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Daily News - 30 July 2002

Disputing the foreign debt
Presidency Technical Secretary Rafael Calderon says that the government has only passed US$2.1 billion in new loans, and has disbursed much less. Disputing a story in Diario Libre yesterday, he asked where the newspaper had gotten this information. Diario Libre responded today pointing out that it used the government’s own data. It reiterates that the data indicates the - PRD-majority - Congress passed US$2.2 billion in foreign loans in its first year (August 2000 to July 2001), another US$616.5 million from August 2001 to December 2001, and still another US$782.1 million in 2002. Congress passed US$746 million in loans during the entire Fernandez government (August 1996 to August 2000). 

Focus on big government spending
Diario Libre says that during the first semester of this year government spending grew 23.8%, while revenues were up 18.1%. According to the newspaper, National Budget Office (ONAPRES) data establishes that the government spent 17.6% more on salaries, 42.1% more on purchasing goods and 86.5% more on interest payments.
Ordinary revenues were up 11.3% and extraordinary revenues were up 109.9%, to include the sovereign bond money.

Red alert
The economic think tank of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra in its most recent economic report proposes that instead of levying new taxes the government eliminate 20,000 unnecessary new jobs created in recent months. 
Cenantillas says that a composite study of the government domestic borrowing, the foreign debt, interest rates, government deficit, money in circulation and economic growth indicators shows that if the government maintains its present pace of spending and increases in taxation, there will be fiscal problems ahead. 
The university economic research center forecasts the government will find it difficult to sustain the present taxation levels. It forecasts that government revenues will not be able to keep up with the government spending as of 2004. It says that the government spending for capital investments has declined, while current spending on non-priority matters is up. 
The Cenantillas report says that a more prudent managing of the government payroll would make unnecessary the new taxes the government is now calling a correction to the tax reform law that went into effect in January 2001. That tax reform increased taxation 22%. 
The think tank group, head by economist Pedro Silverio, says the government needs to be more aware of the vulnerability of fiscal revenues, the role of the state as a facilitator of economic growth. 

The Maximo Gomez expressway
Promoters of the concession for the construction of a north-south solution to uptown Maximo Gomez traffic visited El Caribe newspaper yesterday to give details on the project that recently passed in the Senate. The newspaper has questioned the lack of transparency in the concession contract.
Engineers Miguel Bacha Peña, Diogenes Peña, Jose Lopez and Mario Peña told El Caribe that the project is a necessity. It’s estimated that upwards of 42,000 vehicles a day transit on the Maximo Gomez/JF Kennedy-Villa Mella/Jacobo Majluta route. The engineers represent the contracting companies of Pavimientos Latino, Jose Lopez y Asociados, Bacha y Asociados, Delta y Constructora that were chosen by the Mejia administration. The expressway is slated to considerably reduce driving time now needed to go north to Villa Mella. 
They explained that a tunnel would be built under San Martin, Tunti Caceres and Manuel Arturo Peña Batlle streets. From there, the project contemplates the construction of an overpass to Calle Juan de la Maguana, linking to a traffic distributor. The project also considers the construction of a replica of the Jacinto Peynado Bridge over Isabela River. 
El Caribe says that those heading north from Maximo Gomez will be obliged to take the toll road. The only other way to go north would be to make a major detour going East and then crossing Sanchez Bridge. 
The contract allows them also to collect tolls for the use of the Jacobo Majluta highway, north of Santo Domingo, but does not oblige them to maintain that avenue that has suffered from construction vices since day one. 
The toll booth at Maximo Gomez will have 11 lanes for each direction. 
A RD$10 toll is contemplated at the start of the project, but the engineers said this could go up as the financials increase. They explained that the government guarantees the economics of the project. 
El Caribe reports that the Chamber of Deputies is expected to pass the project before the end of the term of the present legislature on 15 August. 

Not a commission, an insurance fee
Secretary of the Presidency, Rafael Calderon explained the US$10 million difference between what the government would receive and what it would have to pay in regards to a loan with a US government agency. The government would pay the US$10 million to cover the country risk insurance, explained Calderon. The loan would be contracted to the Private Export Funding Corporation of the United States and would have the backing of the US Eximbank. 
El Caribe newspaper comments that so far other Eximbank loans signed have not required the steep country risk insurance.

Proof of US citizenship and birth date?
Listin Diario reports on history researcher Victor Grimaldi’s conclusion that Balaguer was a US citizen. Grimaldi showed the newspaper supposed proof that the seven-time President of the Dominican Republic, Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo was a US citizen. The Dominican Constitution bans those of another nationality from being President. 
Balaguer was the son of Joaquin Balaguer Lespier, a Puerto Rican. 
Puerto Rican-based journalist John Collins disputes this claim. He says the US Migration Department document cannot be interpreted as proof of citizenship because it was not until 31 March 1917 that the US government, for security purposes in the Caribbean at the start of World War I, granted Puerto Rican citizens US nationality. Thus, neither his father nor the mother could have been US citizens at the time, and thus the son could not be considered a US citizen. 
The US Migration Department document lists US citizen arrivals to New York on board the SS Troquois from Monte Cristi on 3 November 1916. On the list are 11-year old Balaguer his father, 42 year old Joaquin Balaguer Lespier (listed as a US citizen) and his mother 41 year old Carmen de Balaguer (also listed as a US citizen) and 4-year old Carmen Tavarez. 
The same document establishes that Balaguer was 11 years old on 3 November 1916. This would make 1905 his real birth date, not 1906 as recorded in his biography. Thus, if what is stated on this document is true, Balaguer would have been 96 years old at the time of his death, not 95.

PRSC legislators expected to ally with PRD
Diario Libre speculates that the PRSC legislators are more likely to ally with the ruling PRD that has more to offer than with the opposition party PLD. The PRSC wants to keep the presidency of the Dominican Municipal League in order to be able to offer its followers at least a promise of jobs in city governments. The PRSC would give up the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies in the negotiations. 
Diaro Libre explains that both the PLD and the PRD would court the PRSC. It says the PRD is at a definite advantage, and seems to be taking the role of the rich suitor, who drives a car and has money for outings. 
Meanwhile, the Listin Diario reports that Federico Antun Batlle, Leonardo Matos Berrido and Angel Lockward met with President Mejia at the National Palace yesterday.

The motorcycle plague
Over a million motorcycles and scooters circulate on Dominican streets. Diario Libre reports that these are held responsible for eight of every 10 vehicle accidents. The newspaper today says that the use of motorcycles and scooters has increased as many Dominicans make a living using motorcycles to deliver goods, documents and passengers. The newspaper says that the Department of Taxes (DGII) has a record of one million motorcycles in circulation. But the department that issues drivers licenses only records 40,000 permits, of which 26,000 are valid. 
While technically illegal, the motorcycle-based services boomed during the years of informal privatization of public transport markets. Today, the million motorcycles and scooters are a major source of noise and exhaust pollution in towns and cities nationwide.

Official start for Cap Cana
President Hipolito Mejia went East last Saturday for the official start of construction of Cap Cana. Promoters say the project will change the face of the Caribbean, luring upscale travelers to the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. 
Mejia attended the start of construction of the marina and first luxury condominiums at Juanillo Beach. Ministers of Environment and Tourism, Frank Moya and Rafael Subervi also attended. 
The project also contemplates the construction of townhouses, deluxe hotels and golf facilities. 
Developers have relocated 48 families that lived on the gorgeous beach strip to picturesque brand new wooden houses that are part of the Nuevo Juanillo community they built in the northern end of the project, complete with church and school for 200 children.

Amelia Vega is Miss Dominican Republic
18-year old Amelia Vega, who represented Santiago de los Caballeros, is the new Miss Dominican Republic. The runnerups are Jeimi Hernandez of Bonao (who will represent the DR in the Miss World pageant) and Carol Arciniegas, who represented the Dominican community in New York City. 
Vega received an Alpha Romeo 2002 car, RD$300,000 in cash, and costumes by Sully Bonelly and Leonel Lirio for Miss Universe. Also included are scholarships to UNIBE and Barbizon modeling schools, jewels and other gifts from sponsors. 
Janelle Commissiong, the Miss Universe elected in Santo Domingo in 1977, was honored during the pageant.
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