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Daily News - 13 January 1999

Taiwanese Prime Minister’s Visit
The Prime Minister of Taiwan, Vincent C. Siew, will complete his official visit to the DR today. He arrived in Santo Domingo Monday afternoon. Prime Minister Siew heads a 40-member delegation of both Chinese officers and businessmen that are interested in investing in the DR. Included in the delegation are Minister of Foreign Relations Chih Chiang Hu, Minister of Economy Chih-Kang Wang, and Chien-jen Chen, Minister of the Office of Government Information, as well as the president of the Agriculture Council of the Executive Branch Twokwei Peng.
The visit has the objective of strengthening traditional friendship ties between the two nations. The DR has always voted in favor of Taiwan in the United Nations and is one of the few nations that maintains formal diplomatic relations despite constant pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to break ties with Taiwan as a condition of improving relations with mainland China.
Yesterday the Prime Minister began with a 9:30 am visit with Foreign Relations Minister Eduardo Latorre and Industry and Commerce Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti at the Hotel Quinto Centenario, where the Taiwanese delegation is staying. During the meeting he gave Bonetti a check for US$ 2 million to help the Industry and Commerce Ministry’s Program for Promotion and Assistance to Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (known by its Spanish acronym PROMIPYME). At 10:30 am Siew traveled to the National Congress for a courtesy call on Senate President Ramón Alburquerque, followed by a 11:15 am meeting with Chamber of Deputies President Héctor Rafael Peguero Méndez. He promised both legislative leaders to improve Taiwanese investment in the DR, reinforce Taiwan-DR trade and increase technical and cultural cooperation between the two nations, but stressed that closer ties depended on Congressional support for agreements signed by the Executive Branch.
At midday Siew met with Vice President Fernández Mirabal at the National Palace, after which the VP hosted a lunch in the Prime Minister’s honor at the Palace. In Palace ceremonies signing a joint communiqué reaffirming mutual diplomatic recognition and cooperation, Foreign Minister Latorre announced to the press that Siew had extended a formal invitation to President Leonel Fernández to visit Taiwan. Although no date has yet been agreed, Latorre assured reporters that the trip would occur this year. Latorre also announced that the Taiwanese delegation had expressed interest in opening a commercial bank in the DR.
At 4:30 pm Siew visited the Faro a Colón. At 8:30 pm Prime Minister Siew hosted a dinner in honor of Vice President Fernández Mirabal at the Restaurant Chino de Mariscos on Sarasota Ave.
The wives of the visiting delegates, led by the Prime Minister’s wife Su-hsien Siew Chu, yesterday visited the National Children's Council and the Center for the Prevention of Cancer in order to present donations to those institutions.

Leonel starts Europe trip
President Leonel Fernández started his European tour yesterday evening, the longest trip of his Presidency. He leads a delegation of 30 – 16 high-ranking officials and 14 "special guests." Officials accompanying the President include Foreign Minister Latorre; Industry and Commerce Bonetti; Technical Secretary Temístocles Montás; Attorney-General Mariano Germán; Armed Forces Chief of Staff Manuel Florentino; Lomé Convention Coordinator Max Puig; Antonio Isa Conde, President of the Commission for Reform of Public Enterprises (CREP); Eddy Martínez, Director of the Office of Investment Promotion (OPI); and Hamlet Hermann, Director of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET).
The delegation departed on an Iberia flight to Madrid, Spain and will not return until Wednesday, January 20th. Last night the flight made a short stopover in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during which President Fernández met briefly with Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Roselló. Today President Fernández will spend the day in Madrid, where he will lunch privately at 2:00 pm with Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar (the Spanish stop is not considered an official state visit).
He will then depart at 6:00 pm for Paris, where he will stay until Sunday. His French visit will include a breakfast tomorrow with French businessmen belonging to the International Movement of French Enterprises. He will meet with French President Jacques Chirac, who will host a lunch in the Dominican President’s honor and decorate Fernández with the Legion of Honor medal, the highest award given by the French state to foreigners. At 4:00 pm Fernández will receive an honorary doctorate from the Sorbonne, Paris’ famous university. Leonel will also meet French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (8:00 pm tomorrow) and pay courtesy calls on the heads of both chambers of the National Assembly and of the Supreme Court (known in France as the Corte de Casación). He is expected to sign a series of agreements with France, including a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) protecting investment flows between the two countries; an extradition treaty; technical assistance agreements for improving the DR’s civil aviation regime, modernizing the Dominican judicial system, and creating a school to train Dominican diplomats; and financing agreements for the purchase of equipment for AMET and the Armed Forces. Friday and Saturday are being reserved for private meetings and events.
Fernández then will go Sunday, January 17th to Rome. On Monday, January 18th he will have an historic private audience with Pope John Paul II -- it will be the first time a Dominican head of state has been received by a Pope at the Vatican since the dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1955. Also on Monday he will have meetings with Italian businessmen meet with President Luigi Oscar Escalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. He is expected to sign a BIT with Italy, a financial cooperation accord plus other unspecified cooperation agreements. His time in Rome will include signing an agreement with the United Nation’s Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the development of the Dominican Southeast.

Airport concession bids opened
Five groups submitted bids yesterday to win the concession to manage four Dominican airports: Las Américas (Santo Domingo); Gregorio Luperón (Puerto Plata); Arroyo Barril (Samaná); and María Montés (Barahona). The bid submissions and readings were conducted in the presence of the Airport Commission headed by the Public Works Ministry and observed by a panel of eminent persons designated by President Fernández to ensure fairness in the process. The Commission is to award a concession to one of the bidders within 60 days.
One bid, by the group Williams Nicholas Bodouva, was rejected immediately because it was not submitted with five copies as previously announced bidding rules stipulated. Of the others, the GTM-Aeropuertos París-Méndez Cabral consortium proposed a US$606 million investment in rehabilitating and modernizing the four airports and seeks a 20-year concession. The Grupo Calmaquip proposed a US$447 million investment, but includes construction of a fifth airport as part of the package, a guarantee of US$5 million in annual income to the Dominican Government from airport operations, promises to keep current fee levels and to complete the first phase of remodeling all four airports within 18 months. The group is seeking a 15-year concession. The consortium Pawa Complex-Anion Enterprises offered a US$135 million investment in exchange for a 19-year concession, promising the Dominican Government 40% of airport revenues. The consortium Aeropuertos Dominicanos (Aerodom Siglo XXI) bid for a 15-year concession with US$204 million investment pledged, rising to US$581 million if the Dominican Government renews the concession for another 10 years thereafter. The consortium includes U.S.-based Ogden Aviation Services, Canada-based Vancouver Airport Services (YVR), Italy-based Impregilio and DR-based Operaciones Aeroportuarias del Caribe (OPASA). Its bid includes promises to freeze current fee levels, not to create new fees, and to create a US$100 million fund to promote Dominican tourism. It also guarantees a 25% slice of income to the Dominican Government. Under the proposal, YVR would be the entity in charge of day-to-day management of the airports.

Deputies approve loan agreements
The Chamber of Deputies yesterday approved four international loan agreements which together will total US$285 in new Dominican official debt if approved by the Senate. These include: a US$105 million agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) for reconstruction after Hurricane Georges; a US$111 million World emergency loan for the same purpose; a US$60 million loan from Banco Español de Crédito; and a US$10 million loan from the OPEC Fund. The first three were just submitted by the Executive Branch last Monday; the fourth had been awaiting approval for over two years and concerns rescheduling DR debt with the Fund accumulated during the 1978-1982 period.

Alburquerque willing to deal on tax, tariff reform
Senate President Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata) said yesterday that he is willing to "seek national consensus" on the Fernández Administration’s proposals to cut tariffs and raise the Transfer Tax on Goods and Services (ITBIS) and the selective consumption tax on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. He is willing to work with "those attacking me" in the national interest, but first wants assurances that the Reformista Party (PRSC) will support the proposed tax hikes and join in a consensus agreement.

Direct foreign investment up by 57%
The Office of Investment Promotion (OPI) reported yesterday that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the DR rose from US$405.2 million in 1997 to US$634.93 in 1998, a hike of 56.7%. In its report on 1998 FDI flows, OPI said that US$312.9 million, or 49.3% of the 1998 total, went into the tourism sector, while US$138.5 million (21.8% of total 1998 FDI), went into the free trade zones ("zonas francas"), in the process creating some 13,019 new jobs. In other sectors, FDI in mining grew 4.67% to reach US$1 million, food products 11.76% to hit US$13.1 million, alcoholic beverages and tobacco 3.19% to register US$1.7 million, transport and communications 2.14% to capture US$8.1 million, and finance, insurance and real estate 12.52% to reach US$18.8 million.
OPI attributed the spike in FDI to macroeconomic stability, an improved investment climate and an aggressive investment promotion regime. It noted that the DR bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with Chile, Ecuador and Taiwan in 1998, and will shortly do so with Argentina, France and Italy as well.

Central Bank fights pressure on peso
The Central Bank yesterday injected US$11 million to prop up the official peso-dollar exchange, and will add another US$14 million. Last week the Bank used US$17 million to defend the peso, but the exchange rate continued slipping ever so slightly to RD$15.5=US$1. Yesterday Banco Popular was buying at RD$16.16=US$1, while Banreservas and Banco Mercantil bought at RD$16.13.

Education Ministry to promote sex education degrees
After many weeks of public debate about the need for sex education in the DR’s public schools, Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo told the news daily El Siglo yesterday that her Ministry plans to promote post-graduate degrees and a finance a masters for teachers wishing to teach sex education. She said that she will be contacting APEC’s Sexual Education Institute (Insapec) about managing the initiative.

PRD postpones national convention
The Political Committee of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) yesterday decided to postpone the national party convention originally scheduled for February 28. The convention is to decide who will be the PRD candidate for President in national elections next year. The Committee decided to postpone the convention until an unspecified later date in favor of extending the period until February 28th Party members can file for the PRD presidential nomination.

More police shake-ups
Yesterday National Police (PN) chief Major General José Aníbal Sanz Jiminián continued his shake-up of PN ranks, replacing 32 commanders, including the head of the Central Investigations Archive, Major Genaro Suero Jiménez. Suero Jiménez had been the subject of a mini-human rights scandal when a video tape surfaced showing him beating a narcotics suspect in 1994.

State pensions for sports greats?
President Fernández sent to Congress yesterday a bill that would create a system of state pensions for Dominican sports stars "who given the Dominican Republic a good name." Stars that have been elected to the Dominican Sports Hall of Fame would receive RD$6,000 monthly from the state; those no yet in the Hall of Fame but which have brought honor to the Dominican Republic, would receive RD$3,000 per month. Sports Minister Juan Marichal, himself a Hall of Fame name, proposed the bill to the President after numerous news stories over the past year about how many Hall of Fame members and other well-regarded sports stars of the past live now in dire economic straits.

Beltré elected MVP; Tie-breaker rained out
Adrian Beltré of the Cibao Eagles was elected yesterday as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 1998-99 Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. The election was made by 50 journalists, announcers and commentators at the Salón La Mancha in Santo Domingo’s Hotel Lina as part of the 29th annual Shell Awards "Los Dominicanos Primero." Beltré was the Eagle’s strongest all-around offensive player this season, with 10 home runs, 68 hits, a .301 batting average and 17 bases robbed, among other statistics. Beltré is expected to play third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers this spring.
Meanwhile the game between the Eagles and the Escogido Lions at Santiago’s Cibao Stadium to settle who is the ultimate winner of the Tournament was rained out during the second inning. The game will be resumed today at 8:00 pm at the same location.

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