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Daily News - 21 August 2002

US Congressmen visit President Mejia
US Congressmen Benjamin Gilman (New York), Gregory Meeks (New York), Jo An Davis (Virginia), Todd Akin (Missouri) and Mark Souder (Indiana) visited President Hipolito Mejia at the Presidential Palace yesterday. They were accompanied by US government officers in areas of customs, narcotics, government reform and by US Ambassador Hans Hertell. Legal advisor to the President, Guido Gomez Mazara, the director of the Investment (OPI-RD) and Export Promotion (CEDOPEX) offices, Danilo del Rosario, the head of the National Drug Council, Bonaparte Gautreaux Pińeyro, the head of the National Drug Control Department Mayor General Manuel Lachappelle Suero, Superintendent of Banks Alberto Atallah.

Will the power ruling prevail?
Superintendent of Power Julio Cross denounced to the Listin Diario that he is under pressure from the power distributors to modify the norms contained in the recently passed power ruling. He said the distributors disagree with several points in the ruling. Their strongest opposition is the item that disallows the distributors from deciding if a person is guilty of fraud. The ruling leaves the ultimate decision to the Superintendence of Power.
Cross told the Listin Diario that the power companies are taking steps to create another difficult situation if the ruling is not changed to suit their interests. He defended the ruling saying that it’s fair and in tune to the country’s needs. He said that despite the pressures on him to resign, he would not do so. He spoke of his commitment to the mission President Mejia entrusted him with. 
He said the power service is fragile after 12 plants are out of service awaiting payments. The power deficit is 400 megawatts and distributors continue to shut down entire areas. These outages are known as “financial blackouts” because they are not caused by technical problems or lack of supply, but are carried out to improve the finances of distributors. 
In an editorial in the Listin Diario yesterday, Power Superintendent Cross explained the companies are disputing the provisions that protect the consumer from power distributor company voraciousness. The Listin Diario editorial says that companies want the ruling changed to allow them:
To be free from the sanctions for abuses against consumers. 
To be free from having to document supposed fraud by users in order for fraud to be penalized. 
To be free from being penalized for not making contractually stipulated investments.
To be free from penalities for unjustified power outages. 
Cross says that these sanctions are the incentive for the companies to fulfill their contractual commitments. 

Two week vacations start new legislature
Diario Libre reports that Chamber of Deputies president Rafaela (Lila) Alburquerque has called a two week vacation for legislators that were sworn in on 16 August. The session would start on 3 September, instead of this past Tuesday. Most of the deputies are new to the job, nonetheless Alburquerque justified the holiday saying that the Chamber had worked hard in the past weeks. The Chamber of Deputies spent most of its time passing pension plans for the outgoing deputies, and several questionable loans and concessions with foreign commercial banks and companies.

Downsizing at the Santo Domingo city hall
Roberto Salcedo is proposing a major downsizing of the bureaucracy of the Municipality of Santo Domingo. He wants to cut the number of departments from 36 to 17, reduce the number of administrative departments from 87 to 36, and release 6,000 employees that could be hired by other municipalities. He said he inherits a city government with 10,000 employees, but 3,000 could do the needed work. Salcedo is in charge of the city of Santo Domingo and the National District. Meanwhile, hundreds of PLD followers queue up for the new jobs.

DR is 6th largest apparel exporter to US
US$ Revenues from apparel exports to the United States from Dominican free zones declined 11% from January to June in 2002 compared to the same period in 2001. In volume, exports declined 4.3%. The Dominican Republic is the sixth largest exporter of apparel to the United States in terms of US$, trailing Mexico, China, Honduras, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. It is the fifth in volume of exports, surpassing Bangladesh, according to a report in El Caribe. 
The most pronounced drop occurred from January to March, when export revenues declined 19%. During the second quarter of the year, exports began to recover. 
A US Department of Commerce report indicates that cotton cloth apparel exports were up 0.6%.

Power generators gripe about distributors
Haina and Itabo power generators told El Caribe newspaper that the Union Fenosa power distributors are violating contractual obligations with them. They cite the government being in arrears as the reason.
Kevin Manning, of Itabo, denounced that Edenorte and Edesur, the Spanish Union Fenosa affiliates, are cooking up a crisis. He said the company can’t continue to supply power without being paid. 
“Some months ago I said that Edenorte and Edesur want to pull us into their conflict, and I stand by that opinion,” he said. 
Rolando Gonzalez Busnter, speaking for Haina power generator, said that the generators couldn’t depend on a third party paying. He said that contractually it is unacceptable that one company doesn’t pay its own obligations because another has not paid them.
He explained that Edenorte and Edesur owe Itabo and Haina power generators US$30 million. These companies say they will not pay those bills until the government pays them RD$1.6 billion they claim for power indexation and power served. 
They compared the Union Fenosa power distributors to US company, AES Ede Este, saying that it is strange that the company is meeting its commitments with them while it is confronted by the same problems as Edenorte and Edesur distributors. 

Please Promote Export Industries
Jose Ernesto Sanchez, president of the Association of Industries of Herrera, proposed that the Mejia administration focus on attracting export-oriented foreign investment. Recent studies show that economic stability is affected by the profit repatriations made by new foreign companies that have entered the Dominican market. Both telecommunications and power utilities have become net exporters of foreign exchange affecting the exchange market. In a meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank, Frank Guerrero Prats, the spokesman for the Herrera business community also urged the government to implement measures that guarantee competitive interest rates for the local industry.

Foreign travel recovering
The Listin Diario reports that travel during the first half of the year is down 13.6% compared to 2001. The report explains that travel has been gradually recovering to 2001 levels. When travel in July is factored in, travel overall is only down 9% compared to last year.
There were some 1,167,802 foreign arrivals in the first half of the year, compared to 1,351,813 for the same period last year. Travel in January 2002 plummeted 23.8% compared to last year. 
The government spent RD$236.7 million in advertising from January to June, up from RD$92.3 million for the same period in 2001. So far this year, January was the worst month with 188,932 foreign arrivals compared to 246,543 in 2001. The best month was March, when arrivals peaked at 246,965. 
Punta Cana (41.6% of the total arrivals) leads in foreign arrivals, followed by Las Americas (25.8%), Puerto Plata (21.8%), La Romana (9.3%), Cibao (0.8% and Herrera (0.6%) airports. 
Puerto Plata suffered the biggest decline in arrivals, with 28.4%, with Punta Cana suffering the least at 7.7%. 
From January to June, 486,051 tourists arrived in Punta Cana, 301,263 to Las Americas (Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and Juan Dolio), 255,105 to Puerto Plata, 109,031 to La Romana, 9,378 to Cibao (Santiago) and 6,974 to Herrera (Santo Domingo).
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