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Daily News - Tuesday, 13 February 2007

IMF to review Stand-by agreement
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has scheduled the fifth and sixth revisions of the Stand-by agreement with the DR for tomorrow. The monetary authorities have presented a plan for a growth rate of 6% of the GDP, an inflation rate of between 4% and 6% and a deficit of between 1.8% and 2.3%, all depending on global oil prices. As soon as the agreement is approved the country will receive US$228.3 million for 2007 and will receive another US$57 million in 2008.

Promese to reduce medicine costs
As from March 1, 94 different types of medicines sold by the Essential Medicines Program (Promese) will be available at a reduced price. The reductions will be worth between 16% and 34%. Promese director Elena Fernandez made the announcement during a meeting with the Executive Commission for Health Sector Reform (CERSS) head Gustavo Rojas. During the meeting CERSS and Promese signed an agreement with the Dominican Journalists Association (CDP) and the Dominican Medical Association (CMD). Fernandez said that drugs like insulin, antibiotics and analgesics would be subject to price reductions. Fernandez clarified that products that are not subject to reductions would not be increased either.

Indian Foreign Minister in DR
External Affairs Minister of India, Anand Sharma is visiting the Dominican Republic this week as part of an official eight-day tour of the Caribbean, which begins with a 12-13 February stopover in Cuba. Sharma will be in the DR from 14-16 February, prior to his meetings in Jamaica. In the DR, he is scheduled to meet with President Leonel Fernandez and the Dominican Senate, as well as with his host, Dominican Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. He will also be taking part in the annual meeting of ambassadors of India in the Americas region, normally held in New York City, but which is being held at Casa de Campo, La Romana this year. The DR recently opened an embassy in the Indian capital New Delhi, under Ambassador Hans Dannenberg.

Agreement with U of Barcelona
Economic, Planning, and Development Secretary, Temistocles Montas, has signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Barcelona. Through the agreement, the prestigious Spanish University will support the design of a methodology that will help construct, analyze and monitor economic indicators as well as helping to construct an appropriate methodology for the creation of a consumer confidence index.

"We've done our job!"
Dominican officials are expressing their frustration about the fact that DR-CAFTA hasn't come into effect. Industry and Commerce Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, quoted in Diario Libre, said that no unresolved issues that could impede the entrance of the free trade agreement are pending. Garcia said that the DR has done everything it's had to do in order to fulfill the terms of the agreement and added that if there is anything left on the agenda it is beyond the Dominican Republic's control. Garcia said that if US officials now require new conditions, that is different matter, and added that the DR does not have to fulfill any new requirements that weren't agreed upon, though he didn't go into detail as to what those new demands could be. Garcia is meeting business representatives today to update them on the country's status in relation to DR-CAFTA, and tomorrow he will hold a press conference to further explain the situation to the public.
Texaco-Chevron argues that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce passed resolutions in December that contravenes the DR-CAFTA.

PRSC meets with Leonel
Members of the opposition PRSC party are meeting with President Leonel Fernandez at the Presidential Palace today. The meeting with the PRSC is one of three the President will have with the three major Dominican political parties in order to discuss the proposed constitutional reform. The meeting has been scheduled for 5pm today and PRSC president Federico Antun Batlle, secretary general Victor Gomez Casanova, Licelott Marte de Barrios, Jose Enrique Sued and the PRSC's presidential pre-candidates Aristy Amable Castro, Eduardo Estrella and Luis Toral will all be present. Fernandez hopes that a consensus can be reached through these meetings so that the constitutional reform can be passed without any problems. Gomez Casanova said that the PRSC would announce any agreement reached with Fernandez on Wednesday.

Estrella looks to be favorite
Presidential pre-candidate Eduardo Estrella looks to be the early favorite to run on the opposition PRSC party's ticket for the 2008 elections. According to a poll by Carlos Fara & Associates, 69.0% said they would vote for Estrella while only 26.1% would vote for Amable Aristy Castro and 1.5% would vote for Luis Toral.

Aristy Castro gets his visa back
Opposition PRSC party presidential pre-candidate and Dominican Municipal League (LMD) head Amable Aristy Castro has announced that following extensive investigations, the US government has reinstated his tourist visa. On 15 August 2006 the United States Embassy confirmed the cancellation of Aristy's tourist visa (B1/B2). The US Embassy did not give any reasons for the decision, although Aristy Castro was being linked to a scandal involving the sale of visas to family members of municipal officials at the time. The revocation of Aristy's visa did not necessarily affect his ability to travel, as on previous occasions it has been known that for diplomatic reasons the government visa granted to an officer has been maintained while the personal visa may be cancelled.

Dominican peso devalued 12%
In the last two years the dollar has appreciated to the Dominican peso by about RD$4.00 which translates into a devaluation of the peso of 12%. Free trade zone (FTZs) representatives believe that the local currency is still overvalued and estimate that the devaluation should be at around 16%, which would place the exchange rate at RD$39.00, as opposed to the current rate of RD$33.55. Jose Manuel Torres, executive director of the Dominican Association of Free Trade Zones (Adozona), says that business people want macro-economic stability but feel that the exchange rate is still too high. Torres does however acknowledge the impact of increased competition from China, especially in the area of textile exports.

Las Terrenas wants to close late
Business owners in Las Terrenas, Samana are asking authorities to provide flexibility in restaurant and bar closing hours in the area. Businesses in the region claim that their profits have been heavily affected by the alcohol sale limitations. Las Terrenas is a busy tourist area and is expected to become even busier with the opening of the Professor Juan Bosch International Airport in El Catey, Samana. In addition, Delta Airlines has announced tentative plans for an Atlanta - Samana direct route later this year, providing the region with more tourist traffic. The new airport was built at a cost of US$80 million.

Conatra drivers on drugs
Conatra transport union leader Antonio Marte has disclosed that 20% of his drivers and fare collectors had tested positive in recent drug tests. Marte said that the random tests were conducted following a noticeable increase in the number of accidents without justifiable mechanical problems. Santo Domingo drivers had the highest rate of drug use, followed by drivers from Bonao and Santiago. Marte explained that drivers who have tested positive for drugs could not continue working for Conatra, although the union would help them fight their drug problems.

Spain wants license change
The Spanish authorities are encouraging Dominicans living in Spain to change their Dominican driving licenses for Spanish ones. The Spanish Department of Motor Vehicles is providing a phone number, 902-300-175, so that Dominicans can call and set up an appointment between 8am and 7pm. The DMV is reminding Dominicans in Spain to bring their Dominican drivers licenses, their cedulas, their Dominican passports, Spanish identification and city hall certification.

Dominican children overweight
Pediatric endocrinologist Rene Baez, who is also the secretary of the Dominican Endocrinology and Nutrition Society, says that between 35% and 40% of Dominican children are overweight. Baez attributed this to poor nutrition. Baez says that the country does not have enough nutrition experts in public hospitals and schools. He added that obesity and being overweight are all part of malnutrition, and that poorer communities are affected because children eat what they can when they can and they don't have the information or the resources to do otherwise.

American Football in the DR
An exhibition game of American Football will be played at the Club Banco Central on 17 February. The event begins at 6:30pm and will showcase the Dominican Republic's pioneer American Football team, the Dominican Raiders. Organized by the Dominican League of American Football, the exhibition is being held to promote increased Dominican youth participation in the sport. For more information contact Dr. Ross A. Levy-Tovar at 809-564-6251 or Dr. Franklyn Hasbun at 809-899-8338.

Ballet from around the world
The leading Dominican ballet company, the Ballet Clasico Nacional presents "Short Stories of Dance" on 17 February at the Plaza del Conservatorio's Manuel Rueda Hall. The performances are: Anais Nin and You and I by Brazilian choreographer Antonio Gomez; Derrick Spear's Martin Luther King and Susurros en la Sombra; Imagen de un Sueno by Victor Ramirez; Guillermo Cordero's El Ultimo Encuentro; and Barocco In by Armando Gonzalez.
For more events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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