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Daily News - 18 October 1999

RD$700 million to pay cabinet ministers
The president of the National Senate, Engineer Ramón Alburquerque criticized the government for what he considers an excess of ministers. He said the government spends over RD$700 million (about US$44 million) in wages and diets paid out to ministers and deputy ministers. He said that Dominican law establishes there should only be 86 ministers and deputy ministers. The present government has beefed up its bureaucracy, appointing 450 ministers. While the practice of appointing more than two deputy ministers per ministry began during the administration of former President Balaguer, Alburquerque justified that prior to 1996 deputy ministers made about RD$10,000 a month, so the burden wasn't as heavy on state finances. President Fernández increased the salary of a deputy minister to RD$25,000, plus these receive thousands more in benefits. Many deputy ministers have a jeep with chauffeur at their disposition. He said they also require assistants, secretary and an office, per diem and travel expenses.

Central Bank to inject market to sustain peso
The Central Bank announced it will inject US$30 million into the exchange market to the upward trend of the dollar. The dollar increased as a result of an increase in the exchange rate commission, from 1.75 to 5.00. The increase in the exchange rate has been criticized by business sectors due to its inflationary effect, and the fact that it is contrary to trade liberalization policies. The US dollar is fetching year highs, but economists say this is only temporary as the Christmas season is near. Christmas is a time when families and friends visit or send home thousands of dollars. Likewise, thousands more dollars are due as companies that won state enterprise bids start making new investments. While many commercial banks are still buying dollars for RD$15.60-RD$15.80, exchange banks are offering upwards of RD$16.00 to the dollar. Importers have had to pay upwards of RD$16.45-RD$16.90 to purchase dollars.

Tropical Storm José could hit the DR
Tropical Storm José could threaten the Dominican Republic late this week if the storm maintains the west north-west track it is on. And the National Hurricane Center (United States) says it is gaining strength East of the Windward Antilles. "In 24 to 48 hours it could reach hurricane status," said Jack Bevin, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The tropical storm is located east of the Windward Islands. A hurricane watch has been issued for Barbados, and a tropical storm watch has been issued for Trinidad & Tobago.
The storm is keeping a west-northwest track, with maximum sustained winds near 75 km/hr (45 mph), with higher gusts. At 11 am AST (1500Z) the center of the storm was located near latitude 10.7 North, longitude 54.3 West or about 625 kilometers (390 miles) east-southeast of Barbados. It is moving toward the west near 17 km/hr (10 mph) and a gradual turn toward the west north-west is expected during the next 24 hours. Jose is the 10th tropical storm of the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
A hurricane this late in the season threatening the Caribbean is unusual.
To follow the storm, go to http://www.intellicast.com/Tropical/World/UnitedStates/HurTrack2/

US$500 million for public works through August
The National Planning Office director, Rafael Camilo said that the government has budgeted RD$8,000 million (about US$500 million) to complete public works initiated during the Fernández administration. The government completes its term in August 2000. Camilo also said the government will be submitting a RD$50,000 million budget bill to Congress in mid November. Of the total budget, 60% is being allotted to public works and 40% to current expenditures.

Voting card process slow
El Siglo newspaper reports that the Central Electoral Junta (JCE) is still behind in its plan to provide new voting and identification documents to Dominicans by December 1999. Dominicans need the new documents to vote in the 16 May 2000 election. According to the item, the JCE has not been able to issue the cards to 58.5% of the citizens that have requested them and initiated the procedure at JCE offices. Of the 3,272,198 persons that have visited the JCE, only 1,916,558 have received their cards. Most of these (657,873) have been handed out in the Metropolitan Zone, which includes Santo Domingo and the National District, Bajos de Haina, Bayaguana, Monte Plata, Sabana Grande de Boya and Yamasá). The JCE says it has enlisted the help of the leading political parties to encourage the 261,345 citizens who have not picked up their cards from JCE offices to do so.

30% of babies born in Santiago hospitals are Haitians
El Siglo reports that eight of every 24 births in the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez Hospital, the largest public hospital in Santiago, the Dominican Republic's second largest city, are Haitians. Dr. Daniel Espinal, director of the hospital, said that for humanitarian reasons, all patients arriving in emergency condition to the hospital will be attended to regardless of where they come from. Press reports have been carrying stories of the increasing number of Haitian women that are giving birth in the DR, and the plight of undocumented Haitian children, most born to parents that themselves do not have birth certificates or identity papers. While the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that because of the in transit status of their parents they do not qualify for Dominican citizenship, the topic has been of major concern because of the social problem that is in the making in the medium and long term.

Poverty is poverty
The Listin Diario newspaper reports that 20% of the children under 14 years of age in the mountain valley farming communities of Constanza have not been officially declared. Pro-Joven coordinator Karen Ovalles said that when carrying out a program to combat child labor they counted 3,895 undeclared children. She said that most of the children do not have birth certificates because of the lack of awareness of their parents that live in poverty. She said that they later researched other rural community and found a similar pattern among the rural poor, regardless of them being children of indigent Haitians or Dominicans. She now estimates a third of the children in rural areas do not have birth certificates. In the DR parents have a month to declare the children. If this is not done so during that time, the process requires many more steps. Public hospitals in major cities will issue birth certificates to children born there, which has resulted in a decline in the number of undocumented children in urban areas.

Minister of Tourism forecasts 14% increase in tourist arrivals
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez says that foreign travel to the DR is up 11% so far this year. He forecast by year's end, foreign tourists will have increaed 14%. He said that foreign arrivals increased 10% during the first seven months of the year, compared to a 4.7% increase for the same period last year. The DR's hotel inventory, nevertheless, will grow by about 15% this year, going from 43,000 at present to around 50,000 hotel rooms by the year's end.

Clinton, McGwire and Jordan invited to Sosa's birthday party
Sammy Sosa is organizing a big birthday party. He will be 31 on 12 November and has invited President Bill Clinton, Mark McGwire of the St. Louis and star basketball player Michael Jordan to his party in Santo Domingo. Where the party will be held has yet to be announced. He made the announcement when interviewed by journalists upon returning to Santo Domingo on Saturday. He said he was personally calling his friends to invite them. He was received by thousands at Las Americas International Airport and later made an appearance at the Avenida del Puerto party held in his honor in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo.

Pedro Martínez does it again
His reputation is that he's the best pitcher in baseball today. And Pedro Martínez did not let the full house gathered at Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park think differently on Saturday. He led his team to a 13-1 victory over the New York Yankees, defeating none less than former Red Sox great Roger Clemens, winner of five Cy Young awards. The game was Boston's first win, after two losses in this American League Championship Series.
Martínez struck out 12 in seven innings to remain unscored upon in playoffs. He allowed only two hits. Clemens lasted just one batter into the third inning and allowed five runs.
On Sunday, though, Boston lost again to the Yankees, 9-2, setting the score of the best-of-seven series to 3-1.

Iberoamerican Theater Festival continues
The II Iberoamerican Theater Festival continues with multiple performances in the Plaza de la Cultura. 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.

A parallel Dominican Theater Festival has been set up at the Palacio of Bellas Artes for 9-20 October.
Schedules for the main performances for both are as follows:

"Algún Día Trabajaremos Juntas," EuroEscena, Spain
Monday, 18 October at 9 pm
Tuesday 19 October at 9 pm

"Heavy Nopal", Astrid Hadad y sus Tarzanes, Mexico
Wednesday, 20 October at 9 pm

"Amanda" Giovanny Cruz, Dominican Republic
Thursday, 21 October at 9 pm

"El Célebre Especialista en el Gran Hotel Europa," Río Caribe-Ecuador/Venezuela
Friday, 22 October at 9 pm

"Bolívar", Rajatablas, Venezuela
Saturday, 23 October and Sunday, 24 October at 10:30 am and 9 pm

National Theater, Sala Ravelo:
"El Enano," La Tierra, Colombia
Thursday, 21 October and Friday 22 October at 7 pm

"Danzas Sagradas de la India," Soraya Franco, Dominican Republic
Sunday, 24 October at 7 pm

Dominican Theater Festival at Bellas Artes:

"La Fila" (Carlos Castro)
Monday, 18 October at 10 and 7 pm

"De Lorca" (Elvira Taveras)
Tuesday, 19 October at 7 pm
Wednesday, 20 October at 10 am and 7 pm

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