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Daily News - 30 April 2002

Money laundering bill back to zero?
The president of the Senate, Andres Bautista Garcia, calls it an involuntary error, but whatever it was, the money laundering bill approved by Congress might have to return to where it began. That’s because the bill passed by the Senate was not the same bill sent and approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Bautista Garcia said the person in charge of secretarial affairs at the Senate, Andres Moquete, changed the percentages regarding who would get what amount of the money resulting from the sale of goods confiscated from drug dealers. 
Bautista Garcia explained that the Senate approved 15% for drug rehab centers, 50% for the Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas (the local DEA) and 35% for the Consejo Nacional de Drogas to be used for prevention and education. In the transcription, these percentages were cut in half, and approved as such by the Chamber of Deputies in March. 
Now, the president of the Chamber of Deputies reveals that the text approved was different than that passed in the Senate, and for that reason the bill was not sent to the Executive Branch for approval. 
Nevertheless, El Caribe reports that Rafaela Alburquerque has decided to send it anyway, leaving it up to President Hipolito Mejia to decide whether to veto it or sign it into law. 
The bill has been in Congress since 1998 when it was submitted by then-President Leonel Fernandez. 

Water supply restored
The Santo Domingo Potable Water & Sewage Corporation (CAASD) has reopened the Manoguayabo water source. The source was closed for 16 days, meaning 1.4 billion gallons less water -- 90 million gallons a day -- for city residents. The source was closed three days after the 10 April breakage in the oil pipeline that supplies the Falconbridge mining plant was reported.

Dangerous motorcycles
Statistics from the Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Vial y Prevencion de Accidentes de Transito (INPRAT) show that motorcycle drivers are responsible for 65% of all traffic accidents in the Dominican Republic. Most of those involved in the accidents are 12-22 year olds. The director of INPRAT Nicanor Rodriguez Almanzar said that in 2001 there were 76,000 reported traffic accidents and 4,000 deaths. In 2000, there were 66,000 accidents and 3,738 deaths.

Moncion Dam to generate power
President Hipolito Mejia has inaugurated the high voltage power lines to connect the northwest transmission line with Moncion Dam and supply power to the provinces of Santiago Rodriguez, Valverde, Monte Cristi and Dajabon. The dam is expected to contribute 25 megawatts to the nation’s power grid. It will operate 7-8 hours a day supplying power to Moncion and adjacent communities. The dam will also supply water to the Northwest Aqueduct, once built, and provide irrigation water for 150,000 to 300,000 hectares of land. Its 11-square-kilometer reservoir has capacity for 370 million cubic meters of water. 

Government revenues up 22%
El Caribe newspaper reports that in the first quarter of the year government revenues were RD$17 billion, or 22.3% more than last year, when they were RD$14 billion. National Budget Office director Luis Ernesto Perez Cuevas said the January to March revenues were 2.5% higher than estimated.

Potential new gold site
MinMet PLC, an international exploration and mining company, has discovered a possible gold deposit in the El Brujo concession, which is optioned from Impact Minerals International. MinMet director David Hall said the find is significant because it’s the first discovery of exposed porphyry gold-copper (an alloy from which gold is extracted) in the Los Ranchos Formation in the east. This formation also contains the world-class Pueblo Viejo Au-Ag-Zn deposit, considered the world’s second largest high sulphidation gold deposit after the Yanacocha in northern Peru. The Dominican government recently granted the mining concession for Pueblo Viejo to Placer Dome for development after years of denying the concession on the grounds that there was no way to adequately dispose of the toxic wastes. For more information, see http://www.impactmin.com/ 

President prefers to use loans
“The Moncion Dam I did with our own money and that highway, Santiago-Navarrette and the East Highway, are other damned things I inherited,” President Mejia told journalists covering the inauguration of the Santiago-Navarrette highway. He was criticizing the past government’s use of tax money to build expensive public works.
President Mejia said the way to development is to use the many loans available. He announced in Santiago that he plans to continue borrowing to build public works. El Caribe newspaper reported over the weekend that the Mejia government has sent to Congress over US$1.6 billion in loans, most with foreign commercial banks.
The Santiago-Navarette stretch unites Santiago with Puerto Plata and considerably reduces traveling time between the two points. The 18-kilometer four-lane crossing was completed using sovereign bonds money. Built at a cost of RD$843 million, it was also financed by a RD$254 million loan from the World Bank.

Real estate bill could make things worse
Real estate broker Melido Marte says a bill in Congress to reform the rental market in the Dominican Republic would make things worse, rather than better. The bill introduced by deputies Manuel Hazoury Diaz and Alfredo Pacheco establishes that properties must be rented for a minimum five years. At present there is a one-year term. Marte favors eliminating rent controls in upscale areas. 
Today there is a surplus of units for sale. Owners are reluctant to rent them out because present legislation leans heavily in favor of the renter not the owner of the property. 
Marte presides over the Asociacion de Empresas Inmobiliarias, which represents 74 of the leading real estate brokers.

Guilliani Cury to Washington?
President Hipolito Mejia says that when former Minister of Finance Fernando Alvarez Bogaert turned down his offer to be the country’s next ambassador to the US, he offered the post to his Minister of Industry & Commerce, Hugo Guilliani Cury. Guilliani Cury, a former governor of the Central Bank, is one of the most highly respected government ministers, and is a spokesman for the governmental competitiveness plan. President Mejia made the announcement during his weekly appearance on the Ramon Colombo and Juan TH program, Una Vez a la Semana. Current ambassador Roberto Saladin has expressed his desire to resign as of 1 August and the government needs to find a replacement. Saladin explained that normally ambassadors stay two years in the post. Saladin, also a former governor of the Central Bank, was appointed Dominican ambassador to the United States on 12 October 1999 during the Fernandez government.

High profitability for banks
Banking continues to be the business to be in. Hoy newspaper reports that banks in general made an average of RD$9 million a day in profits last year. Together, the 12 commercial banks achieved profits of RD$3.2 billion, in a year of relatively low interest rates. The banks paid RD$657 million in taxes last year. 
Banco Popular, the largest, made the most last year. The bank reported profits of RD$976 million. Banco de Reservas and Baninter reported RD$473 million and RD$370 million respectively. The three leading banks together earned net profits of RD$2 billion, or 60% of the total of the 12 commercial banks. 
Hoy newspaper says that in 2001 there was an increase in US dollar transactions in local banks. The banks held savings of US$1.4 billion dollars and had loan portfolios of RD$1.7 billion. As of 31 December 2001, 27% of the global portfolio of bank loans was in dollars, while 29% of the deposits was in US currency.

The government elite
Hoy newspaper comments in its Babel Economica column on the new government elite that makes salaries over RD$100,000 a month. The newspaper says these pay levels are found in the Superintendence of Social Security, the Dominican Institute of Telecommunication and the Superintendence of Electricity. 
The column criticizes that people without technical skills can get salaries of over RD$100,000 simply by being appointed to one of those institutions by the President. 
The newspaper contrasts these wages with the 1,150,000 Dominicans who, according to the International Labor Organization, earn less than RD$3,500 a month. 

Yardstick to measure growth
Hoy newspaper comments that in 1991 the Dominican Republic imported 6.5 billion barrels of fuel. Ten years later, in 2001, the country’s imports had grown nearly four-fold to 24.8 billion barrels. 

Jaquez favors pushing for re-election
Minister of Agriculture and coordinator of the Hipolito Mejia Presidential Project (PPH), Eligio Jaquez said yesterday that the ruling party will wait until after the 16 May election to push for a constitutional reform that would allow the President to seek re-election. The reform would also establish that the presidency could be won with 40% of the vote, and not the 50%+1 required now. Jaquez feels the party must take advantage of its current majority in Congress to pass the reform. Jaquez was interviewed for the Sondeo TV program on Televida. The reform bill met with rejection from opposition political parties when introduced earlier. The strongest opposition came from the president of the PRD, Hatuey de Camps.
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