Isthmian Update

Second consecutive year of double-digit growth
“We’re very pleased with the economic performance in 2012 and we are leading economic growth in Latin America despite all the turmoil the global economy is experiencing today,” finance minister Frank De Lima told the international news agency Reuters. “Our perspective for Panama in the medium and long term is very positive,” he added. Panama has registered double-digit growth for the last two years. The Comptroller’s Office announced on Friday that the official growth of the Panamanian economy for 2012 was 10.7%.

Winds create chaos
Winds of up to 100 km per hour lifted roofs, billboards and trees in various parts of the Panama on Saturday and Sunday last weekend, after the passage of a cold front coming from the north. It was felt throughout the Caribbean. Reports of havoc as a result of the winds were reported in Sajalices, Capira and El Espavé, in the province of Panama, Penonomé in the province of Cocle, in Santiago and San Francisco in the province of Veraguas were registered by the National Civil Protection System (CINAPROC).

HSBC risk rating predicted to fall
Once the sale of HSBC Panama to Bancolombia Panama is completed, it is very likely that the risk rating of HSBC will fall. The agency Fitch Ratings moved the ratings to negative for local and international HSBC Bank Panama accounts as well as the national long-term rating of HSBC Insurance and its subsidiaries. Fitch sources explained this week that they put the company on “negative watch.” The sale can occur within six months.

Mortgage financing increased by 3.3%
Some 212,000 mortgage assets lie in the database of the Panamanian Credit Association (CPA), which shows that more and more Panamanians are requesting a loan to buy a home. Mortgage finance has increased by 3.3%, as of December 2012 compared to the same period of 2011.

International lawyers fight a bill that would eliminate bearer shares
International lawyers are struggling against a bill that seeks to eliminate bearer shares and their protests are gaining strength. They were joined by Jose Alberto Alvarez, president of the American Bar Association, a union that groups a large number of legal professionals in the United States. He said that Panama could lose about $500 million annually if bill 568 is passed. The international banking industry would lose competitiveness and there would be an affect on the merchant marine that would be very serious. Ship owners would stop flagging their vessels in Panama because the process would become much more complicated.

Hub for negotiation of Latin American commodities could open in Panama
Panama could become the hub of negotiations for Latin American commodities. The initiative would attract agents or brokers from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and other countries to buy and sell commodities on the isthmus. The country operates the National Products Exchange (Baisa), a company that organizes business conferences for the sale of rice, yellow corn, dairy products, potatoes, tomato products, beans, coffee and pork, chicken and hen eggs, and in August 2012 traded around $71.8 million in products.

Catholic Church opposes new sterilization law
The Archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa, used the Eucharist of the 30th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Panama to warn people. Ulloa said that a country grows by the momentum of its people and experience and warned that European nations are aging. “Our country is giving signs that the population pyramid is being invested in. In fact, there are fewer births and the elderly population is growing,” he said.  Ulloa was very concerned about laws against contraception and sterilization. A law proposes mandatory sterilization in the country.

Responsible for blackout could receive a $20 million fine
The National Authority of Public Services (ASEP) may impose a fine of up to $20 million, depending on the results of investigations over the causes of the nationwide power blackout on Monday, February 26 that was caused by agricultural burning in Puerto El Gago, Coclé province. The general manager of the ASEP, Zelmar Rodríguez Crespo, and her team, visited the fire area and said she wanted to verify facts on the ground.

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