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Daily News - Thursday, 03 May 2007

Government revenues up
The government's revenues for the period of January to April totaled RD$72,910.7 million, an 11% increase over the estimated revenues for this period and a 36.4% increase in comparison to revenues for the same period last year. The government collected RD$15.22 billion through Customs and RD$46.15 billion through the tax department. The National Treasury has collected RD$11.53 billion for the year to date, which is RD$9.48 billion more than expected. The 2007 budget is RD$258.48 billion of which RD$214.61 billion come from tax revenues. As a result the government's revenues, until this point in the year, reflect a surplus. Listin Diario explains that an increase in taxes has played part in this. The report does however detail public spending and explains that spending has increased by 16.9% in comparison with the same period last year.

Moody's ranking
Moody's Investors Service has upgraded the DR's debt rating on the grounds of a stronger-than-expected recovery from the 2003 banking and currency crisis. "Macroeconomic stability has been restored, and the country is experiencing above-trend growth with GDP increasing at an average annual rate of 10 percent during 2005 and 2006," said the firm's analyst Mauro Leos in a statement released on Tuesday. The DR's foreign- and local-currency bond ratings were upgraded to "B2" from "B3." The foreign-currency country ceiling was upgraded to "Ba3" from "B1." All ratings have a stable outlook.

Montas explains low ranking
Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas has acknowledged that the country does not yet have the legal framework to facilitate direct foreign investment in infrastructure and this is why the country scored lowest in the World Economic Forum's "Benchmarking National Attractiveness for Private Investment in Latin American Infrastructure" rankings. The WEF report refers to the difficulties of financing investments in public works. The DR was ranked in comparison to 12 other Latin American countries. Montas did however provide assurances that new laws, like the government's purchasing law and the concessions law for public works, which is still in Congress, will soon make the DR attractive for companies interested in investing in major infrastructure works. In the Forum's rankings, Chile is ranked first for receiving investments with an index of 5.43 while the DR is last with an index of 3.33.

DR to hold forum in Brazil
The Dominican ambassador in Brazil, Manuel Morales Luna, has announced that the DR will be holding a business forum in Brazil in order to promote investments in the Dominican Republic. The bilateral event is sponsored by both countries and will take place on 15 May. Activities will highlight the benefits of investing in the DR, especially in the DR-CAFTA context. Relations between the two countries have strengthened in recent years and the DR is part of a joint Brazilian-US pilot project for ethanol fuel production. Along with Morales, the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) head Eddy Martinez, Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez and other high-ranking Dominican officials will be present.

Diplomatic status for Flacso
The Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences (FLACSO) has been granted diplomatic status by the government. This enables it to import goods tax-free, and its mission also was granted diplomatic immunity and other privileges. The institution will also be allowed to conduct business without having to submit to government regulations, monetary policy or legal jurisdiction. The immunity was part of a covenant signed in 2003 and put into effect by President Leonel Fernandez on 5 February this year.

Cuba and DR signing FT agreement?
Listin Diario writes that the DR and Cuba could be signing a free trade agreement, according to Economic, Planning and Development minister Temistocles Montas. Montas is quoted as saying that there has been an invitation to sign an agreement with Cuba since Leonel Fernandez's first presidential term. If in fact the DR manages to sign a FTA with Cuba it would be the first country in the region to have done so. Although the DR and Cuba enjoy strong historical, social and political ties and established full diplomatic relations in 1997, they have never had a FT agreement.

Cutting back on scholarships
Santiago's municipal authorities are cutting back scholarship opportunities by 50% because of what is being described as a financial crisis. Listin Diario writes that it is allegedly the government's fault that Santiago is going through this crisis. The reduction in scholarships will affect many students who can't afford to pay for their studies. The move will also affect the current study period, May-August, for which the city hall will not be able to pay half the scholarships at the PUCMM, O&M, and Technologia de Santiago. Santiago's city hall normally gives out 350 such scholarships.

France donates equipment
The French embassy in the DR has donated 1,700 drug-testing kits to the Department of Drug Control (DNCD) that will be used at the country's airports. The equipment, called "Drug Check," was delivered by Jean dos Santos, a French police official, on behalf of the French Embassy to the director of the Joint Information and Coordination Center (CICC), General Gerardo de los Santos Mora. The CICC is the intelligence unit responsible for drug surveillance at all Dominican airports.

"Vla" gets 30 years
Former "Sajayines" gang member Eddy Vladimir "Vla" Pujols has been sentenced to 30 years in jail, the maximum under Dominican law, for the murder of journalist Juan Andujar on 14 September 2004. Pujols must also pay RD$1.3 million in damages. Accomplice Ricardo Michael Bienvenido Agramonte received a five-year sentence and has been ordered to pay RD$300,000. A third accomplice's case, Jose Ricardo Munoz Herrera, was declared incompetent because he was 17 years old at the time of the crime, and therefore needs to be tried in a juvenile court.

A-Rod and Reyes get recognition
Dominicans Alex Rodriguez and Jose Reyes have been named players of the month for their spectacular performances during April. Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees, batted .355, had 34 RBI, and tied the homerun record for the month of April with 14. Reyes, shortstop for the New York Yankees, batted .356 with 26 RBI, and had 17 stolen bases.

Reyes on most beautiful list
New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes has been named one of People en Espanol's 50 most beautiful people. Reyes, 23, is considered one of baseball's brightest stars, but his fame has now placed him in the jet-set category, together with the likes of Ricky Martin, Chayanne and Jerry Rivera. This isn't the first time a Dominican baseball player gets on the list. Last year Alex Rodriguez received the honor.

Bachata in Madrid
Some of Bachata's brightest stars performed together at Madrid's Palacio Vistalegre last night, giving the Spanish capital a taste of this increasingly popular Dominican musical genre. Fourteen thousand spectators came out to watch Monchy & Alexandra, Hector Acosta, Elvis Martinez, El Chaval, Luis Miguel del Amargue, Jimmy Bauer and Sin Secreto perform some of their greatest hits. The show began at 5pm and ended at 10pm.
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