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Daily News - 9 May 2001

Lech Walesa visits for launching of free newspaper
President Hipolito Mejia has decorated Noble prize winner, former Polish President, Lech Walesa and former President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica with the heraldic order of Christopher Columbus, rank of golden cross. 
Walesa is scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra today.
Walesa and Arias are visiting for the launching of Diario Libre, the country's first free newspaper. 
Omnimedia is the publishing branch of the La Nacional, Bancredito and Tricom financial and telecommunication group. The Diario Libre is a sister publication to Rumbo, Mujer Unica, Madre Unica, Novias, La Casa, Buena Vida, Cocina, Golf, Aqui Santo Domingo and Sucesos magazines.
The executive editor will be Anibal de Castro, former editor of Ultima Hora afternoon newspaper, founder and editor for many years of Rumbo Magazine. 
The company has plans to distribute 100,000 newspapers in select homes, on OMSA buses and where there are large numbers of people. 
Another financial group that publishes the Listin Diario, announced it would launch a competitor, the El Expreso, also with free distribution. This newspaper would be edited by Virgilio Alcantara, former executive editor of Hoy newspaper and a former press director during the Leonel Fernandez administration. 

Rosario Dominicana tender set for July
The tender for the selection of a company to exploit the estimated US$2 billion gold and silver reserves of the Rosario Dominicana mine in northeastern Cotui will take place in July. This was confirmed by Mario Peña of the government mining unit. The tender has been postponed on numerous occasions. 
Peña said companies that have shown an interest in participating in the tender are: Newmont Gold Company, Barrick Gold Corporation, Normandy Mining, Gold Fields of South Africa, Cominco Placer Dome, BHP Pty, MIM Holding, Mali Mining, Teck Corporation, RTZ/Kennecott, Empresas Peñoles, Anglo Gold, Luisimn, Franco/Euronevada (??), Pasminco and Sigma Resources. 

Dominican government recognizes slowdown
Finance Minister Fernando Alvarez Bogaert has revised the forecast for this year’s growth from 6.5% to 3-4%. This is a drop from the 7.8% posted last year. He forecasts an inflation rate of 7% for 2001. 
The Minister attributed the drop in growth to high petroleum prices and the slow down of the US economy. 
Alvarez favors seeking new resources to activate the economy, mentioning the possibility of issuing sovereign bonds or the country taking additional international loans. President Mejia spoke up yesterday in favor of issuing bonds. 

Government borrowing spree criticized
An El Caribe editorial warns against the government’s borrowing spree from commercial banks. The editorial writer says what is worse is that the resources are being used to enlarge the public sector instead of reducing it, as was done with the privatization of public enterprises in the former government. 
El Caribe says construction of highways and a railroad is good as long as the projects are tendered. The government has not announced the first tender for these works. 
"What scares us the most is the decision of the government to take out a credit of US$150 million to create a new version of the "pollitos" of the PLD [referring to the yellow taxis funded by the past administration]. The experience of the past government was that the chauffeurs do not repay their loans, even if they borrow from private banks," says the editorial writer. According to the contracts, the government would be the guarantor of the loans. If the chauffeurs do not pay, tax payers are responsible. 
Recently, two transport union leaders complained that the 1,500 vehicles were being distributed to those with influence in the governing party. 
Furthermore, El Caribe issued a red alert against the government borrowing US$86.2 million to become involved in the operation of cold storage facilities, slaughterhouses, nurseries and farm produce markets. 

Minister of Labor favors four-day work week
Labor Minister Milton Ray Guevara said yesterday he supports the Dominican Free Zone Association’s proposal for a four-day work week. Work days would be 11-hours long from Monday through Thursday. Adozona says this would increase productivity. 
The Minister says he favors the plan as long as labor unions and workers approve. 
Adozona has also requested that the Ministry consider establishing lower wage categories for workers to be employed in free zone industries in depressed areas. 
The current free zone salary is RD$2,490 per month which is the second highest among countries competing to manufacture products for the US market. 

Infrastructure work to start in western park zone
Tourism Minister Ramon Alfredo Bordas announced that within the next 60 days construction will start on the construction of infrastructure in the Jaragua National Park, between Oviedo and the Pedernales beaches. Listin Diario reports that the Ministry is only awaiting the completion of the territorial plan and tourism development studies that it is carrying out jointly with the Environment Ministry. 
The Jaragua National Park land was declared appropriate for tourism development in a decree issued by President Hipolito Mejia. The decree met with vast opposition from environmentalists who fear tourism development of the ecologically fragile area would be harmful to the ecology. 
Minister Bordas, however, said his department is working closely with the Environment Ministry to avoid damage to the flora, fauna and ecosystems in the area. 
He spoke during a meeting in Pedernales attended by Major General Antonio Imbert Barreras, who presides over the Tourism Development Commission of Pedernales. The Environment Minister Frank Moya Pons, the Governor of Pedernales Juana del Socorro Perez, and Senator Angel Dinocrates Perez were also present. 

Public school teachers announce strike
The Dominican Association of Professors called its teachers to go on strike on Thursday. The duration of the strike is indefinite. The union is demanding the government double the wages of public school teachers. 
High tech hospitals to be studied carefully by Deputies
The President of the Chamber of Deputies Rafaela Alburquerque promised that the deputies will carefully study the US$49.3 million loan the Dominican government would underwrite with Jamco Medical Inc. of Miami, Florida. The company wants to build ten so-called "American-style Smart Hospitals" throughout the DR. The hospitals would be custom designed, prefabricated and delivered fully equipped as part of the turnkey contract. Reportedly, the hospitals could begin operations this year. 
Hoy newspaper's editorial criticizes the loan, saying it is strange that the Ministry of Public Health is not involved in the project. 
According to the Jamco Medical web site, the Dominican hospitals would be the company's first such venture since its incorporation in 1994. The company founder cites as a major accomplishment that his father fully equipped the hospital of King Faisal in Saudi Arabia. For more information, see the company's website at
http://www.jamcomedical.com

Poll on minimum wage and politicians’ popularity
Hoy-Hamilton’s April poll shows that 36% of Dominicans feel that RD$8,000-RD$12,000 a month is the minimum needed to maintain a five-member family. 25% believe they need at least RD$4,000-RD$8,000. The minimum wage in the Dominican Republic is RD$3,460. 
The poll also reveals that 32% feel nonagenarian Joaquin Balaguer is the most popular Dominican politician followed by Leonel Fernandez with 26%. President Hipolito Mejia placed third in popularity with 25% and Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch has 9% popularity. 
The poll showed that Leonel Fernandez's popularity climbed 12 points since the November 2000 poll, going from 53% in November 2000 to 67% in April 2001. 
Hipolito Mejia went from 65% favorable in November to 58% favorable in April 2001. 

Deposits and loans in US$ continue to grow
El Caribe reports that deposits made in dollar accounts in the Dominican Republic continue to increase at a fast pace. US$ deposits in commercial banks today make up 15.8% of the total deposits, up from 15% in December 2000. Baninter, BHD and Banco Popular attracted the most US$ deposits. 
Local bank US$ currency loans also were up 58% in 2000 over 1999, and represent 25% of all bank loans. This is up from 19% in 1999. Banks making the most loans in US$ were the Popular, BHD, Baninter, Bancredito, Citibank and Progreso. 
The newspaper attributes the increase in dollar loans to the much higher interest rates charged on peso loans and the relative stability of the dollar. The banks say they are able to offer lower rates on dollar loans because these do not have the high bank reserve requirements the Central Bank demands for peso loans. 

Taiwan study rejected La Vega Dam
A committee from the province of La Vega visited the embassy and consulate of Norway to ask that country not to grant the Dominican government a US$264 million loan to build the Manabao-Bejucal-Tavera dam. The dam is contested on the grounds of its high cost and potential environmental damage. The promoters site the benefits of low cost energy it would generate. 
Salvador Dajer, in a contribution in Hoy newspaper today says the dam would generate power at four times the kilowatt/hour cost of thermal plants. The leading expert on dam construction says a study carried out by a Taiwan mission of 14 experts recommended that Taiwanese investors not participate in the project given the high cost of the power it would generate. Dajer says the dam could take five years to build and would cost over US$450 milllion to produce less than 300 megawatts of power.

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