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Daily News - 30 April 1998

Why is the dollar gaining against the peso?
The governor of the Central Bank, Hector Valdez Albizu has reiterated the government will not devaluate the Dominican peso, but there has been a defacto devaluation. The official government rate to the dollar is RD$14.02 but only 22% of national exchange transactions are carried out at that rate.
The dollar, stable at RD$14-US$1 during 1997, now reaps closer to the RD$15-US$1 ratio in exchange houses and commercial banks which handle 88% of exchange transactions. As of 29 April, exchange houses and commercial banks were paying from RD$14.35 to RD$14.75 per the dollar. Street vendors were buying the dollar for up to RD$15.30.
Valdez Albizu has attributed the increase in the spread to speculation. Individuals and companies are converting their liquidity and savings into U.S. currency. He said that for the first time in five years the country was able to combine a 5.9% increase in the Gross Domestic Product with a 0.13% inflation rate for the first trimester of the year.
President of the Colegio Dominicano de Economistas, Eligio Bisonó pointed out that it is the opinion of many that the peso is loosing value because of excessive government spending. According to Ignacio Méndez, president of the Asociación de Industriales de Herrera, one of the leading business organizations, said that it is normal that the dollar reap more pesos in times of national elections.
He called for immediate action of the government because companies are already thinking of passing on the additional cost of the dollar to the final sales price of goods and services.

Megaport for Azua
President Leonel Fernández authorized the construction of the Puerto de Tortuguero Megaport, a free trade zone in the Bay of Ocoa, southern Azua province. Decree 150-98 creates the Puerto de Tortuguero with areas for light assembly manufacturing plants, service industries, warehousing, handling of merchandise. Inversur, S.A., is developing the project. The project will be built on an area of 12,587,430 square meters.

Buying out the rickety vehicles
Owners of dilapidated carros publicos, buses, minibuses, microbuses have cut a deal with the government whereby these will gradually be removed from main city streets. The Oficina Metropolitana de Servicios de Autobuses (OMSA), the new government division that operates the large buses that are circulating on the new transport corridors on main thoroughfares is in charge of the program. OMSA signed an agreement with Expreso 27 de Febrero, Expreso 670, Unión de Propietarios de Autobuses and Cooperativa El Sol. As per the agreement, the cooperatives and unions will receive RD$8,000 the first year, RD$9,000 the second year, and RD$10,000 the third year. The fee for the fourth and fifth years of the five-year contract was not published. The government department will also buy the vehicles of the unions at their appraised values. By contract, the unions will not be able to operate parallel routes that compete with OMSA units. Engineer Ditrén said that the same contract is being offered to Fenatrano, another union that recently stopped an eight day hunger strike when the government agreed to talks with them. Ditrén said Fenatrano would have to accept the same terms.

Suberví says trees won't be cut down on Winston Churchill
Mayor of Santo Domingo Rafael Suberví Bonilla said that he has been assured that the government does not have plans to eliminate the recently-built Boulevard de la Churchill. The director of the Oficina Coordinadora y Fiscalizadora de Obras del Estado said that President Fernández does not share the opinion of engineer Felix Bautista opinion that the boulevard would eventually have to go to leave way for the expansion of the Winston Churchill Avenue. Mayor Suberví Bonilla will inaugurate the RD$33 million promenade on 8 May. Mayor Suberví is running for deputy for Barahona in the 1998 congressional elections.

Dominican to conduct Pavarotti in benefit
Luciano Pavarotti has invited Dominican orchestra director José Antonio Molina to direct his benefit concert, "Friends of Pavarotti" that will take place 9 June in Italy. Spice Girls, Vanesa Williams, Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi and Nathalie Cole, Celine Dion, Floral Pagny, Trisch Yeanwood and many other renown performers will participate in the event. Molina made the announcement to the Listín Diario, the leading daily newspaper, during his stay in Santo Domingo this week to participate as guest conductor of the presentation of the three winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Contest held at the National Theater.

Decentralization of the city government is a priority
Dr. Jose Francisco Peña Gomez, president of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano and that party's candidate to mayor for Santo Domingo, said that if he is elected mayor he will decentralize the government of the city. He said he would implement a similar program to which he carried out when mayor from 1982-1986. His priorities would be to make efficient the collection of garbage, the construction of cultural centers, pharmacies and planting of trees throughout the city. He said he would integrate civic society and businessmen into the city government, so that it not be ruled only by aldermen and the mayor. He favors the division of Santo Domingo into six governments: Santo Domingo Sur, Santo Domingo Centro, Santo Domingo Norte, Santo Domingo Este, and Santo Domingo Oeste.
The Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD) candidate to mayor, Roberto Salcedo, also favors decentralization. Roberto Salcedo spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon recently and said he favors the creation of the same six division, each with municipal boards in charge of the problems of each area, including garbage collection.

PLD candidate to senator on his plans
Speaking at the luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce, Franklyn Almeyda, candidate to senator for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD) advocated for better congressional and civic society relations with the Presidency. He said a ten-year national plan is necessary, and that the base for this would be the conclusions of the Diálogo Nacional, the discussions held with the participation of citizens from all around the country to determine the national agenda. He favored the adjustment of inflation, the exchange rate, the elimination of tariffs, and the elimination of taxes on exports in order to stimulate investment and exports. He favors an increase in the social security coverage, increased mother-child protection, improvements in education and the passing of a bill that would regulate national universities.

Panam Karate Championship
XII Panamerican Karate Championship opens 2 May in Santiago de los Caballeros. Karate athletes from 24 countries will participate in the sports event that opens on Saturday. Best athletes from the Americas will compete in the event that serves as training for the Central American Sports Games of this summer in Maracaibo, Venezuela and the Panamerican Games scheduled for Winnipeg, Canada in 1999. President Leonel Fernández will be present at the 7:30 pm inauguration of the event in Palacio de los Deportes of Santiago.

AIDS increases in tourist town
Puerto Plata has the highest incidence of AIDS in the Dominican Republic. Geovanni Ferreiras, director of the Centro de Promoción y Solidaridad Humana said that the leading tourism destination has the highest incidence of persons affected by AIDS in the country. He said that an estimated 2% of the population could be infected by the AIDS virus. Most AIDS victims are ages 18 to 35 years. Ferreiras said that the center is about to start a major prevention campaign seeking to reach personnel employed in hotels throughout the North Coast.

New sports facility for Puerto Plata
President Leonel Fernández will inaugurate Puerto Plata's brand new multi-use sports pavilion that is part of the Gregorio Luperón sports center. The RD$63.8 million pavilion with capacity for 5,000 seated sports fans is part of the complex that also includes a soccer field, and another indoors multi-use facility. Construction of the sports center was begun in the government of former President Joaquín Balaguer. The works had been abandoned for some three years, despite being half-way built, and are being completed by Fernández administration. The new facilities are for the practice of basketball, volleyball, judo, karate, soccer, ping pong, wrestling, weight lifting, tae kwon do and other sports.

Caricom negotiations impasse
El Siglo reported that negotiations with the Caribbean Community that would lead to the signing of a free trade agreement with the Dominican Republic are stalled. Frederic Emam-Zadé, in charge of negotiations on behalf of the Dominican government, said that several of the islands demand preferential treatment. The Dominican Republic seeks trade reciprocity with the islands. While overall, the Dominican Republic is a larger island, the per capita income level of Dominicans is lower than that of many of the small islands. St. Kitts, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados are demanding preferential trade treatment. Emam-Zade also said there has been resistance to including Dominican free zone produce in the treaty. The last round of negotiations was held in Trinidad & Tobago from 9-10 March. A new round of negotiations was supposed to be held this week in Santo Domingo, but negotiators have postponed the later to deal with the impasse.

Most probably it was a stray bullet
Police Chief Anibal Sanz Jiminián said that it is most likely that the bullet that was fired at the glass window of the Supreme Court was a stray bullet fired by a drunk. He said that the Police, in coordination with the Armed Forces, will soon began an operation to disarm civilians. He said the nine millimeter bullet found leads them to believe that the firing of the gun was accidental. The gun was fired late at night or early in the morning. Dr. Abel Rodríguez del Orbe, General Procurator of the Nation, agreed. He said that the area where the Supreme Court building is located is frequented by prostitutes and gays at night who take advantage of the area being deserted.

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