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Daily News - Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Renewable energy bill to be law
The Senate has finally passed the bill that provides the legal framework of incentives for investments in renewable energy into law. The Senate approved the energy committee's recommendations as presented by Senator Juan Mercedes Sena. The law is aimed at promoting investment in the renewable energy sector, and allows citizens to take part in projects that reduce the impact of fossil fuel energy generation. Incentives include total tax exoneration for imports, ITBIS, and exchange commission on equipment, machinery and accessories needed to produce renewable energy, as well as a ten-year income tax exemption on income derived from the sale of energy, hot water, steam, bio-fuels, or synthetic fuels. This is valid for companies and individuals importing renewable energy equipment. The bill, that had already passed in the Chamber of Deputies after about seven years of debates, now moves on to the President for signing.

Family Health Plan doesn't cover much
Lack of primary care facilities, no definition on coverage for traffic accidents and the non-existence of any agreement covering the doctor and private clinic fees are just three of the sticking points delaying the start-up of the National Family Health Plan. Even so, the government is insisting that the program should start on 1 May, but it is precisely the government's portions that need to be resolved. Business and government representatives on the National Social Security Council (CNSS) met with Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, who, together with Vice-President Rafael Alburquerque, spent nearly four hours ironing out the pending items. According to Diario Libre, the VP explained just how far the government's issues have progressed, while CONEP president Lisandro Macarrulla criticized the lack of an efficient information flow on the issues.
What is certain is that the new Family Insurance Plan (SFS) does not cover traffic accident victims despite the fact that workers contribute 2.5% of their salaries towards the service. One proposal forwarded was that the Labor Accident Insurance could be applied to traffic accident victims if they occur on the way to or from the workplace. Management representatives, who contribute 5.9% of each worker's salary to the system, are demanding that accident coverage should come from central health insurance funds.
In another area of contention, plan members cannot attend the medical center of their choice, but must use so-called "Primary Assistance Centers" for a doctor to refer the patient to a specialist. Unfortunately, the Health Superintendent and Public Health Ministry have not identified or created any of these Primary Assistance Centers. While the meeting, which lasted for over three hours, failed to reach an agreement, all the participants expressed a commitment to resolving the issues.

Nation climbs tech chart
The senior economist at the World Economic Forum, Irene Mia has said that recent improvements in the Dominican Republic's technological levels are encouraging. However, educational deficiencies are still a problem that must be addressed, according to the economist. In a report in Listin Diario, Mia says that the report looked at universities, the quality of business schools, research projects and higher education facilities. According to the economist, the Dominican Republic is doing very well in comparison with the rest of Latin America. She tempered her praise by saying that "one must take the weakness of Latin American education into consideration." Mia said that the 23-step improvement by the DR was indeed encouraging, since "it was the only country in the world to have made such a marked improvement."
See http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/...

Challenges for cross-border trade
One of the DR-CAFTA agreement negotiators, Elka Scheker, is warning that the challenges and threats facing the Dominican Republic in the coming months have to be used to the country's advantage. In particular, the negotiator emphasized the need to supervise and manage trade across borders, and to prevent unfair competition. One of the challenges is how to handle distribution services for products coming from the United States. Under the DR-CAFTA agreement a deal was worked out that subjects these distribution agreements to the laws of the Dominican Republic's Civil Code. As a result, there will be greater transparency and providers can find out in advance just what access they will have to the different markets.

Salary Committee meets today
The National Salaries Committee has called an urgent meeting to discuss the latest outcomes of talks on increasing the minimum wage and other benefits between workers and business representatives. Gloria Henriquez, who heads the committee, told El Caribe reporters that she requested the meeting through various media and that all parties have confirmed their attendance. Despite the controversy surrounding the wage talks, Henriquez said that she felt it would be possible to reach an agreement during the meeting. DR Employers Confederation (COPARDOM) president Maribel Gasso told reporters that her group would attend the meeting but that they would be sticking to their offer for increasing just the minimum wage. Spokespersons for the National Union Unity Council (CNUS), including Rafael Abreu, have confirmed their attendance in hope of breaking the deadlock. Abreu said that his union is only willing to accept a 15% increase to the minimum wage and a 10% increase in salaries up to RD$30,000 per month. Abreu also revealed that the business sector had circulated a memorandum suggesting a 5% increase in wages above the minimum, which he described as "unacceptable." Management sources have told El Caribe reporters that the excessive tax burden carried by businesses limits their ability to increase salaries. Business sector representatives Eduardo Valcarcel and Joel Santos pointed out that taxes on business and industry have increased over recent years and that costs, especially for energy, have also become a burden.

Internal revenue to help free zones
Tax department director Juan Hernandez has told a Santiago audience that the tax authorities would facilitate the paperwork to help free trade zone companies to purchase items needed for their businesses on the local market without having to pay ITBIS, the value-added tax. The special identification cards would ease the process for the free zone companies. Speaking at the workshop held yesterday on the subject of "Fiscal Receipt Number" and sponsored by the Dominican Free Zones Association (ADOZONA) and the National Free Zones Council (CNZF), Hernandez said that his staff had met with free zone representatives on four occasions in order to contribute to the recovery process. As a result, free zone companies should expect to encounter less paperwork when renewing permits for purchases on the local market. ADOZONA president Fernando Capellan and Santiago Free Zone Association president Aquiles Bermudez both reacted positively to the announcement.

Parties to spend RD$350 million
The main political parties in the Dominican Republic will be spending about RD$350 million in their respective nomination processes. Hoy newspaper details the expenses of Leonel Fernandez, Danilo Medina and Jose Tomas Perez in today's issue. President Fernandez is down for RD$71 million, Danilo Medina budgeted RD$37 million and Jose Tomas Perez reported a budget of RD$9.4 million. All told, they come to roughly RD$117 million so far. According to the Central Electoral Board (JCE), the primaries held by the PRD party cost RD$88 million. Miguel Vargas Maldonado was chosen. The PRSC primary candidates are Eduardo Estrella, Amable Aristy Castro and Luis Toral. The PLD primary is scheduled for 6 May, and the PRSC primary is set for 10 June. The JCE is contributing RD$12 million for the organization of each of the primaries.

Groups demand policy definition
Legislators, jurists, political leaders and even historians have joined forces in demand for the government to define a clear immigration policy for the neighboring Haitian population. During a forum sponsored by the Dominican Committee for International Solidarity with Haiti, hundreds of professionals asked the government to call on the international community to come to Haiti's aid because the Dominican Republic cannot provide realistic solutions on its own to Haiti's poverty. Deputy Pelegrin Castillo called for a large-scale national mobilization to ask the government to put the Migration Law into practice as applied to nationality and regulation of immigrants. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations, Conchita Cabral, said that the Dominican state alone has the authority to define citizenship.

Bishops on massive migration
The Conference of the Dominican Episcopate and the Conference of the Haitian Episcopate met recently and concluded with a petition to the authorities of both countries to reduce the flow of massive immigration that they described as "anarchic and illegal". They called for legislation without ambiguities. They said that the Catholic Church laments the injustices, abuses, manipulation of information, corruption at the border, human smuggling, drugs, acts of violence and exploitation of poverty. The bishops met in Port au Prince. They valued the harmonic relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the permanent expressions of solidarity. "This 10th encounter has provided the occasion for deep thoughts on the possibility of strengthening the ties of fraternity between both countries," stated a document issues at the closure of the meeting. Participating for the DR were Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, Monsignor Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, and bishops Roque Adames, Maria de Jesus Moya, Jose Dolores Grullon, Antonio Camilo, Gregorio Nicanor Pena, Francisco Ozoria, among others. For Haiti, bishops Louis Kebreau, Yves Marie Pen, Joseph Lanfontant, among others attended.

Drug testing for 5000
Attorney General Radhames Jimenez started conducting drug tests on some five thousand of his employees yesterday. The AG said that the tests, which will be random, would be carried out at all agencies under his control, and any positive results would lead to instant dismissal. This announcement follows on from the process started by Supreme Court chief justice Jorge Subero Isa who started testing the 6,000 members under his jurisdiction. The Attorney General started the testing in his own office by submitting himself to the test. Members of the National Forensic Sciences Institute (INACIF) are carrying out the testing. The AG told reporters from Hoy newspaper that prosecutors, district attorneys, assistant district attorneys and process servers would be tested across the entire country.

Boat with 34 on board sinks off Montecristi
Dominican Navy sources are reporting the rescue of two people off the north coast near the town of Montecristi. Early reports say that the survivors were part of a group of 34 "fishermen" on a boat that was heading towards the Bahamas. According to El Caribe, the authorities suspect that this was a group of undocumented people trying to reach the Bahamas or the United States. United States Coast Guard and Dominican Navy air and sea units are patrolling the area in search of other possible survivors.

The Apprentice to Cap Cana
The winner of Sunday's Donald Trump-produced series "The Apprentice" has been chosen to oversee the construction of Trump at Cap Cana, the newest development at Cap Cana that will include a beach club, condominium hotel, private villas, golf course and 68 private estates. The 68 estates to be known as Trump Farallon Estates at Cap Cana, with at least 1.5 acres each, will kick off the Trump investment.Thirty-two year old Los Angeles defense attorney Stefani Schaeffer told the NBC top rating show audience: "I believe I bring not only a legal and business background to it, but also coming at it from the point of view of being in construction, having been counsel for developers in construction, I understand it from the ground up." She was given the option to oversee Cap Cana project or Trump Towers, a 47-luxury apartment complex in midtown Atlanta.
She competed against 17 professionals who competed in a 14-week job interview during The Apprentice's sixth season, which was also the first to have four finalists instead of two. She has done legal work in construction and property development.
When appearing on the Live with Regis and Kelly show on Tuesday, 24 April, with co-host Kelly Ripa and guest co-host Bryant Gumbel, she told Ripa and Gumbel that her decision to pick the Cap Cana project had been an easy one. "Did you see the pictures of Atlanta and of the Caribbean? Did you see the color of the ocean?" Schaeffer told Gumbel when he asked why she had chosen this option. "It is about the work, but there's a golf course!"
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