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Daily News - Thursday, 12 July 2007

Surplus funds allotted
The government will send to Congress a bill in order to legally be able to allot the RD$11.5 billion fiscal surplus. This year alone government revenues are up by RD$23 billion. In addition to the windfall produced by increased income and ITBIS taxes, and more efficient tax collection procedures, the government has benefited from the tax on ferronickel export sales, and the sale of Verizon.
Surplus money would be used for the increasing propane gas subsidy, to create a RD$1 billion catastrophy fund, RD$1.5 billion would be allotted to the city governments, RD$1.05 billion to wage increases for public school teachers, RD$1.5 billion tos the Family Health Insurance (SFS) that is scheduled to start 1 September 12007, RD$600 million to support potable water assistance programs while the drought persists, and RD$1.09 billion to 13th Christmas wage payments of decentralized government institutions, as reported in Hoy. Hoy writes that the budget for the entire year of RD$2.4 billion propane gas subsidy fund has been depleted in the first half of the year.

CD and UNDP sign agreement
Julio Cesar Valentin, on behalf of the Chamber of Deputies (CD), and Niky Fabiancic, on behalf of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a year-long RD$8.6 million cooperation agreement. The agreement provides for mechanisms that would make the institution more effective and transparent. The funds will be used to strengthen the permanent and special commissions, and the administrative capacities of the Chamber. The UNDP will contribute RD$6.5 million and the Chamber will put forth RD$1.9 million.

Canada and DR have FT meeting
The DR and Canada are slowly moving towards signing a free trade agreement. A meeting took place at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa this week where the dates for the four rounds of talks were chosen, with a 5th round of talks possible. The meeting comes after David Emerson, Canadian minister of trade, called for a resuming of the talks in a 7 June speech.
Dominican ambassador Eduardo Tejera said that the process for the trade talks has been set and that topics have been divided into seven groups of discussion covering intellectual property, goods, investment, government procurement and conflict resolution amongst others. Juan Giuliani Cury, trade negotiator at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, said that the agricultural sector will be protected throughout the negotiations process.
The Fernandez administration recently appointed former Central Electoral Board (JCE) president, Luis Arias to replace ambassador Tejera in Canada.

Economic impact of this week's strike
Monday's nationwide strike represented a 24.2% decrease in revenues and Diario Libre reports that the government lost out on RD$101 million through Customs (DGA) and the Tax Department (DGII) because of the strike. A report by the Hacienda Ministry explains that DGA and DGII had estimated collections on Monday of RD$416 million. DGA collected RD$163 million of its estimated RD$187 million, 12.8% less than expected, while DGII collected RD$152 million of its expected RD$229 million. Revenues through the National Treasury and taxes on gasoline were not included in the study.

Infant mortality still high
The infant mortality rate in the DR continues to be high. It is above the average of other Latin American countries. The lack of adequate attention in the days after the birth is one of the many reasons for the high rates, according to Tad Palac, the UNICEF representative in the DR. Palac says that the mortality rate has decreased, but only slightly. The rate is 30 deaths per 1,000 births. Palac says that it is worrisome that the deaths usually occur within the first month after the birth but said that progress could be made considering that between 96% and 97% of births are now taking place in hospitals.

Free buses?
Taxpayers may have to pick up the tab for the 425 affiliates of the Federacion de Transporte La Nueva Opcion (Fenatrano) that have defaulted on payments of 431 minibuses they received for public transport. The city government of former Mayor Johnny Ventura authorized in 2002 that the Santo Domingo municipality serve as guarantor for the bus loans. Hoy reports that Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa reported that Fenatrano has not made payments on the US$16.2 million loan since 29 March 2006, and there are capital arrears for RD$409.9 million and RD$71.8 million in past due interest payments. Bengoa said that the city government would be responsible for the debt taken with the governmental Banco de Reservas.
Juan Hubieres, spokesman for the organization, said the government should also reveal pending debts of other transport unions.
Fenatrano, and other transport unions, are hoping the government will again extend a new financing program, being dubbed Plan Renove II, to replace their vehicles that are showing their age.

UNFPA and DR sign agreement
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the DR have signed a cooperation agreement to help better maternal health and motivate more male involvement in maternal health. The agreement was signed yesterday, World Population Day by Women's Minister Flavia Garcia, UNFPA representative Nelson Rodriguez and Deputies Gilbert Serulle and Magaly Caram from Profamilia. The agreement will collaborate with the government and the civil society to try to provide women with three basic health services including voluntary family planning, birth care and obstetrician care if there is an emergency.
Gilka Melendez, speaking on behalf of UNFPA said that each minute a woman in some part of the world dies from a preventable cause, as reported in the Listin Diario. She also explained that 99% of the maternal deaths occur in developing nations. UNFA is stressing that men should more vigorously participate as partners in maternal health in order to significantly reduce the number of women who die each day in childbirth.

Dominican population increases
According to the National Population and Family Council (CONAPOFA), the Dominican population is at 9.3 million and will reach 9.5 million by July of 2008. According to CONAPOFA the DR population is predominantly urban. The capital city and province of Santo Domingo is the most populated urban area. The report specifies that in the DR there are 4,696,621 women and 4,667,031 men.

DR host literacy conference
The DR will be host to the III Literacy Conference (CAB). The goal of the conference is to develop strategies to eliminate illiteracy by 2020. The Ministry of Education is sponsoring the event. Representatives from Spain and 11 Latin American countries will participate in the conference. Fausto Mota, of the Ministry of Education, said that the conference seeks to reaffirm the nation's commitment to quality education.

UN diplomats suspended
A source at the Ministry of Foreign Relations told Hoy that seven members of the Dominican delegation to the United Nations have been suspended for disciplinary reasons. The suspensions were carried out earlier this month after the suspended personnel reportedly left their posts without permission. The suspended members received salaries between US$7,000 and US$10,000 per month and the source at the Ministry said that it is unjust that people receiving those levels of salaries aren't doing their jobs. The source said the move could be repeated in the next days at embassies and consulate offices around the world. The unnamed source at the Ministry of Foreign Relations claimed that many of the diplomats at the UN would travel to the DR for extended periods of time without a superior's permission.

Cuban global warming alert
Cuban Science, Technology and Environmental Minister Fernando Gonzalez Bermudez warned Dominican authorities yesterday about the environmental consequences of global warming. He urged authorities to take steps to mitigate those effects. The increase in sea levels, the increase in storms and the damage to coral reefs in the country are only some of the damages Gonzalez alerted to. The minster also said that even though Latin America and the Caribbean do not emit many greenhouse gases, as do the more developed regions, the region should better integrate to finding solutions. Environment Minister Max Puig said that environmental concerns can affect the economy because an increase in sea levels will affect tourism and that DR beaches could suffer irreparable damages. The ministers made their comments after signing a cooperation agreement. The meeting took place at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Havana, Cuba.

No excuse for sexual harassment
Women's Minister Flavia Garcia said that in no case is there ever an excuse for sexual harassment. She called on the educational authorities to be vigilant in reported cases of sexual harassment. Garcia commented on claims by UASD university professors that the provocative way some students dress could encourage sexual harassment. The professors claimed that some women dress provocatively to get better grades and pass a class. She said that a woman's dignity should always be respected. She also urged all women who have been victims of harassment to break their silence and come forth.

Quirino should get 100 years
National District Attorney General Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero said that ex Captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, who is currently jailed in the US, deserves a 100 year jail sentence for his role in a drug trafficking ring that was discovered in 2004. Hernandez, quoted in Listin Diario, said that any penalty or any goods that have been confiscated from Quirino will never be enough to pay back the country and its people for the damage he has done.

Many children work in Southwest
Around 24% of school aged children in the southwest part of the DR are victims of child labor according to statistics released by the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences (FLACSO). The study, done by Alicia Ziffrer, Miguel Escala, Alexandra Santelises and Guillermo Milan, revealed that in the provinces of Azua, Barahona, Independencia and San Juan de la Maguana 59.2% of homes have a monthly income of RD$5,000.

What are they hiding?
The family of the late Angel Christopher Martinez is demanding the solving of the murder of the former director of the air navigation department at the Civil Aviation Board, Angel Christopher Martinez. His son, Eric Christopher Martinez questions that chief of the Police, Bernardo Santana Paez has not shown an interest in the case nor has received the family to provide an explanation. In an interview with the Listin Diario, Christopher accuses known Police agents of the murder of his father. He says that one of them, a Colombian, was allowed to mysteriously leave the country. He said that officers of the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation (IDAC) and operators of local airlines were involved in the murder of his father. Several of these, he said, were present during the ceremony where President Leonel Fernandez received the certificate that authorizes Dominican airplanes to fly to the US. "My family is filled with indignation that the efforts of my father, who paid in his blood so that the country could advance to category one, were not even mentioned, while other persons received the credit," stated Christopher. Christopher says that with the attitude of the authorities, they make it appear that they are at the service of crime, impunity and corruption. In previous statements, Christopher had said that his father was murdered because he uncovered an airplane transporting drugs, which those involved did not want publicly known.

Big worries for Big Papi
Major League Baseball's website is reporting that Big Papi David Ortiz will have an MRI done on his right knee once he returns to Boston. Ortiz has been complaining of tightness in his right leg, but added that his right knee could be the root of the soreness. He also added that surgery could be a possibility at the end of the year. Concerns are looming throughout Boston, considering that Ortiz is the cornerstone of the Red Sox offense and has been for the last four seasons. This year Ortiz is batting .314 with 14 homeruns and 52 RBI.
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