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Daily News - 11 February 2002

President urges Candelier to control himself
President Hipolito Mejia said on TV last night that the new director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, former police chief Pedro de Jesus Candelier, should control himself. Mejia said, “I told General Candelier to be stern in applying rulings and laws, but flexible when understanding social problems,” he said. Candelier is trying to rid the sidewalks of street vendors and get drivers to follow the traffic laws. 
President Mejia said, “Sometimes the style of General Candelier leans towards the extreme and he has to control himself because street vendors are people that make a living that way, and there are places where you have to be flexible, not go to the extremes, find intermediary solutions.” 
He urged Candelier to go after the sons of wealthy parents who speed on city highways. 
Meanwhile, AMET said it would give drivers until Monday, 18 February before enforcing the seat belt law. 
President Mejia spoke on Channel 4’s 9-10 pm “Una Vez por Semana” show produced by Ramon Colombo and Juan Tavares Hernandez (Juan TH). The President has been routinely appearing on the Sunday TV show to give his opinions on topical issues.

Mejia takes the power companies side
President Hipolito Mejia took the side of the power distributors and urged everyone to pay for their electricity. AES Distribuidora del Este announced it would be intensifying its power cuts program in lower income barrios as of 15 February. Community leaders say that the company is moving too fast, that the bills haven’t been distributed yet. 
Mejia said, “Hear what I say, let them collect from the National Palace and its dependencies, and he who does not pay, let them cut the service, I am clear in that.”
Listin Diario reported on a letter sent by AES Ede Este to the Superintendent of Power Julio Cross Frias establishing the 15 February date for increasing power outages. The company cites losses of RD$60 million in January. 
Meanwhile, former general manager of the privatized Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), Radhames Segura criticized the decision. He said the power distributors knew what they were getting into when they entered the Dominican market. When they signed, they accepted that their losses would be high initially, and would gradually decrease over a three-year period. Now the companies want to cash in at a faster pace after having found receptivity in the government. 
News analysts say the pressure of the upcoming municipal and congressional elections (16 May 2002) may provide the power companies with a motive to try to pressure the government to keep the toll on companies that buy power directly from generators, bypassing the distributor companies. The toll violates the Electricity Law and is contested by businesses. 
The way the system works, large businesses subsidize the consumption of power in the barrios. But the businesses say the high cost of power affects their competitiveness. In these difficult times, businesses are grappling to reduce their own costs to survive and thus they want the Electricity Law concession that allows them to connect directly to the generators to be respected. 
Segura, a high-ranking member of the PLD opposition party and also highly reputed for his work at the CDE, said that the Mejia administration has increased the generous concessions that already hade been made to the power companies during privatization and subsequently in Congress. He mentioned the Madrid Agreement that extended privileges from five years to 15 years and the 2.75% technical assistance commission on gross sales that represents US$40 million in additional earnings for the power companies. 
The Listin Diario says that the Dominican power market is valued at RD$14 billion a year (US$890 million): US$700 million in buying and selling power transactions; US$130 million in payments for installed capacity; and US$60 million in transmission transactions. In the past six years, foreign companies have invested US$1.6 billion in the sector, including US$206 million last year. In 2001, 9.6 billion kilowatt/hours were produced, up 1% over 2000.

Open skies policy being implemented
Minister of Tourism Rafael Subervi Bonilla favors the new open skies policy being implemented by the Civil Aviation Board, saying he does not favor granting exclusivity to any airline. 
The open skies policy is a plus for travel to the DR and for travelers looking for competitively priced flights to the DR. 
The Civil Aviation Board has granted or is in the process of granting permits to Lanchile, Mexicana de Aviacion, Aerocontinente (Peru), Pan Am, and Caribbean Star to make stops in the DR on their way to the United States. 
The Civil Aviation Board under the Fernandez administration had granted a seven-year exclusive contract to the grounded Dominicana Airlines for flights to Miami and New York, hoping to make this airline attractive to private investors. 
During the Mejia government, a company affiliated to Aeropostal of Venezuela won the bid to operate Dominicana. But Nelson Ramiz of Aeropostal said recently that after the new permits were granted, the privatization project was no longer feasible. The awarding of Dominicana to Aeropostal had been criticized by local aviation sectors on grounds that Aeropostal was not in financial condition to successfully operate the airline. 
Furthermore, the Civil Aviation Board also recently announced its decision to allow charter airlines to board air-only passengers in the DR. Dozens of airlines serve the DR from dozens of cities in Europe, the United States and Canada. This decision could reduce fares on these routes 50% when compared to the regular scheduled service now available.

To strike or not to strike
The highly politicized Dominican Association of Public School Teachers stands divided. President of the Association Eduardo Cuello has done a turn around and is now willing to continue talks with the government. But vice president of the union, Radhames Camacho, said the union will go ahead and strike for three days, starting today through Wednesday. The strike would affect public schools nationwide. 
The teachers union protests the government decision to only increase wages 6%. They want the government to fulfill agreements reached in July 2001. 
Meanwhile, El Caribe newspaper writes that after the Ministry of Education’s payroll was computerized several problems showed up. The new payroll system implemented by a project funded by the Interamerican Development Bank is showing that 8,000 teachers are on the payroll without having any specific job. 
The reports now coming out show that there are only 7,299 grade schools, but some 9,000 directors of grade schools are on the payroll. Some 32,880 teachers are employed in the grade school programs.
The Ministry of Education wants to make improvements in the quality of public education, and not across-the-board wage increases for teachers. 

Martinez favors mass transport system
Mayoral candidate for the PRSC Ramon Perez Martinez (Macoris) says that if elected mayor of Santo Domingo he would back a project to build a tramway for the capital. His goal is to guarantee comfortable public transportation for city residents. 
He says the government invests US$250 to US$300 million every three of four years in new buses. He said that investors from Korea, Finland, Spain and other countries have shown an interest in funding the project. 

Manufacturing twin plants for border towns
The government of Haiti is fully supporting efforts by Dominican free zone manufacturing parks to set up twin plants along the border with Haiti. Haitian Minister of Finance Jocelerme Privert and Jean Gerard Dubrevil of the Ministry of Health toured the area with the Dominican businessmen. 
Santiago free zone businessman Fernando Capellan, and a team from Grupo M manufacturing industries, visited the border towns of Ounaminthe in Haiti and Dajabon in the DR to choose the site of the new industrial plants. 
The idea is to set up a plant in Haiti for work requiring non-skilled sewing labor, and a plant in nearby Dajabon for more advanced operations. The twin plant operation would enable the DR to have access to quota allotments that are now being taken up by Central American operations where labor is cheap. Labor in the DR is the most expensive in the region. 
The twin plant project has the support of the Dominican government also. The Border Development Department (Direccion General de Desarrollo Fronterizo) is supporting the project as one of the most positive for the area. Some 4,000 new jobs are expected to be created. 
A bridge under construction over the Masacre River would provide access between the two industrial parks. It’s expected to be completed in a year’s time.

A PRD elephant tied up behind Balaguer’s house?
President Hipolito Mejia says he has tied up an elephant in former President Joaquin Balaguer’s back yard. News reports say that Mejia met Balaguer for about 15 minutes yesterday to discuss “politics and the economy.” 
The colorful language is part of traditional political verbiage. During the past presidential campaign, Mejia said he had a goat tied up in Balaguer’s back yard. The goat turned out to be Balaguer’s subtle support for Mejia’s presidential aspirations. 
Political columnist Orlando Gil writes in the Listin Diario that the elephant is an easily domesticated animal, huge in size that would be very dangerous if exhibited in a glass cage. He comments that the PRSC candidacies are so fragile they can be compared to a glass cage. 
The PLD also has courted Balaguer’s favor, reaching the presidency in 1996 with his overt support. 
Now both parties vie for Balaguer’s covert or overt support. 
Gil comments, “Now what is to be seen is if the elephant has the same luck as the goat, because Balaguer is again playing the game of silence and never before has it been in his interest to remain silent and watch to what extremes the PRD and PLD will go in their generosity.” 
Both parties are offering to sacrifice their own candidates in order to secure Balaguer’s support.

Tension on Flight 619
The 120 passengers on board flight AA619, coming in from New York City lived through a tense half hour on Friday when the automatic landing gear did not operate. Newspaper reports say the pilot had to operate the landing system manually. Flight AA619 replaced flight AA587, which crashed on 12 November 2001. The name was changed after the tragedy.

Argentina to close its Dominican Embassy
Argentina announced it is closing down 21 embassies and 13 consulates worldwide, a third of its offices, as part of the government’s general cost-cutting plan. The Argentinean embassy in the DR will close in March.

Mexico wins the Caribbean Series
The Tomateros de Culiacan, playing for Mexico, won the Caribbean Baseball Series this weekend in Caracas Venezuela by defeating Puerto Rico. The DR finished in second place, ahead of Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The Dominican team had been the favorite, with Major League stars Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada and Odalis Perez in their roster. 
But Bob Geren, manager for the Licey Tigers, explained, "It's not always the team that looks best on paper that prevails in these short tournaments."

Casandra Awards tonight
The Dominican equivalent of the Grammies or Oscars, the Casandra Awards, will take place this evening at the National Theater. President Hipolito Mejia is expected to attend. Thirty-six awards will be handed out in the show business extravaganza sponsored by Presidente Beer and the Dominican Association of Show Business Chroniclers, Acroarte. 
The burning question is who will win the biggest award of all, El Soberano. Names mentioned are Wilfrido Vargas, Carlos Piantini, Corporan de los Santos, Roberto Salcedo, Fernando Villalona, Manuel Tejada and Eddy Herrera. 
The event will be televised on Telemicro, Channels 5, 15 and 23. 
For a list of the nominees, see the dr1 news briefs of January 14th. 
http://dr1.com/news/2002/dnews011402.shtml
 
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