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Suhelis Tejero Puntes

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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About Suhelis
Suhelis Tejero Puntes is a journalist based in Dominican Republic, and working worldwide.

For the last 20 years she has worked in Venezuela and Dominican Republic as a staff journalist for El Universal (Venezuela) and Diario Libre (Dominican Republic), and also as stringer/correspondent for AFP, El Comercio (Ecuador), Europa Press (Spain), writing in-depth reports about politics, economics, crisis, food shortages, corruption.
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Spanish
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More than 53% of the population does not have a bank account

04 Apr 2024  |  diariolibre.com
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic's National Survey of Financial Inclusion found that 53.69% of Dominicans do not have a bank account or any financial credits, while 46.31% mostly have savings accounts and to a lesser extent, loans and other banking instruments. The survey, covering 3,744 households nationwide, was conducted in December 2019 and does not account for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Reasons for not having a bank account included not needing one, insufficient income, or the high cost of financial services. The survey also noted that government subsidies helped increase the level of banking among citizens, and financial inclusion was higher among those with higher incomes.

Bukele and the Authoritarian Advance

20 Feb 2024  |  www.eltribuno.com
Nayib Bukele announced his re-election for another five years, claiming it as a democratic milestone for El Salvador. However, critics argue that his regime is authoritarian, citing the dismissal of Supreme Court judges and the imposition of a state of exception that suspends constitutional rights. Organizations like El Faro and academic institutions describe Bukele's government as an autocracy, with concerns over human rights violations and suppression of dissent. Reports indicate a decline in democratic values and an increase in authoritarian preferences in the region.

Central Bank estimates inflation will close the year between 5% to 5.5%

03 Oct 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Central Bank Governor, Héctor Valdez Albizu, announced that inflation is expected to close the year between 5% and 5.5%, slightly above the target range of 4%. The Central Bank continues its monetary stimulus plan initiated in March 2020, with liquidity provisions amounting to RD$215 billion, equivalent to 5% of GDP. Detailed financing channels have been presented, with RD$196,285.1 million allocated to businesses and households through new loans, refinancing, and debt restructuring. Key sectors receiving funds include commerce, SMEs, households, manufacturing, construction, and exports.

How to Receive Money from a Deceased Family Member Deposited in an AFP

01 Oct 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
The article outlines the process for claiming pension funds from deceased family members deposited in Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones (AFP) in the Dominican Republic. It details the eligibility criteria for beneficiaries, the required documentation, and the legal procedures involved. The Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Social has resolved that heirs are not required to pay inheritance tax to access these funds, aiming to expedite the process. The Superintendencia de Pensiones ensures that the return of balances to heirs never expires, and the Junta Central Electoral provides data to AFPs for updating records.

The Water Footprint in Production is Increasing

01 Oct 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
Water usage in agriculture and industry is increasing in the Dominican Republic, with significant wastage due to outdated irrigation methods. Manuel Matos, a local bean producer, highlights the inefficiency of current irrigation practices and advocates for more efficient pressurized systems. UNESCO and the World Bank report on the growing demand for water in agriculture due to population growth and climate change, projecting significant increases in water usage for food production and industrial activities by 2050. The Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Mipymes provide data on the current and future water demands in various sectors, emphasizing the economic importance of water in the region.

Environmentalists Oppose Loma Miranda Exploitation

01 Oct 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
Falcondo's request for a permit to exploit Loma Miranda has sparked strong reactions from environmental groups, who view the move as distressing and audacious. The Ministry of Environment has received the request and will follow the formal process, while the Ministry of Energy and Mines is responsible for granting mining concessions. Yanio Concepción of Vega Real Cooperative criticized the lack of public consultation and called on President Luis Abinader to address the issue. Environmentalists, including Nelson Bautista of Fundación Acción Verde, emphasize the need for clear territorial protection and express concerns about the environmental impact of ferronickel extraction.

Pension Fund Administrators manage 2,344 million pesos of deceased contributors

01 Oct 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
Pension Fund Administrators (AFP) in the Dominican Republic hold 2,344 million pesos in individual capitalization accounts belonging to deceased contributors, which have not been claimed by their families. The Superintendencia de Pensiones (Sipen) reports that this issue has worsened over time, with the amount of unclaimed funds increasing from 1,900 million pesos less than two years ago. The main problem is that AFPs do not contact the families of the deceased, despite having information on potential heirs. The law specifies who is entitled to these funds, and recent resolutions aim to facilitate the claiming process by exempting beneficiaries from inheritance tax. The process for claiming funds depends on whether the deceased was already retired or still contributing to their account at the time of death.

5G Auction Comes with Promise of Better Connectivity

17 May 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
The 5G auction in the Dominican Republic aims to position the country as a leader in Latin America for this advanced technology. The process, managed by the Instituto Dominicano de Telecomunicaciones (Indotel), involves assigning frequencies through an international public tender. Licenses will last 20 years for new market entrants and will require commitments to improve connectivity in underserved regions. Companies must meet specific coverage and speed targets, with a focus on both rural and urban areas. The auction's results are expected by August, with contracts signed by September to initiate investments.

Sour lemon and passion fruit increased by 30% to 60% in the first quarter

06 Apr 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
Inflation in the Dominican Republic has risen by 8.3% over the past year, significantly exceeding the government's target of around 4%. In March alone, inflation increased by 0.60%, driven primarily by higher prices for regular and premium gasoline and diesel. The first quarter saw price increases of up to 60% for certain products like sour lemon and passion fruit. Conversely, prices for ripe and green plantains and onions decreased by 19% to 21%. The Central Bank expects inflation to start converging towards the target range of 3% to 5% annually from June. Alejandro Werner from the IMF noted that the global price surge is expected to be temporary, reflecting low price levels from the same period in 2020 due to the pandemic. The cost of the basic basket in March averaged 37,774.71 pesos, varying by social stratum.

Estimate a hotel occupancy of 50.5% during Holy Week

01 Apr 2023  |  www.diariolibre.com
Hotel occupancy during Holy Week is estimated to reach around 50.5% of operational rooms, according to the National Association of Hotels and Tourism (Asonahores). This would represent the highest level of hotel occupancy recorded by the tourism industry in the past year, as stated by Rafael Blanco Tejera, president of Asonahores.

Heavy cargo traffic to be banned in the National District from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM

16 Sep 2021  |  diariolibre.com
Authorities will soon initiate a pilot plan to temporarily ban heavy cargo transportation from entering the National District from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Hugo Beras, the Secretary-General of the National District's City Hall, did not specify the start date or duration of the measure. The plan involves the National District's City Hall, the Ministry of Public Works, Intrant, transporters, and businessmen, with technical support from the Inter-American Development Bank. Beras mentioned that only trucks with special authorization would be allowed entry. The measure is expected to affect 3,000 to 4,000 heavy cargo vehicles that currently transit through the capital daily.

Consolidated debt closes at nearly US$60,000 million in June

13 Sep 2021  |  diariolibre.com
As of June, the Dominican Republic's consolidated public debt reached a historic high of $59.648 billion, representing 68% of the GDP. The debt increased by nearly $13 billion over the past twelve months, with a 25% rise since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. A significant portion of emergency subsidies for workers affected by the virus was financed through external debt, with 70% of the $144.869 billion in social aid since the pandemic's onset sourced from external debt, including funds from the IMF and the World Bank. The external debt stood at $33.251 billion, while local market commitments were $26.397 billion. The non-financial public sector (SPNF) was the primary source of debt, with the central government and other executive branches issuing $47.406 billion in debt, a 22.9% increase from the previous year. The central government paid $2.627 billion for debt service in the first half of the year.

The tourist profile has transformed after the pandemic's arrival in the country

12 Sep 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
Since the reopening of borders in July 2020, the tourist landscape in the Dominican Republic has changed, with a shift in the demographic profile of visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The typical visitor remains predominantly from the United States, but there has been an increase in tourists from Latin American countries. The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic's data shows a change in visitor origins, with a decrease in European tourists and an increase from other regions. Tourists are spending less but staying longer, with an average daily expenditure decrease of 3.8% compared to 2019, and an increase in average stay from 8.12 to 9.28 nights. There has also been a notable increase in younger tourists and a shift in travel purpose, with more visitors coming to see friends or partners rather than purely for vacation.

Deputy Minister of Tourism: 'The beach regeneration plan could not be applied as it was'

29 Aug 2021  |  diariolibre.com
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Jacqueline Mora, announced that the delayed beach regeneration plan will start in 2022 after technical analyses and a new tender process. The original project from Danilo Medina's administration was rushed and lacked a long-term vision. The Inter-American Development Bank is involved in the new survey, and the plan includes the regeneration of 16 beaches with a 10-year outlook. Mora also highlighted the Dominican tourism sector's strong recovery compared to global levels, and the opening to new markets such as Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Paola Rainieri, former president of Asonahores, expressed excellent expectations for the upcoming high tourist season.

Miguel Ceara Hatton: “The Dominican economy will grow more than 7% in 2021”

10 Aug 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Dominican Republic's economy is expected to grow by more than 7% in 2021, recovering from the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in an economic loss of $18.459 billion in 2020. The Minister of Economy, Planning, and Development, Miguel Ceara Hatton, highlighted the severe economic challenges and the substantial public debt incurred to mitigate the crisis. He emphasized the need for fiscal reforms and a more equitable tax structure to improve the quality of life. The decision on when to initiate these reforms lies with the President of the Republic.

Government re-estimates 10% growth for 2021

01 Aug 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The revised macroeconomic framework as of August indicates a new economic growth target of 10% for this year, an improvement from the previous estimate of 7.5% in June. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 6.7% economic decline in 2020, but the Monthly Economic Activity Index (Imae) rebounded by 13.1% in the first seven months of this year. Rafael Espinal from Intec finds it challenging to estimate this year's economic growth accurately, while economist Franklin Vásquez considers the 10% growth estimate overly optimistic, suggesting a more realistic 8% increase.

First part of the minimum wage increase comes into effect today

16 Jul 2021  |  diariolibre.com
On July 16, 2021, the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Labor implemented the first phase of the minimum wage increase as per resolution 01/2021. Large companies' base salaries are now 20,000 pesos per month, medium companies at 18,500 pesos, small companies at 12,400 pesos, and micro companies at 11,500 pesos. Security guards are to earn 16,750 pesos. The second increase is scheduled for January 1, 2022, with further wage adjustments for employees. Agricultural workers will earn 500 pesos per day for 10-hour workdays, with proportional adjustments based on hours worked, with no further adjustments in January.

Indotel fines Viva for illegally using frequencies since 2017

15 Jul 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel) has sanctioned Trilogy Dominicana (Viva) for the illegal use of the radioelectric spectrum, detected in June 2017. Indotel imposed fines totaling RD$369.11 million for serious and very serious sanctions, as well as for the counterpayment of the rights of exclusive exploitation of the illegally used frequencies. The resolution 064-2021 orders Viva to cease using certain frequency segments and to refrain from marketing services through those frequencies. The sanction concludes a long process of demands, claims, delays, absence of rulings, and the prescription of the process. Viva has categorically rejected the resolution and announced it will take legal and administrative actions against it.

Central Bank: Economy grew 13.4% in the first five months

29 Jun 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
Héctor Valdez Albizu, governor of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, reported that the economy experienced a 21.2% growth at the end of May, leading to an accumulated growth of 13.4% from January to May 2021. He highlighted that the growth was robust and that the economy is on track to grow above 8% for the year. The sectors with the highest growth in May included construction at 54%, free zones at 30.1%, mining at 16.2%, local manufacturing at 15.9%, and transportation at 14.3%.

Agriculture Minister: 'The worst that can happen is scarcity, and we are far from that'

27 Jun 2021  |  diariolibre.com
Limber Cruz, the Dominican Republic's Minister of Agriculture, acknowledges consumer discomfort due to price increases but emphasizes that scarcity is a worse scenario, which the country has avoided as agricultural production continues despite the crisis. The government has intervened by subsidizing some agricultural producers to address supply issues, as seen with onions and carrots. Cruz highlights that while international commodity prices have risen, local agricultural production has not been significantly affected, and the government has managed to control food prices. The government has also provided financial support to the sector, including 5 billion pesos at zero interest rate. Additionally, the government has initiated corn and sorghum planting to mitigate the impact of high raw material costs on food production.

Requirement of PCR test or vaccination affects 1.32% of tourists visiting the country

25 Jun 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The requirement for a negative PCR test or vaccination card for travelers from 18 countries starting June 28 will affect only 1.32% of the visitors to the Dominican Republic. Authorized by the Civil Aviation Board (JAC), this measure mandates travelers from specified nations to prove they are COVID-19 free or fully vaccinated before entry. According to Central Bank data, approximately 12,766 tourists from these countries visited the Dominican Republic between January and May out of a total of 964,596 foreign visitors.

Government dusts off tax and tries to avoid fiscal reform

18 May 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Dominican government is striving to increase revenue without resorting to major fiscal reforms that would require congressional approval. Administrative Minister Ignacio Paliza indicated that government technicians are analyzing the necessity of a fiscal reform, which is part of the National Development Strategy but has seen little progress. The Directorate General of Internal Taxes (DGII) has communicated the enforcement of an existing 2% tax on financial transactions above a certain threshold, contributing to positive tax collection results. Additionally, the government is exploring non-recurring revenue sources such as fiscal amnesty and combating illicit trade, with the Directorate General of Customs signing an agreement to control the illegal cigarette market.

Public spending on ongoing works plummeted 67.5%

10 May 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
Public spending on construction projects in the Dominican Republic fell by 67.5% to 2,311.9 million pesos between January and April 2021, compared to 7,123.3 million pesos in the same period last year. The Dirección General de Presupuesto reported this significant decline. Despite this, the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic noted a 53.1% growth in the construction sector during the same period, without distinguishing between public and private sector performance. Overall, the government spent 248,881.9 million pesos in the first four months of the year, with significant portions allocated to public sector wages, transfers, and public debt interest.

Alcohol ban on beaches and excursions will last for 60 days

23 Apr 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Dominican Republic's Ministry of Tourism has extended a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages on beaches and during tourist excursions for at least two months, following nearly a hundred deaths caused by methanol-adulterated drinks. The temporary and preventive measure, which could be extended if necessary, includes sanctions for non-compliance. Albania Martínez, president of the Association of Aquatic Companies of La Altagracia province, opposed the ban and suggested providing a list of authorized liquor companies to mitigate the impact on tourism businesses, which have already been heavily affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The government has declared the issue of adulterated alcohol a national security matter and has increased surveillance and control over the import and commercialization of methanol.

We must embrace investors and open the doors of the country to them

05 Apr 2021  |  diariolibre.com
Biviana Riveiro Disla, the executive director of ProDominicana, stated that the Dominican government is focused on resolving bureaucratic issues that hinder new investments in the country. The government aims to create a one-stop shop for investments in the very short term and is working on policies and measures to reduce the time and complexity of doing business. This initiative is part of a zero-bureaucracy policy demanded by President Luis Abinader, emphasizing transparency and governmental efficiency. A campaign titled 'Invest in the Dominican Republic' will be launched this week.

Hourly wage income fell by 8.3% due to the pandemic

29 Mar 2021  |  diariolibre.com
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant drop in hourly wage income for workers in sectors such as hotels, bars, restaurants, banking, and transportation in the Dominican Republic, with only state-associated sectors avoiding this decline in 2020. According to official data from the Central Bank, the average hourly income in the country fell by 8.3% from 113.8 pesos per hour at the end of 2019 to 104.3 pesos per hour in the fourth quarter of 2020. The banking, insurance, and financial intermediation sector saw the largest decrease, with a 41.2% drop in the same period. The pandemic also increased the total informality rate from 54.8% to 56.8% by the end of 2020, with about 2.5 million people working in the informal economy. Unemployment reached 7.4% in 2020, with the eastern region of the country experiencing the highest job loss, reaching 9.1% unemployment in the fourth quarter.

Government proposes the elimination of the shadow toll to Samaná

22 Mar 2021  |  diariolibre.com
Sigmund Freund, the director general of Public-Private Partnerships, stated that the Dominican government's specific proposal in negotiations with the highway concessionaire to Samaná is to eliminate the shadow toll, which is costly to the national budget. Annually, the government pays the concessionaire between $60 and $80 million, which is six times the cost of the highway's construction. The 30-year concession contract, signed during Hipólito Mejía's presidency and altered during Leonel Fernández's term, placed all financial risk on the state. The government has paid 26,835 million pesos for the shadow toll so far.

One Year of COVID-19 Subsidies: An Expense That Curbed Poverty

15 Mar 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Dominican government allocated 133,066 million pesos to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through subsidies like FASE and Quédate en Casa, which significantly reduced poverty and unemployment. The Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development reported that these programs prevented 752,395 people from falling into monetary poverty. However, the Pa’ Ti program was criticized for poor targeting and effectiveness. The subsidies represented over 10% of the national budget, putting pressure on public finances.

Contracting reports 12 precautionary measures due to challenges to Minerd's computer tender

15 Mar 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The General Directorate of Public Procurement (DGCP) reported 12 precautionary measures due to challenges against the Ministry of Education's (Minerd) urgent procurement procedures for computer equipment for distance education during the pandemic. The DGCP is currently reviewing these measures, with some defenses already submitted. The Ministry of Education had allocated significant funds for purchasing laptops, netbooks, and tablets, with additional tenders for small and medium-sized enterprises. Minister Roberto Fulcar acknowledged receiving multiple challenges and inquiries regarding recent procurement decisions. The challenges claim non-compliance with tender conditions, and the DGCP ensures that each claim will be addressed.

Fuel subsidies amount to RD$16,017 million

11 Mar 2021  |  Diario Libre
The Dominican Republic's state subsidies for fuels will amount to 16,017 million pesos this year, equivalent to 0.33% of the GDP. President Luis Abinader indicated the government's intention to reduce this burden by revising the sectoral aid scheme granted through tax exemptions. The majority of these subsidies are allocated to electricity-generating companies, estimated at 11,596.4 million pesos for the year. Compared to the previous year, the subsidy has been reduced by 10,803.1 million pesos, attributed to the impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing production and service company activities. The Central Bank reported a significant drop in energy and water consumption in the industrial and commercial sectors in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Over 35% of gasoline prices are due to taxes

28 Feb 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
In the Dominican Republic, over half of gasoline prices consist of government taxes and distribution companies' margins. Taxes account for 35.3 to 36.7% of gasoline prices, while diesel and fuel oil are taxed around 25%, and LPG has the lowest tax at 11%. Distribution margins, set by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Mipymes, add another 17 to 20%. President Luis Abinader has proposed legal reforms to review fuel pricing structures. The recent government resolution led to significant increases in fuel prices, with premium gasoline rising by 11.5% since the beginning of the year.

First doses of COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the Dominican Republic tonight

15 Feb 2021  |  diariolibre.com
The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under AstraZeneca's license, is arriving in the Dominican Republic tonight on Iberia flight IB6501. The vaccines were transported from Bombay to London by British Airways and then to Madrid, finally reaching Santo Domingo. This marks the first vaccine shipment Iberia has transported to Latin America, weighing 110 kilograms. IAG Cargo, responsible for cargo commercialization for IAG airlines, has a specialized product for pharmaceutical transport, 'Constant Climate', ensuring secure vaccine delivery. The WHO has approved AstraZeneca's vaccine for emergency use, and President Abinader indicated that more vaccines are expected before the end of the month.

Public spending decreased by 25% in January

15 Feb 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
Public spending in the Dominican Republic decreased by 25% in January compared to the same month last year, primarily due to reduced investments in public works and capital formation. The Dirección General de Presupuesto reported that state spending was 49,921.1 million pesos, down from 67,254.8 million pesos the previous year. The most significant cuts were in public infrastructure and capital formation, with spending on public works dropping to two million pesos from 1,472.2 million pesos. The Dominican economy continues to feel the effects of COVID-19 containment measures, which have led to a decline in tax revenues and other fiscal income. The largest expenditures were on debt interest payments and education, each receiving over 10 billion pesos in January.

The impact of COVID-19 on tourism weighs down the Caribbean's recovery

08 Feb 2021  |  www.diariolibre.com
The Caribbean's tourism and flight reactivation is slow, leading to a recovery pace much lower than expected. The IMF has lowered its economic growth projection for the region from an initial 4% to 2.4%, due to the pandemic's extended impact stemming from the area's reliance on tourism. While Latin America is expected to grow more than previously estimated, reaching 4.1%, the Caribbean's recovery contrasts with this trend. IMF Western Hemisphere Director Alejandro Werner emphasized the importance of vaccination in reducing infections, deaths, and hospital use to maintain growth forecasts. He also highlighted the need for government support through subsidies and medium-term programs to ensure fiscal sustainability. The IMF has provided about $1 billion to the Caribbean in 2020 and is open to offering more support in 2021.

The normalization plan will benefit around 100,000 Venezuelans

08 Feb 2021  |  diariolibre.com
Josué Gastelbondo Amaya, the representative of the International Organization for Migration in the Dominican Republic, compared the magnitude of Venezuelan migration, with five million having left the South American nation, to the displacement towards Europe caused by the war in Syria. The Dominican Republic hosts around 114,000 Venezuelans, most of whom are in an irregular situation, with only 14,000 holding regular study and work permits and 600 being refugees or married to Dominicans. The majority entered between 2014 and 2020 and now have expired tourist statuses and passports. The normalization plan aims to address the majority of these Venezuelan migrants.

Venezuela exchanged oil for overpriced food

29 Feb 2020  |  CONNECTAS
Venezuelan governments under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro provided over $28 billion in oil-backed loans to 14 Central American and Caribbean countries through agreements like Petrocaribe. These loans were often repaid with overvalued goods, primarily food, resulting in a loss of millions for Venezuela. The #Petrofraude investigation revealed that Venezuela accepted overpriced goods, such as Nicaraguan coffee and Guyanese rice, leading to potential excess costs of $245 million. Internal audits by Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) showed a lack of control and proper protocols, with missing invoices and quality reports. Discrepancies in reported volumes and values of imported goods were found, and key figures involved in the oil-for-food exchanges have been investigated or sanctioned by the US Treasury for corruption. Lucrative transactions favored companies linked to government figures in the Dominican Republic and Suriname, among others. The misuse of funds intended for social policies in the region led to speculative real estate patterns in El Salvador and the creation of bureaucratic company networks in Nicaragua. The investigation also highlighted the diplomatic influence Venezuela gained through these oil agreements, with beneficiary countries often aligning with Venezuelan interests in international bodies like the OEA and the UN.

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