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Daily News - 6 December 2002

Prices of Houses Will Rise
Melido Marte, President of the Association of Real state Companies (AEI), and Francisco Anibal, President of the Association of Promoting and Constructing Houses (ACOPROVI), both agreed yesterday at a press conference that the devaluation of the peso will increase housing costs. By the same token, the devaluation could directly affect the chances of low-income families buying a home. Marte did make some positive comments, as he explained how the new law governing rental properties will benefit the housing market, but repeated, “Higher costs because of the devaluation of the peso will not only increase the prices of new homes but of existing homes as well”.

President To Announce New Devaluation-Stopping Measures
The Peso has devaluated more than 35% this year
The President expressed yesterday his concern for the weakening Dominican peso and the rate of inflation. He announced that measures will be taken before the end of the weekend and asked reporters who requested more details to be patient. The dollar was selling yesterday for RD$23 to RD$24 per US dollar, even though some brokers were selling for RD$25. Transaction volumes were very low due to the fact that most brokers would not sell any dollars allegedly because they did not have any on hand.
The President also spoke yesterday about his opinion on the sovereign bond issuance saying, “I have sent a communication to Andres Bautista [President of the Senate] and to Rafaela Alburqurque [President of the Deputies], telling them to limit the bonds to the US$600-million as originally planned and not to continue the fuss about the $US750-million”.
According to the Governor of the Central Bank, Frank Guerrero Prats, the President held a meeting with his economic team during which the exchange rate was not discussed. When asked about what he thought about the dollar being sold between 24 and 25 pesos per dollar, Prats denied that it was true. The Secretary of Finance said that the problem with the exchange rate is a matter of waning confidence.
A reporter from El Caribe, however, confirmed yesterday that some brokers were indeed selling the dollar at a price of RD$25 and Hoy newspaper says that the President of the Dominican Federation of Retailers expressed that brokers have not sold dollars for the last 3 days.

The Vice President of Union Fenosa Speaks Out
Antonio Pantoja, executive vice-president of Union FENOSA, the company which owns 50% of the power distribution enterprise in the DR, declared yesterday that the energy problem is being politicized and that the professional agents who intervene must be allowed to work on a resolution. More than 3.5 million Dominicans do not pay their energy bills, leaving Union Fenosa to absorb those costs – an estimated figure of US$2-million. Pantoja said that current prices per kilowatt-hour are too expensive and that the government’s energy supervisors who set the price should consider their revision.
Also, he confirmed that 92,000 clients are the ones who pay the most for the current problem. More than 90% of Dominicans pay less then RD$800 (or approximately US$35) per month and the other 10% and businesses are bearing the brunt of the average RD$1-billion (or approximately US$45-million) that is invoiced each month. This is because they pay a price based on their consumption and what the rest of the 3.5 million don’t pay. According to Pantoja, putting an end to the fraudulent abuse of the power supply would relieve the current crisis situation.
In reference to the subject of selling their stakes in the distribution companies, Pantoja said that Union Fenosa’s purpose is to have a long-term project in the country, but, as a business, they will consider options as long as they make money. 

Public Employees Can’t Receive Christmas Gifts
The Director of the Department of Corruption Prevention, Jesús Feliz Jiménez, warned all public employees of the dangers of receiving “Christmas gifts”; doing so could end in their dismissal. 
He expressed that the law 120-01 is very clear on the matter and that it applies to all public employees. Furthermore he asked private companies not to tempt the public servants.

Car Dealers Seek Permission to Bring Cars from ‘95
Jose Fernandez, President of the Association of Dealers (ADECI), announced in a press conference that car sales have dropped by more than 35% in the current year, causing many car dealers to file for bankruptcy. He argued that one of the main reasons for this is because of the current law that prohibits the import of cars made before 1996. The law is of prime benefit to the dealers, who act as distributors of certain brands, as it allows them to buy new cars at relatively cheaper prices and limits dealers who work chiefly in the used car markets. Jose Fernandez also asked for a change in the law that disallows the importation of used vehicles that have been in accidents, arguing that the middle class is being limited to high-priced new cars and that they deserve the right to obtain lowered priced used cars.

Allowing Votes from Abroad
In an interview with HOY newspaper, Judge Jose Luis Arias discussed the progress the JCE (Central Electoral Board) has been making in opening offices in major foreign cities and the steps still pending to create an infrastructure allowing Dominicans to cast their votes from abroad. According to the judge, a city has to meet 3 criteria in order to be considered as a potential location to host a JCE office. The three criteria are:

1. A high concentration of Dominicans
2. Diplomatic or consular representation
3. Organized groups of Dominicans requesting the office

New York, Miami, Caracas, Madrid and Boston meet the described criteria and registration centers have been opened in these locations. However, Judge Arias added that the JCE has opened offices in Philadelphia, Montreal and Panama even though all criteria have not been met. The office in Philadelphia was opened before the office in Puerto Rico, where the Dominican population is larger, because the Dominican population in Philadelphia was more emphatic in having a JCE office in their city.

The judge also declared that the JCE is already involved in a motivational campaign in the cities where offices have been opened and has set a date for the opening of offices in additional cities. Judge Arias will be speaking today at the University of Miami about "The History and Present Situation of Double Nationality and the subject of Dominican Voting from Abroad".

Goico case to the Court of Appeals
Following several days of revisions, the 11th penal hall sent the files of Colonel Pedro Julio Goico (Pepe), Captain Alberto Torres Pezzoti, and Sergeant Pedro Juan Diaz Ramos to the Court of Appeals. This court will decide if the case should be classified as criminal or correctional. The court files reveal that Alberto Torres Pezzoti is being regarded as the central figure in the fraudulent transactions against BANINTER, which totaled RD$40-million.

Government will Begin Paying Christmas Salary on December 11th
The director of ONAPRES (National Budget Office), Luis Ernesto Perez Cuevas, announced yesterday that the government will begin paying its employees their corresponding Christmas salaries (bonuses) on Wednesday, December 11. Mr. Perez Cuevas declared that, contrary to information expressed in some of the media which suggested that the government would have to borrow money to pay the year-end bonus, the government has set aside a fund months ago in order to meet the significant pay-out.
The law requires all employers to pay their employees 1/12th of the accumulated yearly income as a tax-free Christmas bonus. It is expected that government employees will collect over RD$1-billion, which, in combination with the bonus collected by employees of the private sector, is expected to give a boost to the flailing economy.

Baseball update
Lions Roar in 8th Inning.
Escogido kept in the hunt for the final playoff spot with a 10 - 6 victory over the Bulls last night at Quisqueya stadium. The Lions were down 5-1 until exploding for 9 runs in the eighth inning to earn their 18th victory and maintain their 3 game lead on Licey. David Ortiz (Twins) had 3 hits
including a controversial home run and Willis Otáñez hit a 3 run blast to pace the Lions attack.

Stars Beat Eagles to Gain Second Place
Felix Jose hit two home to pace the Oriental Stars past the league leading Aguilas of Cibao 12-4. Jose tied Ty Wigginton for the league lead in homeruns with 8 with one in the first and one in the third inning. Luis de los Santos worked 5 2/3 innings to win his 4th game and get Estrellas within 5 games of the Eagles.

Homers Lead Licey 4 - 1
Eric Byrnes, Manny Martinez and Israel Alcantara hit homeruns to lead the Tigers triumph over the Giants of Cibao. All 5 runs were by way of homeruns, two by Byrnes and one by the Giants José Reyes. Luis Martinez got his first win of the season in relief. Licey remains 3 games out of a playoff contention.
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