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Daily News - Friday, 14 September 2007

Supplementary budget passed
Yesterday the Chamber of Deputies approved the RD$11.05 billion supplementary budget with an 88-3 vote. The Senate had passed the bill two weeks. The bill will now be sent to the President for signing. The surplus follows the implementation of the fiscal invoice (NCF) by the Department of Taxes (DGII) in January, and is also product of the windfall of taxes paid by the Falconbridge, due to the increased price of ferronickel on the international market. The money was allotted as follows: RD$2.4 billion to the propane gas subsidy; RD$2 billion for natural disasters; RD$1.5 billion to city halls; RD$525 million for Christmas bonuses; RD$178 million to the UASD and RD$1.05 billion for teacher salary readjustments.

Debt still too high
In recent years the DR has made strides to stabilize its economy and recover from the 2003 banking collapse, but according to the IMF and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the DR's external debt, as part of the GDP, is still too high, stated Economy Minister Temistocles Montas during a workshop organized by the National Association for Entrepreneurs (ANJE).
The DR has been reducing its debt as part of the GDP, (three years ago it was 57%) and by the end of this year it will be 39% or 40% of the GDP. Though the debt has fallen, it is important to note that debt hasn't fallen in absolute terms. Because the GDP has grown by an average of 10% in the last two years, the percentage has declined.
Montas explained that ideally the debt should be 25% of the GDP.
During his speech, Montas highlighted the economic successes of the Fernandez administration. He stressed that unemployment is down to 15.4% as of April 2007, compared to 19.7% in 2004. Also that the real salary has increased by 27% and the level of poverty has decreased. Today it is at 36.3% compared to 43.1% in 2004. And extreme poverty, which was at 13% last year, is currently at 11%.
See http://www.eclac.cl/cgi-bin/getProd.asp?xml=/...

300 Mercedes Benz buses
The Metropolitan Autobus Service Office (OMSA) has announced that Autozama S.A. has won the bidding to supply the country with 300 buses. The new buses are of the Mercedes Benz brand with ramps for handicapped passengers. Ignacio Ditren, director of OMSA, explained that the new busses will be used in Santo Domingo and Santiago. The cost per unit of the buses was not disclosed, nor how these would be financed. Ditren says that the first new buses would be circulating in there months.

Vehicle stickers on sale again
The DGII announced the restart of the issuing of vehicle stickers. The stickers need to be renewed before 31 October. Vehicles with manufacturing dates of 2002 or previous years will pay RD$1,200. Vehicles dating 2003 onwards, pay RD$2,200. Those renewing afterwards will be levied a 10% fine. The stickers can be purchased through the DGII website (dgii.gov.do) or at savings and loans associations, Banco BDI and Ademi.

Hotel Montana leased
Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez announced Pareatis S.A. was awarded a 35-year lease on the Montana Hotel, in Jarabacoa. The company will pay a stipend of RD$67,000 (US$2,000) per month and commits to a RD$300 million investment in the hotel through 2010. As part of the deal, the first rent payment would be made in 2018 once the company recoups its RD$300 million investment. The hotel has been under renovation for several months, and the Ministry reports that RD$18 million of a budgeted RD$40 million had already been invested. Freddy Majluta, director of the Hotel Industry and Tourism Development Corporation (CORPHOTEL) signed the contract for the Dominican government. Jose Felix Cabrera Castillo, the main shareholder of Pareatis S.A., signed for the new operator. El Caribe describes Cabrera Castillo as a showbusiness promoter.
Cabrera announced he would invest RD$25 million to complete the structural renovations and another RD$67 million to equip the hotel, for an initial RD$110 million investment to get the hotel started. The company will be installing a casino to attract gamblers. This would be a first casino in the province of La Vega. The Ministry did not explain where the additional RD$200 million would be invested.

Businessmen demand law fulfillment
The Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD) requested that the Superintendence of Electricity comply with the General Electricity Law. Manuel Diez Cabral, president of AIRD, complained that the Superintendence has insistently archived requests from companies that seek to source power directly from the generators, bypassing the power distributors that serve power at much higher costs. The complaint comes following the expedite processing of requests from the Santiago Metropolitan Hospital (HOMS) and the Cathedral of Santo Domingo for permission to purchase power at the lower cost. "The Superintendent is mute to requests from industries to become non-regulated clients in order to favor the inefficient power distribution companies while reducing the competitiveness of Dominican companies in comparison to other DR-CAFTA countries," says a note from the AIRD. Diez Cabral urged the Superintendence to authorize similar privileges to qualifying industries as those awarded to the HOMS.

DOWS panel on mortgages
On September 19, Dominicans on Wall Street Inc (DOWS), in conjunction with Dominican Week events held to strengthen relations between the US and the DR, will be hosting the panel "The Development of the Dominican Mortgage Market via the Local Capital Markets and the Pension Fund Assets as a Facilitating Instrument." Speakers will include Darys Estrella, general manager, Bolsa de Valores de la Rep. Dom. (BVRD), Riccio Hermida, director, Investments Control, Superintendencia de Pensiones (SIPEN), Delta Sepulveda, Fixed Income Analyst, Harding Advisors LLC., Diego Torres, general manager, BHD Valores, and Federico Vega, Mortgage Services, Stewart Title Latin America. The event will take place at 5:30pm on the 43rd floor auditorium at Goldman Sachs (One New York Plaza, corner of Broad and Water Streets).
To RSVP, please contact DOWS ([email protected]). For more information, please visit the DOWS website (www.dows.ws).

Dominicans in Puerto Rico
Dominicans in Puerto Rico keep stronger ties to the homeland than Puerto Rican migrants to the US, according to a recently circulating field study on remittance sending and receiving in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is the second largest money-sender to the DR. The study, "A Transnational Migrant Crossroads: The Circulation of People and Money in Puerto Rico" was produced by Jorge Duany, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Puerto Rico. Study findings:
Four out of five Dominicans interviewed sent money to their relatives in the DR, compared to less than one out of ten Puerto Ricans who sent remittances to the US.
On average, Dominicans remitted US$189 per month, compared to US$113 for Puerto Ricans.
The typical profile of a remittance sender in Puerto Rico is a middle-aged, married Dominican immigrant with nine years of formal education. Most often, he or she is employed as a service or unskilled worker, especially in domestic service or the construction industry, and moved to Puerto Rico in the late 1990s.
More than 60% of the Dominicans sampled traveled to the DR at least once a year, while less than 12% of the Puerto Ricans visited their relatives in the US as frequently.
On average, Puerto Ricans moved to the US much earlier (in 1963) than Dominicans moved to Puerto Rico (in 1991).
Puerto Rican and Dominican household heads received similar shares of public assistance (21.5% and 24.3%, respectively) during their last trip outside their country of origin, as well as at the time of the survey (12.6% and 13.9%, respectively).
Fifty-three percent of the Dominicans had a bank account in Puerto Rico, compared to only 9.3% of the Puerto Ricans during their last trip to the US.
During their last move to the US, only 9.7% of the Puerto Ricans had a credit card, whereas 25.2% of the Dominicans in Puerto Rico did so.
Fifty-nine percent of the Dominicans paid taxes in Puerto Rico, compared to 43% of the Puerto Ricans during their last trip to the US.
Twenty percent of Dominican household heads were business owners, compared to less than 9% of the Puerto Ricans.
Dominicans were four times more likely (12.2%) to own property, aside from their residences, than Puerto Ricans (3.3%).
Puerto Ricans were more than twice as likely (65.8%) as Dominicans (27%) to own their houses.
For a copy of the study, see http://www.grupocne.org/publications/Transnational_Migrant_Crossroads.pdf

UNICEF: Infant mortality down
The DR is one of three nations whose infant mortality rate was reduced by one third. Morocco and Vietnam are the other two. According to UNICEF Ann Veneman, director of UNICEF, fewer children are dying than before. According to UNICEF the proper nutrition, protection from mosquitoes and vaccinations are reaching more children in the DR. Infant mortality worldwide has declined to less than 10 million.

Alburquerque made RD$2 million
The Senate Freedom of Information Office revealed yesterday that the president of the PRD, the leading opposition party, Ramon Alburquerque received RD$2 million a month when he was president of the Senate (1998-2001). The breakdown is RD$65,000 wage, RD$5,400 travel expenses, RD$4,369 per diem, RD$13,000 expense account, RD$18,400 for scholarships to his province, RD$34,700 for other scholarships, RD$10,000 for gasoline, RD$7,000 for cell phone use, RD$100,150 for assistance to his province, RD$59,924 in a fund for more assistance, RD$44,500 another assistance fund, and RD$40,0000 another assistance fund. Also, RD$41,106.26 on another senate payroll, RD$54,048 for staff of his office in Monte Plata, and RD$507,869 from the presidential payroll, and RD$196,247 to pay for his personal security. Other funding at his discretion was RD$685,096 for his advisors payroll and RD$105,500 for journalistic assistance, for a total of RD$1,992,310.08 per month.
Alburqueque recently denounced high wages in the government, and provided a breakdown of the RD$2.5 million a month in wages and perks that he says the governor of the Central Bank receives.

Soto Jimenez airs dirty laundry
Former Armed Forces Minister Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez's meeting with Leonel Fernandez earlier this week has set of a chain of events reminiscent of a soap opera. After Fernandez spoke at a function for the V Republic Foundation headed by Soto Jimenez, former President Hipolito Mejia claimed that Jimenez had sold out to President Leonel Fernandez. The Mejia attack did not receive any denial from the former general who limited his comments to restating his "friendship" and "appreciation" to the former President.
Then Retired Chief of the Armed Forces Manuel Polanco Salvador said that President Leonel Fernandez and Jose Manuel Soto Jimenez have been having meetings since Fernandez's first run for president in 1996 even though Soto Jimenez was considered a staunch supporter of the PRD. Polanco claims that Soto met with Fernandez behind then PRD leader Jose Francisco Pena Gomez's back and says that he has proof of this. He added that he was asked by Soto Jimenez to join him to support Fernandez and the PLD's quest for reelection, but he turned this down, saying that he was a man who respected himself.
Now Soto Jimenez has spoken again to say he has definitely broken all ties to Mejia. Diario Libre writes that Soto Jimenez sent a six-page letter to Mejia where he explains that their friendship is over. Soto Jimenez says that the former President dirtied his name by calling him a traitor. He reminded the former President that he served him loyally during his four-year term.
Soto denied the claims that he ever met with Fernandez as claimed by Polanco.
Quoted in El Caribe Soto said defiantly that he will not be Mejia's toy or servant.
Soto denies playing both sides of the coin in order to gain favorable treatment from those in power, regardless of political affiliation, and said in the letter that any friendship deserves mutual respect.

Drug officials are threatened
The public sees increased surveillance by the nation's drug officials as positive, but drug traffickers are growing restless. The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has received reports that the drug dealers, specifically those operating in San Francisco de Macoris, have met to discuss murdering the Northeast Chief of the DNCD Raysa de la Cruz, as reported in Hoy. DNCD's Major General Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira warned that the DNCD will not be intimidated. He added that threats have been received also regarding their efforts in La Romana, Higuey, Santiago and Puerto Plata. He said the DNCD has closed down 16,000 drug sales points nationwide.
Major General Ramirez Fereira announced that five DNCD agents on service at the Puerto Plata International Airport were expelled from the organization for lack of compliance with the ethics and morals of the institution. The announcement coincides with the revelation of a major drug bust involving flights from an unnamed Dominican airport to Pearson International Airport in Canada yesterday.

Radio interceptions at the Police
The scandal of the day is the uncovering of an insider ring within the National Police that intercepted radio calls made by the new chief of the Police himself, Major General Rafael Guzman Fermin. As reported in Diario Libre and the Listin Diario, three members of the Police are suspect of blocking calls from citizens reporting crimes to the chief of the Police. Sargeants Pedro Nunez Robles, Wilson Terrero Batista and corporal Nelson Lopez Garcia were found at fault and cancelled from the service, and will be taken to justice. They would intercept the chief of the Police's radio calls ordering rapid response to an emergency. Diario Libre reported that the procedure was to "click" repeatedly on the radio transmissions so the communication was not clear and Police response would be delayed. Supposedly, the agents were in complicity with delinquents who could use the extra time to get away. The Police said this happened at least five times before the chief of the Police caught on.
Following the appointment of the new chief, there have been three major unresolved assaults - on the Winston Churchill and Sarasota gas station, on the Quisqueyana remittance company, and the Texaco gas station at Km. 18 Duarte Highway.
The Police honored six agents that died when combating criminals yesterday. The agent's families received compensation of RD$700,000.

Run a red light; spend 3 nights in jail
All those anxious drivers beware because the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) is cracking down on drivers who run a red light, and the fines are steep. AMET director Latif Miguel Mahfoud Rodriguez said that law breakers will pay RD$884 in fines, must take a seminar on safe driving, and will have their names published in newspapers. These could also face spending 3 to 6 nights in jail.
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