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Daily News - 3 September 2002

US$60 million injection curbs peso depreciation
US$60 million of national reserves was pumped into the managed float exchange system yesterday causing the speculative bubble to break and the dollar to level at the RD$18.60 selling price it had reached on 15 August, according to the Diario Libre. This was a decline of almost 100 points compared to the RD$19.60 asking price peak set on Friday, 30 August. The US dollar had commanded RD$18 in July. 
Factors that have accelerated the devaluation of the peso are the declining revenues received by both the tourism and free zone manufacturing sectors this year, government overspending, major repatriation of profits by power utilities, and the continued high level of imports. 

First meeting to discuss bilateral FTA with US
El Caribe reports that US Trade Representative officers will meet with Dominican government officers on 24 October in Washington, D.C. to discuss the possibility of opening talks that could lead to the signing of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the Dominican Republic. Santiago Tejada, in charge of trade negotiations for the Dominican Republic, said that the talks would be held at the Council for Trade and Investment in Washington, D. C. He said this was agreed with Deputy US Trade Representative Peter Allgeier, who was in Santo Domingo last week for the 11th Meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at the Vice-ministerial level for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas,
Allgeier had told El Caribe newspaper earlier that Regina Vargo, Assistant USTR for the Americas, would lead the talks on behalf of the US government. 
Santiago Tejada said that during the vice ministerial meetings the Caribbean obtained an extension through 15 October to set the base customs tariffs. The Caribbean Regional Negotiation Machinery (RNM) obtained the authorization to apply the higher World Trade Organization tariffs to select farm products. Caricom had been sticking out on the point of custom duties to be charged and that these be phased out gradually in a regional attempt to preserve agricultural industry from subsidized imported farm products. 

Long lines to retrieve retained drivers licenses
Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa said that talks are ongoing with Major General Pedro de Jesus Candelier Tejada, director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) to resolve the backlog caused by hundreds of fines AMET agents have imposed. Bello Rosa told Hoy newspaper that there are two problems that need to be resolved: drivers licenses are being retained by the AMET agents, and the major inconvenience experienced by those penalized that have to make a long lines at the traffic court to retrieve their driver licenses. 
Bello Rosa said that he would not be part of the discussion whether the retaining of the licenses is illegal or not. He said what is important is to resolve the problem. 
Last Sunday, Transit attorney Oscar Moquete Cuevas complained that AMET agents are detaining drivers guilty of simple traffic law violations for 24 hours and retaining their licenses. He said both instances are in violation of Transit Law 241. Candelier denied the charges saying that the detentions only occur in the case of traffic accidents. He explained the licenses are being retained following a recommendation by the judges of the Transit Court in order to oblige the drivers to go to court and pay the fines. 
Candelier denied responsibility for the long lines at the traffic court. He said the problem is caused because traffic court judges are only working six hours a day. He said the court should be staffed around the clock to handle the workload. 
Hoy newspaper reports that Candelier says President Mejia has already approved the implementing of an automated fines system starting in November. Those fined would pay the penalties at banks that would be linked to the Department of Taxes (DGII) and AMET.
Nevertheless, Law 241 establishes that AMET agents can only issue citations, and that the judges are the only persons authorized to actually levy the fines.

9-10 September ticketing freeze suspended
The Dominican Association of Travel Agents (ADAVIT) announced it would not discontinue ticketing passengers on 9 and 10 September as announced previously. Michael Espino, secretary of ADAVIT, said that the Civil Aviation Board has ratified that airlines need to pay a 6% commission on ticketing to Dominican travel agents. Espino says that Continental Airlines has yet to formally announce to the authorities the decision to not pay Dominican travel agents the commission.

Medical malpractice insurance
Insurance companies envision an increase in sales of medical liability insurance policies with the going into effect of law 87-01 in November, as reported in El Caribe newspaper today. The president of the Dominican Chamber of Insurance companies, Jose Manuel Vargas said that physicians and clinics are now obliged to take out insurance regarding claims for negligence and malpractice in services offered. He said the high legal costs (estimated at RD$100,000-RD$200,000) physicians and hospitals need to incur to defend themselves from the increasing number of claims is one of the reasons for the increase in the sales of medical malpractice insurance policies. He said suits should increase with the higher expectations of quality service the implementing of the new law will bring. 
Bernardo Defillo, Superintendent of Health and Work Risks of the National Social Security Council (CNSS) told El Caribe that physicians would be more careful when rendering their services with the implementation of the law. He explained they would be more methodical, following standard protocols for diagnosing and treating illnesses. 
While medical suits were previously practically unheard of in the Dominican Republic, Law 42-01 passed in March 2001 opened the possibility for patients or their relatives to sue the physicians for malpractice or negligence. There already have been several cases where judgments awards have been issued by the courts.

No one wants this hot potato
Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa said that National Controller Federico Lalane Jose has not been able to get any of the locally-based accountant firms to accept a contract to audit the privatization process of the Dominican Electricity Corporation during the Fernandez administration. Apparently, it is too much of a hot potato for the local auditing firms that otherwise could qualify. Bello Rosa said that the government wants to be able to explain where the money the government supposedly received for the capitalization went and would thus have to hire a foreign firm for the job.

Focus on DR’s NY consul
The New York Times focused on the new Dominican Republic consul in New York City, Francisco Antonio Peña Guaba in a 27 August article. Peña Guaba is news because he is the exception… he has never before lived in New York. Over the years, Dominican Presidents had appointed to the very lucrative post persons who had either previously lived in New York City or were actually living there at present. Writer Seth Kugel says that the appointment of Peña Guaba has stirred discontent among the New York community. 
Kugel points out that Peña Guaba’s credentials – son of the late PRD leader Jose Francisco Peña Gomez and former Minister of Youth for the first two years of the Mejia administration -- are different to those of the prior appointees that included a restaurant worker and a building superintendent. But he says the political appointee criteria used by the Dominican government contrasts with that used by other Latin American countries that send representatives with impressive resumes. 
To read the full story online, you need to register with the New York Times. See http://www.nytimes.com/

Collecting a debt?
Listin Diario says that the collection of a debt could be behind the reported kidnapping of the son of a former president of the Senate, PRSC Victor Augusto Feliz Matos from Barahona. Reportedly, five heavily armed men that drove a SUV, three of them attired in military garbs, kidnapped the son in Barahona at 10 pm. 

Propane gas tank costs RD$103 more
Listin Diario says that the cost of propane gas in the Dominican Republic has been climbing over the past eight weeks. Reflecting recent hikes in price, it now sells for RD$17.58 the gallon. This means that housekeepers have to pay RD$176 per 100 lb. Tank, or RD$103.05 more than they did in January of this year.

The unreal, phenomenal and spooky A’s
On Wednesday night, the Oakland A's could stand alone in American League history with No. 20 against the Kansas City Royals. There have been two longer streaks in the National League -- 26 wins by the 1916 New York Giants and 21 by the 1935 Chicago Cubs.
On Monday, 1 September, a game winning defensive play and a single by Miguel Tejada led the Oakland Athletics to match the American League record 19 game winning streak, defeating Kansas City Royals 7-6. Oakland’s 19th win in a row ties the A’s with the 1906 White Sox and the 1947 Yankees for the American League record. It is also the longest winning streak in the Majors since the Yankees won 19 in a row in 1947, making Oakland’s streak the longest in 55 years. 
According to Major League Baseball stats only 10 teams since 1900 have won 17 games in a row. 
A candidate to Most Valuable Player award this year, Dominican Miguel Tejada was the undisputed hero of the Monday game. In a miracle finish, he turned in the defensive play of the game, hitting the ball up the middle and it got through. This was Tejada’s career-high 116th RBI. For more on Tejada and the amazing A’s, see http://oaklandathletics.com
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