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Daily News - 30 January 2002

AMET at work
The new chief of the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), Pedro de Jesus Candelier, is being criticized for impounding trucks caught driving on overpasses for five days. This is not established in any law and is considered arbitrary. 
Vehicles are also being impounded when drivers do not have the correct documentation. The vehicles are being retained until the drivers return with their documents up to date. This has resulted in long lines for driver’s license renewal as people hurry to get legal. 
But press reports and radio commentators are all in favor of actions taken to organize Santo Domingo’s chaotic traffic. 
Meanwhile, Hoy newspaper reports that AMET sent ten drivers to court yesterday for trying to bribe AMET agents.
Candelier was deputy director of AMET when the organization got its start in 1997. At the time, AMET agents were known not to accept bribes. 
Authorities are also expected to begin enforcing speed limits on highways soon, as part of a general trend towards enforcing traffic laws.

Learning from the Argentine crisis 
In an interview with El Caribe newspaper, the Governor of the Central Bank, Frank Guerrero Prats has commented on the lessons to be learned from the Argentine financial crisis. He says what is important is that the government permanently control its spending and save money in good times to prepare for the bad times. He also said the importance of flexible exchange markets was made apparent by the Argentine experience. This would compensate for adjustments in internal spending and external shocks. 
Guerrero said another lesson learned is the importance of having strong institutions that guarantee citizens’ right to own private property, that their taxes will not be misspent, that corruption will be the exception not the rule and that the justice system works. He also said that governments need to guarantee minimum protection to the lowest income sectors.
He attributed the Argentine crisis to the fact that the bases for a free market economy were not created. “In the end, the precarious public accounts left the country in a frail situation to confront external shocks of the post 1997 days. And in the last year, when the crisis was already in progress, there were many errors made in its handling.” 
He stressed that the government of Fernando de la Rua was unable to reduce government spending.

Senate president warns against more loans
After voting in favor of millions in new government loans, the President of the Senate Andres Bautista is now urging caution in the passing of more international loans. He says it could create serious problems for the country’s finances, increasing the foreign debt that sooner or later must be paid. Reportedly, the government wants the Senate to pass another big one, the Brazilian financing of a US$141 million aqueduct in the Northwest. Relations between the Senate and the Presidency have not been at their best since the President sent to the Supreme Court the bill that would allow presidential re-election and would have permitted congressmen to extend their terms for two more years. The Supreme Court rejected that bill. 

Macroeconomic stability, regardless of who is in power
El Caribe reports today on comments made by foreign investors on the Dominican economy. The investors say that despite three different political parties having been in power from the 90s until now, macroeconomic stability has been maintained.
The newspaper also surveyed foreigner investors who say that even though crime has increased in recent years in the DR, the country continues to be one of the safest countries in the Americas. The investors say that the DR rates much better than Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and that you can still walk without fear on Dominican streets.
The newspaper also highlights that the DR maintains one of the highest levels of foreign investment in the region. It is expected to reach US$1.4 billion in 2002, up from US$889 million last year, as reported by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The DR rates only below Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile in the region. It rates above Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Uruguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Haiti.

Using bonds money for social programs?
Diario Libre reports that the government plans to invest RD$1.5 billion of the sovereign bond money in social and government administration programs. This contradicts the legal conditions attached to the sovereign bonds placement law in October 2001. That law establishes that the sovereign bonds money must go exclusively to construction works that generate more than the 9.5% interest rate the government must pay on the bonds. 
Diario Libre reports that the National Budget Office (Onapres) put aside the RD$1.5 billion for programs under the umbrella of the Direccion Superior y Administracion del Estado. Officers of this new government body are from the Presidency and its dependencies: the Administrative Secretariat of the Presidency and the office of the Secretary of the Presidency. 
The newspaper explains that 27.4% of the total of the bonds money will be allotted to programs overseen by the aforementioned body but managed by government entities that do not handle construction projects. The newspaper says the funds will benefit child welfare programs (Consejo Nacional de la Niñez), public transport programs (Oficina Metropolitana de Servicios de Autobuses-OMSA and Oficina Tecnica de Transporte Terrestre), the General Controller’s Office, food programs for low-income earners (Comedores Economicos) and generic medicine distribution programs (Programa de Medicamentos Esenciales-Promese). Funds are also allotted to promote a handicraft industry. None of these sectors generate the needed revenues to legally qualify for sovereign bonds funding. 
The National Budget Office also reports that sovereign bond money has been allotted to the Ministry of Public Works: RD$2 billion to the Ministry of Public Works; RD$976 million for the construction of aqueducts (Instituto Nacional de Agua Potable); RD$394 for construction of dams (Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidraulicos (Indrhi); and RD$105 million for government industrial parks programs.

Government moves to detect fraud in fuel sales
The government announced it will implement in mid February a system to audit propane, diesel and gasoline sales in the DR. Government quality-control bodies recently detected adulterated sales of fuel. The new Sistema de Auditoria de Calidad Generalizado is designed to guarantee that consumers get the quality and quantity they are paying for and that the government collects the taxes it is due. 
The system will be managed by a committee with members from the Ministry of Finance, the Customs Department, Department of Norms and Quality Sistemas (Digenor), and the Ministry of Industry & Commerce. 

Extradition treaty to be approved
El Caribe newspaper reports that yesterday the French parliament approved the agreement for extradition signed on 7 March 2000 with the Dominican government. The agreement had been signed by Ambassador Francois Xavier Denieu and then Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre. The Ministry of Foreign Relations notified the French Embassy on 23 January 2002 that the agreement had been passed by Congress in August 2001. The notification came after the son of Didier Schuller, a French fugitive, denounced that his father was living in the Dominican Republic and had established close ties with high ranking government officers. 
El Caribe reports that the charge d’affairs of the French Embassy Julien Perrier will meet with Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp to clarify the Schuller matter. Tolentino complained that the French Embassy officer had aired the matter in the press, prior to meeting with Dominican foreign affairs authorities. 
Dominican security forces have located Schuller in the DR. 

US wants DR to hold tenders for major public works
US Ambassador Hans Hertell is offering the support of his government to draw up a legal framework for tenders to be held for major public construction works. 
The Mejia administration recently awarded a major concession for the construction of the San Cristobal-Bani highway and south-north railway system without holding a tender to choose the best bid. 
US companies would like to bid on these projects. 
The US Government Trade and Development Agency (TDA) is currently reviewing a proposal from the Dominican government requesting their assistance with the final feasibility study for the proposed rail project in the DR. 

Resignation of Nicaraguan consul to be accepted
The Dominican honorary consul in Nicaragua has resigned, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Nicaraguan Byron Jerez is involved in a fraud scandal in Nicaragua. The US State Department also links him to money laundering operations. Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp said the resignation will be accepted.

Only 12% of Haitians living in DR have documentation
A survey carried out in 1998 shows that about 72,000 Haitians, or about 12% of the Haitians living in the DR, have legal documents. The World Bank estimates that 515,500 to 600,000 Haitians live in the DR. This is 6% of the DR’s total population. Most Haitians, whether in Haiti or the DR, do not have any legal identification papers at all. 
Newly arrived Haitian ambassador Guy Alexandre estimates that about half of the Haitians living in the DR were born here. The fact that the parents do not have legal papers makes it difficult to register their children in the Dominican system, leaving them in legal limbo just like their parents. 
Alexandre says that despite the fact that Haitians live here in extreme conditions of poverty, their lives in the DR are better than they would be in their home country. 
He estimates that about 20,000 Haitians return to Haiti every year after working in construction or on farms. An estimated 500-1,000 Haitians are here as political refugees.
Alexandre said that the Haitians are not discriminated against. “The Haitians of low income are here to work in areas such as sugar cane cutting and construction work, and they are subject, I suppose, to the same harsh working conditions that Dominicans accepting these jobs are subject to. They are not discriminated against, they are just exploited by the difficult nature of the jobs and the job conditions,” he said in an interview with Cadena de Noticias.

The most exciting final baseball series
There is speculation that Pedro Martinez could pitch today for the Licey. This would be a climax to what is being described as the most exciting Dominican Professional Winter Baseball Championship finals. The tournament matches the Tigres del Licey against the Aguilas Cibaeñas. The two teams are tied and a final game will be played today in Santiago, home base of the Aguilas. Both teams have won every game played in their home stadiums. The two teams each have won 16 baseball championships. 
Yesterday, the Licey won 5-2 to revive their chance at the championship. The Aguilas are the favorites, having dominated during the regular season and the playoffs. The
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