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Daily News - Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Another save energy plan
The National Energy Commission (CNE) handed in the next National Contingency Energy Plan to President Leonel Fernandez. The President will study the plan to see if it can be implemented. Readers will remember a Presidential decree of September 2005 that issued a long list of things that would have been done to reduce the nation's fuel consumption. According to Diario Libre, the new plan features a compensation fund to stabilize fuel prices, a plan to organize traffic patterns, the promotion of natural gas as an alternative to propane (LPG), a strengthening of the program for rational use of energy, the modernization of the public transportation fleet and an educational campaign. The Industrial and Commercial Association of Santiago (ACIS) approved the plan with some caveats. Luis Nunez, the ACIS president, expressed some fears that modifications to the Hydrocarbon Law, such as a reduction in the taxes levied on fuels, could spur an increase in consumption. In addition, changes in the nation's work schedules should be taken with caution, "in order not to interrupt daily routines."

Cops are not on the streets
Interior and of the Police Minister Franklin Almeyda has announced that there are 15,000 police men and women working for high-ranking government officials or in the private sector, as reported in Hoy. He emphasized that this was just the number of cops that should be patrolling the nation's streets to prevent crime. According to the minister, there are only 10,000 police agents patrolling the streets. He added that a commission headed by the new police chief was again "looking into the matter to make an evaluation."
These comments came at the end of a meeting with leaders of Citizen Participation, the Institutional and Justice Foundation (FINJUS), and the Young Entrepreneur's Association (ANJE) where the minister said that a High Police Council determined that policemen who are not high school graduates are being given four years to get the degree. He said today's policemen need to be high school graduates, have computer skills, and have passed their driver's test. He said an eight-hour workday would soon be implemented for the police, so they can enroll themselves in school.

Deputies approve intercept law
The Chamber of Deputies approved yesterday the Law on Air and Maritime Interception by a wide margin. Pelegrin Castillo and Jose Ricardo Taveras of the FNP party are the authors of the initiative. Taveras explained to reporters from the Listin Diario that the law establishes the protocols to be used in intercepting suspicious aircraft and ships, especially those related to drug trafficking. Readers will remember the recent accounts of US Navy units training Dominican sailors in the use of swift boats for patrolling Dominican waters. The law also provides for areas of exclusion as well as the use of force as a last alternative. According to the article, "the decision to intercept must be directed by the highest ranking authority in the Dominican Republic."

Defillo blasts SFS startup
Former Superintendent for Health and Labor Risks (SISARIL), Dr. Bernardo Defillo said that the start of the new Family Health Insurance Program (SFS) was a "40 year step backwards." Defillo, a noted physician in Santo Domingo, said that the lack of service and the problems with customer's identification with a particular ARS, the Dominican version of an HMO, combined with a lack of efficiency have produced "a basic plan that is more expensive to consumers." He still hopes that the problems can be fixed. As part of the "fix", Defillo suggested that the Social Security System be "de-politicized" and the SISARIL be able to regulate the HMOs in an efficient manner.

Physicians leaving health plans
Nose, eye and ear specialists decided to no longer work with patients affiliated to the Family Health Insurance Program (SFS) plan. The reason is that in some cases, the ARS reduced by 70% the payments they were receiving under the previous plan. The specialists say they will only accept complementary insurance plans. As reported in Listin Diario, it is likely that other specialists will follow suit and no longer accept the SFS patients. At the start of the plan, specialists were requiring patients pay RD$500 additional, up from RD$300 in the past. The medics protest that the ARS have unilaterally reduced the payments they were previously receiving. The decision would collapse the SFS plan and oblige patients to purchase the complementary plans at a much higher cost.

Where are the patients?
The frontpage story in today's Hoy shows empty seats at what is usually one of the nation's busiest hospitals, the Salvador B. Gautier. According to the article, demand for services has fallen by 50-70% during the first month of the newly-installed Family Health Insurance Program (SFS). The newspaper reports that many clinics are refusing to accept patients covered by the Dominican Health Service (SDS), due to the low coverage offered by that health management organization, or ARS, as known locally. A lack of knowledge seems to be one of the major impediments to efficient service, according to the article with many persons lacking even a basic understanding of what is their due. In the case of the Salvador B. Gautier Hospital, the normal RD$29 million monthly income dropped to just RD$9 million during the first month of the SFS program. A secretary at the Gomez Patino Clinic in Santo Domingo told Hoy reporter Altagracia Ortiz that she had been working at the clinic since it was founded, and "understands nothing about the social security program." At the Center for Otolaryngology patient numbers are down by 50% due in large part to a decision by specialists in the field not to accept any form of HMO payments. On the other hand the article says that the specialist clinics at the Plaza de la Salud are seeing 20% less patients, but numbers there are rising as this government-owned center does accept the ARS plans.

Where is the ventilator?
Over the past several days, private clinics in Santiago and Santo Domingo have been searched by police looking for the two million peso ventilator missing from the Regional University Hospital Cabral y Baez. This missing machinery cost the former hospital director his job. Previously, some 55,000 gallons of diesel fuel was reported missing, but, as yet, there have been no arrests in that case. The ventilator was part of the equipment assigned to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and weighed nearly half a ton. Hospital spokesman Sergio Garcia announced that the hospital will be contracting a security company to beef up its surveillance systems.

Ortega Tous suspended
The Ministry of Foreign Relations suspended Julio Ortega Tous from his post as ambassador in Colombia. The ministry says that Ortega cannot be an ambassador and at the same time a dissident of foreign relations policy of the ministry. A statement from the ministry points out that Ortega Tous has a history of being vocal about his differences from official positions in the government. The decision was reached after Ortega Tous published an article in the Listin Diario on the European Agreement Act negotiations. The ministry disputed the statements made in the contribution.

While exports grow, Haitian trade falls
Dominican exports grew by 63% during the first eight months of the year, reaching US$1.57 billion, up from US$962 million for the same period in 2006. Diario Libre says that behind the increase are the much better prices for ferronickel on the world market. According to the Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-DR) the value of nickel has nearly doubled. But all is not rosy, with exports to Canada, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Jamaica falling. The loss of exports to Canada was particularly noteworthy with a 47% decrease. Exports to Haiti, the second most important trading partner for the DR, fell by 3%, Puerto Rico fell by 3.7% and Jamaica saw a 7.5% reduction. On the up side, however, were increases of US$140 million in exports to the US; US$38 million to Korea (including controversial copper exports); US$45 million to Belgium; US$44 million to Japan; US$39 million to Spain and US$10 million to China. Traditional exports grew by 6.9% and non-traditional exports grew by 29%, buoyed by nickel's 125% increase.

Construction workers are scarce
The president of the Association of Housing Promoters and Builders (Acoprovi), Jaime Gonzalez told reporters that foreign workers are displacing Dominicans on most worksites. According to the Hoy newspaper, the Acoprovi executive was answering a complaint voiced by the National Federation of Construction Workers that said that local workers were being replaced by foreigners. Gonzalez said that the locals do not want to work in construction. He said that this is the reason that builders have to use foreign workers. Gonzalez went on to say that nearly 80% of the construction workers in the Dominican Republic are currently foreigners, mostly Haitians that do rough labor and Colombians that work mostly in the finishing area. Gonzalez denied that Haitians work for less than Dominican counterparts. He said that Dominicans are not interested in working construction and said that his association had sent a request to the Ministry of Labor asking for 5,000 construction workers but has never received and reply. According to Gonzalez, construction workers earn 10% more than general employees. He went on to say that foremen can earn up to RD$30,000 per month and an un-skilled worker can earn RD$10,000. Bricklayers and similar workers earn RD$800 per day, a lot more than teachers.

Basic Instincts
Today's A.M. column on Page Two of the Diario Libre deals with political basic instincts. According to editor Adriano Tejada, this election campaign will be one of basic instincts. On one side PRSC presidential candidate Amable Aristy Castro is expected to campaign handing out money and offering everything possible because he "is the candidate of the poor."
On the other hand there is Miguel Vargas Maldonado who he expects will be promising to cut taxes, subsidize jobs and other things that the PRD has always promised.
In his corner, Tejada writes that current President Leonel Fernandez will try and control the basic purple instincts (purple is the color identified with the PLD) that are calling for lower taxes, a lower crime rate, and getting the Metro to work without anything bad happening, and not giving away the country before May 2008.
Tejada, known for his Voltairesque satire, says that the reality is that in this campaign the fate of a society that wants to live like a rich person without making the sacrifices needed is in play. He says that we (the Dominicans) are the heirs to a tradition of "dolce far niente", that is, the sweet Spanish laziness that Calvinism rebelled against, and that, according to Max Weber, is at the basis for the capitalist revolution.
Tejada writes that when a Dominican has a couple of bucks he only thinks of pleasure. The money is spent on parties and beer, or plans are laid for a weekend at the beach or the purchase of a plane ticket to Miami. Those that have less will buy an appliance or continue saving for a vehicle. All of which are activities that imply more expenditure and, because of this, conspire against savings and longterm welfare.
Tejada says that there is another point: the locals live for today, the short term. Dominicans do not look further than next week because they don't know what will happen.
A country that lives by basic instincts, therefore cannot hope to be promised "blood, sweat and tears". Dominicans want heaven and they want it now.

The nightmares continue on high seas
There appears to be no way to stop the continual voyages made in flimsy handmade wooden craft towards Puerto Rico. This is the headline in today's El Caribe. A total of 2,357 persons have been taken into custody trying to land in Puerto Rico so far this year. This is already 109 more than all of 2006. The information can be found on the United States Coast Guard's website, www.uscg.gov, where this month seven craft and 520 persons have been apprehended. The most recent tragedy recounts three dead women who washed up on the shores of Puerto Rico last week. A macabre photograph shows one of the victims holding a cell phone and some documents. Puerto Rican authorities have said that it is possible that the three women were victims of dehydration and were thrown overboard before the craft reached the shoreline. Two of the victims were from the Maria Trinidad Sanchez province, more precisely from the village of Boba, near Nagua, and the third was from La Vega.
One traveler upon his return to the DR, Franklin Mendez concluded that you have to live the experience to tell the story. "It is madness. I paid RD$16,000 for the time at sea, because here I am again without anything to do about it."

Haitian embassy indifference
The death of a Haitian outside the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo has caused indignation among Haitians present that day. As reported in the Listin Diario, Amelin Gufini died around 7am at the bus stop when accompanied by his wife Lorauta Fleuri. They were on their way to return to Haiti because of his health problems. Haitian bystanders at the site urged embassy officers to assist the family, but were removed by Haitian security staff. One Haitian, Miguel Castillo, complained that "the greatest discrimination and mistreatment that Haitians receive in the DR is from the authorities of our own country." He complained, "it is shameful the treatment we receive from our own authorities, and it is not about money, but the way we are treated," he stated. Embassy staff refused to comment on the incident. Haitians gathered money amongst themselves to give to the grieving widow.

Quisqueya Ball Park remodeling
The Quisqueya Ball Park is being remodeled to add 1,086 new seats to the city stadium, increasing the grand stand capacity to 7,530. Large sections of wooden seats are being replaced by plastic seats and restrooms are being revamped. The 2007-08 baseball season opens 17 October with a match between the Escogido Lions and the Licey Tigers. The Professional Baseball Winter League Championship begins on 17 October with the regular season ending 22 December. The semi-finals and playoffs continue through January, and then Santiago de los Caballeros will host the Caribbean Series.

Focus on DR culture at Disney
The Dominican Republic is a sponsor of the widely celebrated Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with Dominican food and culture to be showcased from September 28 to November 11, 2007. As one of 11 countries taking part in this year's festivities, the DR's exhibit is captivating guests with its Caribbean ambiance, which includes elements like tropical flora such as coconut palms and sugar cane plants; white sugar-fine sand; a rum barrel waterfall display and characteristic brightly colored Victorian architecture.
"We are very excited that our country continues to attract guests of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival," commented Magaly Toribio, vice minister of tourism. "Disney's exceptional creation accurately represents our country, allowing us to share our cherished and diverse culture with people around the globe."
In addition to food exhibits, a Dominican group is executing contagious music and folkloric dances, including traditional merengue, mangulina, bambula, palos, atabales and sarandunga. And, each performance is concluded with crowd interaction.
See http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/images/pdfs/...
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