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Daily News - Monday, 26 February 2007

DR1 breaks for Independence Day
DR1 Daily News will not be updated on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 on occasion of Independence Day. News reported on Monday will be compiled for the Wednesday, 28 February issue. DR1 Forums remain open for posting of news and commentary 24/7.
See http://www.dr1.com/forums

President state of the nation speech
President Leonel Fernandez is scheduled to deliver the annual state of the nation speech on Tuesday, 27 February.
The occasion has traditionally been used for the President to review the government's performance over the previous year. President Fernandez, for the first time, will be speaking before a PLD-majority Congress.
While the PLD is majority in Congress, the party itself is divided among supporters of presidential relection and those that back Danilo Medina, the former secretary of the Presidency and right hand to the President, to be the PLD candidate in the 2008 election.
Diario Libre points out that the President may or may not present the constitutional reform bill to which he has dedicated so much of his time.
Diario Libre also points out that these are also times when increased taxes levied by the government to help pay for the metro construction and the hypertrophied and inefficient government bureaucracy are penalizing business, the DR-CAFTA has not yet gone into effect, free zone industries are shutting down, and there is an increase in crime.

Now Rosario notices losses at JCE
According to judge Roberto Rosario at the Central Electoral Board (JCE), which supervises all the civilian registration offices in the Dominican Republic, these offices have lost billions of pesos. According to Rosario, who is in charge of the JCE's Administrative Chamber, the electoral board judges who served from 1992 onwards failed to follow the mandate of Law 8-92 that transferred all the Civil Registry offices to the JCE's control.
Rosario is the only JCE judge from the 2002-2006 term that was reconfirmed in his post. During that term, he represented the PLD party. During his previous term, he did not go public with what he claims today. During that term, the JCE increased the cost of their services to the general public on numerous occasions, with no apparent improvement in services or efficiency.
According to Diario Libre, Rosario now says that the laxity of the judges previously in charge of the JCE has cost the Dominican government as much as RD$7 billion. Besides the loss of income, Rosario says that decades of fraud, alterations of birth, death and marriage certificates and document forgery has placed the identity of Dominicans "in danger". Rosario was speaking at a training workshop for 27 registry office directors. During the session the officials were trained in the new methodology that needs to be followed. However, these officials rejected the recent assignation of fixed salaries, claiming that the JCE magistrates were unaware of "the day to day operations of a civil registry office."

Fuel prices up for four straight weeks
As many readers know by now, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce raised the price for diesel, regular gasoline, and premium gasoline for the fourth straight week, reaching levels of RD$100.30, RD$127.30 and RD$138.10 respectively. Propane gas, LPG, was lowered by RD$1.04 to RD$43.47 for domestic use. The last four weeks have seen a RD$7.00 increase in fuels across the board. This year began with a considerable reduction in gasoline consumption due to the increase in the use of propane for vehicular use.
Meanwhile, Diario Libre reports that government fuel tax collections fell short 28% of the budgeted numbers. The revenues were even below collections in January 2006 - RD$1.22 billion in January 2007, compared to RD$1.28 billion in January 2006.

Two new deals needed for DR-CAFTA
Julio Ortega Tous, chief negotiator of the National Trade Negotiations Commission, has suggested that free trade agreements with Mexico and Canada are needed in order to make the DR-CAFTA agreement work for the benefit of the Dominican economy. According to statements made by Ortega Tous, and reported in Hoy, such agreements would allow for more variety of raw materials used in local manufacturing. Such an accumulation of the rules of origin, according to Ortega Tous, would allow textiles, for example, of Mexican origin to be used in Dominican textile factories and then re-exported to the United States under DR-CAFTA rules. Ortega Tous also pushed for finalizing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, which will strengthen relations with the CARICOM nations.

New wharf for Puerto Plata?
The Puerto Plata Commercial and Tourist Port Development Commission has received more than seven proposals for the construction of the new, US$70 million cruise line and cargo terminal. During the reception of the proposals at the DR Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-DR), commission representatives told reporters that the different groups interested in the construction project are both national and foreign. The proposed new wharf will enable Puerto Plata to receive eight cruise ships a week and provide up to 300 small gift shops for tourists. Upon completion of the project in late 2008, the port is designed to be able to handle up to one million tourists per year.

Labor unions will not attend meeting
Union leaders have warned that they will not attend next Thursday's session of the National Salaries Commission (CNS). According to a report in Diario Libre, the union leaders will spend this week planning activities designed to pressurize employers into accepting a general wage increase. Rafael Abreu, the spokesman for the union's delegates in the CNS, told reporters that the unions would take a letter to the commission informing them that no decisions can be taken without the presence of the labor representatives. The unions are demanding a 25% wage hike for all private sector workers earning less than RD$30,000. Abreu admitted that the CNS is only authorized to deal with minimum wage issues, but he reminded reporters that there are special situations where employers are permitted to increase salaries at other levels, as occurred in November 2004.

Divided opinions over planes
With the possible purchase of ten new single-engine, multi-purpose aircraft for the Air Force in the news, some differing opinions have surfaced among high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces. Armed Forces Minister Ramon Aquino Garcia and the Air Force chief of staff, Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio have expressed different points of view on such a purchase to El Caribe reporters. Pena Antonio said that the aircraft were a top priority for the Air Force in order to enable this branch of the military to fulfill its constitutional duty of protecting Dominican airspace. Recent reports of illegal flights used for delivering drugs have been in all the papers. The Air Force general said that the price for the aircraft was reasonable and the operating costs for the single engine plane were low, allowing for long term use of the equipment. However, the Armed Forces Minister told the same reporters that the ministry is analyzing the proposal to see what is most convenient for the ministry and the nation. Aquino Garcia said that "the planes really are necessary, but there are other priorities that need to be taken into consideration."

Nunez de Caceres park is finished
The stagnant lake that used to dominate the intersection between Nunez de Caceres and Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenues in Santo Domingo, affecting residents and passers-by alike, is no more. A beautiful ecological park with waterfalls, water treatment facilities, bicycle paths and play areas now occupies the area, which covers several thousand square meters. According to Santo Domingo Water Authority's (CAASD) director general Richard Martinez, the new park cost RD$350 million. The sewage treatment plant will prevent water pollution and visitors can enjoy facilities like a cafe, kiosks, green areas and fountains. According to Listin Diario, the park will be officially inaugurated this coming week.

Four thousand jobs in education
The Ministry of Education (SEE) has announced 4,000 job openings at different educational centers around the country. The jobs are for principals, vice-principals, teachers, guidance personnel and psychologists. The jobs will be filled through a recruitment process. The requirements for the different posts will be published in March. All posts require professional degrees, and individuals will be examined for ethical, moral and intellectual qualities. According to the press release from the SEE, this is the first time that there has been a public announcement of vacancies within the ministry. The vacancies are expected to be filled by June.

More gold
The Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation, owned by Barrick Gold, has announced the discovery of an additional five million ounces of gold, raising the known reserves of the Pueblo Viejo site to 18.1 million ounces, and making it one of the world's largest known gold reserves. The mine's former owner, Placer Dome, had estimated the cost of establishing an efficient extraction of gold at US$1.34 billion. The Barrick Gold estimate was pegged at US$2.1 to US$2.3 billion. Barrick is expected to employ 3,500 people during the construction phase and 1000 during the mine's 20-year lifespan. According to the project, the mine should produce between 575,000 and 600,000 ounces Troy per year at a cost of about US$290 per ounce.

Haiti is a captive market
The Dominican Republic is set to become the number one supplier of goods for Haiti, according to current projections. At the present time the neighboring Republic of Haiti is the third largest importer of Dominican goods, with around US$300 million last year. Exports to Haiti have grown by 46% over the last two years. Foodstuffs and building supplies are the principal exports, especially flour, eggs, cement, and tin roof sheeting. The busiest export points along the frontier are Dajabon and Jimani with over a third of all exports crossing through one of these two towns.

Basic foods up 10.8%
The cost of the basic family food basket has climbed by 10.8% over the last two years, and is currently pegged at RD$18,189.43, Even with the last offer of a 9.30% increase in the minimum wage, the most a minimum wage earner can make in the private sector would be RD$6,996.20 per month. Since 2000, the cost of basic foodstuffs has gone up from RD$7,540 to RD$18,021 in December 2006. According to Central Bank indicators, even with the 30% increase in the minimum wage that workers' unions are requesting, the highest paid minimum wage job holder would only bring home RD$8,320.

DR looks to sell more sugar to Europe
The Caribbean region is proposing a 200,000-metric ton increase in its sugar sales to the European Union, and the Dominican Republic is hoping to get 100,000 tons of this new increase brought on by World Trade Organization (WTO) decisions on subsidies to European-produced sugar. Experts from the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery estimate that the European sugar market will grow by three million tons over the next four years. According to Hoy, the ministers' meeting in Belize has opened the possibility of a re-launch of the Dominican sugar industry, since the country would also serve as a last resort source of sugar for countries that fail to meet their obligations. The new market is scheduled to open in January 2008.

Santo Domingo Music Festival
Tickets are on sale to the 6th edition of the Santo Domingo Music Festival at the National Theater. The international festival will be held 7-17 March. The festival will offer six concerts with the participation of the National Symphonic Orchestra, the National Chorus, as well as musical talents from France, Austria, England, Spain, U.S., Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Ukraine.
For more events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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