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Daily News - Friday, 13 April 2007

Less driving time to Macao
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated yesterday the Cruce del Isleno-Macao road. The two-lane road cost RD$174 million and shaves 45 minutes off from the travel time from La Otra Banda to Uvero and Alto Macao, on the northern side of the East Coast beach strip. The 17.2 kilometer road was built with funds from the airport tax that visitors to the DR must pay. National Hotel and Restaurant Association (ASONAHORES) head Luis Lopez thanked President Leonel Fernandez for the government's support. Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez also announced the CEIZTUR fund managed by the Ministry would be used to finance housing development projects in towns located alongside the renovated road and where Dominicans who work in East Coast hotels live.

Bengoa supports dollarization
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa is in favor of there being a common monetary unit, the dollar, for all of Central American and the DR. Hoy writes that Bengoa feels that Central America and the DR should move towards more integration and feels that the dollar should be the common monetary unit of the region. Hoy writes that Bengoa made his comments on 1 April in an interview with the Spanish paper AmericaEconomica.com.

Raising worker salaries
The Chamber of Deputies has received a bill that would increase the minimum wage of workers in the private sector by 25%. The bill will be reviewed Tuesday of next week. Diario Libre writes that the bill would be transitory and will only be in effect until the National Salary Committee (CNS) met to resolve the wage issue. The bill does however include an article that states that the wages determined by the CNS cannot be less than those established by the proposed bill.

Robert Reid receives HIV funds
The Office of the First Lady and the Presidential AIDS Council (COPRESIDA) allotted funds to the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital to construct the Integral Unit for Integral Care for Children with HIV, Hemophilia, and Falcemia. The donation of RD$500,000 is only the first part of a center that is estimated to cost RD$16 million and should be concluded in six months. The center would have capacity to care for 300 children with HIV as well as provide early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention education. COPRESIDA is working along side the Ministry of Public Health and the Clinton Foundation.

Government surplus to the metro?
Former governor of the Central Bank Luis Toral suggests that the government use the tax revenues surplus to fund equipment for the metro, instead of borrowing. The government is asking Congress to approve international commercial bank financing of the equipment. But Toral says that the RD$10 billion that would be needed could come from what he forecasts will be more than RD$38 billion in surplus revenues the government will receive this year. In an interview with Hoy newspaper, Toral, a PRSC presidential pre-candidate, said that in the first quarter the government has already collected 40% in revenues more than last year, and 15% more than budgeted. Toral commented that the estimated surplus does not include the funds the undervaluation of the petroleum bill will generate and additional funds for capital gains taxes for the sale of foreign companies. He lamented that the government continues to borrow abroad when the national debt is at US$15 billion, about 50% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Bishop calls for campaign reform
Monsignor Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, head of the Dominican Episcopal Conference, is calling for changes in political campaigns. He advocates for a shorter campaign period (90 days) and a limit of the ample funds politicians receive from the government for their campaigns. At the same time the Monsignor warned of the powerful influence that big money has on campaigns. Monsignor says that the way things are turns politics into a business for corrupt politicians. De la Rosa said that in most countries in Latin America there are controls on the campaigning but that its seems that the DR is under a constant political campaign. The Monsignor says that candidates should not be allowed to promote themselves on radio or television. He also said that there should be a limit on the amount of flyers, billboards and posters placed in public view.

Don't cross red lights
Those crossing red lights should think twice. Drivers that are stopped for crossing a red light will now have to prove they have all their papers and vehicle requirements up to date and they will have to pay a RD$855 fine. They will need to present their car review sticker (revista), driver's license, car insurance, prevention triangle, Red Cross kit, seat belt, and car plate sticker.
Metropolitan Transport Authority director, Major General Jose Sigfrido Fernandez Fadul also said that those caught crossing a red light will also have to sit through a six hour session on transit laws and drivers' safety.
Major General Fernandez said that over the next three months, AMET is recruiting 1,000 university students to work part-time as agents and patrol city corners to detain violators and curve what has become a generalized practice.
He said that AMET agents are less prone to accept bribes because of the incentives they receive for honest work. He said AMET pays an agent double any bribe that is refused.

Plan Renove Part II
The Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) will be creating a project to replace the battered vehicles that continue to provide transportation services to Dominicans, as reported in the Listin Diario. Milciades Perez said that the project would be funded by payments made by beneficiaries of the Plan. Perez said that unlike its predecessor, the Plan Renove, this time around the plan would be well handled.
Meanwhile, another report in the Listin Diario focuses on how several bus owner unions have crowded out bus companies that did not join these. Caribe Tours, Metro, La Experiencia, Omnibus Santo Domingo, Autobuses Dominicanos, Transprote Aponte, Maika, Compania Nacional de Autobuses, Union de Propietarios de Autobuses have gradually abandoned urban and interurban routes due to the insecurity of operating on routes now dominated by the unionized transporters that have received new vehicles from the government over the years. The newspaper points out that these companies offered a better service. The difference between the unions and the traditional bus companies is that the unions oblige their members to pay a registration fee for "protection" to operate on a pre-determined route. The unionized transporters also charge their affiliates for the right to operate on public streets and highways.

Transporters on Santiago's tramway
Two transport union heads in Santiago are saying that the Santiago city hall must carefully review the situation before going ahead with building the Santiago tramway. Miguel Sanchez and Domingo Matias are saying that the tramway will eventually affect hundreds of drivers and citizens in a direct and indirect way. They believe that there is no real need for a tramway system. Matias continued by saying that many businesses that are located along the bus routes will also be affected by the tramway. Sanchez did admit that the tramway would help develop the city of Santiago.

DR-CAFTA trade shows
Several conferences and trade shows educating business persons on how to take advantage of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement are scheduled for Florida and Puerto Rico this fall. Interest in accessing the benefits of the pact has increased in the DR since its implementation began 1 March, reports veteran Caribbean observer John Collins.
Enterprise Florida, the state of Florida trade and investment agency, is organizing a September conference aimed at expanding Florida's role in the DR-CAFTA. At that event, participants from the region are being invited to utilize a matchmaking system devised to bring potential partners together to do more business.
The event will be followed by the annual Miami Herald Conference.
A conference and trade show, aimed at expanding Puerto Rico's role in the DR-CAFTA signatory countries is scheduled for the Puerto Rico Convention Center, 5-9 November.
The DR-CAFTA will also be a major discussion theme at the annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean, scheduled for December.
See http://www.caftagroup.com and http://www.floridaenterprise.com

BanReservas increases profits
BanReservas announced profits of RD$871.3 million in the first quarter of the year for a 47.6% increase in profits compared to the same period last year. Daniel Toribio, administrator general of BanReservas, said that there are four reasons for the bank's sustained growth. He mentioned the country's economic boom, the numerous products and services offered by the bank, the cashing in of real estate properties, and the recovery of bad debt. Toribio used the success of the bank as an example that there can be efficiency in government.

BHD merger
The president of the Grupo BHD, Luis Molina Achecar has announced that Grupo BHD will merge with the Centro Financiero BHD as part of the corporate reorganization project that began in 2005. The move will be effective 1 July and looks to provide an increased level of synergy and efficiency in corporate operations. Molina explained that the move had been approved by BHD shareholders during their last meeting.

Direct foreign investment going up
According to Pablo Linares, director of the Dominican Association of Foreign Investment Businesses (Asiex), foreign investment will exceed US$1.5 billion next year reflecting the first year of the implementation of DR-CAFTA. He said that telecommunications and tourism are the two leading sectors that will attract most investments. He said that investments will come mostly from the US, Canada, and Mexico. Linares said, however, that the DR-CAFTA is not enough and that investments don't just appear. Growth and development need to continue if the incoming flow of investments is to continue, he said.

Jewelry store thieves get 30 years
Four men charged with killing two people, Dorka Parada Demorizi and Leon Medina Morillo, during a jewelry store robbery in the Paraiso section of Santo Domingo last March have been sentenced to 20 and 30 years in prison. Angel Miguel Tiburcio Lachapelle and Elvin Amado Minyetti were sentenced to 30 years in prison while Daniel Rodriguez Garcia and Ricky Marcelo German Morales were sentenced to 20 years in prison. They must also pay RD$7 million in retributions.

Money transporters detained
Two American citizens that had arrived on the Ferry from Puerto Rico were apprehended by the Customs Department (DGA) for traveling with US$420,006 that had not been declared. The money was found after the Customs intelligence agents conducted a search of the pair. Diario Libre says that Hector Samuel Rodriguez Padron, of Dominican origin, and Puerto Rican Francisco Javier Molina Garcia were interrogated by Customs officials. They were sent to the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) for questioning and to determine if the money is tied to drugs. Diario Libre writes that the money was found in four different boxes of detergent boxes and a snack box.

Are you ready for some football?
On Saturday the Dominican Football League (LDFA) and its pioneering team, the Dominican Raiders, will be hosting its third full contact exhibition at the Parque del Este. The activities will begin at 2:30pm with a round-robin flag football tournament and will end with the full contact exhibition. Five to eight teams from Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata are expected to participate in the tournament. For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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