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Daily News - Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Fernandez to Brazil
President Leonel Fernandez is traveling to Brazil via Miami this Friday, 15 June to meet with Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and business sector representatives. Fernandez's trip to Brazil comes at a time of increased relations between the two nations. Brazil recently offered to help the DR with an ethanol fuel production project and Brazilian businesspeople have been visiting the DR in search of investment opportunities. Fernandez is scheduled to visit San Salvador de Bahia and then make his way to Rio de Janeiro where he will meet with executives from the Oderbrecht construction company that has been contracted for dam and aqueduct construction projects in the DR. He will also be meeting with executives from Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras). Fernandez will then travel to Sao Jose dos Campos. His trip will end in the Amazon city of Manaus. He is scheduled to return on Saturday, 23 June.

Guajimia apartments for poor
President Leonel Fernandez will take part in today's inauguration of the newly built Guajimia apartment complex, which will house 208 families. The complex includes one, two and three-room apartments and was built by the Santo Domingo Water and Sanitation Corporation (CAASD) in association with Canadian company Dessau-Soprin at a cost of RD$118 million. Initially 40 families will be living at the complex while the rest are still waiting for their certifications for moving into an apartment. The apartment complex is part of the general program to improve conditions for those living in the Guajimia canal environs. Today, garbage thrown in the storm and sanitary drainage system open-air canals causes regular flooding in western Santo Domingo, and the project seeks to correct this. The company is using an integrated, single window service approach to implement a project in which it will completely redevelop the area by replacing the open-air canals with underground storm and sanitary drainage systems.
See www.dessausoprin.com/eng/industrial/projguajimia.cfm

Jimenez challenge ignored by board
The National Hotels and Restaurants Association (Asonahores) board has yet to meet to give beleaguered Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez the vote of confidence he asked for, as reported in Diario Libre. Jimenez convened a press conference to make the challenge to the industry last week. He specifically asked Asonahores and the other private hotel associations to either support his tenure as Minister or else he would resign upon returning from a promotional trip to Spain. Juan Dolio and Playa Dorada tourism associations were prompt to publish newspaper ads in his support.
Diario Libre reports the press conference was called after the newspaper reported that Jimenez had authorized a "no objection" for construction on a lot that is part of the National Park of the East. Today's edition of Diario Libre says that the land in question was sold to Carlos Sanchez Hernandez, who together with another 60 people is involved in the Spanish tax evasion case known as Caso Marbella, or Operacion Malaya.
According to the report, Jimenez has yet to provide full details about the reasons for granting the "no objection" to the construction and for contracting the study for the subdividing of parklands when that is the exclusive responsibility of the Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Instead, Diario Libre says that Jimenez called the press conference and challenged the tourism sector to state its support as his response to journalist inquiries.
Though Asonahores has yet to meet and provide a definite position, group president Luis Lopez has said the association supports Jimenez. Lopez told Diario Libre that the group would meet "before the end of the year". Asonahores executive vice president Arturo Villanueva explained that there has not been a published notification from Asonahores in reply to the minister because the board has not discussed the matter and no decision has been reached.
Last year, Clave Digital published a series of articles in September on Carlos Sanchez and his Dominican tourism connections with his involvement with the Operation Malaya corruption scandal in Marbella, Spain. Clave Digital pointed out that once the tax evasion scandal hit the press in Spain, the Pinero Group purchased the remaining 40% share of the accused partners in the holding company of Cayo Levantado and Cayacoa hotels. Bahia Principe also purchased the Portillo and Gran Bahia hotels, becoming the leading tourism investor in Samana. Bahia Principe was the company that received the "no-objection" to go-ahead from the Ministry of Tourism for the construction of the proposed Bahia Principe Bayahibe within the National Park of the East.

Tax Department motorcycle registration
The Tax Department (DGII) says that motorcycle registrations will resume today after a small delay. DGII says that the delays were due to the recent thunderstorms. Officials say that a thunderstorm in Santo Domingo burned routers and equipment making it impossible to process any registrations. DGII plans to renew 866,236 motorcycle license plates and to register some 1,500,000 unregistered motorbikes.

Hernandez against tax cuts
As reported in Hoy, Tax Department (DGII) head Juan Hernandez says that there is no possibility of reducing taxes in the DR. Although this wish has been expressed by many sectors in the country, Hernandez claims that if taxes were reduced to 15%, the country would be in trouble. Hernandez cites a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that says that if the DR reduced taxes by 15% the country wouldn't be able to sustain itself for a month. He also says that the lowest tax level would be 24%, if free trade zones were included.
Hernandez's stand is not good news for the reduced number of Dominicans who do pay taxes. A front-page story in today's Listin Diario says that if hidden taxes are taken into account, the DR has the greatest tax burden in the region. "Compared with the rest of Latin America, the DR is taxed at the highest rate, especially when taking into account the narrow base of people who pay these unavoidable taxes," reports the newspaper. Economist Hector Salcedo Llibre explains that taxes in the DR are levied on the same people who always pay. Data from the Inter-American Tributary Center (CIAT) indicate that the burden is 18.3% in the DR compared to Costa Rica (14.5%), El Salvador (13.5%), Guatemala (10%), Nicaragua 16.8%), Panama (9%), Peru (14%) and Venezuela (12.5%), according to ECLAC data. Only Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay have higher tax burdens than the DR.

Government collects 43% more
Government revenues to date are 43.2% more than had been estimated. According to reports by the Department of Economic Studies at the Treasury, RD$92,82 billion had been collected by 1 June. It is estimated that for 2007 the government will collect RD$215 billion. Most of the revenue has come through the Tax Department (DGII), totaling RD$58.16 billion while Customs (DGA) added RD$20.04 billion and the Treasury added RD$14.61 billion. This however isn't the only thing that has increased. According to the same report, government spending went up by 15% over this period. The government, to date, has spent RD$83.19 billion of which RD$28.30 billion were allotted to consumption, RD$7.19 billion were towards paying interest rates, RD$3.57 billion to loans and RD$25.19 billion to transfers of salaries.

Traffic lights to do their job
Office for Metropolitan Transport (AMET) head Major General Sigfredo Fernandez Fadul has announced that from now on AMET officers on the streets will not be directing traffic. They will let the traffic lights do the job. Fernandez says that this move is part of a plan to help ease the traffic problems in Santo Domingo and other parts of the country. He explained that this comes in response to widespread requests for traffic policemen to let the traffic lights do the work. The officers will only direct traffic during a power cut, or if a light is not working for any other reason.

Looking for gold, copper and silver
The Dominican Mining Company (CORMIDOM) has announced that they will begin mining for gold, copper and silver in the Maimon area over the next few months. The mining facilities will be built at a cost of US$50 million and operations will require an investment of US$12 million per year, according to project manager Julio Espaillat. Espaillat says that CORMIDOM will employ around 350 people in construction and a further 200 will work permanently in production operations. An additional 1,000 people will be employed indirectly through the free trade zones. Estimates indicate that 200 ounces of gold, 30 tons of copper and 500 ounces of silver will be processed daily.

Aristy maintains lead
According to the sixth bulletin released by the PRSC voting commission, Dominican Municipal League (LMD) head Amable Aristy Castro continues to lead the count in the PRSC primary election with 59.47% of the vote and 76% of the voting stations counted. These results almost certainly guarantee that Aristy will win the PRSC primaries, but candidate Eduardo Estrella is not giving up so easily. Through his campaign manager Joaquin Ricardo, Estrella is asking for the counts at certain voting centers, with 600 or more votes, to be annulled because of what he calls "irregularities". Diario Libre quotes Rogelio Genao who explains that it is impossible for an electoral college to produce more than 600 votes in an eight-hour period yet some have 1,900 votes, which would be equivalent to one vote per second. Genao says that those bulletins, including the ones from the provinces where Estrella won, should be discarded. Aristy says that once he is announced as winner he will visit the grave of the late PRSC leader Joaquin Balaguer and then make a pilgrimage to Higuey to thank the Virgin of Altagracia.

World day against child labor
Today is international day against child labor and despite this being a big problem in the Dominican Republic, Diario Libre writes that 47% of Dominicans don't have the proper information on the issue. According to a report released by the Labor Ministry and the PUCMM University, "Perceptions of Child Labor by Dominican Society" there are 436,000 child workers in the DR and 43% of the population say that they "tolerate and justify dignified child labor". In fact, Hoy writes that only 5.8% of the population is against child labor. Part of the study also indicates that 60% of Dominicans feel that children can work without it interfering with their studies. Elias Dinzey, who presented the findings, says that this perception needed to change. In all 2,200 people were interviewed as part of the research and according to the findings, 15% believed that work teaches children good values.

Child rapist sent to jail
Brian Sanchez has been sent to La Victoria jail after being accused of raping his five-month old baby daughter. The incident is said to have occurred in the Canitas neighborhood of Santo Domingo on Saturday. The child's mother took the baby to the doctor after the baby wouldn't stop crying. She is currently being treated at the Robert Reid Cabral children's hospital.

Domestic violence on the rise
Chief of Police Bernardo Santana Paez says that there has been an increase in domestic violence in the last few months while in turn there has been a decrease in other crimes like robbery and hold-ups. He said that there had been 71 reported cases of domestic violence while there was a decrease in crime in the few months.

50% of prisoners tied to drugs
Listin Diario writes that of the 14,400 people in the country's jails, 50% are there for drug-related crimes. The director of prisons, Juan Ramon de la Cruz Martinez, explained that drug-takers continue with their habit even when they are behind bars. This information was provided by Dominican Attorney General Radhames Jimenez during the announcement of an agreement between the Attorney General's office and the National Council on Drugs (CND), which is head by Mabel Feliz Baez.

Dominican basketball in trouble
The Dominican national basketball team could miss the Caribbean Championships that are being held in Caguas, Puerto Rico, because a handful of players don't have visas to travel to the United States. Frank Herasme, head of the Dominican Basketball Federation (FEDOMBAL) says that he had asked the US Embassy in the DR to receive the players but was informed that they wouldn't have their visa appointments until October. Jack Michael Martinez, Manuel Guzman, Andy Turner Williams, Manuel Fortuna and Henry Lalane are among the players affected by this situation. The tournament will be held between the 5th and 12th of August and the top four finishers will have a spot in the 2008 CentroBasket tournament.
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