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Daily News - 18 June 2002

Manabao dam again?
President Hipolito Mejia is once again proposing the construction of the Manabao-Tavera-Bejucal dam. Businessmen and the community of La Vega have firmly opposed the dam fearing that changing of course of the river would cause more problems than it would resolve. 
According to a report in the Listin Diario, Italian businessmen are offering to build and finance the project. 
President Mejia said the financing would be studied together with other loans in government talks that will start soon. 
The Listin Diario reports that before leaving on his recent European trip, the President ordered a commission to review the loans that have been approved and those that are pending for congressional approval to determine their priority. 
Upon returning home, Mejia said that the national debt would be included in the proposed talks with political leaders. "I am going to take what there is and what could be coming and reach agreements and the support of all," he said.

Spain to support fishing development here
During his visit to Santiago de Compostela, President Mejia announced the signing of a bilateral agreement in which Spain would assist in the development of a fishing fleet for the Dominican Republic. The President of Galicia, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, told the Dominican press in Spain that Spain would assist the Dominican Republic in building fishing boats and would also train Dominican fishermen, as reported in Hoy newspaper.

World Bank defends its role in privatization
Marco Mantovanelli, the local representative of the World Bank in the Dominican Republic, defended the organization's participation in the privatization of the Dominican power system. He said the World Bank backs the establishment of open competition in an independently regulated power sector. 
The World Bank rejected statements made by the general manager of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), Cesar Sanchez, who said that a mafia made up of the World Bank, Andersen Consulting and Enron was behind the privatization of the CDE. Sanchez said that former President Fernandez admitted to having followed the World Bank's recommendations to resolve power problems. Sanchez accused the World Bank of acting in complicity with Enron, the same company that is now being investigated in the US. 
The World Bank participated in the financing of the Smith-Enron plant in Puerto Plata. The contract for that power plant is considered to be, from the consumer's and the Dominican government's point of view, the worst ever negotiated in the Dominican Republic. This contract obliges the government to pay about US$4 million a month for installed capacity, regardless of whether the plant is in operation or not. 
Sanchez has also been critical of the assistance Andersen Consulting gave to Ortega & Ortega, the firm that appraised the value of the CDE's assets before it was privatized in 1998.

Power expert says deals were illegal
Jose Luis Moreno San Juan, president of the Institute of Energy at the state university UASD, denounced that the contract for the sale and purchase of power signed during the privatization of the power companies is illegal. He told Hoy newspaper that certificate 1296 of 17 May 1999 of the CDE board is proof of this. He says the certificate verifies that the board only approved certain documents - the underwriting of shares, the management and the rights of the generators and distributors -- but not the contract for the sale and purchase of power. He said that part of the contract was not approved because a technical commission of the CDE produced a negative report against the terms, so then-manager of the CDE, Radhames Segura, did not submit the contract to the board. However, privatization proceeded as if the contract had been submitted. 
Moreno San Juan says that as a result, the contracts are illegal and do not have to be renegotiated, only revised. 
Moreno complained that the leaders of the country continue to give a political connotation to the energy problem, while it is really a technical issue.

Law school deficiencies exposed
Of 855 lawyers who competed for justice of the peace posts, some with 15 and 20 years of professional practice, only 21 passed the test. Judge Arelis Ricourt, a member of the board of the Escuela Nacional de la Judicatura (the national school of judges), told Hoy newspaper that the results of this test show that law schools need to revise their study programs. There are 60 justice of the peace posts available but not enough lawyers qualified to fill them all. The passing grade is 75%. Ricourt said the lawyers had been told the test subjects several months in advance. 
Luis Henry Molina, who directs the school of judges, said the competition contributes to a more professional corps of judges. He says 95% of all judges are participating in some form of ongoing training program.

Russian aircraft for Dominicana Airlines?
El Caribe has published statements by Rafael Montilla, president of the Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprises (CREP), which indicate the government plans to receive seven Ukraine-built aircraft to rehabilitate Dominicana Airlines, the grounded state airline. Montilla said the acquisition of the aircraft would not prevent the eventual privatization of the airline. The airline's main assets are its routes. 
El Caribe says that while President Hipolito Mejia was in Ukraine, the government moved forward in its negotiations with Ukrainian companies that want to install an airplane assembly plant in the Dominican Republic. As a result of the negotiations, the DR would receive the seven airplanes. More details of the deal were not disclosed. 
Amin Canaan, who headed the negotiations with the Ukraine companies and traveled with President Mejia to the meetings, said the companies involved are Kharkov State Manufacturing Aircraft Corporation, Interamin and Euroan. These companies are expected to send their technicians to the DR to draw up the first plans for the assembly plant. 
Regarding the privatization of Dominicana Airlines, Montilla said that meetings have already been held with US and Israeli companies interested in participating in the tender and he is expecting a mission of German investors as well. Aeropostal, the Venezuelan airline, won the first tender but abandoned it after September 11. 

Dollar buys more in DR
Hoy newspaper reports that the cost of the US dollar in local exchange markets increased yesterday. The dollar was selling for upwards of RD$18.10. This is good news for visitors to the DR as their dollars will buy more.

American Airlines lands in Punta Cana
Saturday, 15 June was a big day for tourism in Punta Cana. The Punta Cana International Airport received its first direct scheduled flight from New York. The arrival of the American Airlines flight is a landmark step for travel into that destination, the fastest growing in the Dominican Republic. 
American Airlines will be initially flying on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday into the PUJ airport. 
Travel to Punta Cana had been limited to charter service from the United States because only American Eagle provided a regular connection to the US, with a stopover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Punta Cana has had air connections to Europe and Latin America, but was missing the New York connection until now. 
Punta Cana International is currently served by Air 2000, Air Canada, Lan Express, Mexicana, Pace, Air Columbus, Dutchbird, Aeromexico, Piedmont, and Nomands. Air France will be arriving in October, as reported in Hoy newspaper. 
Concurrent with the opening of its Punta Cana flight, American Airlines started operations into Santiago from New York and Miami and its Boston-Santo Domingo flight. 
Frank Rainieri, president of the Punta Cana airport corporation, said that already 27% of arrivals to the Punta Cana International Airport in the first five months of the year came from New York on board charter flights.

Five Dominicans could win 15 or more games
Hoy newspaper reports that five Dominican pitchers are having a very good season in Major League Baseball. The select group is made up of Pedro Martinez (7-2 and 3.18 ERA) of the Boston Red Sox; Bartolo Colon (9-4 and 2.58 ERA), Cleveland Indians; Pedro Julio Astacio (7-2 and 2.70 ERA), New York Mets; Ramon Ortiz (7-5 and 3.40 ERA) of the Anaheim Angels; and Odalis Perez (7-3 and 2.62 ERA), of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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