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Daily News - 04 August 1998

700 agents to ensure Castro's safety
The Dominican government is assigning a force of 700 agents to ensure the safety of Cuban President Fidel Castro who will be visiting from 20-25 August. The security force will use airplanes, helicopters, and speed boats in addition to ground transport vehicles. Fidel Castro is coming to attend the Caribbean Summit and Cariforum meetings that will bring together chiefs of state from the English-speaking Caribbean and Haiti. Cariforum gathers all signatories of the Lomé Convention that allows for duty free exports to the European Union.

A green frontier
El Siglo newspaper reports that the government is building a "green frontier" of pine trees along the frontier with Haiti. The newspaper published a front page photograph showing a dense pine tree forest on one side of the Dominican side of the frontier-dividing highway and brush on the Haitian side.
The green frontier is part of the Quisqueya Verde Plan, which is planting 80,000 tareas (a tarea is a Dominican measure equivalent to 619 square meters) along the frontier. The newspaper highlights how the project has continued throughout all the governments, regardless of the political party in power, since it was started in 1974 during the presidency of Dr. Joaquín Balaguer. It also points out how during the President Fernández Administration, the Department of Forestry is stepping up the resources available for the project, known as Proyecto Sabana Clara. Radhamés Lora Salcedo, is the director of the Forestry Department.
The project extends from near Restauración to Pedro Santana, along the frontier. Its importance for Haiti lies in the fact that the Artibonito River, crucial for farming in Haiti, begins in these hills, and thus the existence of the river depends on maintaining the forests. The Proyecto Sabana Clara is seen as a model of cooperation between the governments of Haiti and the DR. As part of the project, Haitians and Dominicans are trained in forestry, and Haitians receive courses that may contribute to developing a new Haitian culture that will motivate Haitians to replant in Haiti.
The project covers an area of 125,000 tareas of which 20,000 have been planted, 25,000 are already protected forests, and another 80,000 will be planted as part of Quisqueya Verde efforts. An estimated 600,000 trees have already been planted in the area.

Aristy Castro wants to reform Constitution now
The president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro (PRSC-La Altagracia), requested that President Leonel Fernández and the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD) be brave and modify now the Constitution to re-establish presidential re-election. The PRD, which will be majority in both houses come 16 August when the new Congress is sworn in, opposes the changes.
Danilo Medina, Secretary of the Presidency, and a leading political strategist of the government, understands that the political conditions necessary to carry out a modification of the Constitution do not exist at present.

RD$100 million to remodel children's hospital
The government will spend RD$100 million to remodel the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital. Rafael Serulle, director of the Oficina de Ingenieros Supervisores de las Obras del Estado, the government office that supervises the construction of public works, told the press that if the government were to build a new children's hospital, it would cost over RD$600 million, and thus the government has preferred to remodel the Robert Reid facility. Physicians at the hospital have said that the remodeling works will affect their work and patients' recoveries, and that the hospital is located far from where most of the patients come from, and thus favor the construction of a new center rather than a major investment in fixing the present facility.

New power plant to go on line
The government announced that the new 100 megawatt Siemens turbogas power generator installed in the Haina power generator plant park will enter into service this week. With the Siemens plant, the state has on line six new units purchased by Fernández government to complement energy purchased by private power generators installed during the Balaguer administration. The six power plants generate a total of 270 megawatts and cost US$105.8 million to the state. The Siemens power plant cost US$34.8 million and was installed in record time.

Fuel imports are 16% of total imports
The Dominican Republic imported fuel products for US$4,770 million during the period 1990-1997. The total was 16% of the total imports for the period, according to statistics from the Dominican Petroleum Refinery, Falconbridge and the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), the three largest importers. Total imports for the period were US$29,756.2 million, according to statistics of the Central Bank.

Telecommunications not in free trade agreement
The free trade agreement the Dominican Republic will sign with the Caribbean will not include the telecommunications sector, according to services sector negotiator Federico Cuello. Cuello explained that the negotiators agreed to incorporate the services sector when the individual nations pass telecommunication reform bills. The DR recently passed a modern telecommunications bill. Chief negotiator for the country, Ambassador Frederic Emam-Zadé said that the free trade agreement that is slated to be signed in Santo Domingo by chiefs of State of Caribbean Community nations and President Leonel Fernández will enter into effect in January, 1999. The countries will have 90 days to submit the list of exempted products after the signing of the agreement during the Summit that is scheduled for 20-22 August.

Sanctions contemplated for possible medical malpractice
The Minister of Public Health Altagracia Guzmán said that a disciplinary court will decide the sanctions to be applied to the medical team that attended Jafreisy Cruceta King, who required an amputation of her right hand after an antibiotic was incorrectly applied at the Hospital Materno Infantil San Lorenzo de los Mina. The court is made up by a delegate of the hospital, a delegate of the Dominican Medical Association and the Minister herself. The opinion of the Sociedad Dominicana de Infectología has been requested. The hand of the one-and-10 months old infant was amputated at the Darío Contreras Hospital, where she is now recovering.

Venezuelan presidential candidate coming for meeting
Former colonel, Venezuelan presidential candidate Hugo Chávez is scheduled to travel to the Dominican Republic next week to attend a seminar on Constitutional Reform organized by the government department in charge of the modernization of the Dominican state. He is one of special guests coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Others are Luis Verde Soto from Ecuador and Jorge Ibañez from Colombia. The event, organized by the Comisión Presidencial para la Reforma y Modernización del Estado, will take place 13-14 August in Santo Domingo.

Government is efficient at collecting taxes
The director of the Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (DGII), Juan Hernández said that despite the success of his department in increasing the fiscal tax revenues, the amounts are not sufficient to compensate for the loss of income forecast for when the government reduces import duties. The government wants to reduce import duties, but increase the sales tax and has met with opposition from the PRD and the PRSC, the two leading opposition political parties.
Increases in tax revenues are the result of less tax evasion and more administrative efficiency. The new DGII has made it easier for tax payers to pay. The DGII collected RD$3,922,483 million for the first semester of 1998 in income taxes, up from RD$3,299.396 for the same period in 1997. Taxes on goods and services in 1998 were RD$3,625.576 million, up from RD$3,043.523 million in 1997.
The government estimates it will forego RD$4,500 million pesos once a bill to reduce tariffs is passed by Congress.

Dollar stable on exchange market
The Central Bank announced that new dollar rate is RD$15.34, up from RD$15.32 last week. Dollars were being sold for RD$15.42-RD$15.45 in commercial banks and exchange houses and purchased from RD$15 to RD$15.20, in these. Citibank, Scotiabank and Popular were purchasing dollars at RD$15.20. BHD was offering RD$15. Baninter, Progreso and Bancredito were offering RD$15.15.

Inefficiency of services at IDSS
A report in the Listín Diario indicates that the Instituto Dominicano de Seguros Sociales (IDSS) has an excess of 1,940 physicians on their payroll. International indicators call for eight physicians per 10,000 insured persons. A recent study carried out by the Unidad de Modernización y Desarrollo Institutional, the IDSS unit that seeks to modernize the institution, revealed that the 2,440 physicians on the payroll cost the state RD$22 million a month, or 22% of the total receipts. The IDSS has 518,000 affiliates. The study revealed that the physicians offer an average of one consultation every two hours. International standards are that there be 12-16 consultations per four hours.
The IDSS is in the limelight because government and labor sectors are interested in expanding the coverage to include all family members and pensions. At present, most companies see the moneys paid to the IDSS as just another government tax, and expect very little in services for the personnel from the organization. A large number of companies offer their employees separate medical coverage. Likewise, several private companies have been offering pension plans, that given the track record of state institutions, that are more attractive to employees.

Government wants to make its own budget
The Fernández administration rejected a proposal of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) that would condition the reaching of an agreement on the national agenda to the participation of PRD legislators in the preparing of the Budget Bill for 1999. Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás said that the PRD cannot impose itself on what is a right granted by the Constitution to the Executive Branch of government. "To demand the participation of Congress in the making of the Budget, is an encroachment of functions. We request that organization wait for the Dominican people to elect a PRD person to the Presidency so they can exercise their constitutional right to prepare the budget of the nation."
Lawyer Enmanuel Esquea subsequently denied that the PRD conditioned its participation in talks with the government towards developing a national agenda to its participation in the preparation of the budget.

Commemorating Santo Domingo's 500th birthday
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez and Monsignor Girolamo Prigione, a special envoy of the Pope John Paul II, will hold mass at the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, the first in the New World, as part of events held to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the capital city of the Dominican Republic. The mass will take place at 6 pm on Wednesday, 5 August.
On Thursday, 6 August, the Patronato de la Ciudad Colonial will officially receive from José Ignacio Senao Gómez, of the city of Zaragoza, Spain the contribution of the street signs of the Colonial City.
At noon, the Cardinal will open the "Santo Domingo 500. Historia Urbana", an exhibition of the urban history of the city of Santo Domingo. A mail stamp will also be released to commemorate the 500 years of the founding of the city.
In the evening, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of the Cathedral will perform an oratory at the Teatro Nacional, directed by Carlos Piantini and José Delmonte Peguero at 8:30 pm. On Friday, 7 August, at the site of the Patronato, across from the Columbus Park, books on the Cathedral and on the Guadalupe shipwreck will be released.

Games to cost RD$800 million, Puello insists
The president of the Dominican Olympic Committee reiterated that the Pan American Games will cost the DR about RD$800 million. He said that when visiting José Ramón Fernández, president of the Olympic Committee of Cuba spoke of US$120-US$140 million, or over RD$2,000 million, he was referring to countries that did not have sports installations. Fernández explained that the cost is less for countries that have the sports facilities, such as the Dominican Republic. Puello Herrera said that the cost of repairing the present sports facilities cannot be included in the cost of the Pan American Games budget. His estimate does not include either the cost of the Olympic Villa, as the committee says that these can latter be sold and the investment recuperated.
The president of the Cuban Olympic Committee visited last week as part of an inspection tour being made by the Panamerican Sports Organization to report on the aspirants to host the Pan Am Games in year 2003. Other contenders are Medellín, Colombia that has most of the facilities necessary plus an excellent climate, but has against it security considerations. Medellín is counting on the vote of South American nations. Guadalajara, Mexico has most of the sports installations, and ample experience in organizing this kind of event, plus the support of the president of the Pan American Sports Organization, Mario Vásquez Raña. Santo Domingo received much praise for its hosting of the Central American Sports Games in 1974, has many of the necessary sports facilities, and many others are already being modernized for the event. Santo Domingo also has the vote of most Central American and Caribbean nations. Sectors that oppose the celebration of the games in Santo Domingo say the country has other priorities.

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