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Daily News - Thursday, 12 April 2007

Fernandez receives credentials
President Leonel Fernandez received the credentials from the new ambassadors from Peru and Qatar. Vicente Azula de la Guerra will be representing Peru while Ali Bin Saad Ali-Kharji will be representing Qatar. This is the first time Qatar has had representation in the DR. Fernandez was accompanied by Vice President Rafael Alburquerque and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso in the Presidential Palace during the ceremonies. Qatar's envoy to the DR is an example of how in recent months the country has tried to increase relations with Middle Eastern nations.

Rio Group meets in the DR
The 13th Reunion of Ministers of the Rio Group will be meeting in the DR between 17 and 20 April. Thirty foreign ministers (12 from Latin America and 18 from the European Union) have announced their participation in the conference. The ministers will discuss drugs, the environment, free trade, the situation in Haiti and other regional issues. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso explained that though Haiti is not part of the Rio Group it is of interest to the Dominican government that a delegation, headed by that nation's prime minister, be present at these proceedings. The DR will be heading the Rio Group for two years.

Predicted reduced economic growth
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting a slight decrease in the economic growth of the Dominican Republic for 2007 and 2008. The predications place the Gross Domestic Product for 2007 and 2008 at 4.5% and 6% compared to a GDP in 2006 of 10.7%. The Consumer Price Index (inflation), which in 2006 was at 7.6%, is forecast to be 6% and 4.5% for 2007 and 2008, respectively. The current accounts deficit for 2007 and 2008 will also be affected, predicted at 2.2% and 1.6%. The current accounts deficit for 2006 was at 2.4%. These figures were reported by the IMF in their semester report, "World Economic Outlook," which was released yesterday. The report indicates that growth for the Central American and Caribbean region as a whole will be reduced by 5% in 2007.

Non-producing copper exporters
Though the Dominican Republic doesn't produce any copper, the country exported exported 145,421.50 kilos (363,553.75 pounds) of copper to various countries, mainly China, in the first three months of the year. These exports are for the equivalent of US$101,177.86 (RD$3,308,516.02). A report in Diario Libre explains that the copper is extracted from stolen materials, repackaged, sold, and the exported. Diario Libre writes that the continued theft of electricity wiring, manhole covers, fences, and other materials has led authorities to become suspicious as to the origins of copper. Adding to this is the theft reports by the energy companies totaling RD$600 million and RD$200 million reported by the telephone companies. The copper extracted from the materials is sold for RD$50 to RD$70 per pound and then prepared for exportation. The situation has become so alarming that Customs (DGA) has received reports confirming that the copper is extracted from stolen electricity and phone materials. This has led Customs to require documentation from exporters to prove the origins of copper. As a way to also curve the thefts of electricity and phone materials the Metal Association of the National District and the Province of Santo Domingo (Asomedprosa) has decided not to buy cables that come from telephone or light poles.

Funds for FTZs
Twenty four businesses that operate in the free trade zones (FTZ) received US$17 million in funds yesterday. The Fund for the Re-conversion of the Free Trade Zones will eventually disburse US$18 million more to also pay suppliers of the free trade zone businesses. Luisa Fernandez, director of the National Council of Exporting Free Zone (CNZFE) said that textile, tailoring, leather and footwear companies were benefitted. The Executive Branch created the fund in February to help the FTZ's in the face of the rising costs and diminishing sales crisis they are experiencing that has caused the loss of 40,000 jobs. Fernandez informed that to access the funds businesses need to have international contracts, more than 570 employees, and work in the areas of textile, tailoring, leather, or footwear.

Puerto Rican business groups visit DR
Two Puerto Rican business groups will be visiting the DR to better understand how to take advantage of the DR-CAFTA. The groups will be traveling to the country in association with the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (AIPR). AIPR is also working in association with the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) Network, the International Trade Center, the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in the DR and the Trade Representatives Office of the US in the DR. Twenty Puerto Rican business persons are expected to come on the first trip between 24 and 27 April. A second trip will take place in autumn. These trips, according to Hoy, are a follow up of the visit that President Leonel Fernandez made to Puerto Rico last month.?

Wage negotiations off
Though the business sector has maintained their offer of a 12% wage increase to the minimum wage, the workers' unions are calling the negotiations off and have announced an assembly for Saturday to create a strategy for the upcoming week. Hoy explains picketing, protesting, and scaled work stoppages will be among the tactics used by the unions. Union head Rafael Abreu said that the workers unions waited until yesterday for an offer from the business sector until they realized there would be no new offer. Unionists hoped that after Holy Week negotiations would continue but after 14 meetings and even the intervention of Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, Monsignor Agripino Nunez and Labor Minister Jose Fadul, the two parties have not been able to come to an agreement.

Santiago tramway starting August
Construction of the Santiago tramway is set to begin in August 2007. The Spanish company, Ferocarriles de Via Estrechas (FEVE) and the Dominican firm Consulting ADP Dominicana will be building the fast transit system, announced city Mayor Jose Enrique Sued and FEVE president Dimas Sanudo. Sued explained that the project would not be a burden to the city of Santiago or to the Dominican government because it will be constructed completely with private funds. During the press conference Sanudo said that the feasibility reports determine the plausibility of such a project though he did state that more studies and feasibility reports need to be completed. Financing and business plans still need to be developed but officials say that these should be concluded by this upcoming July. Twelve stations at a 620 meter distance will be built and a fleet of 6 tramway carts that will travel at a maximum of 70 kilometers per hour.

Protecting the environment
The Ministry of Environment has a denied a request by Cementos Cibao to dispose of coal mineral waste (petcoke) in the wharf in Puerto Plata. Through resolution 001-07 from 4 January the Ministry stopped the disposal activities because of the damage that the coal particles, plaster and petcoke (sub products form the refining of petroleum), produce. Diario Libre writes that Cementos Cibao has not even begun the construction of installations that would avoid the contaminations of their warehouses and other requirements like planting trees, placing a roof on the warehouse, the raising of a fence and covers for the trucks that transport the waste.

Pensions official caught
The International Police (Interpol) stopped Odalis del Carmen Santana at the International Airport of the Americas yesterday as she tried to enter the country. She was returning from the Caribbean island Saint Martin. Santana is accused of being part of the Ministry of Finance Pensions Department scandal where persons as young as 23 years old were irregularly receiving pensions of up to RD$50,000 per month. Octavio Lister, head of the Corruption Prevention Department (Depreco), quickly moved to assure her arrest once it was announced that Santana was caught. Officials had never filed an exit impediment against her, or any of the other accused.

Coal plant begins construction
State Ruin Electric Company (CDEEE) head Radhames Segura announced yesterday the beginning of the first phase of construction of the coal energy plant Pepillo Salcedo that is being constructed by the Sichuan Machinery in Monte Cristi, a US$800 million investment. The plant will provide 660 MW of energy to the nation which will cost the CDEEE 5 cents to the dollar per kw/hour. Compared to rates under the Madrid Accord, this represents a savings of 4 to 5 cents.

MVP in Chile
PRD Presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado (MVP) met with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet yesterday at the Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago de Chile. During their meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, Vargas Maldonado voiced his intention to apply the success of the Chilean model to social services in the Dominican Republic if he is elected in the 16 May 2007 election. Bachelet offered to cooperate to help the DR. During his trip to Chile, Vargas announced that he has signed an agreement between the Universidad Santo Tomas de Aquino and the Instituto de Formacion Politica Jose Francisco Pena Gomez. The agreement will allow youths and teachers from the DR to study at that Chilean institution.

Blackouts in the Colonial Zone
EdeEste is announcing that for the next two months the Colonial Zone will be experiencing controlled blackouts three day out of the week. The energy company explains that renovation of the energy network is the cause of those blackouts. Crews will be replacing obsolete equipment for new equipment. The blackouts will be on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays from 8am to 5 pm.

Pan American Judo tournament begins today
Three hundred athletes from 23 different countries will begin competing today in the Pan American Youth Judo Championships. The event will be taking place in the Casa Nacional del Centro Olimpico and will begin at 2pm.
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