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Daily News - 12 May 1999

Works begin to expand Las Americas Highway
The Ministry of Public Works formally initiated yesterday works to expand the Las Americas Highway from its present four lanes to six lanes in some areas and 10 lanes in others. This calls for an investment of about RD$300 million from the World Bank. The project will have an extension of 3.8 kilometers, including the construction of a 250 meter tunnel at the intersection of Avenida Venezuela and Avenida Las Americas, and features an overpass at the crossing with the Avenida San Vicente de Paul. Some 13 pedestrian overpasses will be built from Duarte Bridge to the toll booth near Las Americas International Airport. The expansion of the highway will integrate with the new bridge the government is building parallel to Juan Pablo Duarte Bridge and the overpasses over 27 de Febrero and Calle Paris making for a 10-lane expressway that will run from King Juan Carlos Bridge on the eastern end to Plaza de la Independencia at the western end of 27 de Febrero Expressway.

Details on new bridge over Ozama River
Hoy newspaper revealed today details on the construction of the new bridge over Ozama River that will run parallel to the Juan Pablo Duarte Bridge. According to the article, the new bridge will be ready by April 2000, and will have similar characteristics to the present Duarte bridge, the oldest of the three bridges over the river that divides the city in west and east sides. The new bridge will have capacity for 80,000 vehicles a day. and will be 700 meters long. The government is building important works on the eastern side of the bridge, including the expansion of the Las Americas Highway that leads to the Las Americas Airport and on to the eastern provinces, and tourist areas such as Boca Chica, Juan Dolio, La Romana and Punta Cana and Bavaro. The government is also investing heavily in construction works on the western side, that are part of the 27 de Febrero Expressway. The World Bank and the Dominican government are funding these works.

A city being renovated to accommodate cars
Dominican architects Pedro José Alfonso, director of Urban Planning of the City Government of Santo Domingo, and architects Omar Rancier and Pablo Morel criticized that the government works carried out to "modernize" the city of Santo Domingo give priority to cars, rather than people. In an interview with the Listín Diario newspaper they criticized that few areas are being built for pedestrians that are being displaced by spaces for the expedite flow of vehicles. They criticized that only small sidewalks are being left on the new avenues for the transit of people. Alfonso said that this is because the preparation of those that are leading the urban renewal plan are transit engineers that do not see the whole picture of how a city should be built for its residents, not for their cars. He said that the solutions, such as the 27 de Febrero Expressway, are people-unfriendly. He urged an increased emphasis on public transport, and people education programs to reduce the number of accidents when pedestrians cross major speedways.

State of the art public transport technology proposed
Architect Rafael P. Lora, who represents the Brazilian Aereomovel company, said in an interview in the Listín Diario that this public transport vehicle represents a better solution than the tramway being proposed by the government. He said companies in Europe that are proposing the tramway have visions of Santo Domingo as a city that is where their cities were many years ago and are trying to sell old technologies. The system he promotes was first installed in Jakarta in 1986, and this year lines will be installed in Los Angeles and Florida in the USA. He explained this is a more economic solution and more technologically advanced. Furthermore, he said that a line for transport in both directions linking Los Alcarrizos to Los Tres Ojos (19 kilometers) can be installed in 10 months time. The vehicle would travel at a velocity of 80 kms. per hour.

World Bank offers US$1,200 million for development projects
The director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Bank, Mrs. Orsalia Kalantzopoulous said that the World Bank has available for the DR in the next ten years soft loans for US$1,200 million that will be used in development projects. She commended the government for its handling of inflation and the macro economy. She also praised the climate of tranquillity and the will of the government to join efforts with other sectors to seek solutions to national problems. Engineer Temístocles Montás, Technical Secretary of the Presidency, said that the DR was chosen among 12 countries to be part of several pilot programs under the Integral Development Framework. He said the DR was the first along with Bolivia to present required documentation to the Board of Directors of the World Bank to benefit from the programs.

Sardines will be cheaper
The Customs Department announced that as of 1 June it will reduce the import tax on canned sardines. The tax on sardines will be reduced to 3% of CIF value down from 35%. Sardines are a high-protein item that is part of the basic diet of the indigent Dominicans. Following Hurricane Georges, the government temporarily reduced the tax on sardines, in order to aid thousands of Dominicans that found themselves without refrigeration.

Getting ready for the Hurricane season
The Civil Defense announced a simulation operation named Colibri as part of preparations for the hurricane season that starts 1 June. August and September have traditionally been the months when hurricanes have hit the DR. Meteorologists forecast an active hurricane season for the Atlantic area, which includes the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and the US.
General José Antonio de los Santos, Civil Defense director, said that a Hurricane Category 5 situation will be simulated. All institutions are required to submit their emergency plans in case the country is in the path of a major hurricane. An Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has been integrated. Participants are the Weather Department, the Dominican Red Cross, Ministry of Public Health, City Government of Santo Domingo, National Police, Firemen Department, Ministry of Agriculture, National Water Resources Institute (INDRHI), Armed Forces and the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE). Last year, Hurricane Georges practically caught the DR unaware, as the Civil Defense director at the time was "sure" that the hurricane would turn North as had occurred for the past 20 years. Instead, at last minute, the hurricane turned South, slamming in the DR and catching many unprepared.

Senate approves bills will inject US$171 million into economy
The Senate passed two loan contracts for US$171.1 million for the financing of reconstruction of communities affected by Hurricane Georges last September. The Banco Español de Crédito is lending US$60 million, which will be used to rebuild schools and equip hospitals throughout the national territory. The World Bank is lending US$111.1 million to be used for community projects in areas most affected by the hurricane.
The bills already have been approved by the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate had refused to pass these bills, as part of a party policy to reject government bills due to a political issue impasse. The impasse was resolved thanks to an initiative of President Leonel Fernández that was followed up by negotiators for the country's three leading political parties.

RD$25,000 fine for littering
The Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that prohibits and penalizes those found littering on city streets, sidewalks or empty lots with fines of up to RD$25,000 and prison of up to 60 days. The bill, presented by Deputy Miguel Sanz Jiminián, also orders industries, medical centers to transport their solid wastes in special plastic bags. Owners are obliged by the bill to maintain clean the front of their businesses or dwellings.

Two proposed JCE judges objected by Senate
The Senate has rejected two of the judges appointed following a political agreement reached during the talks held at the National Palace between the three leading political parties. While the Senate has not released the name of the persons that have been rejected, the Listín Diario newspaper says that José Manuel Hernández, proposed by the PLD, was rejected because he has a problem pending with the justice. Likewise, it was said that substitute judge Belarminio Ramírez, proposed by the PRSC, was rejected because he does not meet the requirement of 12 years in the exercise of law as a profession. President of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque said he made Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, spokesman of the political talks group, aware of the situation so that a prompt solution can be reached.

Police dismantles prostitution mafia
The National Police announced the dismantling of a network of Israeli citizens that recruited Dominican minors to work as prostitutes in Israel. The adolescents were provided with false travel documents. District Attorney Francisco Domínguez Brito made the announcement to the press. He said that Mei Mizrahi (Mike Moore) and Zadork Mizrahi (Sal Silver) were arrested for the case. The brothers reportedly had both Israeli and US passports, although the legitimacy of these was not established. The investigations began when the father of one of the affected minors taken to Israel denounced the situation the Ministry of Foreign Relations after he received a letter from his daughter stating that she had been kidnapped with 10 other girls and was in Israel. Mayra Jacqueline Peña, a mother of one of the girls, is mentioned as an accomplice to the Israelis. If convicted the brothers could face up to 20 years in jail.

24 new free zones this year
The National Council of Free Zones reported that during the first four months of the year it has approved the installation of 24 free zones and a new industrial park. Gabriel Castro said the new free zones call for an investment of more than RD$500 million and will create about 5,000 new jobs, generating some US$30 million a year for the economy. Castro said that the new park alone calls for an investment of RD$25 million and at its start will generate 2,000 new jobs. He said that it is important to highlight that contrary to past years, when most of the companies being installed were textile assembly plants, today there is a diversity of types of industry being installed.
Last year free zones contributed more than 200,000 jobs and helped create 300,000 indirect jobs. As of July 1998, there were 492 free zone industries installed in the DR in 42 industrial parks. In 1998, free zones exports reached US$2,600 million, up from US$1,900 million in 1997.

Balaguer leads, Peynado follows
The Listín Diario-Sigma Dos survey shows that former President Joaquín Balaguer leads in PRSC voter preferences 87.38%. But 55% of PRSC voters say they would vote for Jacinto Peynado if Balaguer did not run. Other PRSC presidential candidacy hopefuls are Carlos Morales, who scored 11.65% and José Hazim, with 11.65%. 79% of PRSC voters said that even if their preferred candidate were not chosen as presidential candidate, they would vote for the party's candidate.

French investment projects for US$100 million
The Ambassador of France in the DR Francois Xavier Deniaux said that French investors will be investing US$100 million in the DR, up from only US$10 million two years ago. He said the investment is being made because of the low inflation, macroconomic stability and the high growth rate. He said that French exports have grown from US$44 million in 1996 to US$100 million in 1998. He highlighted that Accor, the largest hotel group in the world, is investing US$20 million in Dominican hotels. He said that Club Med has scheduled to invest US$35 million in the Punta Cana area. He said he has been told that the Continente group will invest US$30 million in the installation of a supermarket chain in Santo Domingo.

Small businesses make up 23% of GDP
Yolanda Valdez, vice president of the Banco de la Pequeña Empresa, that specializes in loans to micro and small businesses, said that small and micro business generate 23% of the Gross Domestic Product. She explained bank research shows there are 333,515 micro and small businesses in the DR. Of these, 44.7% are owned by women, 48.4% by men and 6.9% by men and women partners. She explained that among all, they employ 955,683 persons.

Don't leave discussion of national problems to politicians
Businessman José León Ascencio, president of E. León Jimenes, manufacturers of Presidente Beer and Marlboro cigarettes, alerted from Santiago that the discussion of national problems should not be left up to politicians. He said that the active participation of the business sector should result in putting behind us the judicial uncertainties, the legal obscurantism, inequity in the payment of taxes, evasion of fiscal responsibilities and the subsidies being granted to inefficiency and injustice. He spoke at the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago luncheon. "In an every day more global world, where trade frontiers disappear and the traditional position of countries and their industries and businesses is altered, there is no other alternative than to revise the strategies, structures and initiatives that rule our destinies," he said. He advocated that for this analysis to be valid and fruitful it has to take place within a wide framework, from a plural perspective, where all actors be taken into account when discussing the fundamental topics for the future of the country.

Windsurfing in Puerto Plata
The "Windsurfing Magazine Spring Board Tests" tournament will be held May 14-16 in Puerto Plata. The competition will be held on the beach in front of Jack Tar Village. Participating in the tournament will be many of the world's top windsurfers, including "Windsurfing Magazine" editor Alf Imperato, who has won the North American title three times and is a member of the U.S. Olympic Team; Tom James, chief editor of the magazine "Windsurfing"; Steve Gotlieb, owner and designer of Aerotech Sails and a regional champion in the U.S.; Eric Skemp, international product manager for Hifly Windsurfing and a Masters level champion.

National Symphony concert tonight
Tonight the fourth in the 1999 series of National Symphony concerts will be held at the National Theater. The Symphony will be conducted by Alvaro Manzano and will feature Pavle Vujcic on violin; Prokofiev's "Concert No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra" and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 6" will be performed.

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