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Daily News - Tuesday, 20 February 2007

High consumption sustains DR economy
Dominican economic growth is based on high consumption, which is evident by the high levels of imports of goods and services, as well as raw materials and inputs, writes Esteban Delgado in an economic analysis published in today's Diario Libre. He reports that an analysis of the Central Bank Economic Report for 2006 shows that the Dominican economy is based on growth in communications, commerce, construction, finance and transport, all sectors that are high on the consumption side, rather than productive. He comments this contradicts the belief that countries need domestic savings and quality investments. He points out that the pillars of the Dominican economy are hard currency generators - tourism, industry free zone exports and remittances from expatriate Dominicans. He comments that as long as the country continues to generate enough hard currency, this model based on high consumption will be possible. But he warns that high consumption is only possible in a state of stability and exchange rate control, as has been the case so far.
See www.bancentral.gov.do for the 2006 report.

Unemployment down
According to the Central Bank report the unemployment rate has decreased to 16%, down 0.4% from April 2006. These figures come as a result of the creation of 61,818 new jobs. The same Central Bank report points to a 10.7% growth rate at the close of 2006. This is one of the highest rates of growth in all Latin America and amounts to the highest GDP growth in 19 years. In 1987 the country experienced a 10.1% growth rate. The Central Bank also reports an inflation rate of 5.0% and a 2.5% deficit in the GDP. The deficit is within the IMF requirements.

Castanos will not take incentives
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman has announced that he would not be accepting the controversial RD$66,000 incentive payment. Castanos has sent a letter to his fellow judges saying that the incentives have divided the JCE and that it affected their credibility with the public. "Leaving aside the legalities, I personally have chosen to ignore the incentive, because the country, apparently, does not see it as fair". He called for unity among the JCE judges and said that their decisions should adhere to the laws.
Castanos is the third JCE judge to reject the incentives. The controversy started when recently appointed judge Aura Celeste Fernandez described the incentive as an illegal payment aimed at compensating for income tax deductions, and refused to accept the payment. She was followed by judge Mariano Rodriguez, president of the JCE's Disputes Chamber.

"We've fulfilled the requirements"
State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) head Radhames Segura says that the DR has fulfilled all the necessary requirements for the country to access US$100 million in World Bank funding that will directed towards the energy sector. Segura says that the country received US$50 million last December but no date has been set for the rest of the funds' disbursal. Segura explained that as part of the requirements the World Bank wants continued macro-economic stability, which the CDEEE cannot control, and wants continued progress in the stability of the energy sector. Segura says that the World Bank funding will not go into a particular project, but into the national budget.

Still no agreement on salary increase
Union leaders and business heads have yet to come to an agreement on a workers' salary increase. The business sector is offering a 9.3% salary increase while labor representatives are asking for a 25% raise for all workers who earn up to RD$30,000. Business leaders say that they based their offer on the Consumer Price Index, which according to the Central Bank was at 9.30% between 2004 and 2006. Business heads say they can only offer wage increases for people earning the minimum wage. The unions' latest offer is half of what they had originally asked for and 5% less than their second demand. Both sides will meet on Wednesday to continue discussions.

Rum sales down in January
The sales of rum in the country decreased by 15.9% in January compared to January 2006 and 34.5% compared to January 2004, according to figures released by Brugal & Co., the largest rum producer in the DR. Diario Libre writes that the company would be experiencing serious financial problems because of the recent fiscal reform if it weren't for the increase in its exports. Brugal is not the only drinks company that has announced a reduction in sales. Last week the Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, producer of Presidente beer, announced that beer sales had declined by 30% this January compared to January 2007.

More money for city halls
The Executive Branch has authorized the necessary measures to be taken before the National Congress so that an extra RD$696 million can be transferred to the city halls' budgets. This money is in addition to the RD$804 million that was approved last Thursday. In total, the government is giving the municipalities RD$1.5 billion in funds.

No money for Bani aqueduct
The government does not have money for the construction of the Bani aqueduct, and will need to borrow the funds. The aqueduct is estimated to cost US$80 million. As reported in Listin Diario, a borrowing ceiling imposed by the Stand-by Arrangement with the IMF obliges the government to postpone this decision, as the government has other construction priorities. The director of INAPA told the newspaper that he expects the loan to be possible in 2008. The southwestern city of Bani has been experiencing a serious water shortage in recent months, and inhabitants say a new aqueduct is needed urgently.

Ministry to answer Spanish ambassador
The Ministry of Foreign Relations has announced that it will use diplomatic channels to reply to Spanish Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Almudena Mazarrasa's critical comments. Mazarrasa stirred controversy late last week when she commented on what she described as the lack of judicial security and public safety, and the high levels of corruption in the DR and called this situation "worrisome for investment". This is not the first time that Mazarrasa makes such comments. Listin Diario writes that in August 2007 the Spanish Ambassador made similar statements during a visit to the Presidential Palace. At the time, her comments spurred Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso to write a letter to the Spanish government to take action against Mazarrasa.

Taiwan lawnmowers for baseball
Taiwanese ambassador to the DR Eduardo Cheng has donated baseball and table tennis equipment to SEDFIR on behalf of his country, as well as four lawnmowers that will be used to cut the grass at several baseball facilities. Sports Minister Felipe Payano accepted the donations on behalf of the Dominican public. Payano says that this donation is part of a bilateral agreement signed with Taiwan in 2006, and whose benefits are beginning to be seen now. An agreement signed last October guarantees the continued cooperation between the two nations in the area of sports. Next October the Taiwanese national baseball team will come to the DR to play the Dominican national baseball team. As part of the agreement Dominican athletes will have the opportunity to go to Taiwan for training. There will also be exchanges for sports trainers and the opportunity for scholarships in physical education studies.

Sexual stimulants still unregulated
The sale of sexual stimulants continues to grow and pills for male impotency have now become recreational drugs in the DR, according to the president of the Pharmacy Owners' Association, Tony Rodriguez. Rodriguez is questioning the fact that pills like these are sold openly in bars, nightclubs and convenience stores. He says that not only does this affect the profitability of pharmacies; it also poses a health risk to the Dominican public. Rodriguez commented on the use of sexual stimulants among young people and how these have become fashionable of late. He argued that those pills should only be sold in pharmacies.

Cold breeze blows through DR
The Weather Department has informed that strong winds and cool temperatures would continue to affect the DR for the next 48 hours. The meteorological office announced that the temperature could drop to 10 degrees Celsius in some areas. Temperatures of under 25C were common yesterday, and are expected to continue today. The Weather Department said that rains could continue on the northeastern part of the country.
EdeEste announced that 29,000 clients suffered power outages because of the high winds, rain and cold temperatures.

Finalist for Woman/Man of the Year
Diario Libre has announced the finalist for their "Woman/Man of the Year," award, which will be presented next Thursday. The female finalists are:
Yudelkis Contreras, a weightlifter who won two gold medals in the 20th Annual Central American and Caribbean Games; Ada Maria Gomez, director of Hogar de Ninas Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia; merengue singer Milly Quezada, who won a Latin Grammy this year for her production "MQ" and is known as the "Queen of Merengue"; Melba Segura de Grullon, for her charitable work in the country's poorest provinces; and television personality Jatnna Tavarez for her help in the fight against cancer. The male finalists are long distance swimmer Marcos Diaz, world boxing champion Joan Guzman, baseball player David Ortiz, scientist Dionisio Soldevila, and social crusader Angel Sosa.

Clara Elena Ramirez passes away
Ballet teacher Clara Elena Ramirez, who taught thousands of Dominican dancers, died yesterday. She was the founder of the Ballet Clasico Dominicano. Her son, Carlos Veitia is one of the country's better-known dancers and choreographers. She is also survived by several new generations of ballet dancers and teachers. Her students include Irmgard Despradel, Eduardo Villanueva, Silvia Crespo, Monika Despradel, Lourdes Ramirez, Mary Louise Ventura, Jeanette Lantigua, Mercedes Morales and Soraya Franco.
Born in Cuba, she was the daughter of a Dominican physician and Cuban mother. She immigrated to Santo Domingo after starting her dance career in Santiago de Cuba.
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