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Daily News - 22 January 1998

Not a step back in plan to organize city traffic
The director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), Engineer Hamlet Hermann, said that nothing will stop the transport authority efforts to reorganize traffic. He said he has the support of the residents of Santo Domingo and the central government. On Tuesday, the Sala Capitular, a kind of congress within the city government, requested that AMET come before them to explain what they are doing to organize traffic in Santo Domingo. By law, the Municipality is in charge of the organization of traffic in Santo Domingo. Nevertheless, given the chaotic situation the city suffers at present, the central government created the AMET. Engineer Hamlet Hermann said that the mayor of Santo Domingo sits on the AMET board and is privy to all that is being done. "Mayor Rafael Suberví Bonilla has been one of the strongest supporters of the AMET," said Eng. Hermann. The director of AMET said that he would visit the Sala Capitular if he receives a formal invitation.
Eng. Hermann said that President Leonel Fernández will board the first bus and travel all along the route at the start of operations of the 27 de Febrero new bus lane on 26 January. He also said that on the first day of operation, travel would be free so that citizens can try out the service.
He reaffirmed that as of 26 January, the Ortega y Gasset Avenue will be a one-way street, in the north-south direction. The Sala Capitular had contested the authority of AMET to rule on the direction of city traffic.

Free trade agreement with Central America
The Listín Diario reports that the Dominican government is moving ahead in negotiations that would lead to the signing of a free trade agreement with Central America. The agreement would cover both goods and services. Dominican negotiators will meet in Costa Rica on 9-10 February to conclude the agreement before April, so that the D.R. can participate in the Central American trade block in the Second Summit of the Americas, set for Chile. According to the Interamerican Development Bank statistics, the Gross Domestic Product of the D.R. is above that of regional Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

OAS Secretary General to visit
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, César Gaviria, will visit Santo Domingo on 6 February to participate in the Iberoamerican Forum on Government Reform and Modernization to be held at the Central Bank auditorium. Several other former presidents of Latin America are expected to attend the event that begins 5 February. President Leonel Fernández is expected to inaugurate the event.

Congressmen are best paid
Dominican congressmen are the best paid officers in government. Salaries of congressmen will cost taxpayers more than RD$776 million in 1998. Deputies and senators will earn RD$81,000 a month. They also enjoy other benefits, such as diplomatic passports for the entire family, four-year job security, congressional immunity, and the tax exemptions of two vehicles, one of these unlimited in value, the other limited to US$18,000. These exemptions are usually sold by the congressmen.
Beginning with the August 16, 1998 congress, there will be an increase in the number of deputies, which given the increase in the population, will now be 149, up from 120. Santo Domingo will be represented by 44 deputies. Gallup poll surveys held by Hoy newspaper show that the population does not feel it is represented by the congressmen.
For the May 16, 1998 congressional elections, it will be the first time that congressmen will be elected separately from the President. Political parties have until 16 February to announce alliances, and then until 16 March to announce their candidates for the 16 May election.

Rulings to reduce money in circulation
Monetary Board of the Central Bank issued on Tuesday, 20 January, several rulings to restrict money in circulation in order to stop the demand for U.S. dollars that was forcing an increase in the price of the dollar. The measures are as follows: financial institutions must maintain a 10% solvency; freeze for 90 days on lending of the surplus of the legal reserve of banks; a ceiling on the use of commercial banking credit by government institutions; interest paid on Central Bank certificates of deposit is increased two points to 16%; exchange houses will be ruled by the same disposition of commercial banks that obliges them to sell to the Central Bank any surplus foreign exchange after 48 hours after receipt of same.

U.S. vs. D.R. in volleyball
The visiting U.S. women's volleyball team defeated the Dominican team 3-1 (15-7, 15-6, 4-15 and 15-7) in the first match at the Juan Pablo Duarte Volleyball Pavilion. On Wednesday, the American team won 3-1 (15-3, 15-3, 11-15 and 15-12). The U.S. team, ranked 9th in the world, is in Santo Domingo as part of its training for the World Games. The D.R. team is ranked 15th in the world. Mick Haley, coach of the U.S. team, said that the U.S. squad is new and none of the players that participated in the Atlantic Olympics are on the team. The third game of the series of five will be played at 6:30 at the Volleyball Pavilion.

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