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Daily News - Friday, 11 May 2007

President visits "tornado" area
President Leonel Fernandez will be in Dajabon today in order to better understand the situation in the area after strong winds caused the injuries of 36 persons and caused damage to 226 homes. Yesterday Diario Libre reported that damages were at around US$150 million. RD$30 million have been allotted for reconstruction works. Public Works Minister Freddy Perez said that by the weekend Dajabon should be getting back to normal. Along with food rations, the President's Social Plan will be handing out stoves, gas tanks, mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets to victims. As a result of the strong winds, the Center for Emergency Operations (COE) is maintaining a state of alert in the Dajabon area. COE is maintaining flood warnings for many parts of the country.

Santiago gets money
The government has given Santiago RD$200 million to complete various public works projects including the residential development, Ciudad Professor Juan Bosch, the remodeling of the Sports Palace, and the remodeling of the historic center of the city. Diario Libre reports that this is only 10% of the total that will be invested in public works in the province.

IMF mission arrives Wednesday
A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be arriving in the DR next Wednesday to complete the review of the stand-by arrangement for the first quarter of the year and study macroeconomic perspectives for the rest of the year. Andy Wolf again heads the IMF delegation. The mission was here at the beginning of April.
As reported in El Caribe, the review will determine whether the DR has met the requirements to receive US$228 million to strengthen Central Bank reserves as established in the stand by arrangement. This is the 7th review of the stand by arrangement that was signed in January 2005 for a 28-month period. The arrangement was extended to 37 months and will now end 30 January 2008.

Government looks for another loan
The Executive Branch has submitted to the Senate a loan proposal for US$10 million from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) to be used for the Real Estate Jurisdiction Consolidation Program. The loan would serve as additional support for the program. The Supreme Court is executing the plan.

No tax cuts
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa said that the government does not contemplate changes in the Tax Code that incorporate tax increases in January 2007. As reported, Bengoa said that the government will seek to find ways to support the Presidente brewery without changing the law. There had been speculation that the government would reduce taxes on beer sales after the Presidente brewery announced the suspension of the Presidente Latin Music Festival on grounds that new taxes had considerably reduced their sales. Economy and Planning Minister Temistocles Montas had speculated the government was considering tax cuts.

New industrial parks
At a RD$300 million investment, three new industrial parks are under construction to lodge small and medium-sized businesses. Operations at the new industrial parks will begin in October. According to the president of the Dominican Federation of Small and Medium Sized Businesses (CODOPYME), Issachard Burgos, 500 firms will be located in the three new parks employing 6,000 people. The rehabilitation of the San Cristobal industrial park will begin in June with a budget of RD$138 million.

Wishful thinking with the Metro
Despite increasing public rejection of the Santo Domingo Metro project and increasing suspicion that the Metro project was initiated without the proper surveys and studies being conducted, the project is moving along. Diario Libre reports that 560 tons of steel railings have arrived in the country and are currently awaiting installation. Each railing is 18 meters in length. The rails were made in France by the CIN-TSO company, which has been contracted to install the first line of the Santo Domingo Metro. According to Metro officials, the first line of the Metro will be ready by December of this year if all goes according to plans.
Speaking at the Listin Diario, Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) head Diandino Pena said that the Metro will eventually stretch across the whole country, though this will be carried out in the next 50 to 100 years.
Responding to criticisms that the Metro was constructed without the proper studies, Pena commented that there is nothing safer than the metro tunnels and said that the proper studies have been done.
Though Pena demonstrates confidence in the project and assures the proper studies have been done not everyone is on the same page. Journalist Huchi Lora keeps asking for Metro plans to be released to the public and proof that the proper studies have been carried out. But his request has met with resistance from Pena and even President Leonel Fernandez.
Though Lora's request, through the freedom of information act, was upheld by a court ruling, Fernandez is arguing that because of public safety and national security, the information requested by Lora should not be released.
Geologist Osiris de Leon has speculated that there has been so much secrecy because the required studies have not been done, and there is much improvisation as the work progresses. Journalist Huchi Lora says that he has yet to receive any information regarding his request and earlier this week Listin Diario reported that the Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) and the Dominican government are looking to appeal a court decision that would force OPRET to hand over studies of the Dominican Metro to Lora.
Government lawyers Antonio Delgado and Mariano German explained that the ruling to hand over the information can't be released until the Supreme Court rules on the issue. Delgado continued by saying that because of national security issues, certain plans cannot be revealed to the public. Delgado did however say that the Metro has all of its plans and studies. During a meeting at Listin Diario, OPRET head Diandino Pena presented various plans and studies for the Santo Domingo Metro.

Energy sector subsidies
The government paid out US$154.7 million in subsidies to the energy sector in the first four months of the year. The subsidies are part of the US$400 million that the government has budgeted for the energy sector. State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) points out that of the US$154.7 million US$104.6 million were used to cover the energy sectors deficit, US$32.3 million were used to subsidies the Program to Reduce Blackouts (PRA) in poorer neighborhoods, and US$17.7 million for investments of the energy distributors EdeEste, EdeSur, and EdeNorte. During the first four months of the year EdeEste and EdeNorte received 21% of the funds while EdeSur received 20% and the CDEEE received 18% of the funds.

Caricom meeting in Belize
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso will be in Belize today to participate in the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit. Morales will be representing President Leonel Fernandez. Morales commented that the SICA-Caricom summit is an important step in strengthening political, economic, and cooperation between Central America and the Caribbean. The basic objective of SICA is to achieve Central American integration, in order to make Central America a region of peace, freedom, democracy, and development, firmly grounded in the observance, protection, and promotion of human rights.

JCE to watch campaign funding
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) is guaranteeing that the President and high ranking officials that support his candidacy will not be able to use public funds for his 2008 presidential campaign. JCE Judge Eddy Olivares said that it just isn't the use of funds for advertising. Using funds for any political kind of campaigning will not be accepted. Olivares spoke of the need for transparency in the electoral process.

Fernandez's approval rating
According to a study conducted by Consulta Mitofsky, a Mexican firm, President Leonel Fernandez has a 38% approval rating, one of the lowest in the region. His approval rating is higher than that of US President George Bush (36%), Panamanian President Martin Torrijos (24%) and Guatemalan President Oscart Berger (20%). In comparison Ecuadorian President Rafael Corea and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have the highest approval ratings at 76% and 75%.
See http://www.consulta.com.mx/interiores/14_entorno_int/...

Total vote for Fernandez
President Leonel Fernandez won the PLD primary with 71.5% of the vote. His contender, Danilo Medina received 28.4% of the vote. The final bulletin on the primary showed that 574,297 party members voted. Of these, 403,577 voted for Fernandez and 160,505 for Medina. 10,215 votes were annulled. President Fernandez candidacy will be announced on 30 June.

Aristy defends himself
PRSC pre-presidential candidate Amable Aristy Castro is implying that the accusations brought against him by the Central Electoral Board, that he used Dominican Municipal League (LMD) funds for his campaign, are all part of a plan to discredit his presidential aspiration. Joaquin Ricardo, a PRSC coordinator came to Aristy's aid by saying that any "involuntary error" on behalf of Aristy will be corrected immediately. Speaking in Hoy Aristy denied ever using any LMD funds and said that he used his own funds to pay for the booklet that caused the scandal. Meanwhile LMD public relations officer Jose de Jesus Reyes took responsibility for any error. De Jesus said he would go to the JCE today to deposit papers in order to make it clear that he didn't use any LMD funds.
The funds misuse scandal is not Aristy's only problem at the moment. Aristy has also been taken to justice for allegedly not paying for an electricity study. Jose Anibal Balbuena Lantigua brought the claim against Aristy and his daughter Higuey Mayor Karina Aristy Logrono. In the case, Balbuena says that Aristy owes him RD$8.1 million for a study he did on the consumption of energy for the Higuey city hall. Balbuena claims that the consultation lead to a RD$40 million reduction of costs. Balbuena says that one year after receiving the benefits of the work, he hasn't been paid.

Fernandez and Horford
President Leonel Fernandez said yesterday that it was a great honor for the Dominican Republic to have Al Horford now playing in the NBA. Fernandez made his comments after meeting with the 20-year old forward who recently helped the University of Florida capture its second straight NCAA National Championship. During the meeting between the two, which took place at the Funglode offices, Horford gave the President the autographed jersey he used in the championship game against Ohio State.
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