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Daily News - 30 September 1999

To increase the price of gasoline or not
The debate is on as to whether the government should increase the price of fuel or not. International prices have climbed to US$25, near the level where they were when in December 1996 the government increased the price of premium fuel to RD$32, subsequently reducing it to RD$27.90.
Businessmen and the government favor an increase in the price of fuel.
Rafael Camilo, of the National Planning Office, said that an analysis of the situation shows that fuel prices at year's end are usually higher. The excise tax is primarily used to pay the foreign debt.
Businessman Celso Marranzini, president of the National Council of Businesses (CONEP) is cited in Hoy newspaper saying that if the government does not adjust the prices on time, the US$-RD$ exchange rate could be affected, increasing the cost of items produced here and those imported. He said the inflation rate could increase to 7 or 8%, up from 6%.
The president of the Business Owners Association, Henry Sadhala feels that the effect on the economy of an increase in domestic fuel prices will be less felt than if the government has to use its reserves or print money to meet its international commitments.
The president of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata) is contrary to increasing the price of fuel. He says that when the government increased the price of fuel in 1996 (when international market prices were up to US$25 per barrel), it promised to reduce it when international market prices declined. They declined to US$10 (start of 1999), but the government maintained the high prices, benefiting from the windfall in taxes.

Heavy rains flood cities
Short lasting but heavy rains that fell on Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in the death of one man, who died when trying to rescue his electrical appliances from flooding in his house. Dozens of barrios in Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Macorís were flooded. News reports from San Pedro de Macorís say that the baseball stadium (being repaired for the 1999-2000 baseball season) has been flooded, impeding the continuing of repairs. The winter professional baseball league season starts the last week of October. The Estrellas Orientales didn't play last year, because their stadium suffered much damage during the September Hurricane Georges.
Dominican cities are not prepared for heavy rains, as drainage systems are faulty. Thus the reason why many who can afford to do so, drive a jeep in the DR.

Vice President favors national problems consensus
Vice President Jaime David Fernández proposed a great dialogue in which political leaders present their solutions to national problems. He said this should not be a debate where the candidates fight out as if in a boxing or cock fighting ring.
PLD presidential candidate Danilo Medina has asked PRD's Hipólito Mejía to debate him, but the later has been against this debate.
Vice President Fernández, who is acting President since President Leonel Fernández is away, said that with the presentation, the Dominican people can listen to how the candidates would resolve the nation's problems and then be able to better determine who would be the best candidate.
Vice President Fernández spoke at the opening of Expo Cibao 99, the Santiago-based exhibition of the central and north region's produce that is organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago.

Taiwan backs new Santo Domingo cyberpark
El Siglo news correspondent in Taiwan, Victor Manuel Tejada reports that President Leonel Fernández obtained another objective of his three-day visit to Taiwan, securing the commitment of the Taiwanese government to invest US$10 million in the construction of the cyberpark the government plans to start building in October in Punta Caucedo. The park will go up between the Las Americas International Airport and the Punta Caucedo Multimodal Megaport. Moreover, the government of Taiwan promised a donation of high tech equipment to be installed in the Instituto Tecnológico de las Americas, a high tech teaching center that will welcome students from all Latin America, and whose construction is slated to begin this year as part of the Santo Domingo cyberpark.
This donation is in addition to the US$48 million in donation commitments and US$10 million in loans secured earlier by President Fernández in Taipei (see yesterday's news at www.dr1.com/daily/news092999.shtml).
The Santo Domingo cyberpark, Islecom, will be a joint venture between the Dominican government, local investors and foreign investors from Asia and the US. The Dominican government is contributing the land and the infrastructure, as well as the construction of the Instituto Tecnológico de las Americas. The government says the high tech institute will have the support of the High Tech Industrial Park of Hsinchu in Taipei and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, as well as the Instituto Technológico de Monterrey (Mexico).
The plan is to open the first cyberpark in Santo Domingo, but a second park is slated for construction in Santiago. President Fernández invited leading Santiago free zone entrepreneur Fernando Capellán on the trip so he could see with his own eyes what can be done.
"What we would like is to become the Taiwan of the Caribbean, in the sense of having the vitality and the economic dynamism that the economy of that small nation has that has brought it to occupy a leading position in the world," said President Fernández.
President Fernández says that the success in the development of free zone manufacturing plants has turned these into the backbone of the Dominican economy, but these are models based on large work forces, which represents a first phase of industrial development in the DR.
"We Dominicans are proud that we have developed our free zones as we have up to now, and I believe that this should be consolidated and expanded.
We have to look outwards to the world and what we perceive is that countries like Taiwan that initiated with labor intensive models, have advanced to capital intensive models, without abandoning the first model, but creating new paradigms.
"In the DR we need to consolidate what we have and explore new opportunities. I believe that is having a vision of where the future of the country lies, said President Fernández."

President Fernández moves Taiwanese
El Siglo newspaper reports that Minister of Foreign Relations of Taiwan Jason Hu put aside his protocolar speech on the day of the decorations to improvise and better express his feelings of gratitude for the support of the Dominican people to the people of Taiwan. Minister Hu highlighted how President Fernandez was the first statesman to visit after the earthquake, a demonstration of the sincerity of the bilateral relations and the concern of Dominicans for the situation that affects that country. On the last day of his stay, President Fernandez visited the disaster area, requesting a minibus and not the usual limousine, to not call attention. Minister Hu commented that President Fernández was the only visiting statesman to ever travel in Taiwan using a minibus. Visibly moved, Minister Hu pointed out that President Fernández's support was a way to tell Taiwan that they are not alone, that the entire world, as well as Dominican friends, are behind them. President Fernández, who was accompanied by Monsignor Agripino Núñez called a minute of prayer for those that had died and for those that were recovering, when visiting the disaster area. The DR also made a US$100,000 contribution to the recovery of Taiwan.
President Fernández also visited the Sun brothers in a hospital, urging these to a quick recovery so they could return to their studies and work. The brothers survived six days under debris.

President Fernández in California for two-day visit
President Fernández arrived in California yesterday on board a China Airlines flight. He has plans to continue promoting the Santo Domingo cyberpark as he meets with California businessmen in Silicon valley. He has appointments scheduled to visit Redwood Shores Industrial Park, AT&T Labs and Forbes Magazine. He will also make stops at Stanford University, Hoover Institution, American Electronic Association, Livermore Labs.

Gallup poll shows PRD's Mejía has big lead
Rumbo newsmagazine this week publishes the results of its first May 2000 electoral preferences survey. The survey asked Dominicans able to vote in the May 2000 election if the election were held today, for whom would they vote. Partido Revolucionario Dominicano candidate Hipólito Mejía received 47% of preferences, followed by Danilo Medina with 23%, and Joaquín Balaguer with 22%. At the time of the survey, 93-year old and blind Balaguer, who is expected to be the presidential candidate for the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano, had not yet been appointed a presidential candidate. He was last week by the minority party La Estructura.
Danilo Medina, of the PLD, has invested millions in his campaign. While he is known as the PLD's political strategist, and was Secretary of the Presidency of the Fernández administration, earlier surveys showed that he had less outside voter preference than Vice President Jaime David Fernández. Nevertheless, he was chosen in the primaries. Even party secretary José Tomás Pérez said the party would have to work harder when Medina was chosen. The Rumbo/Gallup poll seems to confirm this perception.
Rumbo magazine points out that in the important National District (Santo Domingo), Mejía has 50% of electoral preferences, compared to 23% of Medina. Medina is banking his campaign on selling he will continue the work of the present government. President Leonel Fernández is the most popular man in the DR, but the Gallup poll shows this popularity has not rubbed off on Medina.
The survey also shows that in the case of a second round (to win in the first round a candidate needs to have 50%+1 of the vote), Hipólito Mejía has a good chance at winning. Those that say they would vote for an alliance of the PLD-PRSC do not add up to enough to defeat the PRD and allies. In the 1996 elections, President Leonel Fernández was elected when President Joaquín Balaguer (PRSC) supported his candidacy versus that of PRD's José Francisco Peña Gómez. According to the survey, only 58% of the PRSC voters would favor the candidacy of Medina, while 19% would favor that of Mejía, enough to give Mejía the presidency.
The survey showed that the PRD is the most popular political party with 45% of preference, followed by the PLD with 26% and the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano with 18%.
The poll was taken 9-13 September nationwide. Rumbo magazine does not detail how many people were polled.

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