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Daily News - 4 September 2002

The Banco de Reservas’s new role
The Banco de Reservas, the government commercial bank, has been entrusted with collecting arrears from beneficiaries of government housing or office purchase plans under the Instituto Nacional de la Vivienda, and Bienes Nacionales. Despite the much-below market value the properties were sold for, hundreds of beneficiaries are many months in arrears. The government decision comes after the new director of Bienes Nacionales, Bienvenido Brito resolved to collect the past due debts. 
By way of Decree 703-02, the government instructs the Banco de Reservas to apply 70% of the revenues to the debt of the public sector with the Banco de Reservas. 
As reported in El Caribe, during the meeting held to announce the decision, the government also authorized the board of directors of the Corporacion Dominicana de Empresas Estatales (Corde) to take the legal, technical and administrative steps necessary to transfer to the Banco de Reservas all its remaining assets, such as those of the state airline (CDA), glass factory (Favidrio), and the paper factory (Induspapel). Corde was the umbrella organization for state enterprises. The decision is contained in Decree 704-02.
The government also announced it had sent to Congress (the Senate) bills that would legalize the transfer of revenues generated at the toll booths and the management of earnings of Corde-privatized companies to the Banco de Reservas. 

To postpone or not to postpone
The debate of whether the start of the implementation of the new social security law should be postponed or not continues. 
Today the Association of Insurance Brokers published a communique requesting the postponement. The organization says that to start the system on 1 November as scheduled would result in the collapse of health plans offered to the public and private sectors alike. 
The Association mentions that the new system will mean a 50% increase in the cost of health plans for private employees and companies, while benefits will decline. It calls for the government to compensate the companies with fiscal measures or there will be an increase in unemployment. The Association also points out that the new plan means the government will have to come up with an additional RD$2.2 million in funding. 
Regarding the debate whether employees affiliated to the governmental Dominican Institute of Social Security (IDSS) are obliged to stay on for another five years, the insurance brokers association’s position is that other clauses in the law clearly indicate the intention of giving companies and employees the right to choose their health service provider. The insurance brokers urge the National Council of Social Security not to give in to pressure of those that want to oblige the about 500,000 members of the IDSS to remain affiliated to that government institution versus private companies. 
The association says that the benefits need to be phased in more gradually, and that a nationwide campaign is necessary to inform the population of the changes in the system. 
Bernardo Defillo, president of the Superintendence of Health and Work Risks (Superintendencia de Salud y Riesgos Laborales), as reported in Hoy newspaper, defends the start of the system on 1 November. He said that the postponement would weaken the system from the start. He says that as it has been designed it will be implemented gradually over a 10 year period, and that the government is ready to go ahead with phase one. “This is the most important social project in the history of the Republic,” he said. The new system brings social security coverage to all legal residents in the Dominican Republic. 
Defillo says: “It would be a serious political error to not understand that the inconveniences will be overcome gradually and a series of managerial matters, while they are behind schedule, will be undertaken gradually.”

New promising exports
El Caribe points out today that farming, agribusiness and industrial sectors have shown renewed dynamism in recent years. As of the 80s and 90s, tourism and export free zone manufacturing replaced traditional farm money crops as the leading revenue producers. But Dominican Center for the Promotion of Exports (Cedopex) statistics show that non-traditional exports outside of the free zones are growing, despite obstacles at home and abroad. Traditional farm product exports (sugar, cacao, coffee and tobacco) are up 23%, non traditional farm products grew 28%, agro-industrial product exports were up 16% and industrial exports were up 31%. 
Among products doing well in the first four months of the year:
Banana exports, US$10.7 million
Fresh melons US$6.5 million
Avocados US$6.2 million (up 84%)
Eggs US$3.1 million (up 77%)
Ice cream US$3.4 million (up 2000%)
El Caribe says that exports of beer, steel rods, rum and cement generated US$63 million during the first four months of this year.

Completing the FTA with Central America
Ministers of economy from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua visited Santo Domingo for the signing of the last leg of the Free Trade Agreement with Central America. With the adhesion of Nicaragua to the treaty, the April 1998 treaty with Central America is now complete. The treaty had been partially implemented in October 2001 with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with Costa Rica adhering in March 2002. Eight products are excluded from the treaty. 

Nobel Prize in Economics to lecture here
The winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Economics, Columbia University Professor Robert A. Mundell will lecture this coming Wednesday, 18 September at the Hotel Embajador. In 1999, Professor Mundell won the prize for his analysis of monetary and fiscal policy under different exchange rate regimes and his analysis of optimum currency areas. The topic is very timely for the Dominican Republic.
Mundell is a world-renowned specialist in international trade and macroeconomics. He has been an adviser to a number of international agencies and organizations including the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Commission, and several governments in Latin America and Europe, the Federal Reserve Board, the US Treasury and the Government of Canada.
Frank Guerrero Prats, Governor of the Central Bank, will also be speaking at the event that will focus on the challenges facing the Dominican economy. 
The event is organized by the Asociacion Nacional de Jovenes Empresarios (ANJE) and will be held at the Hotel Embajador from 8 to 12 noon. For more information, call 472-0444. 

Drug matters behind missing person
News reports say today that it is likely that the kidnapping of 42-year old Victor Augusto Feliz Mendez, son of former PRSC Barahona senator Augusto Feliz Matos, is related to drug dealings. Felix Mendez has a record with the National Drug Control Department (DNCD). The spokesman for the Southern Command of the National Police, Lieutenant Braulio Feliz Cabrera told Diario Libre that the department is not handling the case as an ordinary kidnapping. 
The newspaper says that the kidnappers of Feliz Mendez passed a National Drug Control and Army checkpoint identifying themselves as Army officers taking in an arrest. Feliz Mendez was handcuffed when he passed the checkpoint. Afterwards, a corporal identified the vehicle as belonging to a known criminal. 
Feliz Matos said that relatives received a call demanding RD$30-RD$40 million for the release of his son. He told the Listin Diario that the family does not have that kind of money.

2002 Caribbean Airshow
The San Isidro Air Force Base east of Santo Domingo will host the 2002 Caribbean Airshow scheduled for 3 November with exhibits of aircraft and aerobatic acts to delight all audiences. Several hours of flying and dozens of aircraft will be on display at the event organized by David Schultz Airshows and the Dominican Air Force. Military participation will be strong at this event. The USAF will be headlining the event with their A-10A Thunderbolt II demonstration from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. But the organizers say that the military of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and France will also participate. Many Caribbean nations will be represented with aircraft and displays. Performing at the event will be Avalon Airshows with their MiG-15 and F-86 Dogfight routine, Jimmy Rossi's F-86E Sabre Aerobatic display, the Lima Lima Flight Team, All American Firebirds, and Fred Cabanas' Pitts Special. 
Cabanas Aerobatics Unlimited and Entrekin Aviation are also scheduled to participate in the the first ever airshow on the island. 
For more information, see http://www.schultzairshows.com

Yolanda Duke at Paris Olympia Theater
Dominican born Yolanda Duke will perform at the famous Olympia Theater of Paris on 15 September. Accompanied by fellow Dominican Jose Alberto El Canario and Orchestra, Dominican salsa, merengue and bolero singer Yolanda Duke. Her promoter Andy Grullon (Amigos Music/Universal) says that they are the first Dominican-born stars to perform at the historic music hall that has featured some of the biggest names in show business. For more information, see http://www.yolandaduke.com
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