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Daily News - Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Government to subsidize diesel
The government will subsidize regular diesel by eliminating the 16% VAT tax on the fuel. This step is being taken in an attempt to keep fares and cargo transportation fees at present levels. At the current price levels for diesel, taxes are RD$17.55 for the VAT and RD$14.24 for other taxes included in the Hydrocarbon Law 112-03, making for a total of RD$31.79 per gallon of diesel. Unfortunately, this price reduction may not make it to the everyday driver. The transportation unions have their own gas stations and according to a report in Listin Diario, the government will only supply the reduced rate diesel to these stations. The government will also place inspectors at these sites to prevent "detours" of the reduced rate diesel fuel.

Baskets yes, parties no
President Leonel Fernandez ordered the suspension of all Christmas parties in state agencies due to the national tragedy of Tropical Storm Noel. President's Administrative Minister, Luis Manuel Bonetti issued the instructions in Resolution #24. Nevertheless, the government did not prohibit the practice of the government funding the delivery of traditional Christmas baskets, usually containing costly alcoholic beverages and sweets, to friends and associates. According to Bonetti, the funds normally used for the annual Christmas parties will be used to help people displaced and made homeless as a result of TS Noel.

DGII deals
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has announced that motor vehicle and property owners who have not yet carried out the transfer of their properties, may now do so without paying arrear penalties by requesting the transfer up to 17 January. In the case of motor vehicles, the transfer fee is 2%. In the case of property, the transfer fee is 3%.
To process the transfer request, an original title needs to be presented.

Highways getting fixed up
Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua has told reporters that most of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Noel has been patched up and repaired. The exceptions are the bridges at Madre Vieja and Hato Damas that need to be totally rebuilt. A bridge over the Juma River was knocked off its pilings and needs to be relocated. Referring to the highways, Diaz Rua told a CDN television audience that most places are now accessible, with the exception of Penon in the south west, which is still flooded. Diaz Rua told interviewers that the highway to San Jose de Ocoa, which was partially destroyed by the flooding, would be moved to the other side of the river and repaired. He expected that it would take at least six months to finish the work.

Competitiveness Law passes
Yesterday, the Dominican Senate passed a law on Innovation and Competitiveness that creates a framework for manufacturing companies located outside of industrial free zones to enjoy facilities previously only granted to companies inside the free zone parks. The Senate accepted several amendments that were written into the law by the Chamber of Deputies. The legislative proposal came from the Executive Branch and had received a favorable report from the Senate's special committee headed by Amilcar Romero (PLD-Duarte). According to the report, the legislation will reinforce Dominican efforts to play a role in the international commercial markets. The legislation will change the former Industrial Promotion Corporation (CFI) into the new Center for Industrial Development and Competitiveness (Proindustria). The bill was sent to Congress by the Executive Branch after a consensus was reached among industries.

Squatters to be banned from highways
The PLD senator for Santiago, Francisco Dominguez Brito, has submitted legislation to regulate traffic and construction along the center median and lands adjacent to the country's major highways. If the legislation is approved, all construction on crossroads, bridges, gaps and other intersections in the center medians that divide the highways will be prohibited unless they have the express consent of the Ministry of Public Works. The proposal would create a System of Ecological Corridors along the Duarte, 30 de Mayo (Malecon) and Juan Bosch (Autovia del Este) highways. The corridors would include a space of 75 meters along either side of the highway. One of the supporting arguments is that the state is responsible for the security of its citizens as well as owing respect for their basic civil rights.

An offer of 20,000 jobs
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce will open an office in Santiago de los Caballeros today, offering 20,000 jobs to interested parties. The demographic target is the pool of former workers in the industrial free zones who have lost their jobs over the past year. The new jobs are located in the Program for Micro, Small and Medium-sized Businesses. This good news was delivered by the Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes during a meeting with small business owners from the Cibao region, and held at the Wholesalers Association Club in Santiago. The new office is in the provincial governor's building, and will be open from 8am until 5pm. According to Paredes, "we are expecting to generate between 15 and 20,000 new jobs across the Cibao region."

Making it easier to get docs
A new electronic era for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has dawned. People will soon be able to register births, deaths and divorces in offices and public areas without having to go to the Civil Registry office. JCE Administrative Chamber head Roberto Rosario said the new centers are equipped with cutting edge technology. He cut the ribbon at the "Office of the Future" located on Calle Dr. Delgado at the corner of Ave. 27 de Febrero in Santo Domingo. This is the office of the Second Circumscription, a Center for Identity Cards ("cedulas") and for registering deaths. According to Rosario, people will soon be able to get the documents they need for obtaining passports, drivers' licenses and loans without having to go to the actual Civil Registry offices.

IMF and refinery sale
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has no objection to the government's proposed refinery purchase, but the local IMF representative, Eric Offerdahl says that they would prefer the refinery to remain in the private sector. According to Hoy newspaper, Offerdahl said that the business of refining oil is an "issue for the private sector." The expert said that "personally (he) does not see much advantage in transferring businesses to state ownership." When the reasoning given by the Dominican government was mentioned, Offerdahl said that he did not understand exactly where the saving alluded to by the government were going to come from. Offerdahl made these comments at the Exporters Dinner at Santo Domingo's Jaragua Renaissance Hotel.

Economist sees three major issues
Economist Pavel Isa Contreras sees three major issues facing the Dominican Republic: the shock from Tropical Storm Noel, petroleum prices, and foodstuffs. The economist spoke to Hoy reporter Soila Paniagua, and told her that these three challenges had to be dealt with promptly or else the country would face economic instability. In his opinion, neither the rising price of oil nor the current economic woes in the United States have affected the GDP growth rate in the DR, nor have they generated much inflation. While optimistic, Isa Contreras said that the current situation could translate into slower growth and affect weaker economic sectors. Isa Contreras said that the country has not looked at alternative energy sources with sufficient political will. He recommended that at least 10% of the DR's needs should be met with alternative energy sources. The economist also pointed out that for the last 20 years the agricultural sector has languished far behind other sectors, and this lack of proactive policies might well threaten the guarantee of local food sources in the future. He said that the poorest are at risk if local agriculture cannot provide for their needs.

Shell execs to come and see
Executives from the head office of the Shell Company in Houston Texas are visiting the Dominican Republic this week to observe and comment on the process that will evaluate the company's 50% share in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery. Shell has placed a US$183 million price tag on its half of the stock, while some politicians have placed the value at US$110 million. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa told reporters from Diario Libre that the government was contracting an outside source to evaluate the Shell Company's stake in the refinery.

Aerodom says it has offers
The Century XXI Dominican Airports (AERODOM) consortium has admitted to reporters that it has received offers from overseas for its rights to administer five of the country's airports. However, the same source told Diario Libre reporters that no sale had taken place. According to the Aerodom statement, the offers were the result of the good job that Aerodom has done in administering these five airports. The consortium currently enjoys an exclusive 25-year contract to run the Barahona, Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Samana and La Isabela airports. The privately-funded airports at La Romana, Punta Cana and Santiago are not part of the package. While Aerodom did not refute the Diario Libre story on the start of talks for the sale of the airport management rights, it did say that if such a sale were to take place, the public would certainly be fully informed.

Expert on alternative energy
Luis Arthur, a specialist in alternative energy sources, told a national television audience that the government must start to use solar and wind-powered energy as the most effective way of confronting rising petroleum prices. Arthur, an electrical engineer with extensive experience in the energy field, has been writing on energy related themes for years. He pointed out that within 30 or 40 years, and perhaps sooner, there will be an oil crisis that the government will not be able to solve with money. He said that the Dominican Republic enjoys a privileged position in that it has a potential of 10,000 megawatts of wind powered energy and as much as 30,000 megawatts of solar energy available for exploitation. The country's current energy needs are approximately 2500 megawatts. Arthur also advocated the use of sugar cane for ethanol and palm oil for biodiesel.

Female migration report
The World Bank has just released a study on female migration and its effect on development. The Dominican Republic leads in the Caribbean in female migration. Andrew Morrison, lead economist at the World Bank's Gender Group says that women international migrants have increased to approximately 95 million women today. "The International Migration of Women, edited by economists Andrew R. Morrison, Maurice Schiff and Mirja Sjoblom points out that between 1960 and 2005, female migration has increased from 46.7% to 49.6%.
The report indicates that the share of women migrating for employment rather than family reasons has increased over time, though their performance in host countries' labor markets varies significantly according to country of origin. Women migrants working in the US from the Caribbean, East Asia, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa have higher labor force participation than those from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, it indicates that among developing countries, women from South Africa, Jamaica and India have the highest salaries while those from Colombia, the DR and Cuba are the least successful, highlighting the importance of language skills for labor market performance.
See http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTGENDER/...

Dominican Cooking wins web award
The Spanish version of the Dominican Cooking website, www.cocinadominicana.com, has won the Arroba de Oro award for the best Dominican website in the Art and Culture category. The Arroba de Oro awards are organized by Diario Libre newspaper in the Dominican Republic, and are also awarded in several Latin American countries to promote website development in Spanish. This year's top prize went to the winner in the sports category, baseball site www.aguiluchos.com at a ceremony at the UASD Aula Magna last night. Other notable winners included www.surfuturo.com in the non-profit organizations and best projection of the country categories and www.preescolarpiolin.com in the education and best design categories.
See: www.arrobadeoro.com

Baseball update
Last night the Tigres del Licey beat up on the hapless Estrellas Orientales, 10-5. However, the Tigres were losing the game until a seven-run ninth inning gave them the victory and extended the Estrellas' losing streak to eight games. The win keeps Licey in first place with a two-game advantage in the standings. In Santiago's Estadio Cibao, the Aguilas Cibaenas finally won a game and defeated the Azucareros del Este 6-3. The game was tied until the bottom of the eighth inning when the Aguilas scored four runs and sealed their victory.
In Santo Domingo, the Leones del Escogido continued to improve, and they defeated the Gigantes del Cibao with a 6-0 shutout. The Leones' pitchers only gave up four hits during the nine innings.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 20 10 .667 --
Gigantes 18 12 .633 2.0
Aguilas 16 14 .533 4.0
Escogido 15 17 .468 6.0
Azucareros 12 19 .387 8.5
Estrellas 11 20 .355 9.5
Today's games
Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo: Estrellas vs. Licey - 7:35pm.
Estadio Julian Javier, San Francisco de Macoris: Escogido vs. Gigantes - 7:35pm.
Estadio Franco Micheli, La Romana: Aguilas vs. Azucareros - 7:35pm.
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