Environment gives go ahead to metro

Minister of Environment Max Puig, as reported in the Listin Diario, has said that the works carried out for the construction of Santo Domingo’s first metro line, “in a general sense are fulfilling with all the established environmental requirements, and thus are legal.” He said that the office in charge of construction, OPRET, had presented the environmental impact study of the master plan for the construction of the metro in January and received the go-ahead from the Ministry of Environment. Puig explained, “Now we are waiting for the specific environmental studies for each aspect of the project and will give our opinions on these as they are received,” he said.

Opposition to the metro is on grounds of the lack of adequate studies, perceived major undervaluing of the project, lack of information as to where the funding will come from and perceived lack of priority of the project.

The president of the National Young Entrepreneurs Association, Richard Lueje recently pointed out that when the government lobbied for increased revenues through tax reform, it argued that there were insufficient funds available for priority needs such as health, education and citizen safety, all deemed more important than the construction of the metro in Santo Domingo.

Meanwhile, construction of the metro continues at a fast pace with major holes already being dug up along Ave. Maximo Gomez and the Olympic Center, among other areas.

Fabio Herrera-Minino, in an op-ed contribution in Hoy, speculates that the hurried start of the construction of the metro with excavations at so many points along the route is a strategy to oblige congressmen to authorize the construction, or leave “half the capital destroyed and converted into a battle ground with severe transit difficulties.” He goes on to speculate that public opinion could pressurize Congress into authorizing the construction. Furthermore, the author speculates that the government needs to get public works started before it is obliged to sign the procurement law that would limit its discretionary power regarding choice of contractors.

Meanwhile, Juan Bolivar Diaz writes in Hoy that while the Ministry of Education had requested an allocation of RD$38 billion, or 16% of the national budget, the government would be awarding it about RD$18 billion, approximately 8% of the national budget. He comments that this would be an amount similar to what has been allocated for this year. He comments that the plan is for government health service funding to remain at the same level as last year. He comments: “For decades our politicians and our governors have recognized that education is the basis of development and the first priority for investment. But between speeches and the practice there is an abysmal distance.”