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Daily News - Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Respite from fireworks
Residents of the National District, the greater part of Santo Domingo, enjoyed a rare quiet Christmas, without the blasts of fireworks of years past. Nevertheless, in Santiago three children suffered serious burns as a result of mishandling fireworks. Santo Domingo hospitals reported none of the usual fireworks injuries due to a citywide ban enforced by the Police.
The Colonial City and most restaurants in Santo Domingo closed to give priority to family gatherings. Reports are that Santo Domingo East municipality, Los Minas and its bustling Avenida Venezuela, was where the nightspots were buzzing with partying and activity.
Nationwide the Emergency Operations Center (COE) reports 18 deaths and 286 injuries over the 22-25 December Christmas holiday long weekend. Last year there were 15 deaths during this same period.
Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia, director of the COE reported 123 traffic accidents.
As reported in Diario Libre, alcohol poisoning was behind most of these tragedies. There were at least six cases of children hospitalized with alcoholic poisoning on 23, 24 and 25 December at the Francisco Moscoso Puello and Robert Reid Cabral hospitals in Santo Domingo. The children were 6, 7, 8, 13 and 14 years old.

Fernandez promises stability
President Leonel Fernandez promises that the DR will continue to be one of the Latin American countries to post the highest rates of growth despite increasing fuel prices and the damage caused by tropical storms Noel and Olga late this year. Fernandez says there will be growth with stability and low interest rates, which have marked his first three years in government. He said he was optimistic that 2008 will be a good year. He stressed that the Dominican economy grew more than 7.2% in 2007, when forecasts by international organizations were for 6% growth. Fernandez was speaking while distributing Christmas baskets in the province of Santo Domingo on Christmas Eve.
"What we promised -- stability and growth with generation of jobs -- has been accomplished". He estimated that 400,000 new jobs have already been created, as reported in Hoy.
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas announced 5.5% growth for the country and inflation of 5.81% for next year. On the downside, he said that petroleum imports for 2007 would be US$3.2 billion, or 7.7% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Petrocaribe to be held here
President Leonel Fernandez made a bid for hosting the seventh PetroCaribe Summit in 2008 when attending the event held last week in Cuba. The summit brings together countries that adhere to the preferential terms for purchasing petroleum from Venezuela. This year the event was held in Cuba. President Fernandez said that in 2006 the petroleum bill was US$2.8 billion, and in 2007 it is expected to reach US$3.3 billion, due to the increase in prices.
Fernandez spoke of how the rising cost of petroleum affects the generation of electricity in the country. "The blackouts that we have in the DR are not because we do not have enough installed capacity to produce power, but rather because the kilowatt/hour cost is so expensive that the government has to subsidize it," he said. He said that while the country benefits from the PetroCaribe agreements, which permit the postponement of payments, it is seeking alternative ways to reduce the cost of fuel.

Budget goes to Congress
The Executive Branch chose to send the 2008 National Budget to Congress for review and passing around noon on 23 December. The budget was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies first. Dominican law establishes that if the budget is not approved, the government will use the previous year's budget, and has discretion in the application of budgetary surpluses. The ruling party PLD legislators hold the majority in Congress.

EPA is a winner
The Dominican ambassador to the European Union, Federico Alberto Cuello says that the European Partnership Agreement recently signed by the Cariforum nations (Caricom + Dominican Republic) and the European Union resulted in negotiations that are more favorable to the country than those included in the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement with the United States and Central America. Cuello highlighted the fact that Dominican products and services can now be exported duty-free to 27 European countries as of 1 January 2008, but duty free European exports will be phased in as of 15 April 2008.
Several programs to enhance local competitiveness and prepare the country for increased trade with Europe are to be implemented by the National Office for European Development Funds (ONFED). One calls for an EUR80 million fund to improve national competitiveness, which will be managed by the National Competitiveness Council. Another calls for 120 million euros towards improving the electricity service, Cuello told Listin Diario in an interview. A further EUR130 million is going towards the Caribbean region and will be available for the Dominican Republic also through the ONFED. In addition, the European Investment Bank is making available EUR4 billion for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, including the DR.
He also highlighted the fact that there is a longer 25-year cushion of unilateral tariff protection for products considered sensitive in the Caribbean, such as chicken, beef, and pork, and dairy products. There is a three-year moratorium for reciprocity in most products. This means that the country could wait three years to change the tariffs on European products, and after that there will be a gradual reduction on many products. However, Europe will keep its doors open to duty-free and quota-free exports from the Dominican Republic, with the exception of sugar.
Furthermore, as reported in Diario Libre, Cuello explained that rules of origin apply for free zones as of 1 January 2008 and the free zones, when securing European clients, can use materials from anywhere in the world and still receive duty- free treatment for the exports.
He stressed that the agreement allows for exporting 30,000 metric tons of sugar to the European market and maintains a duty free market for Dominican tobacco, rum, cacao, bananas, avocado, mangos, vegetables and apparel.
He also mentioned that the agreement incorporates protection against unfair competition in the tourism sector.
Cuello was part of the DR negotiating team in the area of services and investments. Other key negotiators were Roberto Despradel in market access and Jose Ramon Rodriguez in agricultural products.
For the agreement, see http://dr1.com/trade/articles/426/1/...

Small business is key to development
The presidents of the Association of Herrera Industries (AEIH) and the Federation of Industrial Associations (FAI) are encouraging the government to enforce policies that stimulate small business. As reported in Listin Diario, they are calling on the government to implement the recently passed Innovation and Industrial Competitiveness Law to create productive jobs. In a joint statement, both organizations urged the government to provide funds for the new government department created by the law, Proindustria to get to work. Jesus Moreno, president of AEIH and Ignacio Mendez of FAI proposed: "To implement the Proindustria Competitiveness Plan is the key, the creation of jobs. The government has a brilliant opportunity to stimulate an increase in jobs. There is no time to lose," they stated. They said that the authorities should promote sustainable and competitive jobs, not those that are the result of giveaways. The best way to national development and growth is to create jobs and micro business, to plant the country with small business, they stated.

Haitian-Dominicans go for politics
The Movimiento Politico Comunitario Dominico-Haitiano has announced that it is organizing to represent Haitian-Dominican interests, as reported in Diario Libre today. Lawyer Ruben Jean-Baptiste Latorti said they seek to become the voice of this important and decisive group. They will campaign to achieve representation at the central government, municipal, legislative and judicial levels.

IDAC to fund Christopher's defense
The director of the Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) Jose Tomas Perez announced that the IDAC will pay for the legal services of Carpio y Asociados, the legal counsel in the case of the death of the aero-navigation department director, Angel Christopher Martinez, shot to death on 12 July 2006 in his vehicle for suspected job-related reasons. "We understand that Christopher died when he was an important official from this institute and in some way for reasons that tie his death to his work at the institution... thus we understand that the least we can due is take on the costs of his defense," said Perez. Speaking to Diario Libre, his son Eric Christopher explained the reasons for the delay in solving the murder: "We are confronting interests that were affected by work carried out by our father and that makes this investigation more vulnerable and difficult," he said.

Father Aleman dies
One of the country's leading economists, thinkers and mentors who inspired hundreds of people, 79-year old Jesuit priest Jose Luis Aleman, died on Christmas Eve, 24 December, after a long illness. He died of cancer of the pancreas at the Clinica Corominas in Santiago. He was buried in the Manresa Loyola Jesuit private cemetery in Santo Domingo.
For years he was dean of the School of Economics at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra.

Pardon for abused woman
Miriam Margarita Brito, who made headlines for being held responsible for the murder of her husband on 26 November 2003, received a pardon from President Leonel Fernandez yesterday. She had been sentenced to 20 years in jail, together with her maid Deydania Gonzalez, who received a 30-year sentence. News coverage at the time carried reports of how her husband, an affluent construction company owner, had abused her and was said to be a threat to other members of the family. Diario Libre reports that she spent a year at Najayo jail where she took several courses in painting, sewing, computers and public relations.

Venezuelan plane crashes
An 82-year old Venezuelan woman died on board the small plane on which she was traveling from Venezuela with family and friends to spend the Christmas holidays in La Romana. The plane was affected by motor failure 32 miles south of La Romana, crashing near Saona Island. The Dominican Navy, Coast Guard service from Puerto Rico and Dominican Air Force helicopters all took part in the rescue operation. Six other occupants of the airplane were rescued at sea. The pilot was the only one seriously injured. The deceased woman was Alicia Fargier, and the injured pilot is Jose Arroyo. The other passengers were Jesus Sanchez, co-pilot, Ramon Zabala, Isabel Sanchez, Anabelle Payan and Noris Emmgrich.

Aguilas vs. Licey
The winter baseball semi-finals begin today in the Quisqueya (Santo Domingo) and Julian Javier (San Francisco de Macoris) stadiums. A total of 18 games will be played in the round robin. The two teams that win the most games will pass to the playoffs, where each team will be homeclub for nine games, as reported in Diario Libre. The winner and runner up this year, will play Venezuela and Mexican teams in the Caribbean Series 50th anniversary championship, set for Santiago de los Caballeros, home town of the Aguilas.
Escogido and the Toros were eliminated in the regular season this year. The Gigantes won the regular season, followed by the Licey, the Aguilas and the Estrellas.
Pitching tonight for the Aguilas will be Jose Lima (3-2 and ERA of 2.66) and Jose Mercedes (3-2 and 3.06).
Regular Season final standing
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Gigantes 29 18 .617 --
Licey 29 19 .604 0.5
Aguilas 24 24 .500 5.5
Escogido 23 26 .469 7
Estrellas 21 28 .429 9
Azucareros 19 30 .388 11
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