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Daily News - Friday, 30 November 2007

Government to subsidize fuel
Last night President Leonel Fernandez announced a temporary subsidy of RD$31.79 per gallon of diesel fuel for unionized public transport and cargo vehicles. The subsidy is part of decree 677-07 and grants the subsidies to transport and cargo unions. The subsidy will last for three months.
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes explained that once the three months are over, new and permanent measures would be established.
Hoy writes that each month the gas stations that serve the transport and cargo vehicles will submit receipts for each individual transport union and the government will refund each driver's taxes. Article one of the decree establishes a refund of RD$17.55 as part of Law 112-00 and corresponding to Tax Rectification Law 557-05 for urban and inter-urban transport union affiliates who use diesel fuel and transport food or construction materials. Article twos establishes that the refunds will only be made to affiliated union transporters that are legally registered, and through the fuel distributors.
This move will maintain the gallon of fuel at RD$104 and RD$105 and will prevent passenger fares from going up.
Article three indicates that representatives from the Industry and Commerce and Hacienda ministries and the transport unions must meet to decide how the decree will be implemented. A deadline of seven working days was given for the implementation to come into effect. Paredes said that gas stations serving the transporters must be registered with the government and must have paid all their taxes so that the information provided is accurate and trustworthy. Paredes added that the consumption limit of one million gallons a month. An estimated 32,000 public transport union vehicles and 3,000 cargo vehicles would benefit. Currently, the country's daily consumption is 24 million gallons daily, which includes the energy companies, industries and the private sector.

ANJE opposes diesel subsidy
Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) president Joel Santos feels that the government shouldn't subsidize the fuel used by transporters because this just creates another distortion in the fuel market. Santos, quoted in Hoy, says he understands the current situation with international fuel prices, but says that the government is in no position to provide a subsidy. He points out that the government already subsidizes propane gas (LPG) sales. He said that if the government wanted to really make an impact it would convert part of the selective tax into an ITBIS (VAT) tax and would take on a more active role as a regulator in the market. Santos also challenged the government to make extensive cutbacks to its own unnecessary costs and spending.
Meanwhile the National Gasoline Retailer's Association (ANADEGAS) says that previous subsidies have created an illegal market and that this latest subsidy will only exacerbate the situation.
ANADEGAS head Juan Ignacio Espaillat said that instead of subsidizing the sector, the government should impose a limit on the amount of fuel consumed. He said that this would prevent a distortion in the sale of fuels as well as controlling tax evasion.
However, a report in Listin Diario quotes Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes as saying that the fuel market will not be distorted by the subsidy because the part that will benefit the drivers only amounts to 5% of demand.

JCE begins late registration
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has inaugurated the first Specialized Late Registration Unit in Salcedo where 902 under-16s and 4,000 adults who were not previously registered will be able to secure their first birth certificates and cedulas. The mobile unit will be located on Doroteo Tapia street, opposite the Banco Agricola. The unit is equipped with modern technology and trained staff. JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman and JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario highlighted the importance of this pilot program. Rosario said that the program would eventually be rolled out to the rest of the DR where an estimated 600,000 Dominicans have been identified as undocumented in the State Civil Registry, and where 200,000 don't have cedula identification.

Schools getting much-needed money
The Ministry of Education has received RD$250 million as part of a special fund for rehabilitating schools affected by flooding and housing flood victims in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel. In December the Ministry will receive another RD$100 million which is to be used for the rehabilitation work. In January the Ministry will receive another RD$102 million which will complete the RD$452 million budget that Education Minister Alejandrina German had applied for to repair infrastructure.

Education lags behind
The Dominican Republic is one of the Latin American countries that will fail to meet the Millennium Development goals in the area of education, according to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO says that the DR is lagging behind in education quality, and that the adult literacy rate in the DR is also low. Cuba, according to the report, is the only country in the region on course to meet the goal, while Mexico, Argentina and Chile are close behind. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are other countries that are far behind. Listin Diario explains that the Millennium Development Goals were created by the UN to help cut poverty in half by 2015. In terms of primary education the region as a whole is doing well, better than most regions, but it is still not enough and the DR has much work to do in this area.

Asian meds without inspection
Pharmaceutical businessman Hochi Vega is complaining that 90% of medicines bought by the government for its health plans are imported. He says that most of these pharmaceuticals come from Asian countries and details about their manufacture are unknown. Vega says that Dominican inspectors have not traveled to India or China to inspect the conditions in which the medicines are made. Vega mentioned that the Chinese and Indian government provide incentives to exporting companies, making competition unfair. Vega's concerns come at a time when the media has extensively covered the recent recalls of Chinese-made toys that have been found to contain above normal levels of lead. In a recent case a toy produced in China was found to cause hallucinations when ingested. The media attention on Chinese-made items has highlighted the lack of inspection of Chinese exports.

Bribery a way of life
Listin Diario reports that a study conducted in three Dominican provinces reveals that 71% of the population understands that "macuteo" - Spanish for small bribes - takes place in the Attorney General's office and that corruption and extortion practices are commonplace. The study reveals the perception that criminal files are deliberately stored incorrectly so that criminals can walk free. The study was carried out in La Vega, La Romana, and Peravia and reveals that 70.8% of respondents believe that people with money or important positions have special privileges in the judicial system. Accordingly, 52.6% of those polled feel that the Attorney General's offices don't do their job, although 26% said that the offices were doing a good job. The report, Alert and Action, was submitted to Dominican Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena by Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (FINJUS) president Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, who said that FINJUS would continue preparing reports in order to reveal the realities of the country's judicial system.

Official proposes bonus cut
Presidential urban affairs advisor Pablo Yarull is proposing that all high-ranking government officials, including the President and vice president, take a 50% pay cut in their Christmas bonus. The money would be used to help the families affected by Tropical Storm Noel. Yarull said that this deduction would be a one-off and would only affect high-ranking officials like ministers, deputy-ministers, directors and deputy-directors, governors and vice governors, superintendents and the like. Government officials who make RD$50,000 or more would also be affected. Yarull, quoted in Hoy, says that the pay cut would be a drop in the ocean for these high-ranking officials. Yarull's proposal is not too far fetched considering the government's announcement that this year's lavish end-of-year parties, which cost millions, are being cancelled in order to use the funds for victims of Noel.

First kidney transplant successful
Doctors at Plaza de la Salud have completed the nation's first successful kidney transplant from a deceased donor. The recipient was Milagros Contreras, a 40-year old teacher who was suffering from chronic kidney disease. Hoy writes that the teacher from Elias Pina had been having problems for a year and a half, forcing her to require dialysis. The donor was identified as a 52-year old patient who died due to heart problems. The announcement was made during a press conference by Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez and Plaza de la Salud president Julio Amado Castanos Guzman. The procedure cost around RD$40,000 and will be covered by the Teachers Medical Insurance (SEMMA). The surgery took place about a month ago and the patient has been recovering satisfactorily. Jiomar Figueroa, head of Organ Transplant at the hospital, says that this is a big step for medicine and transplants in the country and provides a ray of hope for patients who die because of lack of organs.

Bikini debate squashed
The media communications commission at the Chamber of Deputies has rejected a proposed bill that sought to ban bikini-clad women from appearing on television. Elpidio Baez says that the bill, although rejected, was positive because it highlighted the issue and says that the media outlets in the country are being irresponsible in this regard. Baez explained that the original bill only included television censorship and omitted internet, movie, radio and other media censorship.

DANR holds conference
The Dominican American National Roundtable is holding a conference in Miami, Florida to discuss a range of issues that affect the Dominican community in the US. DANR is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event will be held at the Hotel Radisson and among the topics discussed will be DR-CAFTA, education, Dominican talent and social security. Important Dominican figures active in the US and the DR will take part in at the event.

Hurricane season over
Finally, the Atlantic hurricane season comes to an end today. In all, this has been an extremely deadly and costly hurricane season and although few storms passed through the DR, the severity of Tropical Storm Noel cannot be overstated. Reports from the National Hurricane Center in Miami indicate that there were 14 tropical storms and six hurricanes this season. In the DR alone Noel was responsible for 114 deaths and for displacing hundreds of families around the country. The storm also drenched Jamaica and Cuba.

Lincoln Road robbery suspects caught
Police have announced the arrest of two men who robbed the Lincoln Road restaurant in the capital, together with three others believed to be their accomplices. The thieves were identified as Yunior de los Santos and Rafael Alejandro Segura. Police say they have also seized two motorbikes, a gun and two rifles. The gun and motorbikes are believed to have been used during the robbery, while the rifles belonged to the watchmen who were on duty at the time. In all, the thieves made away with RD$25,000 in cash during last week's raid. Hoy writes that when questioned, the thieves admitted to the robberies.

Arte Moreno visits
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arturo (Arte) Moreno is visiting the Dominican Republic with team managers Tony Reagins and Mike Scioscia. On his arrival, Moreno praised Dominican baseball talent. "The Dominican Republic is a mine for talented ball players for the Majors," he told Hoy newspaper. His agenda includes a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez, distributing aid to victims of Tropical Storm Noel, attending Dominican ball games and visiting the Dominican team members - Vladimir Guerrero, Irving Santana and Erick Aybar. He was welcomed to Las Americas International Airport by Sports Minister Felipe Payano. Scioscia told reporters that he was happy to be back. "The best baseball in the Caribbean is played here and I adore the Dominican fans, and especially everything to do with the Licey Tigers where I played for two years in 1979 and 1980," he told Hoy reporters.

Baseball updates
President Leonel Fernandez is hosting a special luncheon with ballplayers Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz and Julio Lugo today. Fernandez will honor Sosa and his feat of 600 career homeruns, which was accomplished during this past baseball season. Sosa had a great year with 21 homeruns and 92 RBI in only 114 games played. Ortiz has also had a great year. His .332 average, 35 homeruns and 117 RBI helped the Red Sox win their second World Series title in four years. Ortiz's Red Sox were aided by the defense provided by Julio Lugo.
In yesterday's baseball action the Tigres beat the Gigantes 4-2 thanks to the offensive powerhouse of Andy Tracy.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 21 11 .656 --
Gigantes 18 13 .581 2.5
Aguilas 16 15 .516 4.0
Escogido 15 17 .469 5.5
Azucareros 13 19 .406 7.5
Estrellas 12 20 .375 8.5
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