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Daily News - Monday, 16 April 2007

DR improves ICT ranking
The Dominican Republic has improved its positioning in The Global Information Technology Report country ranking, prepared by the World Economic Forum. The DR moved up a record 23 steps, going from rank 89 in 2005 to 66 in 2006. In the Networked Readiness Index 2006-2007 rankings, the DR ranks only below Chile (31), Colombia (64) and Panama (65) in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Launched in 2001, The Global Information Technology Report is regarded as a valuable and unique benchmarking tool to determine national information and communication technologies (ICT) strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate progress. It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and development for economic growth. The Networked Readiness Index measures the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments. The NRI is composed of three component indexes which assess: environment for ICT offered by a country or community, readiness of the community's key stakeholders (individuals, business and governments), and usage of ICT among these stakeholders.

Lots of money for government
The government received RD$16.9 billion more tax revenues this quarter compared to the same period last year. Hoy newspaper says that the increase is attributed to increased taxes paid by Falconbridge, the agreement signed with Verizon Dominicana that authorized its sale to a Mexican company, and the windfall of revenues since the Numero de Comprobante Fiscal system was implemented.
From 1 January to 31 March, government revenues totaled RD$60.26 billion, compared to RD$43.27 billion for the same period in 2006, or a 39.3% increase, RD$16.99 billion.

Corruption is all over government
The director of the Governmental Corruption Prevention Office Octavio Lister said last week that corruption in government continues to be "very high and visible". Commenting on the statement, Presidential pre-candidate and former senator for Santo Domingo, Jose Tomas Perez called on the government apply the Freedom of Information Act (Ley de Libre Acceso a la Informacion Publica), calling it the most effective instrument available for combating corruption in government. "The greatest incentive for corruption is the lack of transparency in government operations, which happens when a government officer handles multi-million budgets without having to be accountable to the public and the press," said Perez, as reported in Listin Diario. Perez said that the government should apply the freedom of information act in full. "Corruption is one of the fundamental axis that limit a society's development. Historically billions that should have gone to public services, medical care and to resolve the country's basic problems, go instead to the hands of a few government officers and politicians with their front men. That is a national disgrace that is going to require lots of political will and concerted efforts of the best men and women of this society to combat it in the future," he said.
Regarding the comments of Lister, both Jose Joaquin Bido Medina, who heads the Commission for Ethics and Combating Corruption and Cesar Pina Toribio, Presidential legal advisor, refused to comment.
Spokesman for the opposition PRD deputies in Congress, Cristian Paredes said that Lister should resign his post. He said that so far nobody in the present government has been jailed for corruption. He said that all the present authorities do is talk, as reported in Listin.

Bus fares increased
The Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) has authorized bus transport fare increases as from Thursday, 19 April. Long bus trips within the capital will now cost RD$20 and shorter runs RD$15. OPRET did not announce a fare increase for "conchos" or multi-passenger paying taxis, but this is expected to follow shortly. Conchos primarily use LPG, which has also seen gradual increases.
The increases follow 10 consecutive weeks of gasoline price rises. Regular gasoline now costs RD$139.50 and premium gasoline sells for RD$153.10. Diesel sells for RD$105.
In an editorial, Listin Diario said that "the government has given in to the transport unions' blackmail, preferring to please a small group of millionaires that knows how to hide its wealth while overburdening the middle class and the poor with more taxes, more fare increases, and an extreme indifference to their basic needs."
In addition to authorizing the increase, the OPRET office also announced the creation of the Single Transport Authority (ANTRAT) office that brings together all government entities dealing with transportation under one umbrella.

RD$28 billion in transport funds
Over the past 35 years, Dominican governments have invested RD$28 billion in multiple transport systems. A new report prepared by OPRET, titled "National Ground Transport Policies" says that over the years the government has favored transporters with vehicles or tax exemptions. The Office for the Reorganization of Transit, OPRET, created by the Fernandez administration in 2004, is basing its solution to the transport system on a metro system, the first line of which is currently under construction.

March inflation
The Central Bank reported that the rate of inflation was 0.79% in March. The Consumer Price Index showed accumulated inflation for the first three months of the year at 2.04%. The inflation is attributed to the rise in fuel prices. The Central Bank says that if the price of fuel had not increased, inflation would have only been 0.01%.

Storm affects flights to US
Recent storms in the northeastern US have affected air travel from the Dominican Republic. New York City and Boston were hit by heavy rain over the weekend. More than seven and a half inches of rain were recorded in Central Park yesterday, making it the second wettest day in the city's history and the wettest in more than one hundred years, as reported in ny1.com
Diario Libre reports that this is the fifth time so far this year that flights to the US have had to be cancelled due to bad weather.
As reported, arrivals and departures at JFK International Airport were running more smoothly today and only experiencing delays up to 15 minutes.
Travelers should check with their airlines for precise details of cancellations or delays.

Gallup poll
With the PLD primary set for 6 May, results are in for the periodical Gallup-Hoy poll. The poll found that 45% of voters favor President Leonel Fernandez as the PLD presidential candidate, compared to 23% for Danilo Medina and 5% for Jose Tomas Perez. The results in the November 2006 poll were Fernandez 35%, Medina 21.7% and Perez 7.2%. Among PLD supporters, the vote is even higher for the President, with 73%, 17% for Medina and 2.4% for Perez.
The poll was conducted on 9-11 April, and 1,200 voters were polled. Regarding the PRSC candidates, the poll showed Eduardo Estrella leads with 35.3%, followed by Amable Aristy Castro with 25.6% and Luis Toral with 1.4%.
The PRD has already chosen its presidential candidate, Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

New president for AmCham
Banker Cristopher Paniagua is the new president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Santo Domingo. He is risk management vice president of the Banco Popular Dominicano. He replaces Kevin Manning.

Crashing into Police HQ
A freak accident occurred at around 9pm on Sunday evening. An unidentified man, reported to be Canadian, who was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer crashed into the left gate of the Police headquarters at Avenida Francia near the intersection with Ave. Leopoldo Navarro. Listin Diario reported that he was accompanied by two US citizens who together with the driver suffered minor injuries. There is speculation the driver lost control of the vehicle due to the effects of alcohol consumption.

On son and salsa
The International Congress of Music, Identity and Culture in the Caribbean being held at the Centro Cultural Leon in Santiago focused on son and salsa music in the Caribbean. Interestingly, one of the observations was that while son music is known to have been born in Cuba, it was acknowledged that it developed in the DR. "We have to recognize that while son is a child whose biological parents are Cuban, its adoptive parents were Dominicans, who brought it up, educated, promoted and developed this creature," said Marcela Mirabal, mother of Santiago musician Rafelito Mirabal, who addressed the conference. Danilo Orozco of Cuba spoke about how there is no son by itself, but in plural. He explained that it is intimately tied to its creators' musical experiences, as well as the historic evolution of Cuban culture and its connections, as reported in Hoy newspaper. During the conference, son was described as the most elegant urban folkloric dance.
Sydney Hutchinson of the US focused on the development of variations in the way salsa is danced in New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Arizona, Japan, Los Angeles, Colombia, Mexico or the DR. Dominican dance teacher Xiomarita Perez stressed that the most important thing in learning how to dance to a beat is to identify the instruments that keep the beat and follow these, anticipating them while dancing.
During the event, Johnny Pacheco, founder of the Fania All Stars, was declared "Glory of Dominican Popular Music".

Sosa needs 10 homeruns
Sammy Sosa, who has had a slow start with the Texas Rangers, has been able to hit two homeruns, which puts him 10 homeruns away from becoming the sixth MLB player to bat at least 600 homeruns in a career. His batting average of .167 is still far below the numbers he was known for with the Chicago Cubs. Sosa is confident he will get things together in time.
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