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Daily News - 29 January 2002

2.5%-3% GDP growth in 2001
The Governor of the Central Bank, Frank Guerrero Prats, says that preliminary data shows the Dominican economy grew 2.5% to 3% last year. This is at least five times more than the regional average. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said it expects averagrowth in Latin America to have reached only 0.5% in 2001. 
Interviewed in Diario Libre, he explained that the foreign currency trading table mechanism will go into effect tomorrow. The mechanism takes an average of exchange rates to establish the official rate of the day. The idea is to make the official rate more dynamic and closer to the real value of the Dominican peso related to other currencies. This is part of new policies to liberalize the exchange market and let the peso float according to the market. The mechanism was authorized by a Monetary Board resolution on 20 November 2001 and should have been in place at the start of this year. 

AMET to remove street vendors
Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) agents began to remove street vendors from sidewalks in the city. The AMET agents ordered vendors off the sidewalks in the Zona Universitaria adjacent to the state university (UASD). Vendors in the Duarte Avenue and Gazcue areas were given five days to relocate. 
The action was criticized by the president of City Hall, Rafael Diaz Filpo, who said AMET does not have the authority to remove the vendors. Municipal secretary Luis Jose Chavez argued that AMET can remove the street vendors.
Spokesman for AMET, Nelson Rosario, said the measure would be extended to other cities and towns nationwide. He said AMET is acting according to Transit Law 241. 
AMET also said that pedestrians who do not use the pedestrian walkways to cross main highways will be fined. Transport authority agents will also confiscate for five days trucks that use the cars-only overpasses. 
Rosario also announced that those caught speeding or driving recklessly would be subject to anti-doping and breath tests for alcohol. Statistics show that more than 40% of traffic accidents in the DR are alcohol-related.

School assistance program resumes today
The Ministry of Education is renewing its RD$300-a-month assistance program in public schools. The Ministry hands out RD$300 a month to mothers/fathers of children enrolled in public grade schools. The program would benefit 20,000 families in 41 municipalities in 11 provinces. It had been suspended after irregularities in the distribution of the funds were uncovered.

US$141 million loan for northwestern aqueduct
Engineer Silvio Carrasco said the government plans to go ahead with the
construction of a major aqueduct to service the northwestern provinces.
Brazilian sources will provide US$141 million in financing and a Brazilian company, Odebres, will build it in coordination with a Dominican firm, Amina, Andrade & Gutierrez. 
The project still has to be sent by the government to Congress. The PRD-majority Senate rejected the Brazilian financing and construction when it was presented during the Fernandez administration. This time around it seems the bill, if presented to Congress, would pass.
Congress is in recess. Unless the President calls for an extraordinary
session, legislators are not scheduled to meet until 27 February.

Honorary consul may be fired
Jose Alejandro Ayuso, Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations in charge of consular affairs, said that if charges made by the US State Department against Byron Jerez are confirmed, he will be removed as honorary consul to Nicaragua. Ayuso explained that Jerez was appointed by decree and the recommendation for the appointment came from Dominican Ambassador to Nicaragua, Jesus Maria Troncoso. Ayuso, nevertheless, denied that the honorary consul operates from an office in the Dominican Embassy. The US government cancelled Jerez’s visa on charges of money laundering.

Government not saving to pay off sovereign bonds
Hoy newspaper reports on a warning from economist Andres Dauhajre, leading negotiator of the sovereign bonds, who says the government has not been saving money to meet the sovereign bonds payment. The government must pay US$23.75 million, or RD$407 million, by 27 March. Dauhajre said the government has yet to put aside any savings towards this payment in an account at the government bank, the Banco de Reservas, as originally planned. 
Speaking on Hoy Mismo, the Channel 9 TV program, Dauhajre spoke of the dangers of the government going on a spending spree and forgetting about tightening up tax collections. He said the experience in other countries is that the government is lulled by the extra money and gets lax about its tax-collecting obligations.
Dauhajre favors increasing the value-added ITBIS tax to 15% across the board. The government has promised not to increase taxes.

Economist says government needs to restrain spending
Economist Alfonso Abreu Collado said the government urgently needs to exercise fiscal discipline in its spending because it has been spending beyond its means. 
He said it is time for the government to revise its priorities and its investment program. Abreu Collado said the trend has been for the government to spend beyond its ordinary incoming revenues. The government borrowed RD$5 billion from local banks to cover current spending last year, at a time when it received money from the sovereign bonds placement. 
The government increased taxes in January 2001, adding a 1.5% tax on gross sales and increasing the ITBIS sales tax 50%, in addition to expanding the number of taxed items and the tax on luxury consumer items. Regardless, most capital investment projects are being carried out with borrowed money.

Visual pollution as politics takes hold of city
The political campaign for the 16 May congressional and municipal election has not yet been declared open but the campaigning is in full swing. The splurge of political advertising by politicians vying to be chosen in their parties’ internal primaries does not bode well for what the city will look like once the campaign gets off to a real start in mid March. 
The faces of hopeful politicians are on every corner of Santo Domingo. The saturation of the city with posters of all sizes is an indication of the wealth accumulated by the politicians and how lucrative politics is. No private industry has ever been able to afford such a display of resources.
One of the biggest advertisers is Nazir Attallah, director of the government’s computer education program, who aspires to be PRD senator for the National District. 
Jose Leonel Cabrera, previously unknown, has also become a familiar face for Dominicans, with large posters announcing his intention to run for deputy in the No. 1 electoral district of Santo Domingo.
Of the PRSC, engineer Ramon Perez Martinez (“Macoris”) seems to have garnered the most support in his party. With his promise “I will fix this”, the man known for breaking the strong union at the Dominican Electricity Corporation now vies to be Santo Domingo’s mayor. 
Judging from the number of large posters, widow of late PRD leader Peña Gomez, Peggy Cabral, and Santo Domingo Mayor Johnny Ventura are the other two strong candidates. The PLD’s chosen candidate for mayor of Santo Domingo, Roberto Salcedo, has a sprinkling of much smaller posters dotting the city, leading to speculation the PLD would be willing to negotiate the candidacy for Santo Domingo with the PRSC.
The posting of outdoor advertisements on public property such as the political posters is illegal in Santo Domingo but the city has given up trying to enforce this law.

Better days for sugar industry in DR
Hoy newspaper reports that there are now nine sugar mills in operation, all of them privately run since the completion of the privatization process during the past administration.
The sugar companies and their mills are: 
Consorcio Caña Brava: Monte Llano (active), Amistad. 
Consorcio Azucarero Central: Barahona (active). 
Grupo Vicini: CAEI (active), Cristobal Colon (active).
Central Azucarera Consuelo: Consuelo (active), Boca Chica, Ozama, Rio Haina, and Quisqueya.
Hermanos Fanjul: Central Romana (active).
Procesadora Cruz Verde: Cruz Verde (active).
Central Pringamosa: Pringamosa (active).
Central Azucarera del Este: Porvenir (active), Santa Fe. 
The surge in the sugar industry comes at a time when sugar prices are at US$0.073 cents a pound and at the US preferential market price of US$0.21 cents a pound. The DR has a quota of 185,335 metric tons in the US preferential market.

Aguilas could become league champs today
The Aguilas defeated the Licey at the Cibao stadium 6-5 yesterday. First baseman Mendy Lopez decided the game with a two-run homer in the sixth inning. If the Aguilas win tonight in Santo Domingo, they will represent the DR in the Caribbean Series, which opens 2 February in Caracas, Venezuela. If the Licey wins, the series will continue on Wednesday in the Cibao Ball Park in Santiago. The Baseball Page
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