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Daily News - 30 November 1999

GDP growth of near 8% forecast for year's end
The Dominican economy grew 7.6% from January to September 1999, according to the Central Bank. The Central Bank forecasts that by year's end, the Gross Domestic Product could grow 7.9%, which would be more than the original 7% growth forecast for the year.
The Central Bank report indicates the sectors that have showed the most dynamism are construction, communications, commerce, electricity, and local industry, excluding sugar cane industries. Those that have shown the least growth are mining, agriculture and free zone sectors. Enrique Iglesias, president of the Interamerican Development Bank, has described the DR economy as a "success story". The Dominican economy is the fastest growing in Latin America today. Yesterday, the Miami Herald featured a comment on the DR economy. See it at
http://www.herald.com/herald/content/fri/digdocs/news/americas/065902.htm
For more information and to read Central Bank reports, see www.bancentral.gov.do

Tax exemptions start tomorrow
As of tomorrow, Wednesday, 1 December, the Dirección General de Aduanas will be allowing expatriate Dominicans who visit to bring in tax free up to US$1,000 in gifts. The tax exemption is valid through 7 January 2000. It will apply to those entering through all ports. The tax exemption is established in Law 9-96.

Máximo Gómez tunnel reopened
The Ministry of Public Works restored traffic on the East-West side of the tunnel below 27 de Febrero Expressway and Av. Maximo Gomez after the conclusion of repair works. The tunnel was damaged when the concrete lining was affected by drainage problems. Traffic is chaotic in Santo Domingo due to the mega construction works underway to improve vehicular traffic in the capital city. The opening of the tunnel helps relieve bottlenecks.

Corde director expects Dominicana Airlines to fly by 16 August 2000
Eduardo Selman, director of the Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Estatales, the group of state enterprises that is being privatized, said he expects the state airline, Dominicana, to resume flying before the end of the Fernández administration on 16 August 2000. He commented that four airlines have shown an interest in acquiring the rights to the national airline. To make the privatization of the state airline attractive, the Dominican Aviation Board has granted it seven years of exclusivity of a Dominican airline to fly to the US market. The privilege has met with ample opposition from the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants and the National Airlines Association.
Regardless, Selman said that Dominicana's flying to the US is contingent on the lifting of Category III (imposed by the US Federal Aviation Agency) that impedes Dominican airlines from flying to the US.

Armed Forces says it is reinforcing vigilance on frontier with Haiti
The Ministry of Armed Forces says that it is reinforcing the Dominican vigilance of the frontier area, posting trained units to protect the environment and reduce contraband of weapons, drugs and the crossing of illegal Haitians. Chief of the Air Force, Major General Hugo González Borrell said that in Pedernales, for instance, pilots, doctors, and infantry personnel are being stationed. Nevertheless, Minister of the Armed Forces Manuel de Jesús Florentino recognized that the Dominican military does not have the equipment to effectively watch over the frontier with Haiti. The Mixed Bilateral Commission of Haiti and the DR is scheduled to meet tomorrow in Santo Domingo to discuss the controversial migration issues. See yesterday's briefs, for more on Haiti at www.dr1.com/daily/news112999.shtml

DR wants to be bridge between Caribbean and Central America
Dr. Roberto Saladín presented his credentials as Dominican ambassador in the United States to President Bill Clinton yesterday. During the meeting, he said that the DR aspires to become a country-bridge between Central America and the Caribbean. He reaffirmed his commitment to seek ways to consolidate the very good political, commercial and cultural ties between the US and the DR. He said that the DR is the fifth leading exporter of goods to the United States and the fastest-growing economy in the region.
The new US ambassador to the DR, Charles Manatt is expected in Santo Domingo in December.

Dominicans go get their cards
The Junta Central Electoral, the Dominican government body in charge of organizing the 2000 presidential election, had criticized Dominicans yesterday, saying that it is part of national idiosyncrasy to leave everything for last minute. The reference was made to the 1.5 million Dominicans that have as of yet to get their voting/identification cards. As a result, Hoy newspaper highlights that hundreds of Dominicans felt they were singled out and visited the JCE offices yesterday to get the document. The JCE has said the deadline to get the cards is 31 December. The JCE is well behind the schedule of issuing the cards. Aside from the apathy of Dominicans, news reports say that technical reasons and ineffective management have affected the process.

Few interested in being a policeman
Of 3,000 new policemen job openings, the National Police has only been able to recruit 300. Apparently the starting salaries of RD$1,600 and long work hours are not attractive to Dominicans. Hoy newspaper recently published that 9 out of 10 policemen make less than RD$6,000. The great majority make less than RD$3,000, which is barely enough to make a living in the DR. Of the police force of 23,000 agents, even those with university degrees make less than RD$10,000. The Fernández government programmed an increase for policemen in the 2000 budget. The starting salary for the metropolitan transit police is three times that of the starting salary for the grey-uniformed police force.

50,000 persons in jail by year 2010?
Hoy newspaper says there could be 50,000 persons in Dominican jails by 2010 if the present situation continues. Of those in jail, 75% have not had judicial hearings, given the backup in the Dominican judiciary. At present there are 18,000 persons in Dominicans jails. The Dirección General de Prisiones, the department in charge of jails, estimates that 243 persons are admitted to the 32 jails every month. Aura Celeste Fernández, a prestigious lawyer who is in charge of the Commission for the Reform and Modernizing of Justice, has denounced that Dominican jails are criminal manufacturing plants. The government has yet to allot the resources to move ahead on the reform projects proposed by the Commission.

Regional technical cooperation meeting in Santo Domingo
Delegates from 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries will be meeting in Santo Domingo starting tomorrow to revise policies, trends and perspectives for international cooperation come the new millennium. The XIV Meeting of Directors of International Technical Cooperation will take place in Santo Domingo from 1 to 3 December. The inauguration of the event will be at the auditorium of the School of Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. During the event, the DR will exhibit projects that are underway funded by international cooperation.

113 cruise ships stops in the DR this winter
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez says that cruise ships will make 113 stops at Dominican ports, bringing 116,572 tourists on board from 13 October to 30 April 2000.
Ships will make 73 stops at the Port of Santo Domingo, bringing 58,150 tourists. Catalina Island in La Romana will receive 40 cruise ship visits, bringing 58,150 tourists.
Ships and number of passengers on board that will be visiting Santo Domingo are the Emerald (1,100), Topaz (1,050), Carrousel (1,150), Flamenco (800), Bolero (600), Arkona (450), Vistamar (400), Berlin (500) and Columbus (400).
Isla Catalina (La Romana) will receive the Victoria (1,930), Classica (1,250); Romantica (1404), Arcadia (1,300) and Aida (1,000).
Celebrity Cruises' Century docked at Isla Catalina on Wednesday, 24 October for 10 hours. The ship was en route to the Virgin Islands but had to detour due to damages caused by Hurricane Lenny.

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