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Daily News - 27 April 1998

Autopista Duarte to be inaugurated 30 April
One of the most costly public works ever carried out in this country, the expansion of the Duarte Highway will be inaugurated on 30 April by President Leonel Fernández. The expansion of the 187 kilometer highway that leads from the capital city of Santo Domingo to the North Coast was begun on 11 October 1993, and will have been completed almost five years later. The highway that crisscrosses the most fertile lands of the DR is used by trucks that mobilize 80% of the farming produce consumed in Santo Domingo. The expansion project also included the construction of nine bypasses for through traffic in Santo Domingo, Villa Altagracia, San Francisco de Macorís, La Vega, Moca, Jarabacoa, Constanza, and Bonao. A bypass is pending for construction in Santiago.
Some 39 engineering companies from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, and Mexico participated in the construction that is estimated to have cost upwards of RD$5,166 million pesos.

Dollar reaps $15.40 pesos
It's a good time to visit the Dominican Republic. The dollar is commanding an all time high of US$15.40 pesos. As a result of government efforts to stall the increase of the U.S. currency, the government is restricting the liquidity in banks, and the prime rate has climbed to 28%, up from 18% early this year. Local manufacturers and farmers complain that the high interest rates affect local production and job creation. The official rate continues to be RD$14.02, amidst demands from the exporter sector that the government allow the foreign exchange to float completely.

Dominican tourism in 1997 in stats
According to a study by the Central Bank carried out by Olga Díaz Mora, the tourism industry (hotels and restaurants, principally) has grown considerably during the past five years.
The study shows that in 1997, some 178,100 Dominicans were employed in hotels and restaurants. Five years earlier, in 1993, 124,600 Dominicans had tourism industry jobs in these businesses.
The study shows that the hotel inventory in 1997 was 38,250 hotel rooms, most located in the East and North Coasts. In 1993 there were 26,801 rooms, for a 42% growth.
In 1997, tourism generated foreign exchange for US$2,106.8 million, or 62.1% of total exports, excluding industrial free zone export totals. This was up from US$1,245 million in 1993.
Arrivals grew from 1.5 million in 1993 to 2.2 million in 1997. 57.8% of the visitors were from Europe, principally Germany and the United Kingdom.
According to the Caribbean Hotel Association, of the 183,557 hotel rooms in the Caribbean, 19.5% are located in the Dominican Republic. Cuba is next with 14.6%, Jamaica with 12%, Bahamas 7.2% and Puerto Rico 5.6%.
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez said that this year 3,316 new hotel rooms will be in operation, the result of an investment of US$186 million dollars. 92.6% of these new hotel rooms are going up in the East Coast. Investment in hotels in the East surpasses US$600 million, said Minister Jiménez. By the end of this year, investment in hotel rooms in the East is expected to reach US$700 million dollars.
This will further consolidate the position of the Dominican Republic as the leader in tourism in the Caribbean, with 42,000 hotel rooms.

Smith-Enron negotiates with DR government
Celso Marranzini, president of the board of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, favored that the Dominican government reach an agreement with the Smith-Enron power generation company, prior tot he issuance of the judgment by the international arbitration court that has heard the case of the CDE vs. the U.S. company. The new executive director of the company in the Dominican Republic, Kevin Manning has favored the reaching of an agreement with the CDE prior to the judgment of the court. He has told the press that the judgment will most likely not satisfy the aspirations of either the company nor the Dominican state utility. The judgment is expected to be issued in mid June. Smith Enron has said the CDE is in arrears with the payment of US$45 million. The Dominican government has said it will not pay on a basis of installed capacity, only for energy served by the company.
"We bill according to the contract," Manning told El Siglo recently. He explained that the contract speaks of installed capacity, as the plant was installed as per the needs of the CDE. "...for this it was necessary to take out a loan that we must pay on the basis of installed capacity. This type of contract is accepted around the world," said Manning. He said the CDE has interpreted the contract and only pays per energy served. The Smith-Enron plant has been criticized for constantly being unable to meet generation capacity levels. Experts say it is the wrong plant for the wrong site.

Herrera businessmen favor 100% free trade
Ignacio Méndez, president of the Association of Industries of Herrera, one of the largest business organizations in the country, says that the DR would be better off if neither the DR nor Central America registered a list of products to be excluded from the tax exempt treatment of the Central American and DR free trade agreement. Méndez proposed that the government eliminate the list altogether. He said that the list being readied by Central American business sector includes the products in which the DR would be competitive in Central America. The DR and Central America signed a free trade agreement on 16 April. To finalize the agreement, both parties were given 120 days (through mid August) to submit a list of items to be exempt from tax free treatment. The agreements thereafter must be ratified by the individual congresses and are expected to be effective 1 January 1999.
In August of this year, the DR is also expected to sign a free trade agreement with the English-speaking Caribbean, thus the DR would serve as a liaison between Central America and the Caribbean, creating a strategic alliance in the region.
The Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic, known for its protectionism stance of traditional large Dominican industries, favors the list of goods to be excluded from the free trade treatment.

U.S. Police honors Dominican police chief
Mayor General Aníbal Sanz Jiminián was decorated with the highest award given by the United States police forces in a ceremony held in Miami recently. The Dominican police chief received the Venerable Order of the Archangel Michael, Knight Commander, given by the National Association of Police Chiefs of the United States. He also received the Edgar Hoover award by the Association of Police Chiefs and the Police Merit award given by the Association of Retired Officers of the Police. He was recognized for his efforts to fight corruption within the ranks, and his efforts to modernize the Dominican police and fight against delinquency. The event took place at the Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel and was attended by police chiefs from all around the United States. The president of the Policemen Association of the Miami-Dade County, Pedro Morall, said during the ceremony that he was impressed by the air of security he perceived at 3 am on the streets of Santo Domingo during a recent visit.
Major General Sanz Jiminián served as a volunteer in the U.S. Army for seven years. He was stationed in Vietnam. He also was educated at U.S. armed forces academies.

Bridge over the Ozama waters
The Ministry of Public Works said that construction works on the new bridge over the Ozama River will be completed in 12 months time. The bridge is expected to cost RD$288 million, and is built with a 40% finance package from the Spanish government. Once completed, the bridge that will run parallel to the present Juan Pablo Duarte Bridge, will serve one way traffic, same as the Juan Pablo Duarte bridge. The construction of the bridge is being carried out by a Dominican-Spanish engineering consortium, Dragados-FCC-Cocimar. The style of the bridge is similar to that used in Expo Sevilla World Fair. The bridge will be 33 meters wide, with four central lanes of 3.65 meters each, and two side lanes left aside for use by a metro that will be built in the future. The 180 meter bridge also will have two sidewalks for pedestrians.

Churchill boulevard under spotlight again
City Mayor Rafael Suberví Bonilla said the statement made by Felix Bautista, director of the Oficina Coordinadora y Fiscalizadora de Obras del Estado, that the newly-built Winston Churchill Avenue "boulevard" would have to go eventually was "nonsense." The municipality spent RD$40 million to refurbish the boulevard walk and install lighting from the 27 de Febrero to the Gustavo Mejía Ricart intersection. When the construction of the avenue was announced, it met then with opposition by the Ministry of Public Works which called it not a priority work. Now the director of the President's office that coordinates and supervises government works, said over the weekend, "In honor of the truth, in time it has to be done [torn down], because if you think of the bottlenecks that form between the 27 de Febrero Avenue and John F. Kennedy Avenue, it is only logical that that avenue be wider so that traffic can flow," said Bautista. He said the alternative would be to build an elevated highway. He advocated for more coordination between the Ministry of Public Works and the municipality, since the funding for both comes from taxes paid by the Dominican people.
The proposal of the government would topple the trees of this boulevard, such as occurred along the 27 de Febrero Avenue where hundreds of trees which eliminated to make way for new traffic lanes. At both sides of the Winston Churchill boulevard fast food restaurants and shopping malls are located.
Candidates to mayor for Santo Domingo, Rafael Corporán de los Santos (PRSC) and Roberto Salcedo (PLD) said that the boulevard was not a city priority, and criticized that Suberví underwent its construction knowing that the avenue would have to be expanded in the near future.
The boulevard may be spared for quite a long time though. A recent Gallup poll shows, nevertheless, that the next mayor of Santo Domingo is likely to be Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, of the same party, the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, as the present mayor of Santo Domingo.

Government largely responsible for death of Dominican rivers
In a front page story, the Listín Diario, the leading Dominican daily newspaper, denounced that the Dominican government itself is one of the leading deprecators of Dominican rivers. It denounces that of 80 permits given to extract construction materials from rivers, 40 were given to government institutions involved in infrastructure construction works.

Renown Mexican intellectual comments on the new Latin America
Jorge Castañeda, the renown Mexican intellectual, in a talk held on occasion of his visit to Santo Domingo to participate in the National Book Fair, said that Latin America must put aside the orthodox neoliberal economic model. He advocated for more free and participatory democracy, and for the regulating of speculative capitals. He also favors that the states guarantee social rights. He favored center leftist governments that would be more in tune to the needs of the continent that he described as one of enormous inequalities, enormous poverty, and enormous wasted opportunities.

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