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Daily News - Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Creating a subsidy fund
Economy, Planning, and Development Minister Temistocles Montas has announced that by mid year a special RD$2.5 billion subsidy fund would be created to subsidize the electricity sector and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). A first quarter tax surplus would be used.
Montas commented on the increased confidence showed by the International Monetary Fund that is now reviewing the stand by arrangement with the DR each semester instead of quarterly.
Montas responded to criticism regarding overspending voiced by priests during their Seven Words sermon saying that the increased confidence of the IMF is proof the country is doing well. He denied the government is carelessly spending public funds. Montas reminded the priests that the main mission of this government was to dig the DR out of the financial hole it was in. Montas said that the IMF described as excellent the economic situation and that if the country was wasting money the IMF would be the first to say so.

Disagreeing with Montas
Jose Lorenzo Ceballos, president of the Santiago Wholesalers Association (AMAPROSAN) is arguing that the economic growth that the economic bonanza the government is selling to the public doesn't reflect the dire reality of millions of Dominicans. He said that while the country is moving forward there is a lack of adequate health, education, energy, and increased safety concerns for millions. He also said that though revenues are up no one has a clue where those resources are being invested. Lorenzo Ceballos continued by pointing out the importance of commerce for the public because of the benefits it provides and said that the government does not understand how important the sector is for the country.

Ministry signs agreement
The Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Development signed two new agreements yesterday, one with the InterAmerican Development Bank and the other with the World Bank. The first agreement is for a US$1,600,000 donation for the Programa de Apoyo a la Instrumentacion de un Sistema de Gestion por Resultados en la Republica Dominicana. Minister Temistocles Montas explained that this program will assist the government to develop a management-for-results system while making government more transparent. The agreement calls for US$160,000 in counterpart funds from the government.
The second agreement is for the Proyecto de Desarrollo Regional, Local, y Comunitario that will be completed with a US$20 million loan. This project will be implemented in 20 municipalities around the country. The Japanese government is providing a US$500,000 donation for this project.
Moises Pineda signed for the IDB and Mariel Fiat for the World Bank during a meeting at the Presidential Palace.

Businesses label bill unconstitutional
A group of businesses from West Santo Domingo will be contesting in the Supreme Court the resolution that levies a 1% tax on industrial sales in compensation for environmental damages. The resolution affects beer, rum, plastic, cement, chemicals, cigars, gas, and gasoline businesses. The industries say the resolution is illegal. Representatives from 35 businesses met yesterday at Herrera Industrial Association (AIEH) headquarters to analyze the proposal. The Herrera Industrial Association deemed the bill in violation of the Constitution and has hopes that the Supreme Court will disauthorized the municipality to levy the charge. Legal counselors say that the resolution 021-07 violates Article 85 of the Constitution and also violates the Municipal Organization Law. AIEH president Jesus Moreno says that only the National Congress can levy taxes on businesses.

Tax Department corrects mistakes
The Tax Department (DGII) will reimburse RD$160 million to exporters and producers after the department charged them the ITBIS tax on products that were exempt from that tax. The reimbursement of funds is part of a plan on behalf of the government with the goal to increase competitiveness through a reduction of costs. The Tax Department has refunded companies to the tune of RD$10 billion. Economy, Planning, and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, and Customs director Miguel Coco will all be present at the ceremony to return the funds.

Tax collections up
The Department of Taxes is reporting that its revenues are up 13% more than had been programmed. First quarter of the year tax collections reached RD$33 million, as a result of the significant tax increases levied at the start of the year. Last year, the department had collected RD$24.8 billion. The department had programmed RD$29 billion. Business sectors had alerted the government that it was underestimating the revenues the fiscal reform would produce and that such a high tax increase was not necessary. The surplus proves they were right. All categories of taxes increased, with the exception of the luxury tax on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes that kept to last year's level. The ITBIS tax was RD$9.13 billion, or RD$951 million more than what was programmed.

Price of gasoline continues climbing
Dominican consumers have had to pay RD$19.40 more for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline and RD$22.40 more for a gallon of premium unleaded gasoline over the past 10 weeks, as reported in El Caribe. Consumers returning from the Easter holiday were greeted with a RD$2.80 and RD$3.60 increases, respectively. A gallon of regular gasoline now sells for RD$137.70 and premium sells for RD$137.70.

Wage negotiations at a standstill
National Salary Commission (CNS) president Gloria Henriquez is urging the business sector and the labor unions to continue the discussions into a possible wage increase for non-sectorized employees but the negotiations are at a standstill and neither side is moving. The workers unions want a wage increase of 25% for all persons earning up to RD$30,000 and the business sector is only willing to give 12% but only to persons making the minimum wage. Currently the minimum wage is at RD$3,900, RD$4,400 and RD$6,400.

Pierre will remain a citizen
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman announced that the window of opportunity to take any legal action to annul Haitian immigrant civil rights activist Sonia Pierre's Dominican nationality has passed. Castanos Guzman continued by saying that though the JCE judges plan on discussing Pierre's case no timetable has been set for those discussions. Castanos Guzman added that the JCE has to be careful with the Pierre case but also added that the JCE can discuss the case and recommend a decision but has no legal recourse beyond that. Judge Aura Celeste Fernandez said that this case once again tests the institutionalism of the JCE and warned that the JCE should not take part in any witch hunts.

DR part of bioenergy program
The Dominican Republic will be part of a program sponsored by Brazil and the United States to produced non-conventional energy. The goal of the program is to reduce the region's dependency on petroleum. Haiti will also be part of the program. Through a press release, the government said that the Dominican economy will greatly benefit thanks to the initiative by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva the Dominican economy will be greatly benefited.

COE release final report
The National Emergency Commission (COE) reports that a total of 32 people died and 525 were injured during Holy Week celebrations. This is 18 deaths less than last year. The report details that 18 deaths were caused by transit accidents, 5 due to people being run over and 9 due to asphyxiation.

Rains will continue
The Weather Department says that the rains in the Cibao region as well as the north, northeast, and southeast parts of the country will continue until tomorrow. Officials are warning residents to take all necessary precautions and officials are predicting light rains throughout these regions with a green alert being maintained.

National Aquarium has loss
Tamaury the manatee, the 12-year old mascot of the National Aquarium, was pronounced dead at 3pm on Sunday according to the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry says that Tamaury died from a heart attack and said that the manatee suffered from many health problems that shortened his life. They explained that his heart was half the size of a normal manatee, and he suffered from an atrophy in his ribs and scoliosis. Tamaury began experiencing problems about 3 months ago and was under the care of 12 doctors. The manatee had been at the Santo Domingo aquarium since 1995 after being rescued in Barahona. He was named in the memory of Tammy Dominguez and Amaury Villalba, two scientists who died on a manatee observation trip.

DR gets royal visit
Prince Enrique de Borbon is visiting the Dominican Republic. Prince Enrique arrived yesterday in the country and will be here for five days. He is a descendent of Carlos IV of Spain. He will be meeting with several prominent figures, including Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez. Prince Enrique said he was very happy to be visiting the country.
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