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Daily News - 04 June 1998

Joint marketing with Haiti would be suicide
The National Hotel and Restaurant Association expressed its opposition to the signing of a joint promotion agreement with Haiti. Arturo Villanueva, executive vice president of the association, the leading tourism organization in the country, said they sent a letter expressing their position to Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez. Asonahores says that the DR has everything to loose and nothing to gain from a joint marketing effort with Haiti.
There are 38,000 hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic, and the DR spent US$10 million on international advertising last year. There are only about 1,000 rooms in Haiti, and Haiti does not have an international advertising budget. Haiti does have a very negative image and major health problems.
While Haiti was a well known tourism destination in the 60s and 70s, due to the worsening of its political and environmental problems, the nation is now worse off. Internal turmoil and instability have not permitted the nation to relieve the health problems of the population.
The proposed DR-Haiti tourism agreement provides for Dominican assistance to Haiti in the planning of their tourism industry, and proposes that facilities be granted to airlines and ground transport companies. Furthermore, the agreement favors joint marketing plan development and the development of joint tourism promotions that would include selling joint travel packages.
Former Dominican representative for the Lomé Convention, the European Union cooperation program, Angel Lockward also told Dominican press that he strongly opposes the agreement. He said that the sale of Haiti-DR travel packages would be very detrimental for the Dominican tourism industry. He said that in the past six years several of the most important hotels in Haiti have been closed for sanitation problems. In Haiti, malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, venereal diseases are common. Haitians have not been able to maintain minimum hygiene controls, aside from the present political instability and security problems that affect the development of a tourism flow to that country.
Lockward says that if the Haitian and Dominican government sell joint travel packages and the tourists visit both destinations, and a traveler becomes ill, it will be difficult to prove where that person became sick. He explained that if the person picks up an illness in Haiti and then travels to the DR, and becomes ill upon return to London or Paris, he will say he got sick in his visit to the Dominican Republic. Dominican tourism will be annihilated, he says.
"This agreement would represent a terrible sacrifice for Dominican tourism, a healthy tourism that will be joining forces with a non-healthy tourism. It is suicide for Dominican tourism," he said.
During the Balaguer administration, the DR signed a tourism cooperation agreement with Haiti whereby the country would provide technical assistance to Haiti in that country's development of the industry. Asonahores does not oppose this aspect of the agreement. Villanueva said that they have met several times with the Haitian Association of Hotels and made offers to assist the association members in developing projects, plans and controls. But joint promotion and joint marketing has been excluded from the talks.
President Fernández is scheduled to travel to Haiti this month to sign a series of bilateral agreements on travel, culture, postal, transport, and environmental issues.
The most touchy issue on the Haiti and DR agenda is the migration problem. The Listín Diario has reported that Haitian authorities seek to include in the migration treaty a provision whereby Haitian-looking persons will have to be granted Dominican citizenship unless Dominican authorities can prove they are Haitian. Given the indigence in Haiti, millions of Haitians do not bother to secure their Haitian birth certificates and thus would have the right to Dominican citizenship.
Press reports indicate also that the Haitian government aspires to restrict the right of Dominican authorities to deport illegal Haitians. As per the aspiration of the Haitians, for the Dominican government to deport a Haitian, the Dominican government would need first to request the permission of the Haitian government via the Haitian Embassy in the DR.
Lockward said that Haiti has taken its overpopulation plight to international lobbyists seeking international support in their quest for the allowance of free movement of Haitians to the DR, a developing country with already a large population and enough problems of its own.

$40 million of tax payers money to pay for staff raises at UASD
The government-owned Banco de Reservas authorized the granting of a RD$40 million loan to the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo to be used to give staff employees a raise. At present more than 80% of the university's government subsidy is used to pay for salaries of teachers and administrative staff. The increase was pending from the days of the strike that delayed the opening of classes at the university. The UASD was affected this term by more requests for admission than the physical space available. The university has an open admissions policy. Students are allowed to repeat courses several times. Note that the university is almost free for most Dominicans. These policies are affecting the quality of the instruction at the university, the first in the Americas.

Airline ticket tax soon to be 10%
Airline tickets will soon cost less in the Dominican Republic, as Congress has passed the bill that reduces to 10% the government tax on these. The bill modifies Art. 382 of the Tax Code. President Fernández had vetoed the bill earlier this year arguing it would represent RD$200 million less in income for the government. Later the President's Office said it favored the passing of the bill. Travel sectors say that the government will not loose income, rather gain. They explain that more Dominicans and Dominicans residing abroad will purchase their airline tickets in the Dominican Republic, as a result of the reduction in the airline tax.
At present Dominicans in New York purchase their entire airline tickets in New York. In the past they would come with a one-way ticket and purchase the return ticket in pesos. Also, it is very common for travelers on long haul trips to purchase only a short segment of their trip in this country, preferring to buy the remaining portions abroad to avoid the 20% tax.
The bill has yet to be promulgated by the Presidency for it to become law. This is expected to happen this month.

New government appointments
President Leonel Fernández removed the director of the Instituto Nacional de Estabilización de Precios, Gustavo Sánchez Díaz. He was replaced by Alejandro Jérez Espinal. Inespre is a government division that sells subsidized food stuffs.
On the same day, the President appointed engineer Eros Caamaño the new president of the board of the Electricity Superintendence. The Electricity Superintendence is a new organization that centralizes all electricity operations. It was created by Decree 118-98 of 16 March 1998.
President Fernández also appointed engineers Marcos Cochón and Eduardo Quincose as members of the board of the newly created Superintendencia de Electricidad.

Sufficient deputies to veto bills
The secretary general of the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, Lidio Cadet said that despite the government party not achieving the minimum 50 deputies needed to have veto power in the Congress, in the practice, the government is most likely to be able to veto any bill. He explained that all is needed is for all 49 PLD deputies to be in attendance and just one PRSC or PRD deputy to be absent. The veto power will allow the government party to be able to confirm a presidential veto of a congressional bill. That is, if President Fernández vetoes a bill sent for promulgation by the Legislative Branch, the Congress will not have the 33% of the vote necessary to override the veto and thus pass the bill despite the President's opposition.
Lidio Cadet pointed out that the PLD has improved its position in Congress. Previously, the government party had only one senator and 13 deputies. Today the PLD has four senators and 49 deputies, replacing the PRSC as the second party in congressional representation.

Extradition bill under study
The Senate-Chamber of Deputies commission began the study of a bill that would facilitate the extradition of Dominicans and foreigners that have committed drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, terrorism, sexual crimes against minors, violent robbery, money falsification, and trafficking with historic and archeological objects.
Darío Gómez Martínez (PRD-Santiago Rodríguez) submitted the bill that would modify Law 489 of 22 October 1969 on extradition. The bill would give the Executive Branch the ability to extradite Dominicans, but these would not be subject to the death penalty.
Recently, General Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a division of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, during a 24-hour visit to the country met with congressmen and urged them to pass legislation that would permit more in depth and energetic actions against drug traffickers on behalf of repressive organizations. During his visit, McCaffrey said that the war against drugs will be won by legislators, not by the military. The U.S. government seeks the extradition of several known Dominican drug traffickers and money launderers that have returned to the DR.

New Potable Waters dependency
The Government of President Leonel Fernández created the Oficina Rectora para la Reforma y Modernización del Sector Agua Potable y Saneamiento. The office will oversee the reform and modernization of efforts to improve potable water service. Onofre Rojas, director of the government modernization and reform office, explained that the idea is to go decentralizing little by little the Instituto Nacional de Aguas Potables y Alcantarillados, that groups aqueducts and sewage plants all around the country and other large potable water corporations, such as the Santo Domingo water corporation (CAASD). Provincial potable water corporations will be created and assigned resources so that they can watch over for the quality and quantity of water available in the individual provinces. The new corporation will be head by a yet-to-be-appointed executive secretary. The board of the organization will be made up by the Minister of Tourism, the directors of Inapa, the Santo Domingo, Santiago and Moca aqueduct corporations, INDHRI, the Technical Secretary of the Presidency, and the director of the Presidential Commission for the Reform and Modernization of the State.
In the future, any initiative regarding water needs to be presented to the new office.

Government exhibition in New York
President Leonel Fernández will inaugurate the first Expo Reforma Internacional at the Riverbank State Park of New York City. The exhibition will be presented in an area that is densely populated by Dominican expatriates. As part of the exhibition opening activities, President Fernández will speak on the privatization of government enterprises and on why to invest in the Dominican Republic. The fair is organized by the Comisión Presidencial para la Reforma y Modernización del Estado. Also speaking at the opening of the exhibition will be New York City Mayor Rudolph Guilliani.

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