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Daily News - Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Economy gets good marks
President Leonel Fernandez received a report from his economic team where it was established that the DR has met economic goals set forth in the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, interviewed after a two-hour meeting with the President, said that the government feels very good about the report that highlights the Dominican economy's positive developments. Bengoa says that the goals regarding the country's reserves, debt, inflation and spending have all been met. Listin Diario writes that the President was pleased with the results.
Also present at the meeting were Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu, Planning Minister Juan Temistocles Montas, Industry & Commerce Minister Francisco Javier, Tax Department director Juan Hernandez, Customs director Miguel Cocco and Banks Superintendent Rafael Camilo. The team agreed to meet every 15 days with the President.

No postponement for SFS
Enriquillo Matos, head of the Dominican Medical College (CMD), Pedro Luis Castellanos, of the Citizen's Forum and Rafael Pepe Abreu of the National Counsel for Union Solidarity (CNUS) said they will reject any new postponements of the governments health plan (SFS). Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez recommended that the health plan companies (ARS) abandon the health insurance business if they don't think it would be profitable under the new scheme. Minister Rojas said the government would not give in to any special interest group in its intention to get the SFS running by 1 September. Abreu and Castellanos seconded the Minister's comments by saying that neither the state, the government, nor society can allow interests and minority groups to deter the future of the SFS. Vice President Rafael Alburquerque said that the government will not allow the ARSs to assume individualistic positions that could delay the implementation of the SFS. He also said that measures will be taken to make sure that resolutions adopted by the Health Superintendence are not violated.

DGII's fiscal intelligence unit
Officials at the Tax Department (DGII) are studying the possibility of creating a fiscal intelligence unit, which would help the department strengthen its efforts to reduce tax evasion. Diario Libre writes that after the cross check invoicing (NCF) program was started, requiring companies and businesses to report their sales, ITBIS (VAT) tax collection has gone up considerably. The intelligence unit would be a step further to detect persons who are evading taxes by working under the name of a third party.
Diario Libre explains that tips on possible tax evasion in Brazil have come as a result of a divorcing couple, or in the case of competitor companies. The new department would provide a way to channel the intelligence to the tax authorities.

Energy criminalization bill passed
Last night the Chamber of Deputies approved changes to the General Electricity Law incorporating only parts of an Executive Branch bill that sought an overhaul of the Law. The changes approved criminalize the theft of energy by consumers and penalize the electricity distributors if they are found guilty of overcharging consumers for energy consumed. The law establishes 3 to 5 days prison, 3 to 5 minimum salaries, or both when the energy stolen is less than 1,000 kWh. The maximum penalty will be 3 years and fines of 320 to 5,000 minimum public sector salaries when the energy stolen is beyond 100 kilowatt of connected load if metering is at high tension. Deputies didn't change aspects that affect the energy regulators of the energy system, marginal costs and concessions. Articles 3 through 20 were rejected by the Chamber as were articles 24 through 27. Part of the law also establishes a penalty of between 3 and 10 years of prison and fines of between 50 and 200 minimum salaries to persons accused of intentionally destroying electric lines, networks, substations, or energy equipment.
The Chamber of Deputies also determined that power service can be cut if a client is behind paying his bill by only a month. In the past, clients had two months before service was suspended.
The modifications also affect large businesses. The Chamber of Deputies decided to set to 1.4 MW the level of demand for a single user to purchase directly from generators. The Law had established a level of 200 kilowatts, but the Superintendence of Electricity had administratively ruled in favor of power distributors that feared losing the revenues of the large companies. The new ruling establishes that over a four-year period the level of demand will be dismounted to a new base level of 1 MW in order to buy directly.

Chamber ratifies IDB loan
Last night the Chamber of Deputies ratified a US$150 million loan that was negotiated by the government and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB). The credit will be used for a program geared towards strengthening social management and specifically for welfare program that will fund school breakfasts, low cost eateries, and distribution of low cost foods. The loan was approved with an 85 to 6 vote.

Fadul on pension fund use
Labor Minister Jose Ramon Fadul, head of the National Social Security Council (CNSS) says that that body that manages the use of pension plan funds doesn't have on agenda any proposal that would divert the funds to a housing project or to Central Bank certificates, as was announced by President Leonel Fernandez. Diario Libre writes that the pension funds are at RD$39 billion and the CNSS, which is the organization that is authorized to divert the funds, says the matter has not been formally discussed nor is it on their agenda.
On 4 July 2007, President Leonel Fernandez announced he was requesting that the funds be used for building 4,000 low-income housing units for public school teachers. He also said he had requested that the CNSS issue a resolution that authorizes that a portion of the funds be placed in Central Bank certificates. President Fernandez also favored that the funds be used to build roads. The announcement was made during a workshop on "How to Access the Pension Funds," held yesterday at the Santo Domingo Hilton Hotel.

Industrial competitiveness hurting
According to the Dominican Association of Industries (AIRD) the ability of the manufacturing sector to generate jobs and contribute to the country's development is being seriously affected by the openness of the Dominican markets. Manuel Diaz Cabral, president of AIRD, pointed to the Central Bank's recognition of the limitations faced by the free trade zones, especially in the textile sector. But he said that the competitiveness of local industry in general is affected by the indexation of salaries, the increase in energy and transport costs and the corrections to the exchange rate. Diez says that unfortunately authorities aren't noticing that those limitations also affect local businesses that do not enjoy the same benefits that free trade zones have. Diez, speaking in Hoy, said that the DR is walking along a tight rope and says that the local market is in a state of asphyxiation.

Euromoney on Dominican banking
The finance magazine Euromoney has classified the Banco Popular as the best bank in the DR. The recognition is in July's issue. Euromoney highlights the management of Banco Popular, under the guidance of President Manuel Grullon.

South Korea loan for Customs
The Customs Department (DGA) signed a loan agreement yesterday with the Korean firm Unipass Internationalization Association (CUPIA) for US$999,000 to modernize the DGA. The agreement is part of a US$23 million loan program guaranteed by the South Korean export agency, the Export/Import Bank of South Korea. The agreement was signed by Miguel Cocco of Customs and firm president CUPIA Jong-un Lee.

Diplomatic ties with Vietnam
Vietnamese Ambassador Pham Tien Tu, who is based in Cuba, completed a two-day visit to the DR and invited President Leonel Fernandez to visit Vietnam this year or next. Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso will visit Vietnam next month. Tien Tu spoke of advances in technical cooperation, trade and investment between both countries. He commented that a Vietnamese car parts assembly factory could open in the DR by the end of the year. The ambassador commented that Vietnam could learn from the Dominican tourism experience, now that it seeks to attract more visitors.

Danilo a no show at meeting
Former presidential candidate Danilo Medina was a no show at last night's meeting of the PLD's political committee. During the meeting, which was headed by President Leonel Fernandez, 18 November was chosen as the date that the party will proclaim Fernandez as PLD candidate in the 2008 election. Medina did not give the committee a reason for not attending. During the meeting it was decided that Reinaldo Pared Perez would remain as head of the Senate and Cristina Lizardo would remain as vice president. Also it was decided that Julio Cesar Valentin would remain as head of the Chamber of Deputies and Yomaira Mediana, sister of Danilo Medina, would be its vice president.

New drug hits Dominican market
A new drug has hit the streets of the Dominican Republic. Ketamine, known on the streets as Special K, is an anesthetic that can only be acquired through a prescription, but the Santo Domingo attorney general's office is investigating a group of persons accused of being part of a network that has introduced the drug in the DR. The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) says that in the last few days they have performed raids in the Gazcue and Quisqueya sections of Santo Domingo and have found thousands of small Ketamine bottles. Ketamine's use has been discontinued in many countries because of its hallucinogenic properties.

Funny, sad and true
A group of 13 Dominicans on an illegal boat trip to Puerto Rico were surprised to discover instead of their destination they had landed on touristically-developed Cortecito Beach in La Altagracia, where they were arrested by Dominican authorities. The group thought they had landed in Puerto Rico, their desired destination. The travelers had paid RD$20,000 to RD$40,000 each for the trip. They departed from northwestern coast of Samana province. The travelers said that the captain of the boat had told them to disembark as they had reached the shores of Puerto Rico. It is a common for travelers to get conned out of large sums of money.

Pan Am updates
After a slow start, the DR is finally regrouping itself at this year's Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro. In boxing, a strong spot for the DR, yesterday at least two bronze medals in the 51 kilo and 75 kilo weight classes were guaranteed by boxers Juan Carlos Payano Argenis Nunez.
Also the DR's female table tennis team will also be guaranteed no less than a bronze medal in this year's games. The team beat Venezuela in its last match and today will play against Canada with a chance to move into the finals.
In tennis, Victor Estrella and Jhonson Garcia both debuted with strong showings.
The DR has a total of 10 medals in this year's games, three gold, one silver and six bronze. The team expects to return home with at least 18 medals.

Joan will fight in September
Dominican boxer, and the pride of Guachupita, Joan Guzman has tentatively set 8 September as his next fight date against Mexican boxer Humberto Soto. The fight will be held at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut or Atlantic City. Guzman, with a 27-0-0 record and 17 knockouts, is still in New York training for his fight. Guzman hasn't fought a pro fight since his victory last December.
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