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Daily News - Thursday, 26 July 2007

Fernandez discusses water situation
President Leonel Fernandez has met with high-ranking officials from the drinking water sector to discuss trucking water to relieve the recent water shortage. Santo Domingo Water Authority (CAASD) head Richard Martinez, National Drinking Water Institute (INAPA) head Victor Diaz Rua, and Frank Rodriguez, the head of National Hydraulic Resource Institute (INDRHI) were present at the meeting. The CAASD and INAPA directors presented the President with their plans to stabilize the drinking water crisis and Martinez said that water distribution has increased by 30 million gallons daily.

DGII 10 year overview
At an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, Tax Department (DGII) head Juan Hernandez outlined the progress made by the department that is now 10 years old. He highlighted the fact that over this period, tax collections have increased by 67%, going from 6.29% of the country's GDP in 1997 to 11% at present. He attributed these advances to the professional staff at the department, who have made the most of new electronic technology. Progress will continue, according to Hernandez, and the DGII intends to educate future generations about the importance of paying taxes, with tax education to be incorporated into the high school curriculum shortly.
Hernandez spoke about the simplification of the tax system, with the recent passing of the Law of Collections Efficiency (Ley de Eficiencia Recaudatoria) that abolished 17 laws, including the tax on documents. Others are a reduction of 30% on real estate property transfers, 39% on the tax on vehicle transfers, 45% tax on company formation, and 45% on the tax on increasing company capital.
Hernandez also stressed that for the first time in Dominican tax history, the government's tax returns were worth RD$8.2 billion in 2006. So far this year, it has returned RD$4.1 billion.
Hernandez went on to focus on the success of efforts to retain taxes from credit and debit card sales, special provisions for the construction sector, and the new ruling for crosschecking invoices (NCF). He said that ITBIS tax evasion has dropped by 12%, and the target for 2008 is that tax evasion will decline to 28%.
He reported that tax collections in 2006 increased by RD$28 billion compared to 2005, an increase of 35%. In the first half of the year, tax collections are up by 30%, compared to the previous year, or an additional RD$8.4 billion.
He said that the next step would be to implement a program to control unregistered sales (off the books). He says that these sales put taxpayers who comply with the tax laws at an unfair disadvantage.
Hernandez also highlighted the fact that the DGII's positive performance has yielded RD$8.1 billion more than estimated for the first half of the year.

Off the books sales will be controlled
Tax Department (DGII) head Juan Hernandez, speaking yesterday at a luncheon at the American Chamber of Commerce, said that the DGII would implement a program aimed at controlling "off the books" sales, which seeks to eliminate the practice within three months. Hernandez explained that as part of the program, companies would be required to document their merchandise inventory.

Energy criminalization bill
After two consecutive readings yesterday, the Senate approved the energy criminalization bill as received from the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday. The bill now passes to President Leonel Fernandez for signing into law.
Hoy writes that a majority block of the ruling PLD voted in favor of the bill while the three PRD members who were present voted against it, and the PRSC senators were absent. PRSC Senator Adriano Sanchez Roa justified the PRSC block's absence by saying that the bill would negatively affect the country's poorest citizens. PRD Senator Mario Torres says that the bill is abusive.
Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez (PLD-National District) disputed claims that the legislation only affects the poor. He pointed to Article 125-2 that establishes smaller fines for smaller-scale electricity theft. The law establishes three to five days in prison, fines equivalent to three to five times the minimum wage, or both when the energy stolen is less than 1,000 kWh. The maximum penalty will be three years in jail 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.
The senators didn't change the aspects that affect the energy system regulators, marginal costs and concessions. Articles 3 through 20 were rejected by the Senate, as was done by the Chamber, as well as articles 24 through 27.
Part of the law also establishes a penalty of between 3 and 10 years in prison and fines of between 50 and 200 minimum salaries for anyone accused of intentionally destroying electric lines, networks, substations or energy equipment. The legislation also determined that power service could be disconnected if a client is behind with their bill by only a month. In the past, clients had two months before the service would be suspended.
The modifications also affect large businesses. The new law decided to set the level of demand for a single user to purchase directly from generators to 1.4 MW. The law had established a level of 200 kilowatts, but the Superintendence of Electricity made a ruling in favor of power distributors that feared losing revenue from large companies. The new ruling establishes that the level of demand will be reduced to a new base level of 1 MW over a four-year period in order to buy directly.

ARS and doctors reach agreement
Doctors and the private health insurance providers (ARS) have come to an agreement about the fees doctors should charge once the government's health plan (SFS) comes into effect on 1 September. Enriquillo Matos, head of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD), is quoted in Listin Diario saying that the process has been a headache, but the CMD, the clinics and doctors have been working to find a solution to the issues.

Japanese help two decades strong
In a ceremony held yesterday, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) director Kiyoski Yoshimoto presented six new Japanese volunteers who will be working here for the next two years. In the last two decades more than 400 young Japanese volunteers have come to the DR to serve in the areas of education, health, agriculture and the environment. The current contingent has a range of skills to offer. Eiji Eguchi has expertise in rural development and will be working with the Constanza municipal authority. Chikako Sugawara, a nurse, will be working with the Ministry of Public Health in Samana. Yukie Hashimoto will be working in Santiago and Fumiko Bushimata will be doing social work with child welfare agency CONANI in Santo Domingo. This is the 66th group of volunteers from Japan that has come to the DR.

Codetel to make investments
In 2007 the Dominican Telephone Company (CODETEL) will invest US$250 million in new infrastructure, improvement of networks and introduction of new services. CODETEL president Oscar Pena Chacon says that this figure is the largest amount invested in telecommunications in recent years. CODETEL plans to introduce new GSM phones, as well as faster Internet services.

Spotlight on abortion
The National District Attorney General's Office is preparing to prosecute three doctors and four nurses for performing illegal abortions at three Santo Domingo clinics. Abortion is illegal and penalized by Law 317. Doctors Luis Antonio McKinney Soriano, Numas Perez Molina and Ramon Antonio Nunez Cruz, and nurses Erinia Devora Castro, Elerolisa Brazoban Martinez (Isabel), Miola Silvestre Pena and Josefina Hernandez Burgos have been under investigation since February. Also under investigation are the Doctor McKinney, Dr. Perez Molina and Centro Medico San Ramon clinics, where the medical staff worked. The pending case became public after the abortion issue was debated in Congress. The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) is in favor of penalizing doctors who perform abortions or cause harm to patients during the procedures, while supporting abortion in cases of incest, rape or congenital malformation. Discussions are still under way about whether to legalize or penalize abortions in the Penal Code that is under review in Congress.

Increasing security at airports
The chief of the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA), Major General Juan Bautista Rojas Tabar has put the nation's airports on high alert after a warning from the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) about possible terrorist attacks. Rojas Tabar, quoted in Listin Diario, said that airports will be on level three warning and as a result, vigilance has been stepped at airports.

Pan Am updates
Gold could be the color of choice for this year for the DR's boxing team. Juan Carlos Payano and Argenis Nunez will both fight for gold on Saturday after they beat their rivals from Mexico and Brazil. Payano's victory was much easier than expected after defeating his opponent Braulio Alvarez 20 to 4 in the 51 KG weight class. Nunez had a tougher battle beating the Brazilian boxer Glaucelio Abreu 19 to 14.
In the karate 80-kilo weight category, Juan Carlos Valdez won another bronze medal for the DR.
Table tennis stars continue their strong performances after Nieves Xue and Jennifer Quian won their respective matches in the first round of the individual tournament.
In bowling, Rolando Antonio Sebelen and Victor Richard have managed to move on to the second round and are among the 32 best bowlers in the Pan American games.
It also seems like Dominican star sprinter Super Felix is almost back to top shape and is proving it during the games, which are being held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
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