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Daily News - 08 October 1999

Fuel prices go up
President Leonel Fernández announced an increase in fuel prices last night, ending weeks of expectations and speculations. The new prices, effective 6 am on 8 October, are:
Premium gasoline: RD$32.50 (up 19% from RD$27.90)
Regular gasoline: RD$27.90 (up 27% from RD$22)
Premium Gasoil: RD$18.95
Gasoil: RD$16.95 (up 31% from RD$12.90)
Industrial, vehicular, commercial propane gas: RD$13 (up 33% from RD$10)
Cooking propane gas: RD$6.00 (remains the same)
President Leonel Fernández said the increase is justified because of the increase in fuel prices abroad. In 1996, local fuel prices were set at RD$32 to reflect a US$26 price per barrel level on international markets. International market prices are slightly over US$24 at present.
Hoy newspaper carries the following petroleum stats:
Last year the country consumed 42.2 million barrels of petroleum, in 1997, consumption was 39.4 million barrels. In 1990, consumption was 22 million barrels, almost half of what is consumed today.
In 1996, the petroleum differential produced RD$3,373 million for the treasury. This grew to RD$5,230 million in 1997 and RD$6,000 million in 1998, reflecting a decline in international petroleum prices. The moneys are used primarily to make foreign debt payments. Annual payments are about RD$5,000 million per year.
In 1998, the country consumed 7.9 barrels of gasoline, 3.3 million more than in 1990. Gasoil consumption was 12.8 million barrels, seven million more than the 5.6 million in 1990.
In 1998, propane gas consumption was 5.7 million barrels, four million more than in 1990.
The government sent members of the Armed Forces and National Police last night to uptown barrios to prevent protests.

More presidential announcements
Upon making the announcement, President Fernández had some consolation words for Dominicans. He said he would include in the 2000 National Budget wage increases for the military and the police. He also said he has given instructions so that the private electricity distributor companies do not charge supposed arrears they are billing their clients. He explained the accumulated arrears are because the companies are billing consumers for the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad's (the state electricity utility that was privatized) deficient reading of counters or for its not reading these at all. He also announced the payment of upwards of RD$1,000 million owed to private contractors for construction works.

Exchange rate commission increased
The Monetary Junta "temporarily" increased the exchange rate commission applied to the purchase of foreign exchange in the local system by almost 300%. The increase brings the exchange rate commission from 1.75% to 5%. This will make imports cost more. Hoy newspaper says this will also represent a windfall of resources for the government. In the first semester of the year the 1.75% exchange commission reaped RD$722.5 million for the treasury.

Preparing for big November summit
The Ministry of Foreign Relations has confirmed that the ACP Heads of State and Government Summit scheduled for Santo Domingo in November 1999 will take place at the Ministry of Armed Forces. The Salón Independencia of the Ministry is being air-conditioned for the event. Statesmen from 72 African, Caribbean and Pacific former European colonies will meet in Santo Domingo to discuss the Post-Lomé Agreement. They will also set their joint position at the Millennium Round of World Trade Organization negotiations That event is set for Seattle, Washington, three days after the Santo Domingo event. Also coming are European delegates and representatives of international organizations.
Vice President Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal traveled to Africa this week to personally invite African chiefs of state to participate in the event. Advance missions from ACP countries are coming to prepare for the visits of the chiefs of state.

Ministry of Tourism forecasts record arrivals for this year
The Ministry of Tourism is forecasting that a record number of tourists will visit the DR this year. In the first eight months of the year records show 1,811,626 foreigners have visited, 11.6% more than during the same period last year. Tourist card sales are up 19.5%. The Ministry of Tourism forecasts the year could close with 2,300,000 foreign visitors. Most tourist arrivals enter by way of Puerto Plata's Gregorio Luperón International Airport, with 506,984 foreign visitors and Punta Cana International. Punta Cana was second in foreign arrivals, with 443,348 foreign visitors through August of this year. The number of regular flights is up 3.65% over last year. And there were 14% more charter flights (a total of 664) from January to August 1999, than during the same period last year.

Insurance companies and clinics reach agreement
The National Council of Private Business (CONEP), the Dominican Medical Association (AMD), the National Association of Private Clinics (ANDECLIP) and the Chamber of Medical Insurers (CADOAR) publicly announced they have reached an agreement that puts an end to the conflict that matched the medical insurers against clinics and physicians. The clinics and physicians feel they are not getting their rightful share of the benefits generated by payments made by employees to medical plans. Medics affiliated to insurance plans are usually paid RD$80 by the insurance companies per each patient seen. The same medics charge their private patients at least three times the amount. The physicians and clinics also complained of delays in collecting from the insurance companies despite these requiring advance payments from companies affiliated to the plans.
After several weeks of meetings, the medical insurance companies agreed to revise rates and conditions established in the contracts with the clinics and physicians. The agreements reached were not disclosed in the press. Hoy newspaper, nevertheless, says that the agreement would be announced within the next four months. Insurance companies regularly announce increases in medical plan payments at the start of the year. It can be expected that the medical insurance companies will pass on to consumers part of the settlement they are reaching with the clinics and physicians. The medical insurance plan has worked well for employees, that have access to the best of medical services in the DR for relatively low cost.
The announcement was made at a press conference by Celso Marranzini, for CONEP; Luis Eduardo Guerrero for CADOAR; Dr. Luis Fernández Martínez, for the Asociación de Igualas Médicas; Dr. Rafael Mena, for ANDECLIP' and Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero for the AMD.

Iberoamerican Theater Festival starts Monday
The II Iberoamerican Theater Festival opens in Santo Domingo on Monday, 11 October. The festival brings to Santo Domingo leading performers from Spain, Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Chile, Haiti, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and New York City. The three halls of the National Theater and the nearby halls of the Museum of National History and Geography and Museum of Modern Art will be used to present over 112 activities, including 26 plays during the 15 day event.
The Festival opens with a free outdoor very colorful performance celebrating Dominican carnival at 6 pm in the gardens of the National Theater. Most performances go for RD$100-RD$75, but the opening theatrical performance, "Arsa y Toma" by Cristina Hoyos has ticket prices of RD$1,000, RD$600 and RD$400. In addition to theatrical presentations, several workshops have been scheduled.

Fernando Villalona at Guacara Taina
If you are in town today, do not miss the presentation of one of the best Dominican merengue orchestras at Guacara Taina, in the Mirador Park. Fernando Villlalona is scheduled to perform as of 9 pm. Cover charge: RD$250. For more information, call 533-1052.

Globalizing Major League baseball
The next Major League's baseball season is slated to open with a game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets in Japan. Sammy Sosa will be the star of the show. A two-game series (29 and 30 March 2000) has been scheduled as part of the Major League baseball organization's effort to make the Major League baseball championship a global event. Last year, the Major League season opened in Monterrey, Mexico with a match between the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies.

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