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Daily News - Friday, 05 October 2007

Studying the economy
President Leonel Fernandez and his economic team are due to meet with officials from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank tomorrow to study the development of the Dominican economy, the economy's successes, the electricity crisis, the transport issue and petroleum concerns. The meeting will take place at Casa de Campo. Hoy is reporting that media outlets will only be allowed in at the end of the meeting when the outcome is announced. Luis Alberto Moreno will represent the IDB. Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas explained that the biggest challenge the DR faces in the future is maintaining an economic growth of 7%. Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa and Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu will both be speaking at the meeting as well as Lucio Monari from the World Bank, Leandro Alves from the IDB, and Radhames Segura, executive vice president of the Dominican State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE).

Fernandez inaugurates projects
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated a range of projects yesterday including the reconstruction of the Casabito highway, which connects Constanza with the Duarte highway. Also, the surrounding communities will have their electricity system upgraded. The government is spending an estimated RD$240 million on these projects. The highway project will cost RD$42 million and is 51 kilometers long. It will have two lanes, each measuring three meters in width.

Government making money
The government's tax revenue during the second semester is well above its spending, resulting in a surplus of RD$20,416 million. These figures were published in a report released by the Treasury Ministry, which points out that between January and September fiscal revenue jumped to RD$171,317.9 million while central government spending only totaled RD$150,201.6 million. Revenue doesn't include donations or loans, while spending doesn't include financing applications. Diario Libre reports that collections by the government were 9.8% above estimated collections and 33% above collections for the same period in 2006. The Tax Department provided the largest amount of revenue with RD$105,587.9 million, followed by Customs (DGA) with RD$37,483.9 million and the National Treasury with RD$28,246.1 million. During the first nine months of the year the government increased spending by 19.8% in comparison to 2006. During this period the government spent a total of RD$150,901.6 million. Of the money spent, RD$118,479.9 million were in transfers, consumption, interest and loans. The remaining RD$32,421.7, or 34.5% of the spending, was directed towards capital spending.

PRD defends itself
The PRD has come out in defense of presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado by saying that loans taken out by the then Minister of Public Works were legal, and continued by saying that questioning Vargas's work was just a way for President Leonel Fernandez to divert attention and evade responsibility for answering questions about the Sun Land Case. PRD leaders claim that the contracts taken out by Vargas during his tenure are completely different to those taken out by Felix Bautista. The PRD says that the contracts by Vargas were included in the Budget and Public Spending Law, and didn't include the emission of promissory notes and therefore did not compromise the DR's credit status or its credibility.
Former Banco de Reservas administrator Manuel Lara Hernandez expressed his support for Miguel Vargas Maldonado and assured that the transactions made by Vargas, with the Worldwide Trading & Consulting Company, were legal and only involved US$70 million. Lara, quoted in Hoy, says that the loan was made within the law, contrary to the one made under Leonel Fernandez's presidency. The money was disbursed in two parts: the first was for US$40 million in 2001 and the second, for US$30 million, was disbursed in 2002.

Norwegian company breaks law
Hoy is quoting the Norwegian newspaper Norwatch, specializing in environmental issues, about the case of a Norwegian boat said to be responsible for dumping toxic waste in the port of Haina, violating Dominican environmental law 64-00 on disposal of dangerous liquids. Hoy writes that the dumping was carried out several weeks ago without any environmental personnel present, as is required by law, and that the workers on the ship lacked the necessary training and equipment. Hoy quotes the report, which states that dock 3 at Haina also doesn't have the equipment to handle such an operation. Hoy is also reporting that apart from the 1,621 pounds of soda dumped in Haina, a further 500 tons of the material might also be dumped in the DR.

SUV nation
Hoy is reporting that the demand for SUVs in the DR is surpassing the demand for cars. SUV sales amount to 35% of total sales while cars only make up 20% of total vehicular sales. ACOFAVE believes that this is just a temporary trend. According to Enrique Fernandez the reason for this is that some SUVs in the DR cost around the same as a vehicle. Cars can cost between US$23,000 and US$29,000 while an SUV, with 0 kilometers on the clock, can cost around US$25,000. The greatest demand is for the smaller SUVs, because of cost and their relatively low fuel consumption in comparison to larger models. According to ACOFAVE the number of new vehicles in circulation has also increased due to facilities for financing the purchase of a vehicle.

DGII reminding drivers
The Tax Department (DGII) is reminding drivers who qualify to go to designated offices and pick up their license plate renewal refunds. The DGII has gone as far as to publish large ads in today's papers listing the drivers who should collect their money since there are about 1,000 who qualify. The DGII had given drivers between 10 and 22 September to collect their money through a special, easier process, but now drivers looking to be reimbursed must go through the old process, which includes filling out a refund sheet for 2007, a copy of the vehicle registration and a copy of their 'cedula'. The government increased the prices for license plate registrations, but the increase was vetoed by President Leonel Fernandez. Some drivers had already renewed their plates at the new prices and are now entitled to a refund.

Police recover vehicles
The National Police has uncovered a car theft ring and have informed that they have recovered 287 vehicles of different makes and models. Listin Diario writes that the ring operated mostly in Santiago and Puerto Plata. Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said that 51 people will be prosecuted for their links with the ring, and 16 people are still being sought by the police. Police officials are asking people who, knowingly or unknowingly, bought stolen vehicles to go to police or face charges. The 287 vehicles have a total value of RD$78 million and some have already been returned to their owners. A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of businessman Diomedes Peralta Parra, who is accused of selling the stolen vehicles.

Quisqueya Verde is back
The Environmental Ministry is re-launching the "Plan Quisqueya Verde." The program aims to plant 1,500,000 new trees around the DR. Environment Minister Omar Ramirez says that 35 acres of land have already been designated for tree-planting, which will begin on Saturday. He said that 800 heads of families have been mobilized and will now become guardians of nature. October is reforestation month in the DR.

DR Red Cross signs agreement
The Dominican Red Cross has signed an agreement with the Spanish and Haitian Red Cross and with the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI). The agreement is for a program of natural disaster linked risk reduction programs and will cover seven provinces in the southern part of the DR. The agreement will last three years and has a budget of EUR125 million for the execution of projects in the provinces of Azua, San Juan de la Maguana, Elias Pina, Bahoruco, Independencia, Barahona and Pedernales. A similar program will be developed on the Haitian side of the border. As part of the agreement two SUVs and seven motorcycles have been donated to the Red Cross.

DNCD makes arrest
A Dominican Navy officer assigned to the National Drug Control Department was arrested yesterday in connection with a 12kg shipment that was seized on the DR-PR ferry. The Navy official was named as Luis Felipe Pena Cruz, the owner of the Honda Accord car where the drugs were found.

Sports update
The MLB playoff season continued yesterday with the Cleveland Indians pounding the early favorites, the New York Yankees. Alex Rodriguez continued his post-season slump and Johnny Damon homered for the Bombers, but it wasn't enough as the Yanks fell 13-4. The Phillies lost to the Rockies 10-5 and the Cubs lost again last night to the Diamondbacks, 8-4. The Division Series are best of five games.
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