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Daily News - 13 November 1998

National Budget submitted
The Executive Branch submitted the National Budget bill to Congress today. The bill freezes government employee wages to levels of May 1998, and includes a 10-20% reduction in allotments for expenditures for supplies, travel, per diem, telephone usage, advertising, printed material and vehicle purchases, among others.
The Presidency sent the 1999 National Budget that totals RD$44,600 million (almost US$3 billion) to the Chamber of Deputies. The budget is 12% larger than last year's. Traditionally, the government has sent the bill to the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has been more open to bills submitted by the Presidency.
The budget allots RD$17,000 million, or 38%, to health, education, potable water and sewage services; RD$11,638 million (26%) to farming, irrigation, energy, transportation, roads construction and maintenance; and RD$6,400 (13%) to pay the public debt. Education received the highest chapter, RD$6,877.6 million, 16%. Education has the largest chapter of the budget or 16%, RD$6,877.6 million.

JCE update
The president of the Junta Central Electoral, Manuel Ramón Morel Cerda said in a press conference yesterday that the finances of the body that organizes national elections continues to be critical, as the government has not disbursed the RD$25 million due for October. The government has staggered with payments after the PRD majority Senate changed the board. The ruling PLD party and the PRSC have contested the board. The PRSC has been especially critical of the president of the board, a successful lawyer, whom they have singled out as a militant PRD man. Morel Cerda has suggested those that oppose his board request a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice on whether its makeup violates the Constitution.
Morel Cerda maintains that the presidential elections will be held as scheduled on May 16, 2000 with the participation of the PLD and the PRSC, or without them. He said that the automation process carried out by the JCE, a process that was begun during the past presidency of Dr. Juan Sully Bonelly, leaves no room for electoral fraud.
The Listin Diario's daily survey shows that 70% or 1,358 of persons that called in are in agreement with the President retaining JCE funds, versus 572 (30%) that are in disagreement.
The leader of the PRSC, Dr. Joaquin Balaguer has maintained an inflexible position that the board should resign. The PLD is more flexible, indicating that either the board resign so that impartial judges be elected, or rules be changed to add four judges to the board so that all political parties are somewhat equally represented.
The new board of the JCE was elected by the PRD majority Senate in August of the year. The boards of the 1996 presidential elections and the 1998 congressional and municipal elections were regarded as impartial and key to the success of those elections. They were at the time chosen with the consensus of the three majority political parties.

Privatization update
The Comisión de Reforma de la Empresa Pública, in a meeting with President Leonel Fernández informed that the CDE will be privatized in January 1999 with an injection of private capital. The government is breaking down the state electricity utility into smaller companies. The new companies will be 50%-50% ventures between the state and private investors. The privatization is expected to inject US$500-US$800 million into the economy, as well as reduce the burden on government finances of millionaire subsidies now made to these money-losing inefficient organizations.
The state will remain with the 100% ownership of hydroelectric generators and the high voltage lines. Companies that will be submitting bids in December include: Electricité, Enron Caribe, Gener Amoco Power Development, Iberdrola, Unión Fenosa, Coastal Power Dominicana Generation, Empresas Emel-PPL Gobal, Edesa International, Constellation Power International Investments among others.
The CREP is also dealing with the privatization of the CEA, which lost RD$900 million in 1998.
The CDE is part of a group of state entities, that also includes Molinos Dominicanos and the State Sugar Council (CEA) that are among the first to be privatized by the state. Antonio Isa Conde, president of the commission said that the CDE has been appraised at US$600-US$700 million, but that this is not the CDE's market value.

Ferry to commute from Samana to Sabana de la Mar
A new ferry is ready to begin operations connecting the East Coast and the North Coast. Agencia Naviera del Caribe has invested RD$6 million in the Elupina I ship that has capacity for 300 passengers and 36 vehicles. The ferry will commute between Sabana de la Mar on the south side of Samana Bay to Samana on the north side. The service will initiate as soon as the Navy repairs the dock of Sabana de la Mar, which was affected by Hurricane Georges, Dr. Isaias Ramos Guzmán, president of the company announced. He expects the ferry to start service in four weeks time. The cost of a one-way ticket will be RD$50. A bar, cafeteria are on board. The ferry will make the crossing four times a day, seven days a week.

El Seibo wants tourism development
The people of El Seibo see their ticket out of poverty in the development of tourism projects along their 40 kilometer beach line. Studies have shown that 85% of the inhabitants of El Seibo are poor. Most residents live off farming, with rice the main money crop. Rice plantations were affected by Hurricane Georges, nevertheless, making poorer the rural inhabitants of El Seibo. The leading city, Miches, is best known as a last stop for those taking illegal boat trips to Puerto Rico. The 22,000 inhabitants of the populated area, feel tourism development can help them change that image.
The main obstacle to tourism development are different government decrees. Hoy newspaper reports that the first of these decrees, No. 1315 of 11 August 1983, declared the Lagunas Redonda (12.5 square kilometers) and Limón (17 square kilometers) as Natural Scientific Reserves. Years later, Decree 479 of 15 December 1986 named the more southern Macao-Punta Cana area of La Altagracia province as a priority area for tourism development. The people of Miches say that it has been the persons with interests in this area that have stopped the development of the areas with tourism potential within El Seibo province. Then decree 309 of 31 December 1995 repealed the Scientific Reserve category, converting the area into a restricted natural reserve.
By way of Decree 319-97, the government of President Fernández declared the lagoons as a National Park.
Residents of the province now are appealing to the government to modify the decree to permit tourism to develop. The Mayor of Miches, José Ramón Vargas, of the PRD, says that you can't stop tourism development because in the long run that is what people will make a living off.

Board to oversee new recreation area
The Minister of Public Works appointed a government-private sector board to oversee the operation of the new four tunnels along the 27 de Febrero Expressway, as well as to oversee the Paseo de las Trinitarias, the boulevard where major sculpture art is being installed. The members of the new board are the Minister himself, Santo Domingo Mayor Johnny Ventura, businessman Jose Luis Corripio (who owns a large lot at one of the corners of 27 de Febrero with Winston Churchill), a representative of Plaza Central, the mall that is located adjacent to another of the corners, and another unannounced businessman.

Camilo to preside CNEPR
The Presidency appointed Ruben Camilo to preside over the Comisión Nacional de Espectáculos Públicos y Radiofonía, the government organization that regulates broadcasting and show business. Camilo replaces Laureano Guerrero who is being sent as consul to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Guerrero's transfer comes after he banned national advertising from appearing on international cable television transmissions. He had to revoke the measure in less than a day, when the owners of the cable TV company met with higher ranking government officers. The post is very attractive now, after Guerrero elevated the posts salary level to RD$40,000 a month up from RD$7,000, modernized the office, and was assigned a vehicle, as well as modern equipment to monitor television and radio broadcasts. Guerrero is a PLD activist.

US$1,000 million for telecommunications industry
The president of the leading telecommunications company in the DR, Carlos Espinal announced that Codetel will invest upwards of US$1,000 million within the next five years to keep the DR at the highest levels of advancement in the field. He said that Codetel will be investing in using telecommunications to assist education, and new multimedia applications as well as telemedicine. The company is working to increase the number of telephones per person in the DR to 12% by year 2000, up from 10%, and to 16% by year 2002.

The story of Salomé Ureña at the National Theater
Do not miss "Salomé U", the drama that opens at the Sala Ravelo of the National Theater tonight. Starring leading Dominicana drama actress Carlota Carretero in the leading role, the play is directed by Jorge Pineda and Henry Mercedes. Written by Scherezada (Chiqui) Vicioso, "Salomé U" tells the story of Salome Ureña de Henríquez, one of the most outstanding women of the Americas, and a pioneer in education, literature and politics. In the drama, Salomé Ureña, dying at 47, takes a boat trip from Puerto Plata (in the north coast) to Santo Domingo to die at the side of her mother. During the trip, she reads her letters and her poems that summarize her life, her achievements and her love life. The story creates parallels between the life of this woman at the turn of the century and that of contemporary Latin American women. Performances are nightly at 8:30 pm, with showings at 10:30 am on Saturday and Sunday.

Jeff Bagwell of Houston Astros visits
Jeff Bagwell flew to Santo Domingo to visit his teammate Moisés Alou. The players make up a one-two offensive team with the Houston Astros. Bagwell batted .304 and Alou .312 last season. Together they batted 72 home runs, batted in 235 runs, completed 228 runs and 67 doubles. Interviewed by Dominican press at the airport where he went to welcome his friend, Moisés Alou said that Bagwell was one of the reasons he stayed with the Houston Astros. Bagwell, in turn, called Moises "my guardian angel. " He explained that after Alou joined Houston last year, the pressure was off and they were able to work as a team.

Aguilas are back in the lead
The Aguilas Cibaeñas defeated the Escogido Lions, 8-5 to tie for first place of the Dominican Winter Baseball Championship. The standings are now Aguilas (10-5), Licey (10-5), Escogido (7-8) and Gigantes (3-12). Games programmed for today are the Escogido vs. Licey in Santo Domingo at 8 pm and the Gigantes vs. Aguilas in Santiago's stadium at 8 pm.

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