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Daily News - 19 August 2002

Another Presidential promise to cut borrowing
In an address to the nation marking the half-term of his government, President Hipolito Mejia again promised to cut government spending and reduce borrowing. While the President had promised to cut borrowing in his 27 February speech, it never materialized as spending and borrowing continued at a rapid pace. For the complete speech in Spanish, see http://dr1.com/news/2002/President_speech_15_08_02.shtml

High marks for macroeconomic stability
Political analyst Juan Bolivar Diaz, writing in Hoy newspaper, analyzed the first two years of the Mejia government. In the analysis, he says that on the positive side, the government can own up to having maintained macroeconomic stability within unfavorable international circumstances, and having decentralized public investment to benefit interior provinces, as well as for the passing of important bills, taking advantage of its majority in Congress. 
On the negative side, Diaz points to excessive indebtedness with more than US$2.5 billion in commercial bank borrowing, an increase in government spending and the lack of transparency in the distribution of government purchases and public works. Diaz says that the government has not disbursed 20% of the loans contracted and passed by Congress. 
Last year, a PLD congressman explained that the government is still required to pay millions in commissions, legal fees and penalties once Congress approves a loan, regardless of whether it’s disbursed or not.

New congress members
Friday, 16 August marks the start of the term of the legislators and municipal officers elected in the 16 May 2002 congressional and municipal elections. For a list of the new congressional officers see http://www.dr1.com/news/2002/congress_2002.shtml
On 16 August, Rafaela Alburquerque (PRSC) was re-elected as president of the Chamber of Deputies and Andres Bautista (PRD) was re-elected to preside the Senate.

Diario Libre on Amable Aristy
Amable Aristy Castro, who was elected senator for La Altagracia province, did not swear himself in on 16 August. Thus, he did not accept to take the post of senator he ran for in the elections, and instead has preferred to stay on as director of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). The LMD manages the billionaire budget assigned to city governments. 
In describing the street-smart skills of Aristy, Diario Libre reports that he is a “leon” (a term that literally translates as a lion, but means someone who gets away with a lot.) 
Diario Libre also says that he is the owner of the East, and if allowed, would become the owner of the entire country, as he is a “pure breed politician”. The newspaper explains that Aristy can choose anyone he prefers to be senator for La Altagracia. Aristy’s daughter – who has no prior government or managerial experience - was elected Mayor of Higuey.

An honest public servant
Hoy newspaper points to the case of lawyer Jorge Martinez Lavandier, three-time director general of the tax department, and two-time director of Customs and general manager of the Banco Agricola, as a rare exception among public servants. 
Martinez lived his life with a reputation as an honest man who couldn’t be bought. Today, he lives precariously in a home for the aging and receives a RD$6,856 pension from the state despite his many years of outstanding service to the state. 
Martinez’s fortune at the end of his long career in government is in contrast to the opulence displayed by those who have worked for very short periods for the government.
The newspaper goes on to say that Martinez Lavandier is an example why more skilled and honest people stay away from government jobs. 
“How can anyone want to serve the state faithfully when the State indirectly encourages - let us say so without fear - the loathed but very practiced corruption in office?” writes the newspaper.

Deputies approve more attractive retirement funds
According to a report in Diario Libre, the Chamber of Deputies in its last session with past legislators, has approved RD$4.4 million more in pension plan settlements for deputies whose terms ended on 15 August. The Chamber approved 43 of the 52 bills for pension plans for the legislators presented in the past three sessions of the Chamber. 

Merca Santo Domingo market works begin
Listin Diario reports that the government began the construction of the Merca Santo Domingo farm produce distribution center and market on the outskirts of the city of Santo Domingo. The market is located at Km. 22 of the Duarte Highway. The Ministry of Agriculture project received funding from a Spanish commercial bank for US$49 million. The project also calls for the construction of a mega cold storage facilities. Listin Diario says this is a US$80 million project, and that another RD$58 million will be invested to build the access road.

Fernandez points to loss of jobs
Former President Leonel Fernandez accused President Hipolito Mejia’s economic policies as the cause of increased unemployment in the country. Fernandez says that since he left office there has been a loss of 250,000 jobs a rise from 13.8% unemployment rate to 16.3%. Fernandez also stated that during his government 500,000 new jobs were created. He said that the government in the past two years has instead created 40,000 “botellas,” or government jobs for people who just have to go to collect their checks. 
Central Bank reports that unemployment was up 0.5% during the first January-June of this year, compared to the same period in 2001. Unemployment increased during this period from 15.6% to 16.1%, but the number of government employees was up 6.5%, or 24,689 new positions. 
Business group spokesmen say that if the government insists on keeping the 1.5% tax on gross sales and impeding businesses to deduct the value-added tax on service purchases, more jobs will be lost.

Protecom office for Higuey
The consumer protection department of the Superintendence of Electricity announced the opening of a new office in Higuey, the largest city in the province of La Altagracia. The city is located at Calle Francisco Alberto Caamaño 33, Plaza Perla Mar 2, Local M.

Remittances up
El Caribe reports that remittances from Dominicans living abroad were up 6.8% in the first half of the year, compared to the same period last year despite the economic problems of Europe and the United States. Dominicans sent home US$878.9 million from January to June 2002, US$55.7 million more from January to June 2001. 
This is good news at a time revenues from free zone manufacturing zones and the tourism industry are down considerably.

September 11 paranoia?
September 11 paranoia apparently is behind the emergency landing in Puerto Plata of an AA flight that took off from Las Americas International bound for Miami. One hour into the flight, the pilot requested permission to make the landing. 
The confusion came after a Dominican passenger, Nelson Taveras Ceballos commented in broken English to two Americans sitting next to him that anyone could get a gun through Las Americas International Airport security. The two Americans then suspected he had a gun on board and reported this to the crew. The captain chose to land in Puerto Plata to be on the safe side. 
The plane took off at 9:22 am and an hour later made an emergency landing at the Gregorio Luperon International Airport in Puerto Plata. 
Taveras did not have a gun on him. He was questioned by Puerto Plata airport security forces and then sent to Santo Domingo for further questioning. 
The flight continued on to Miami at 3:45 pm. 

Search for suspected kidnapper
Security forces intensified the search yesterday along the frontier with Haiti, and in Nagua, for the Rafael Villa Cartagena, the mastermind behind the kidnapping of Santiago businessman Juan Fernando Capellan. Capellan identified a house in Paya, Bani, owned by Rafael Villa Cartagena, as the location where he had been kept after being kidnapped on 2 August. Capellan was released a week later after his family paid a US$1.5 million ransom. The Police are combing the entire nation for the suspect. Police spokesman Ramon Francisco Rodriguez said they have identified three other suspects. 
Villa Cartagena was one of the political prisoners in 1970 that was exchanged for kidnapped US colonel Donald Crowley. 
The Police say that 16 persons have been arrested, including relatives of the suspect Rafael Villa Cartagena.

World Cup Shotgun
The best sports shooters in the world are in Santo Domingo from 16-25 August to participate in the World Shooting Cup. The International Sport Shooting Federation World Cup Shotgun men’s division is being held as a preparatory event for the Pan American Games that will open in Santo Domingo the following year. 
The tournament is the first to be held at the modern National Shooting Complex built near the new La Isabela International Airport going up north of Santo Domingo. The facility was built in compliance with ISSF standards in a 171,000 square meter area at a RD$47.8 million cost. 
For event results, see http://www.issf-shooting.org/

Soriano’s great weekend
24-year old New York Yankee Alfonso Soriano hit his 30th home run of the season on Saturday, 17 August. The San Pedro de Macoris-born Soriano thus became the only second baseman in Major League history to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 30 bases in the same season. Soriano also tied the Yankees single-season record for home runs by a second baseman, set by Joe Gordon in 1940. And he became the second Yankee to reach the 30-30 levels, joining Bobby Bonds who accomplished the feat in 1975. Soriano is a leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player in the American League this season.

Joan Guzman is world boxing champ
26-year old Dominican Joan Guzman, “Little Tyson” slammed late-sub Fabio Oliva in a third round defeat to win the World Boxing Organization super-bantam belt. Fighting on the grounds of the historic landmark Cardiff Castle in the UK, Guzman defeated the Argentinean boxer to go to 18-0 (14 knockouts). After delivering a relentless hammering, Guzman ended matters in the third with a right hand to the face followed by a sickening left hook to the ribs.
Guzman becomes the 13th Dominican to win a World Boxing title since Carlos (Teo) Cruz did so in 1968.

Felix Sanchez bids for Golden prize in athletics
Felix Sanchez, the Dominican Republic’s 400 meters hurdles world champion, won the event at the Zurich, Switzerland Golden League championship with the season’s best time. Sanchez clocked in at 47.35, his own best in the Friday, 16 August event. Sanchez is one of four athletes still in contention for the athletic league jackpot. The prize - 110 pounds of gold bars worth about £300,000 - will be divided by athletes who win their event at all seven Golden League meets. Two meets remain.
 
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