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Daily News - Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Financing for small business
President Leonel Fernandez handed over a RD$500 million check to the National Council for the Promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Businesses (PROMIPYMES) at an awards ceremony held at the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel yesterday. The funds will be used to increase their credit portfolio. Fernandez highlighted the fact that micro, small and medium businesses represented 27% of the country's GDP and employed more than 160,000 people.
Juan Rodriguez Melendez, director of Promipyme said that the government has granted RD$3.2 billion in loans to 33,000 small businesses since 2004.

Refidomsa negotiations
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has announced that the process of negotiation for purchasing Shell's remaining shares in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (REFIDOMSA) is now open. Bengoa said that the government has taken international counsel to determine the true value of Shell's shares and added that at no time was a US$183 million price tag established. Bengoa explained that Shell reported that a company offering US$183 million had won a tender for the share held by the company. Bengoa said he would be meeting with Shell representative Rafael Maradiaga today. Responding to Arturo Martinez Moya's assertion that the government shouldn't pay more than US$110 million, Bengoa joked that since Martinez is an international assessor, he would hire him as an advisor in the negotiations.

Rate hikes won't be accepted
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes warned yesterday that the government is opposed to any passenger and cargo fare hikes. Diario Libre writes that the government, to prevent the hikes, has offered to cover 50% of the cost to install natural gas converting systems and comfortable financing for the remaining 50% of the cost. Natural gas is considerably cheaper than conventional fuels. Hoy writes that leaders from four leading transport unions met for discussions yesterday and plan to meet again today. The transport unions propose a gas price freeze at RD$102 per gallon and to use RD$17 billion, 5% granted by Hydrocarbon Law, to benefit transporters. There is also a proposal for the government to reduce its profit margin. Quoted in Diario Libre, Paredes that his ministry and the Ministry of Hacienda have initiatives in the pipeline to combat this latest issue but that they need at least two months to develop them.

Public Health alerts
The Ministry of Public Health is warning the public to take extra precautions to avoid contracting conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal, respiratory and other illnesses that have been aggravated primarily among the poor after recent flooding. The Ministry also added that the death toll from dengue fever could reach 40 from a total of 10,000 reported cases. Health and sanitation experts are advising families to take precautions to prevent these diseases. The health authorities are still not saying that leptospirosis is under control and urged families to take precautions to avoid this contagious disease.

Pro Artibonite River agreement
The Dominican and Haitian ministries of environment have signed a joint declaration for the protection of the Artibonite River watershed. The declaration was signed by Omar Ramirez Tejada, Dominican Environmental Minister and his Haitian counterpart Jean Marie Claude Germaine. Canadian ambassador in the DR Patricia Fortier and head of cooperation in Haiti Francis Montour were also present. Work is being executed locally by the Bi-national Rehabilitation Project through Groupement Oxfam-Quebec/CRC Sogema Inc.
Claude Germaine said that the declaration aims to create favorable development conditions for people on both sides of the border and to protect shared natural resources. The hope is to rehabilitate the river basin through joint activities.
The project has been operational since 2005 and will last into 2012. The Canadian government, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is making CND10 million available for the project, which also provides for strengthening dialogue between the two countries. The project has two components: technical assistance and capacity building for agencies and institutions operating in the area, and funding to support initiatives that contribute to the rehabilitation of selected areas within the watershed.
The project seeks to halt the environmental degradation process and reverse the degradation of the forest canopy. It strengthens the ability of both governments' institutions to address watershed management issues and help reduce tensions in the area via improved dialogue between the two countries. It also assists local populations in designing and implementing productive activities, improving their economic situation and respecting the environment.

Democracy takes a step back
The DR and Nicaragua are the two countries with the worst levels of democracy in Latin America according to the Latin America Democratic Development Index (IDD-Lat 2007) published on Monday. The DR is ranked 16th on a list of 19 countries, only scoring higher than Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The general index for this year indicates that the DR shows the largest inter-annual fall compared with the IDD-Lat for the prior year. Furthermore, the DR also shows a fall in Institutional Quality and Political Efficiency Dimension, and social development indicators. Jorge Arias, who created the report, added that the DR is accustomed to institutional crises, major changes, and big movements that only adhere to what the leader in power seeks to achieve.
The study specifies that Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica are on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to democracy.
In its sixth consecutive year, the index analyzes and evaluates the behavior of societies, leaders and democratic institutions in 18 countries across the continent.
The report says that over half the countries in the region show a low level of democratic development. The study focuses on civil liberties, security, participation in political activities, health, education and government crises.
The study was funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Employers re maternity subsidies
The president of the DR employers' confederation (COMPARDOM), Maribel Gasso, says that employers are not obliged to pay workers additional subsidies for maternity leave or sicknesses because that is the responsibility of the Social Security program. Gasso said that the responsibility for maternity leave subsidies belongs to the Health and Labor Risks Superintendence (SISALRIL). According to Gasso, maternity leave subsidies the Dominican Social Security system would take RD$0.43 for workers and SISALRIL would receive RD$43 million.
However, Social Security expert, Dr. Fulgencio Severino said that under the Labor Code, employers must fulfill this responsibility until 2008 when the maternity subsidy for employees comes into effect.
Hoy writes that after the modifications to Social Security Law 87-01, in December 2006, maternity leave subsidies were left in limbo and it was never established who would be responsible for paying for maternity leave during the first year of implementation of the Basic Health Plan.

Aerodom selling concessions
The Dominican Airport Consortium (AERODOM) has begun negotiations to sell its concessions to operate the Las Americas, Puerto Plata, Samana and Barahona international airports. The concessions were awarded to them in 1999, for 20 years, which was then extended by five years in 2002, bringing the expiry date to 2019. The Hazoury Group said that negative projections for the international airline industry and the group's focus on other activities were their motives for selling the concessions.
Diario Libre also points to the recent announcement of having to revoke a US$500 million placement in bonds on international capital markets because of adverse conditions as one of the reasons behind the decision to sell the money-making concession.
Diario Libre writes that what had been considered good business has turned into bad business due in part to rising costs in the aviation industry in recent years and the increasing quality of other airports in the DR, which has affected Aerodom's airport business.

Ambev offers new beers
Listin Diario is reporting that Ambev Dominicana has finished negotiations with Anheuser Busch to be the exclusive distributor for Budweiser and Bud Light in the DR. In this year alone Ambev has added six new products to its product portfolio and announced it will be pushing beer sales in colmados, supermarkets and other establishments. Budweiser and Bud Light have been sold in the DR since 2003, originally by the Bacardi Company. Listin Diario reports that the beers will come directly from the St. Louis, Missouri brewery and that the 12-ounce beers will sell for RD$50 at colmados and RD$60 in supermarkets.

Rosa Perez Perdomo at DANR
The Dominican American National Roundtable has announced that Puerto Rican Secretary of Health, Dr. Rosa Perez Perdomo, will be attending and speaking at the DANR 10th Anniversary National Conference in Miami, Florida (30 November to 2 December). The DANR National Conference is the only event in the US that brings together Dominicans from all over the US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the DR for the purpose of national Dominican empowerment in the US.
Perez will be addressing the conference luncheon on December 1 at the Radisson Miami downtown hotel. Perez Perdomo is the highest-ranking Dominican-born official to be appointed in the US. She is the first Dominican woman to hold such a position and only the second Dominican in US history.
Other high-profile leaders attending the DANR conference include Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes.
This is the first time that DANR holds this event in Miami since its inaugural conference in 1997.
For more information, visit www.danr.org

115cc motorbikes to be detained
Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin is warning that all people traveling on 115cc motorcycles will be detained and questioned after a robbery at the Lincoln Road Restaurant on Abraham Lincoln Avenue. Reports indicate that early this morning, around 7:30am, robbers riding a 115cc bike walked into the restaurant and stole RD$7,000 in cash and guns belonging to the guards, who worked for the Dominican Watchman Company.

Baseball updates
Last night the Tigres del Licey beat up on the perennial cellar dwellers Estrellas Orientales 8-2 and kept their one-game lead in the standings. The season series is 5-0 in favor of Licey. In other baseball action the Gigantes blanked the Leones and won by a score of 7-0. This win keeps the Leones in the post-season hunt.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 19 10 .655 --
Gigantes 18 11 .629 1.0
Aguilas 15 14 .517 4.0
Escogido 14 17 .451 6.0
Estrellas 12 18 .400 7.5
Azucareros 11 18 .379 8.5
Today's Games:
Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm - Gigantes vs. Escogido
Estadio Cibao 8pm - Azucareros vs. Aguilas
Estadio Tetelo Vargas 8pm - Licey vs. Estrellas
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