetario
Projections are subject to oil price fluctuations on the world markets, the revenues derived as a result of the tax increases early this year, and the effects of this year's DR-CAFTA implementation on the price index. Hard currency generators such as remittances, tourism and direct foreign investment were up in 2006. International net reserves stand at US$1.78 billion. These are expected to increase in 2007. Inflation in 2006 was 5%.

Vanderhorst: Young Global Leader
The World Economic Forum has named a Dominican government official as one of its 250 young global leaders. The annual distinction recognizes the top 250 young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, their commitment to society and their potential for contributing to shaping the world's future. Andres Vanderhorst Alvarez, executive director of the National Competitiveness Council, is acknowledged for being instrumental in moving competitiveness from a conceptual design to an internationally-funded program and then to an established government agency headed by the President of the Dominican Republic. He was chosen from a pool of over 4,000 candidates from 70 countries. The jury is made up of 34 media leaders, including Marjorie Scardino, Chief Executive, Pearson, United Kingdom; Arthur Sulzberger, Chairman and Publisher, The New York Times, USA; Tom Glocer, Chief Executive Officer, Reuters, United Kingdom; and Hisashi Hieda, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fuji Television Network, Japan.
See www.younggloballeaders.org

DR-CAFTA playing the waiting game
It's been 15 days since the final revisions to the DR-CAFTA agreement were presented to the United States Trade Representative's Office and still no word has been given to the Dominican Republic on the matter. Vilma Arbaje, Director of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, says that she understands that the US authorities have to take their time to read, legalize and translate the documents and says she hopes that the country receives an answer by February. Arbaje also reminded the public that in some cases it took four weeks before the United States provided a response about Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras' entry into DR-CAFTA.

Caricom agreement will be reviewed
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso has announced that the free trade agreement with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) is to be reviewed. The DR signed the agreement with the 14 English-speaking Caribbean nations in 2001 but many business sectors and businesspeople complain that that country is not ready to advance on the treaty and enter the area of services with Caricom. Morales said that the Caricom nations agree that the agreement should be reviewed. Morales added that this review of the agreement does not represent a retrograde step in the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreements) agreements since there are scheduled meetings for next week (in Belize) and for 1 and 2 February (Montego Bay, Jamaica) to discuss a schedule for the year. Morales observed that the free trade agreements between the 14 Caricom nations are very specialized and don't necessarily mesh with the Dominican Republic's structure. Although Morales made no reference to this, the talk of a review could be in response to the letter sent by Asociacion de Industriales de Herrera head Jesus Moreno last week, pointing out the fact that the agreement was signed five years ago but that no progress had been made with Caricom. In the letter, Moreno also pointed out that many of the rules stipulated under the agreement with Caricom had not been observed.

EU funds national budget
The European Union has agreed on an EUR40 million cooperation package for the DR. The first EUR10 million will be disbursed next week. The plan calls for the distribution of funds until 2008. EU ambassador Dino Sinigallia made the announcement. Sinigallia also announced that the EU would also be donating EUR5 million to the Apoyo Institucional a la Integracion Regional project. The EUR10 million is being considered as budgetary aid and will be transferred and administered by the newly created Treasury Ministry (Hacienda). The funds are non-refundable, according to Sinigallia, and as long as the Dominican government continues improving health and education indicators the EU will go on donating funds. After the first part is given out next week, EUR14 million will be disbursed by the end of the year and another EUR14 million will be handed over at the beginning of 2008.

UASD increased registration
UASD Dean Roberto Reyna has announced that the UASD has registered a record number of 160,727 students for this semester. Of those registered 66% are female and 34% are male. Reyna also pointed out that 67.5% of the registered students would be studying at the UASD central campus while 32.5% will be based at the UASD's regional education sites. The increase in registration comes as the UASD University, the oldest University in the Americas, is going through a modernization process. Higher Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo highlighted the University's automization and modernization process and credited President Leonel Fernandez's efforts to turn the UASD into the most modern university in the Americas.

Transport unions meet for solution
The leaders of the country's transport unions, which have set 30 January as the date for a general public transport strike, are to meet with Public Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) head Diandino Pena at 9:30 tomorrow. The meeting could avert the strike and will be held at Pena's office. The drivers' unions are asking for the media to be present. The situation has reached the point where the Armed Forces have drawn up a contingency plan in case the strike goes ahead and last night President Leonel Fernandez met with the government's security and transport agencies to discuss the possible strike in case tomorrow's talks are not successful. Fenatrano head Juan Hubieres says that he is only willing to negotiate with the government if they make concrete and solid offers instead of offers that are merely aimed at diffusing the possibility of a strike. The government however has taken the stance that the strike is just a form of blackmail and pressure by the unions that seek more privileges.

Error upon error
In today's "Que Se Dice" the writer points out that the government is making a mistake by trying to justify first-class trips by government officials to Europe to promote President Leonel Fernandez's re-election bid, but continues by saying that the government makes an even bigger mistake when it tries to fool the critics who proved that the trip was being paid for by public funds. The writer continues by reminding the government that citizens criticize the government because they pay government workers' salaries and that it is their right to do so. The piece says that Presidential Press Secretary Rafael Nunez knows, or should know, that politicians should hold themselves to a higher standard. The writer exclaims that the government shouldn't say that the trip was funded by a private investor, who happens to be a friend of the President, or that the government shouldn't point out that this investor only sympathizes with the President's re-election bid. This is because as Nunez knows, or should know, this type of policy is known these days as rentismo, or renting the services of a politician. This is an investment on which the investor will eventually want "juicy" returns, but the writer then asks whether that is also justifiable and defendable?

Choosing the presidential candidates
PRD members will be able to vote for either Miguel Vargas Maldonado or Milagros Ortiz Bosch for PRD presidential candidate in the 16 May 2008 presidential election on Sunday, 28 January. 3,258 stations have been set up.
The PLD party announced their primaries will take place on 6 May. The political committee will meet on 10 February to choose the organizers of the event, internal campaigns will begin on 11 March, the convention will be on 6 May, and the winner will be declared on 30 June.
Former Santo Domingo senator Jose Tomas Perez and former Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina have officially thrown their hats into the ring for the PLD nomination and although he hasn't officially announced his candidacy, it is expected that President Leonel Fernandez will also be in the running.

USAID celebrates 45th anniversary in DR
In a ceremony held in Santiago yesterday, the US Embassy and the Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA) celebrated USAID's (United States Agency for International Development) 45th anniversary in the Dominican Republic. During the ceremonies USAID's work in the country was highlighted and both the Embassy and ISA expressed their commitment to continue helping the DR's development. During a ceremony held at the ISA campus, a mahogany tree was planted as a symbol of the work carried out by USAID in the country. ISA was the first project promoted by USAID in the DR. Diario Libre writes that since 1961 USAID has spent over US$1.6 billion in the areas of health, micro-credit, basic education, the environment, competition, free elections, and stopping domestic violence, among other projects.

Clinton foundation signs agreements
The William J. Clinton foundation has signed two agreements with Dominican government foundations in order to help in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. One agreement was signed with the National Drug Council and another agreement was signed with the Presidential HIV/AIDS Council. Both organizations and the foundation have promised to increase the number of children treated for HIV/AIDS.

Buyer of Vanessa's phone now free
Jose Armando de la Rosa Diaz, the man who bought young murder victim Vanessa Ramirez Fana's cell phone, has been released from jail after eight months. De la Rosa was being held at the Palacio de Justicia in Santiago after it was discovered that he had bought the cell phone that Ramirez's killers had stolen from her. Upon his release, de la Rosa commented that he doesn't want to be viewed as a criminal and says that all he wants to do is keep working and living with his family. De la Rosa says that he only knew one of the four men accused of killing Ramirez, Amaury German Tavarez, who sold him the cell phone, and says that he had nothing to do with the crime.

DNCD keeps working
The National Drug Department (DNCD) has seized 60 kilos of pure cocaine at Las Americas International Airport (AILA). The drugs were packed in 50 small bundles that were on their way to Italy via Spain. The traffickers had concealed the narcotics in medical equipment. Miguel Perez was arrested as the smuggler here in the DR and the drugs were being shipped to a doctor in Rome identified as M Gionardo. The drugs were hidden in the bottom of two trunks.

The academies go recruiting
In 2006, 508 Dominican "diamonds in the rough" were harvested by the Major League Baseball academies in the DR, as reported in Diario Libre. This is 26% more than the 403 recruited in 2005. This year, MLB teams distributed US$25 million in bonds to the new players, compared to US$17 million in 2005. The average value of the bonds was also up, going from US$42,000 in 2005 to US$50,000 in 2006. The biggest bond was given to Angel Villalona, a 16-year old third base from La Romana, who received a US$2.2 million bond from the San Francisco Giants last August. According to Ronaldo Peralta, the MLB representative in the DR, as of 31 December 2005, 1,556 Dominicans were under contract in the Major League teams. As of 31 December 2006, there were already 3,200 Dominican players, or a 105% increase. Of the 30 MLB teams, 29 have academies in the DR. Only the Milwaukee Brewers doesn't have an academy. The New York Mets and the San Diego Padres announced that they would invest millions to build their new training centers. Peralta pointed out that MLB invests about US$84 million to train ball players in the DR, and their operations generate over 2,000 jobs.

Baseball
The pressure is on Licey tonight as their playoff destiny hangs in the balance. The teams are heading into the sixth game of the series finals and there is no clear-cut advantage on either side tonight. The Aguilas lead Licey three games to two in this best of nine series and as each game passes each win becomes more important. Tonight fiery pitcher Jose Lima steps up to the mound hoping to give the Aguilas the win and move them one game closer to the championship crown. The Aguilas will face Valerio de los Santos who looks to get his first post-season win and tie the series for Licey. The series has also taken on special value for Aguilas second baseman Miguel Tejada as he has announced that he will retire from the Dominican Winter League after this post-season and hopes to do so with a championship crown. It's a must-see television event.
Tonight's Game:
Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm
Aguilas vs. Licey
 
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