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Daily News - 30 August 1999

President Fernández on official visit to Colombia
President Leonel Fernández was scheduled to be received this morning by his colleague President Andrés Pastrana of Colombia. President Fernández is on an official visit to Colombia. He is scheduled to sign several bilateral agreements, including a US$43 million financing for an irrigation program (PRIN) to be implemented in the Northwest. He is accompanied on this trip by Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre; Technical Secretary Temístocles Montás; Minister of Interior and Police Norge Botello; Minister of Industry and Commerce Luis Manuel Bonetti; Attorney General César Pina Toribio and Secretary of the Presidency Alejandrina Germán. The government also invited banker Ramón Báez Romano and Celso Marranzini, president of the National Council of business (CONEP). During his visit, in addition to official business he will tour the most important Bogotá museum, attend a luncheon with leading Colombian businessmen, be decorated by the Colombian government and meet with the Dominican community in Colombia.
On Tuesday, 31 August, President Fernández is scheduled to arrive in Panama at 10:30 am. He will participate in the Wednesday morning inaugural of President-elect Mireya Moscoso.

Prime lending rates drop to 16%
For the first time in several months, prime lending rates have dropped to a low 16%. Some banks are reported to be offering their better customers money at 14%. This is a big decline from the low of 24% several months ago. Banks are reportedly paying 14-12% on certificates of deposit, but this rate is expected to drop in September, when lending rates are also expected to drop further.
Banks are offering clients that do not qualify for prime rates 20-25% on loans. Some car financing agencies are offering rates at 23%, down from 36% last year.

Duarte Bridge to be closed in October
Expect bottlenecks on peak hours when crossing East-West or West-East the Ozama River that divides the city of Santo Domingo as of October. The government has announced Duarte Bridge will be closed down for the second phase of repairs. Repair works have been completed in an estimated 60%, according to Daniel Gómez, in charge of the project. Built in 1955, the Duarte Bridge is the oldest bridge over the river and is undergoing major repairs. A parallel bridge will be built as part of the government plan to improve the entrance to Santo Domingo from the East (including the Las Americas International Airport). The government is spending US$20 million on the repairs, that include 27 kilometers of cable wiring.

Director of Customs needs chemotherapy
Miguel Cocco, director of Customs, will be subject to chemotherapy to rid him of pre-cancerous cells found in his body. Cocco was interned in a Miami Baptist Hospital for kidney treatment. His physicians say he will require continuous dialysis and will have to return to Miami for treatment every 28 days. Nevertheless, his physicians say he will be able to return to a relatively normal life. President Leonel Fernández, en route to an official visit to Colombia, made a stopover to visit Cocco in his hospital room in Miami.

Transition pains with power privatization
It was all a misinterpretation, says Karl Huber, president of AES Distribuidora del Este, one of the two companies that are now in charge of the distribution of power in the DR. The general administrator of the CDE, Radhamés Segura, for months had promised Dominicans that privatization of power supply would not mean an increase in the amounts paid, and that the bills would be frozen for four years. Now Karl Huber of AES Distribuidora del Este, says the company has made a 5% adjustment compliant to contractual terms that permit it to make increases based on inflation, changes in the exchange rate, taxes and the cost of fuel. Now it is being made clear that when the government spoke of there not being an increase in the rate, it meant the rate structure. The present rate structure incorporates mechanisms for the above adjustments.
As reported in the daily press, Huber says that the 5% increase reflects the differences in the exchange rate and inflation that occurred last year.
This is difficult explaining to Dominican consumers, especially since accumulated inflation for the first semester of the year is below 0%, and the exchange rate has dropped as of late.
Furthermore, in the months leading to the eventual privatization, residential, commercial and industrial sectors suffered steep rate increases.
To make matters worse, the first days of privatization have been characterized by long power interruptions, as the private companies repair lines. Segura of the CDE, which is still in charge of power generation and transmission lines, says that there have also been communication, coordination and logistics problems, normal during a transition period. He denies there is chaos in the process, though.
Esso, Texaco and Shell cut supplies to the CDE last week, charging lack of payment. CDE is now suffering from liquidity problems. The CDE contract with AES and Unión Fenosa (the other privatization bid winner) establishes they will be paid every 30 days, while the CDE has to make daily payments to its fuel suppliers.

Dominicana Airlines awarded exclusive carrier rights
In Resolution 281-99, the Civil Aviation Board of the DR awarded exclusive US carrier rights to Dominicana Airlines, the state airline that is in the process of being privatized. The Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprise (CREP), in charge of privatizing state companies, had made the request to Vitelio Mejía, former director of the Civil Aviation Board. Exceptions are the carriers that have already been awarded exploitation rights per Law 505 of Civil Aviation.
The exclusivity was requested by the CREP to better position the airline for privatization. The privatization of Dominicana Airlines is expected to be completed this fall.

Another list of mega shopping centers
El Siglo carried last week a report on several megaprojects (residential and commercial) going up in the capital city of Santo Domingo, evidence of investors confidence in the economy.
On Sunday, the Listín Diario compiled a similar list, reporting that investments of RD$3,400 million are planned for shopping malls (more than US$212 million). These will provide an estimated 6,000 new jobs most by the end of 2000. The new malls are:
Comercial Plaza Duarte. Carr. Duarte Km. 10-1/2. 17,000 square meters. 600 jobs. RD$476.4 million. Largest French investment in the DR.
PriceSmart Dominicana. Charles Sumner, Los Prados. 22,500 sq. meters, 400 jobs. RD$320 million. This membership-shopping mall, first of its kind in the DR, is expected to be finished by the end of 1999.
Plaza Lama. Av. 27 de Febrero corner Winston Churchill. 30,000 square meters 600 jobs. RD$150 million first phase. Second phase contemplates construction of an 18 floor building. Completion by July 2000.
Multicentro Pola-La Sirena. Av. Charles de Gaulle, near Jacobo Majluta. 125,000 square meters. 500 jobs. RD$200 million. One floor. Capacity for 3,000 parking spaces.
Megacentro. San Vicente de Paul corner Carr. Mella. 67,000 square meters. 3,5000 jobs. RD$1,200 million. Largest to be built in the DR. Gathers Centro Cuesta Nacional, La Americana and La Gran Via department stores. 2,600 parking spaces.
Torre Acropolis. Winston Churchill corner Rafael Augusto Sanchez. 8,000 square meters. RD$1,048 million.
The El Siglo report had listed:
The Malecón Center. Commercial and residential project on the Malecón. Three 30-floor towers. Seafronting apartments are to go for more than US$300,000 each.
Ciudad Modelo Mirador Norte. Three million square meter residential development. 12,000 dwellings for middle class Dominicans. Self-sufficient power, garbage and potable water services.
El Prado Grand Hotel is slated for completion in August 2000. It will have 254 rooms and the city's largest meeting rooms, with capacity for more than 2,000 persons. It is going up on the Malecón.
And the recently-opened Multicentro, a US$19 million mall on Winston Churchill.

Private clinics to take strike plan to northcentral provinces
The Asociación Nacional de Clínicas Privadas (Andeclip), allied with the Dominican Medical Association, has announced that affiliates will strike on Thursday in the north central regions of the country. The association of private clinics wants medical insurance companies to increase payments for their services. Physicians would like the insurance companies also to increase payments (some physicians are reimbursed only RD$60-RD$80 per seen patient). Physicians and clinics also complain of delayed payments made by the insurance companies, and are requesting payments be made within 30 days. Private businesses make advance payments to the insurance companies.
The Dominican Chamber of Insurance Companies (CADOAR) that represents medical insurance companies argues that they have individual contracts with individual clinics and physicians and will only negotiate on an individual basis.
An estimated 500,000 affiliated persons will be affected by the north central strike.
In the DR, private insurance plans help make quality private medical services at reasonable prices available to thousands of residents. Most of the clients of private insurance medical plans are employed, and their employers pick up part of the tab.
The next step of the insurance companies and the AMD would be to take the strike national.

1,600 lots recuperated by the CEA
The National Police and the Armed Forces helped dislodge 1,600 lots invaders that had occupied State Sugar Council (CEA) lands in the Ozama Sugar Mill complex. The operation was personally directed by Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier and the Commanders of the Navy and the Air Force. Those dislodged, including many who say they are PLD members, say they had been given permission to occupy the lands by the former director of the CEA, Oscar Santiago Batista.
The Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprises (CREP) requested the persons be dislodged in order to continue with the process of privatizing the CEA. The CEA has endured years of losses that are expected to be terminated by the leasing of the lands to private companies.

Basketball player alleged assassin detained by INTERPOL
Members of the International Police (INTERPOL) arrested in the US the supposed assassin of Dominican basketball player Tobias Santana, of the Los Minas team. Santana was killed by gun shots on 31 July 1999 shortly after leaving the Casandra discotheque on the east side of Santo Domingo.
The supposed assassin has been described as a Dominican-born naturalized US citizen who is the owner of several motels in the DR.
According to news reports, the supposed murderer traveled to New York on the same day of the murder.
Santana was shot by the occupant of a black BMW. At the moment of the tragedy he was on board a taxi driven by Gregorio Polanco, and with him were two basketball team players, Kwane Evans and Dathon Brown. He was killed after an exchange of words with three women whom they invited to accompany them to a Malecón discotheque. The supposed assassin did not like the way the basketball players spoke with the women and after a heated exchange of words, fired at the taxi cab in which the basketball players had boarded, killing Santana.
The Police was able to narrow down the search, when it requested that all owners of black BMWs visit the National Palace. By elimination, the only owner who did not come forward is the suspect assassin who coincidentally traveled to New York on the same day of the killing.
The investigations are responsibility of Colonel Crescencio Jaquez of the Department of Homicides of the National Police.

Sammy Sosa leads McGwire by three home runs
Over the weekend, Sammy Sosa hit his 54th home run, which placed him three runs ahead of Mark McGwire, holder of the all time home run record in the Major Leagues. He hit the home run in the seventh inning of the game the Chicago Cubs won against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-0. Sammy Sosa could become the first ball player to hit 60 home runs in two consecutive seasons.

Tie in basketball finals
San Lázaro and Mauricio Báez are tied in the Santo Domingo Basketball Championship finals. The finals are taking place at the newly remodeled Sports Palace of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center.

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