Isthmian Update – Some of the news in Panama

New search for the missing Dutch girls

The location of a backpack with belongings of the two missing Dutch girls, Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers, could yield clues to their location. The tourists went missing as of April 2 in Boquete, Chiriquí. “Now it is up to the special prosecutors to carry out a new quest to find clues leading to the whereabouts of the tourists,” said Jerone Van Passel, a spokesman for the families. The representative of the Froon and Kremers families in Panama announced that they will bring specialists to support the search, but did not specify the number of staff or their date of arrival in Panama.

Line 2 for the Metro

President-elect Juan Carlos Varela, whose mandate has not started, already has planned payments of $2,084 million for a project under the turnkey system. This is line 2 of the Panama Metro. Information emerging from the planning report of the Ministry of Economy and Finance reveals that this project will be paid between 2015 and 2021, indicating that the payment commitment will extend beyond Varela’s term of office, a similar formula used by his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli, as a way to alleviate budget limitations.

Electricity subsidies too high

The subsidy cost of electricity will double in the next six months. Official sources confirmed that the subsidy will exceed $450 million in 2014. The figure represents an increase of over $200 million, whereas in 2013 it cost $235.8 million to subsidize energy to those with a consumption of less than 500 megawatts. “This level of subsidy is unsustainable for state finances,” said Dulcidio De La Guardia, who has been appointed Minister of Finance for the period 2014.

No more saving energy measures

The National Secretariat of Energy announced that energy-saving measures will be removed as applied to the private sector. In addition, measures imposed on state institutions will be modified. “The main reservoirs (Fortuna and Bayano) have not reached optimal levels, despite the rain. We therefore will not make excessive use of hydropower and give the lakes time to recover,” said Jose Luis Ford.

New tolls for the Canal

The Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge Quijano, said that later this year, new tolls will be introduced on the waterway, which will take effect when the new locks are operational for PostPanamax-size ships. In statements given to the Panama News Agency (ANPanamá), Quijano said this must first be approved by the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and then be communicated to the public and customers.

US taxes in Panama

The US Treasury Department included Panama on a list of countries that have reached agreements for the implementation of the Law on Tax Compliance Abroad (FATCA). The list includes 37 countries with which the United States has reached substantive agreements, but that have not yet been signed. An additional 34 other countries are listed with which the United States has already signed some kind of agreement.

Not enough security at Tocumen

The Tocumen International Airport lacks sufficient security controls, according to a warning from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These failures increase the likelihood of attacks against planes and their passengers, but local authorities revealed that they will not abide by recommendations made by the agency. At Tocumen, the main gateway to the country, passengers in transit do not undergo inspections, a fact which caught the attention of ICAO, a global authority on aviation issues.

Sacyr is committed to the Canal

The president of the Spanish company Sacyr, Manuel Manrique, said that work on the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is led by the group, will be a success and that the company will be recognized for its role in this most emblematic of projects, one that is perhaps the most complicated in the world. Manrique demonstrated the consortium’s commitment to complete the project by the end of 2015, unless circumstances occur beyond the contractor’s control.

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