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Daily News - Monday, 06 August 2007

Doctors and businesses await the call
Despite the interest that President Leonel Fernandez has shown in starting up the Family Health Service (SFS) on 1 September, there are some fundamental aspects that still need to be defined. Perhaps for this very reason, Diario Libre reports that the President is going to meet with all the key actors in the sector to find some sort of solution to the three fundamental issues: doctors' and clinics' fees; free access to specialists and the patient's preferred medical facility; and the system's vertical integration. Regarding the law itself, the modifications already approved with unseemly haste might make any meeting useless for those affected. For the business community and the doctors, any dialogue with the President is important, since they can tell him about the issues that the legislators were not gracious enough to listen to. This, at least, is the opinion of Maribel Gasso, chairperson of the Confederation of Dominican Management (COPARDOM), who feels that it is reasonable to meet with Fernandez to clear up any misunderstandings that might exist surrounding the SFS. As of yesterday, though, neither the doctors nor management had received an invitation to meet with the President.
For the doctors the SFS start up will depend on the government, not the Dominican Medical Association (CMD). Their president, Dr. Enriquillo Matos, told Diario Libre reporter Lisania Batista that the doctors are not happy with the work done by the Superintendent of Health. Their claim is that the superintendent has not halted the HMOs from establishing primary care centers through third party front men. According to the reporter, doubts have increased because of the recent dismissals of doctors by the Humano HMO.

Judges at JCE agree to keep quiet
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) magistrates have agreed to keep their lips sealed and refrain from voicing their opinions on the proposal for a new set of election campaign regulations, political propaganda and the use of the media. Chief magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman announced the word-fast agreement. Castanos Guzman said that everything that has been said up till now was just "speculation" because the board isn't meeting until tomorrow, 8 August. Castanos Guzman did not exclude the possibility of combining the proposal submitted by the Administrative Chamber and the one submitted by magistrate Aura Celeste Fernandez into one set of new rules and regulations.

Schoolbooks will now last four years
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a legislative package submitted by Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito that calls for school texts to remain fixed for a four-year period before any changes take place. Publishers will be responsible for ensuring that they provide the necessary textbooks each year. The bill grants the National Education Council the authority to determine the use of textbooks according to the nation's socio-economic level. Private schools cannot change their textbooks without prior authorization from the Ministry of Education.

A billion for greenhouses
The Ministry of Agriculture is negotiating with an international financial institution to secure funding for a billion pesos worth of greenhouses. The greenhouses will be used for food production. Vice Minister for Agricultural Production Antonio Manuel Camilo, told El Caribe that some of the greenhouses would be used in the coop programs sponsored by the ministry. This is part of the ministry's strategy to preserve small-scale farmers and their families. According to the official, crop cultivation under controlled conditions is the "free zone" of the future. Currently, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are being harvested in Constanza, San Jose de Ocoa, Jarabacoa and Villa Trina, and farmers have reported profits of as much as 66%. Greenhouse farming increased by 50% over the last year, and one of the best advantages of the system is that smallholders with an acre or less can produce for local consumption as well as for export.

Now bridges are news
Obviously the tragic events in Minneapolis, Minnesota have turned local observers' attention to local spans. Listin Diario carries three stories on bridges in today's edition. The first one concerns the bridge over the Haina River that has been abandoned since its construction began nine years ago. The bridge at Palave, in western Santo Domingo is supposed to replace the one that was destroyed by Hurricane Georges in September 1998. The area is strewn with huge concrete beams, but many of these are covered in vines and other plants. The road, which used to be the shortest route to San Cristobal from Los Alcarrizos, runs through many of the old sugar cane "bateyes" that were associated with the Haina Sugar Mill, once the world's largest.
The second story deals with how slowly work is going on the repairs to the new Juan Bosch Bridge that crosses the Ozama River. The report says that only a minimum section of the work has been completed. Compared to the Juan Pablo Duarte Bridge that sits next to it and that is fifty years older, the Juan Bosch Bridge looks older and more dilapidated, according to Listin Diario. The handrails and guardrails have to be completely replaced, and so far, only a few meters of the old, rusty rails have been replaced.
The third story covers the Francisco del Rosario Sanchez Bridge, known to the people as "La 17". According to Viviano de Leon, the people who live beneath the bridge fear for their lives. Locals showed the reporter a piece of rusted steel that fell from the bridge, fortunately without causing any injuries. Local inhabitants say that when heavily loaded trucks and semis cross the bridge, the whole structure shakes, and some time ago, a piece of falling metal killed a resident.

Aristy Castro proclaimed
The Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) proclaimed its candidate for the May 2008 presidential election yesterday. The event took place at the Palacio de los Deportes in the Juan Pablo Duarte Sports Center. During the event, PRSC candidate Amable Aristy Castro promised a government for the poor. Aristy Castro made headlines during his campaign after throwing money out of a helicopter to the poor. He said he was the candidate of the poor in the DR and promised to win the presidency with or without the Dominican Municipal League. Recently, the PLD majority Congress passed a bill that reformed the way municipalities in the DR are funded, thus stripping Aristy, who is the president of the Dominican Municipal League, of his decision-making power over city government funding.

Fernandez gains PRSC points
The most recent poll on Dominican politics carried out by CIES International, the Florida-based public opinion polls and marketing research organization that follows Latin American affairs, has found that Eduardo Estrella's resignation from the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) has slightly changed the political landscape. The CIES International poll conducted from 1 to 3 August showed that support for President Leonel Fernandez's candidacy gained six points, moving from 33 to 39 points. His closest contender, Miguel Vargas Maldonado of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) gained two points, moving from 25 to 27 points. Voter support for the PRSC, now that it has established Amable Aristy Castro as its candidate, declined from 25 to 17 points. The survey of 1,200 possible voters shows that the percentage of undecided voters declined from 13 to 11.
See www.ciesintl.com

Study shows duplicate agencies
A recent study by the Juan Montalvo Center for Social Studies reveals that the government's social programs are duplicated by various agencies. The study, by development and social policy experts Rosa Canete and Olaya Dotel, seems to indicate that despite the existence of the Price Stabilization Institute (INESPRE) and the Presidential Plan to Fight Poverty, the also government created the "Food Comes First" (Comer es primero) program aimed at the same demographic. The study, cited by the Diario Libre, says that the end result is a "loss of resources." According to the researchers, "the bottlenecks that block the social programs' efficient performance need to be identified. Another example of duplicate agencies in the study is the Director General for Community Development (Procomunidad - the old ODC) and the Commission for Barrio Development. Both organizations do the same thing: constructing small infrastructure projects in marginal neighborhoods.

Study looks at low earnings
A study by the Juan Montalvo Center for Social Studies reveals that about 70% of the Dominican working population receives 34% of total earnings while 30% receives 62% of all earnings. Felipe de los Santos, an economic analyst, revealed that the working population - salaried or independent workers, professionals and management - average just RD$12,435 in monthly income. However, 70% receive less than the average. According to the report there are an estimated 3.46 million people working in the Dominican Republic, an increase of 260,000 over the numbers for 2004. The employment rate increased from 46% for 2004 to 46.9% today.

Haiti is third trading partner, maybe
The Dominican Republic exports US$147 million in goods to Haiti, and this trade has grown by 18.8% in 2006. This makes Haiti the DR's third largest trading partner. However, these figures do not take into account the more informal trade that takes place across the border, a sum that many say at least duplicates the official figures. In such a case, according to Homero Figueroa of Diario Libre, then Haiti would be the nation's second largest trading partner. The latest report issued by the Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-DR) shows that Dominican exports have passed the US$1.5 billion mark for the first time, a significant improvement over 2006. According to the report, the main items shipped to Haiti were construction materials such as cement and re-bar, and foodstuffs such as eggs and flour. Another important item was corrugated cardboard boxes - US$4.21 million's worth.

Local stores remove toys
El Mundo del Juguete, Jugueton and La Isla stores have told Listin Diario that they would remove any Mattel and Fisher-Price toys that could be on the list of toys manufactured in China with paint containing lead.
Jose Fragoso of Jugueton told the newspaper that they have returned a shipment of the toys. He said that Mattel notified them about the toys that could possibly cause lead poisoning and they had posted this information in their stores for the general public. He said most of the affected toys were manufactured in China from April to July 2007, and have not yet arrived in the DR.
Government quality control department Digenor announced that it would inspect the stores that sell the toys. The largest importer of these toys is La Novia de Villa.

Armed Forces unit for copper theft
The director of Armed Forces intelligence, Valentin Jaquez told reporters that a special commando unit has been formed to monitor the country's ports for the export of stolen metal, especially stolen electric cables. The J-2 for the Armed Forces said that the unit, which will be led by an army general, would be responsible for preventing the export of metals of dubious origin. For months now, the local press has called for a ban on copper exports and commented on the irony of the Dominican Republic being a major regional exporter of copper when there are no copper mines here. According to the General, there are strict orders about stolen cables, monuments and other metallic objects recently subjected to vandalism for export.

Alex is youngest to hit 500 HR
Alex Rodriguez has become the youngest baseball player in history to hit 500 homeruns. Rodriguez hit the first pitch by Kyle Davies of the Kansas City Royals into the left field seats and became part of an exclusive, just 22-member group of players who have hit 500 homeruns. Rodriguez was 32 years and eight days old when he achieved the feat. At the present time, Alex Rodriguez is 102 homeruns ahead of Hank Aaron at the same age, and 183 ahead of Barry Bonds at age 32. On the same night, Bonds hit his 755th homer to mixed reviews. While Major League Baseball president Bud Selig was present for Bonds' achievement, he neither talked to nor met with Bonds. However, Selig did call Rodriguez to congratulate him on his feat.

They learned the hard way
The article says "Protest in front of National Theater", but the reader soon learns the real story. The fifty or so people demonstrating outside the theater were protesting because they arrived late, just a few minutes late, for the 8:30 performance by Alberto Cortez and Pablo Milanes. El Caribe says that they arrived between three and five minutes late, and were refused admission to the show. All their efforts to secure their seats were met with silence from the theater management. They told El Caribe reporter Jacqueline Lamarche that they would try and get their money (RD$3000 per ticket) from promoter Cesar Suarez.
 
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