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Daily News - 11 September 2002

Environment rulings sent to Congress
President Hipolito Mejia sent to Congress the bill that establishes the limits and rulings for protected areas. Minister of Environment Frank Moya Pons described the Ley Sectorial de Areas Protegidas as an instrument for sustainable development. He said it would provide guidelines for farming and tourism development within the protected areas. Moya Pons has said that there could be no plans for development of the controversial and much coveted Bahia de las Aguilas beach area in the Pedernales province until Congress has passed the ruling. 

Information system for Social Security program
The Minister of Labor, Milton Ray Guevara, and Manuel Reynaud, president of the Pagoss, signed yesterday the contract for the design and installation of the Sistema Unico de Informacion y Recaudo (Suir). This is the central data system for the implementation of the national social security program. The government will pay US$1.7 million for the program. The company has commited itself to complete the installation by March 2003, as reported in El Caribe. 
Manuel Reynaud, president of the Mexican firm, explained that the system is split into four modules:
Superintendencia de Pensiones (Sipen), or the Superintendence of Pension Plans
Superintendencia de Salud y Riesgos Laborales (Sisalril), the Superintendence of Health and Work Risks
Direccion de Defensa al Afiliado (Dida), Department for Affiliate Defense
Recaudo en General, or a generalized collections module. This module will serve as a reference to employers and information on all company payrolls will be stored there. This module will keep track of the pension plans and health plan affiliations of each member. 
The Dominican social security system will allow each individual to choose their health and pension plan, regardless of the preferences of the company they work for.

Collecting for government housing
Bienes Nacionales, the government department in charge of state-owned real estate, reports a considerable increase in collections under director Bienvenido Brito. Since 1966, the department has had the responsibility of collecting on 46,000 government housing units. These were primarily those built by the Balaguer governments, in addition to two built by the Salvador Jorge Blanco government and another two by the Leonel Fernandez government. 
The Department says revenues increased to RD$113.9 million during the first six months of the year. This compares to RD$124 in 2001, RD$58.7 million in 2000, RD$71.6 million in 1999 and RD$75.5 million in 1998. 
Government houses are sold well below market prices and are financed at well below market terms. The houses are usually sold to persons for reasons of political patronage.

Removing an excuse for poor management
Economic advisor to the Presidency, Andy Dauhajre, in an interview in the Listin Diario today, explains that if the government passes on to consumers the indexing of the costs of power, power distributors will no longer be able to blame the government for their own deficiencies. Today, the government accrues to its account all increases in the cost of producing power, such as devaluation of the peso, the increase in petroleum, and others. Dauhajre says that the power distributors prefer to have the government as their sole client rather than hundreds of thousands of consumers. But he said that by passing on the subsidies to the paying public, the companies will be forced to install efficient collection systems. “Then they will have to prove if they have the technological capacity to manage the companies and collect their bills,” he said. 
Dauhajre compared the power companies to those offering telephone service. He said that everyone in the Dominican Republic pays for the service, and as a result it is one of the best in Latin America. 

Military accused of complicity in people smuggling
Belgian Priest Pedro Ruquoy denounced that members of the army and officers of the migration department are in complicity with the privatized sugar mills to smuggle in field hands from Haiti. As reported in the Coctelera column of Hoy newspaper, the priest said that in a recent visit to Puerto Escondido, on the border of Haiti, he visited installations used to temporarily lodge the Haitians prior to their distribution to the sugar mills. The priest revealed that some 30,000 undocumented Haitians have been smuggled through this center. He said that only one person has recruited 7,000 Haitians and processed these at a cabaña that is located a short distance from an army facility. The priest says those recruiting the Haitians receive RD$150 for each. Haitians recruited for work in the sugar mills usually do so for only one harvest, and then remain in the Dominican Republic, securing other better-paying jobs in construction. 

What Dominicans think of their institutions
The Penn, Schoen & Berland-El Caribe poll rates the satisfaction levels or what Dominicans think of their government institutions:
National Police: 64%
Supreme Court of Justice 61%
Central Electoral Board 52%
National Congress 47%
Central Government 40%

Univision talk show star arrested for drug trafficking
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) arrested Puerto Rican Univision morning show hostess, Laura Hernandez and her husband Maximo Irizarry for trafficking cocaine. DNCD spokesman Jacobo Mateo Moquete said the couple was arrested with four other Puerto Ricans when they stopped at a parador along the Bavaro-Higuey highway. Some 70 kilos of cocaine were confiscated from the Nissan SUV they were driving while making their way to Bavaro. They had stayed at a five-star hotel in Santo Domingo, supposedly when they received the cocaine shipment that would have been transported to Puerto Rico. Another employee of Univision, Edwin Adams Cotto was also arrested in the momentous operation. Mateo said that the group posed as tourists. Drug Control officers had been on the trail in the area for two months, having already made arrests for smaller shipments. 
Univision said that Hernandez was on leave of absence from the station. At Univision she presented the entertainment, arts and culture section.

Criminal record of Feliz Mendez presented
Jacobo Mateo Moquete, spokesman for the National Drug Control Department presented yesterday the crime record of the late Victor Augusto Feliz Mendez. Feliz Mendez was murdered last week and the Police say the crime is related to drug trafficking. The Police presented the criminal record after his father, a former senator for Barahona, and brother, Deputy Minister of Tourism Edgar Feliz Mendez, denied that the deceased was a drug trafficker. The deceased’s criminal record shows he had been in jail for weapons possession, drug trafficking and forgery in the United States. The Police say that Feliz Mendez was able to travel to the US using forged identity documents. The family had said he had used a tourist visa to travel to the US and that this was proof he did not have a criminal record in the United States. The Police had said he was deported for drug dealing in 1993. 

Vice consul case sent to judiciary
The case against Dominican vice consul in Port-au-Prince, Ormis Freddy Peña Mendez, was sent to the courts yesterday. He is accused of directing a drug dealing gang that maintained a flow of up to 60 kilos of cocaine a week from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, and then on to Puerto Rico, by taking advantage of his diplomatic status.

TIA is source of 9/11 report
Caleb Tiller, senior manager of Communications for the American Society of Travel Agents, writes to correct the source of recent data on the impact of the 9/11 on world travel. The source of the updates is the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). For more information on the report, see: http://www.tia.org/

Promoting alternate energy sources
Scandinavian sustainable energy firms visited last week to offer alternative sustainable energy solutions. Vestas Wind Power, Wartsila Power Systems, Arcon Solar Power and the National Danish Research Lab for Wind Power participated in the first international seminar on sustainable energy held in Santo Domingo. The new Scandinavian-Baltic Chamber of Commerce organized the event. 
In addition to the Scandinavian speakers, directors from the Inter-American Development Bank, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, ProNatura-UNDP and the National Energy Committee participated as guest speakers. The event established that the conditions for wind power in the DR are very good in several coastal areas, the conditions for solar power are excellent and the opportunities for shifting to other renewable energy sources, such as bio-mass and natural gas, are already in place.
Other conclusions drawn were that the increasing energy prices and constant blackouts could be minimized while reducing the damaging effects on the environment by complementing or switching to renewable energy sources. Speakers stressed that these sustainable energy solutions are economically viable for both medium and large installations. Often the investments made in these energy sources have very long operation life - up to 25 years - with relatively insignificant maintenance expenses. The total investment in partial or full conversion to renewable energy in some cases pays itself off in less than 1 year. 
For more information, see http://www.scanbaltdom.org

Pluses and minuses of social security
Jose Torres, executive director of Adozona, said that the new pension plan system, which obliges Dominicans to save, will contribute to lower interest rates and inject new dynamism into the economy. On the negative side, he said it would increase the cost of doing business and could result in the loss of numerous jobs, some in free zone manufacturing as companies in this sector operate on small profit margins. He estimated the implementation of the new programs could mean increases in company employee benefits of 10 to 30%. Companies are responsible for the greater part of the contributions to the system for pension and health plans.

Jorge Perez fired from volleyball squad
The Dominican Volleyball Federation fired coach Jorge Perez Vento yesterday. Having been the assistant coach of the world class Cuban team, Perez Vento moved to the Dominican Republic to coach the Dominican women’s national team in 1994. Under his leadership the team increased its world ranking to 9th place. Perez Vento was fired after the team lost three games in the World Cup held in Germany. The Dominican Republic lost three sets to Puerto Rico. 
The team will now be coached by Hector Romero, formerly the assistant coach of the team. 
Alexis Garcia, president of the Dominican Volleyball Federation, announced the decision in conjunction with Cristobal Marte and Nelson Ramirez.
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