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Daily News - 24 February 1998

Most modern containerized trans-shipment center in the Caribbean
A group of renown Dominican businesses have joined forces for the installation of what should become the Caribbean's finest fully containerized trans-shipment terminal. The promoters of the Zona Franca Multimodal Caucedo called a press conference at the Dominican Republic Office for the Promotion of Investments (OPI) to make the announcement. The US$100 million investment has the endorsement of the Dominican government investment-promoting entity.
The promoters of the project are Samuel Conde, of Piisa free zone and the Conde construction firm; Manuel Enrique Tavares of Tavares Industrial and Piisa free zone; Jaak Rannik of Báez & Rannik shipping firm; and Sealand shipping firm, represented by Alfredo Duro, general manager of Sealand in the Dominican Republic.
The promoters said that US$100 million will be invested in the construction and equipping of free zone buildings, maritime cargo port terminals, telecommunications and warehousing facilities.
The free zone was created by Decree 29-98 signed by President Leonel Fernández.
The project seeks to take advantage of the privileged geographic location of the Dominican Republic, contributing to convert the D.R. into a major international commerce center and a Caribbean basin trade hub.
During the presentation, Manuel Enrique Tavares said that with the emergence of South America as a strong trading partner, there is an increase in traffic of goods and services between North and South America. He said that the D.R. can take advantage of its strategic location for the installation of new kinds of industries, such as the manufacturing of motor vehicles. He said that similarly there have been advances in free zone manufacturing, with more sophisticated kinds of manufacturing processes already taking place in textile, electronic and pharmaceutical plants here.
Tavares said that, while in the 80s the emphasis was on costs and in the 90s on quality, today it is on logistics, where fast transportation and distribution are key issues.
Jaak Rannik highlighted one of the advantages to the nation of the project will be a reduction in shipping costs as a result of trans- shipment economies. The megaport will be able to service megaships.
The promoters seek to attract large multinational corporations interested in taking advantage of port installations for trans- shipment operations.
The general manager of Sealand in the D.R., Alfredo Duro, said that the new center will turn the country into a center for the distribution of goods, packaging, storage and re-export of goods by air or sea to the world. Intermodal operations will allow the trans-shipment of containerized cargo from one ship to another without unloading the container; from a ship to a storage or distribution warehouse, with the container being unloaded, the cargo then reshipped by airplane or another boat; or unloaded by an airport to a distribution warehouse for eventual re-shipment by plane or boat.
Finally, Samuel Conde said that the project represents the vision of the new Dominican Republic.
The free zone will compete with similar trans-shipment centers such as those located in Colón, Panamá and Kingston, Jamaica.

The National Dialogue
Ana Mitila Lora, well known journalist of the Listín Diario, described the first day of the National Dialogue, the talks being held from the 23 to 25 February to define the national agenda into the 21st century, as "an experience in participatory democracy without precedence in Latin America." As President Leonel Fernández had announced, the floor was open to anyone, either on an individual level or representing organizations or businesses, to speak their mind as to what should be done to achieve the desired development of the nation into the next century. Individuals and representatives of business groups, farmers, union members, representatives of religious organizations and non-governmental agencies participated. The inspiring sessions were characterized by their excellent organization regardless of the low turnout. Of over 3,000 persons that attended, in some sub-commissions only 10% assisted to submit their proposals. This low turnout facilitated the sessions which seemed like a "marathon of proposals."

News on the energy situation
Ax Dominicana, the Dominican company representing the new Siemens power plant that has been contracted by the Dominican government, announced that the 100 megawatt turbogas plant should be on line by this May. The equipment involves an investment of US$34.8 million. In its second phase, it will generate an additional 50 megawatts, using the excess heat generated by the power unit itself.
The Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the government electricity utility, has indicated that two of the five turbogas power plants contracted from the French firm Alsthon are currently in process of installation and should go on line in March. The plants are being installed at the Parque Higuamo in San Pedro de Macorís and will generate 50 megawatts. Within the next few weeks, the Los Minas IV and VI, of the AES Dominican Power Partners (Destec) company, are also expected to return to the CDE network, generating some 210 megawatts.
Meanwhile, the nation is now having to rely on its alternate power sources. Senator Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata) estimated that businesses and homes have installed alternate sources of energy that generate upwards of 700 megawatts, which is more than the installed capacity of government generators. This has represented an investment of US$1,000 million, he estimates.
Senator Alburquerque said that while the government is installing upwards of 500 megawatts in new power plants, it needs to remove from the energy grid state plants urgently requiring maintenance and repair works, such as the Itabo I and I plants, and the Haina I and II units.
Another major problem confronting the supply of energy is the conflict between the CDE and the Smith-Enron power plant over contractual and technological issues. The dispute will be heard in arbitration in a special court in Mexico in early March.

New president for the Hotel Association of Santo Domingo
Eduardo Serrano was recently elected president of the Associación de Hoteles de Santo Domingo. Serrano is assistant general manager of the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel, a Mariott operation. He pointed out that small and medium-sized hotels of Santo Domingo are suffering from the extended blackouts and have had to make heavy investments in emergency power plants for their standby power plants to be able to resist the 10 to 12 hour blackouts. Serrano said the Jaragua has not been affected by the deficient power situation as, from the time of its opening, the hotel has operated on its own energy system.

Get to know your congressmen
If our congressmen have always had a reputation for working as little as they can, now they have a big excuse to do so. With their electoral campaigns soon to enter into full force, pessimistic reports in the national press forecast that they will be even more absent and less available for their congressional work.
The new legislature opens Friday, 27 February, but another date on the national agenda is expected to bear more weight. This year's congressional elections are scheduled for 16 May. When the Junta Central Electoral, the court of elections, announces contenders on 16 March, congressmen will most probably give priority to their campaigns over their congressional obligations. Some 23 of 30 senators seek to be re-elected, for instance, and dozens of deputies seek re-election or to be elected mayors in their municipalities.
Congress has been notably slow in passing bills of national importance. Some which have been passed reflect the personal interests of congressmen, such as the Electricity Bill, which sought to favor a particular senator, and was vetoed by the President. Other bills that are stagnant in Congress, considered essential to national development, are the Monetary and Financial Code, the General Customs Bill, the Judicial Career Bill, the Telecommunications Bill (also vetoed by the President for irregularities in its passing), and the Potable Water Code.
The present congressional term ends 16 August of this year. The four year period has been known more for accusations of blackmail, bribes, corruption scandals, and frequent absencies and tardiness of the congressmen to work sessions, than for its productivity. Dominican congressmen are the best paid of the nation's public servants. The Listín Diario is carrying out a series of reports on the congressional activity during the past four years to help voters form an educated opinion prior to voting in this year's 16 May election.

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