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Daily News - 04 January 1999

Have you been through the tunnels?
If you were in Santo Domingo over the New Year holidays, you surely were asked or asked: "have you been through the tunnels?" The new 27 de Febrero Avenue underpasses were visited by thousands of Dominicans after they opened on 30 December. Pickups and cars packed with "city tourists" toured the tunnels causing congestion on New Year's day.
The Ministry of Public Works has more of the same in store for the next year and a half remaining of the Fernández administration. Work continues on the expansion of the Las Americas highway to eight lanes from Duarte Bridge to Boca Chica and on to San Pedro de Macorís and other overpasses. The overpass of Las Americas Avenue will lead on to the six lane expansion of the avenue from the Juan Carlos bridge to the intersection with the entrance of the Airport. Where the Duarte bridge and Juan Carlos bridge stretches unite, the highway will be expanded to eight lanes. Work is advanced already on the completion of the overpasses at the intersection with the Las Americas International Airport. Work has yet to begin on the overpasses at the intersection of the Leopoldo Navarro and 27 de Febrero. Modernization works include the completion of the Winston Churchill and J.F. Kennedy overpass leading on to the expansion of the Autopista Duarte to six lanes from that intersection to Km. 9 of the highway.
The government is also building overpasses at the intersection of Autopista 30 de Mayo and Avenida Luperon, and Km. 12 of Carretera Sánchez and Autopista 30 de Mayo in the south. The Autopista 30 de Mayo park area is also well advanced.

Justice works over the holidays
Some 300 persons that were arrested over the Christmas and New Year holidays were sent home over the holidays. For the first time in years, the judiciary worked over the holidays. In the past, the judiciary would take collective vacations from mid December through the Three Kings festivity, on 7 January. This in the past resulted in a backlog of cases and a sad Christmas and New Year holiday for many.

Study reveals high propensity for heart diseases among Dominicans
A study carried out by the Dominican Society of Cardiology revealed that 16.4% of Dominicans are obese, 21% suffer from high cholesterol levels, 5.3% suffer from diabetes and 20% suffer from high blood pressure. The "Estudio de factores de riesgos cardiovasculares en la República Dominicana", sponsored by the Dominican Society of Cardiology researched the cardiovascular risk factors of the population. The arrival of fast food chains has contributed to the increase in heart risk problems in the DR.

Capitalization to advance in first semester of the year
The president of the Comisión de Reforma de la Empresa Pública (CREP), Dr. Antonio Isa Conde is optimistic that that body in charge of privatization of state enterprises will complete the capitalization of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), the State Sugar Council (CEA), the Tabacalera and Dominicana Airlines during the first semester of the year. The entity successfully chose its 50% partner, Malla & Cía, in the new Molinos del Ozama, which merges the state flour mills Molinos Dominicanos and Molinos del Norte.
The government has said it will use the RD$5,600 million in savings from subsidies granted money-losing state entities, to boost education, health and social security programs.
The CDE capitalization has not found any takers after the CDE board set the assets at US$1,475 million. The CDE board used the services of Price Waterhouse, Merz and McLellan. The 19 bidding companies consider the set values excessively high. The CDE seeks to find three partners for distribution and two partners for the distribution of energy.

A game to teach corruption is not a good
The government is distributing a free game to teach Dominicans that corruption in government is not a positive thing to do. The game, "Culpable o Innocente", (guilty or innocent) is an adaptation of a similar game distributed in Venezuela and is being made available through clubs, churches and stores. Haivanjoe Ng Cortiñas, the nation's General Controller, explains that the table game can be played by two or four persons. The recommended age is eight years or more. He said it is a family game that promotes ethical and moral values among the players. After many years of enduring a laissez-affair attitude regarding corruption among state officers, Dominican people have grown indifferent to it and those entering state positions have felt entitled to the treasury moneys. The Fernández government wants to change this attitude and make the population less complacent with corrupt government officers.

RD$1,000 million for Santiago
The Fernández administration has promised to invest RD$1,000 million in Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city of the nation. The PLD members of this city demanded that the government invest in their home town. The government has invested heavily in the capital city of Santo Domingo. `

University education council has a web page
The government Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior has its own web page. The organization supervises university studies in the DR. Its web page is at http://www.cones.gov.do.

13 million trees planted in 1998
The Department of Forestry said that in 1998 they planted 13 million trees throughout the country as part of the Plan Quisqueya Verde. Colonel Radhamés Lora Salcedo explained that this is a new record. The Department also produced 1.5 million plants, and has reduced forest fires 75%. Lora considers another major achievement of his department the implementation of forestry research programs.

State television to contribute to literacy programs
The director of the state radio station and television channels, Juan Delancer said RTVD is at the service of efforts to carry out a massive learn to read and write campaign. RTVD reaches all parts of the country. A December proposal of three Catholic priests has met with much enthusiasm and politicians, and clergymen are offering their resources to end what has been called a "national shame," the high illiteracy rate in the country. It is estimated that 20% of the population cannot read or write.

French Socialist Party leader visits
Socialist Party leader of France, Jacques Lang visited Santo Domingo last week. He explained he came on a private visit to bring a personal message to President Fernández on behalf of French Minister Lionel Jospin. President Fernández will meet Jospin in Paris this month. Lang was minister of culture during the Mitterand government in 1981. He is president of the Commission of Foreign Relations of the National Assembly of France. French Ambassador Francois Deniau offered a reception in his honor.

Euro currency will be positive for DR
According to a report in El Caribe, the implementation of a unified European currency will be positive for the Dominican Republic. The Counselor for the European Commission in the DR, Gabin Hamann said the DR already has strong ties with Europe. He mentioned that between 1996 and 1997 30% of all foreign investment came from European Union countries. Furthermore, he explained that 12% of the Dominican debt is with European countries. He explained that inter bank transactions will be least costly, comparisons for the purchase of products will be easier facilitating competition, and lower interests rates for European loans are forecast.
Indeed, he said the new unified currency will facilitate commerce. Between 1993 and 1997, 10.5% of the Dominican exports were to Europe, with 5.2% of imports coming from Europe.
He also said it European tourism is very important for the DR, with the bulk of holiday seekers coming from Europe. In 1996, 47% of all foreign currency generated by tourism came from Europe. He said that if economic conditions for Europeans improve, the DR will receive more tourism. Moreover, he said the new currency will make travel easier for Dominicans themselves as they will only need one currency for transactions in 11 countries.
He said the impact of the Euro will not be immediate and the currency will be primarily used for bank transfers as it will not circulate until year 2002.
He said the Euro will become a currency of reference, such as the US dollar is today. He said it is possible Dominican international reserves be kept in Euros. In Europe the Euro will start at an exchange rate of 1.16 to the US dollar.

Gasoline stations need to sell inventories of leaded gasoline
Leaded gasoline was still available at national gas stations as stations sought to deplete their stock prior to purchasing unleaded gasoline inventories. The Dominican Petroleum Refinery had announced that as of 1 January 1999 only unleaded gasoline would be available in compliance with international environmental guidelines. The unleaded gasoline will sell for RD$22 the gallon, the same price as leaded gasoline at the moment.

PLD announces selection of presidential candidate for March
The Partido de la Liberación Dominicana has announced that it has begun its internal electoral process that will conclude in March of this year with the selection of the ruling party's presidential candidate for the 16 May 2000 elections. The three leading aspirants are Vice President Jaime David Fernández, Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina and Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez. Others that have been mentioned are Norge Botello, Euclides Gutiérrez, Lidio Cadet, Franklin Almeyda and Marcelo Bermúdez.
The PLD is expected to be the first political party to choose their presidential candidate. The internal race within the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, the leading opposition party, is the tightest with strong contenders in Hipólito Mejía, Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Rafael Suberví Bonilla and Hatuey Decamps.
The PRSC has not defined its candidate selection process for the next year election. Polls show that the former President Joaquín Balaguer and former Vice President Jacinto Peynado are the leading candidates.

Getting a driver's license made easier
As of the first week of February, the Dirección General de Tránsito Terrestre is promising the opening of its modern automated centers that will facilitate the obtaining of drivers license in minutes. Andrés Martínez, director of the department, said that the government is investing RD$50 million to improve the service. He explained that offices will be opened in several leading cities in the interior so that residents of those provinces can receive the same modern facilities. Furthermore, three mobile vans will bring the service near to major Santo Domingo city neighborhood residents. The vans will be located adjacent to the Columbus Lighthouse (in the east of the city), the Botanical Gardens and the Mirador del Norte Park. The department will also be opening new centers for driver license renewals in Los Alcarrizos, Sabana Perdida, Herrera, Los Minas, Colonial City and points within supermarkets and hardware stores in Santo Domingo and Azua, San Francisco de Macoris, La Romana, Puerto Plata, and Santiago. Driver education courses in comfortable classrooms will be given to those obtaining the drivers' licenses. The measures seek to reduce accidents on the roads. Martínez said that the new systems will interconnect with the National Police and the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) so that whoever has a traffic fine pending may not obtain a renewal of their license plate nor the license.

Tax revenues up 14% in 1998
The Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (DGII) reported that government revenues were RD$17,000 million in 1998, up 14% to 1997 revenues. He said that tax income is up 50% compared to 1996 revenues.

Smith happy with one-sided contract, Enron wants fair game
Celso Marranzini, a former president of the board of directors of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the state electricity utility, told El Siglo newspaper that the partners in the Puerto Plata Smith-Enron power plant have major differences among themselves over the contract signed with the state. Marranzini, who is also president of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP) said that the two entities have a legal suit going on at present over the contract. Enron International favors the revision of the contract, Smith wants it to stay as is. The contract is considered unfair as well as onerous to the interests of the Dominican state and people. It is also a thorn in future privatization efforts as privileged conditions granted are way over market conditions.
Marranzini explains that Enron International inherited the contract that Smith signed with the management of the CDE at the time. He said Enron International executives consider it illogical that it remain as signed and favor the writing up of a new contract. Marranzini says, "The relationship with the executives of Enron has been one with businessmen, that is, sit down and discuss the contract to achieve a win-win negotiation. They do not seek under the table negotiations, " he explained. He said that aside from the executives of Smith, the past administration of the CDE that signed the contract is responsible, as they were aware the contract contained articles that were highly disadvantageous for the country. Marranzini explained that the unfair conditions has brought the CDE to not be able to meet the contract stipulations and Smith has taken the case to arbitration seeking to pressure the state to pay the arrears. The international arbitrage court has not yet reached a decision.

303,478 persons on government payroll
Some 303,478 persons are on the government payroll, or 3.79% of the total population and 11.64% of the economically active population, according to the First Census of Government Employees. Of the total, 54.2% of the employees are concentrated in the ministries of Education, Public Health, Armed Forces and Interior and Police. The Ministry of Education has a payroll of 57,744 persons, Public Health 42,974 persons, Armed Forces 38,458 and Interior and Police 25,361.

Aguilas continue to lead in baseball tournament
The Aguilas Cibaeñas, champions of the 1997-1998 season, maintain their four game lead over the Leones del Escogido after weekend games as part of the Dominican Winter Baseball League tournament. The Aguilas have won 36 games and lost 17 games. The leading batter is Luis Polonia who averages .320, followed by Adrian Beltré with .313 and Luis Castillo with .309. Beltré has had a very successful season, and has batted 10 home runs for the Aguilas. The Escogido is in second place, and the Tigres del Licey are third with 13-14. The Gigantes del Nordeste are in the last place having won only three games and lost 22.

January baseball games

Monday, 4 January at 8 pm
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago.

Tuesday, 5 January at 8 pm
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
Tigres del Licey vs. Gigantes in San Francisco de Macorís.

Wednesday, 6 January at 4 pm
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo.
Tigres del Licey vs. Agilas Cibaeñas in Santiago.

Thursday, 7 January
Leones del Escogido vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macoris

Friday, 8 January
Tigres del Licey vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago

Saturday, 9 January at 4 pm
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macoris

Sunday, 10 January at 4 pm
Leones del Escogido vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macorís

Monday, 11 January at 8 pm
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago.

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