Isthmian Update – Some of the news in Panama

Panama receives boost from ferry travel

The beauty of the pristine waters of Bocas del Toro, the exotic and striking flora and fauna and the warmth of its people are now closer to national and international tourism because of Ferry Express. The cruise ship sails every Friday from the province of Colón and also makes regular trips to Cartagena, Colombia. While this has been good news for the development of the Bocas tourist trade, the capital city is also getting a boost as the company is heavily promoting Panama as a cosmopolitan destination for the Colombian travel market.

Panama leads region in Foreign Direct Investment

According to a report issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Panama continues as the leader in the region for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), attracting $533.1 million during the first half of 2014, 26.1% more than the same period last year. According to the secretary of Economic Concerns and Competiveness (Asuntos Económicos y Competitivdad), Miguel Ángel Esbrí, foreign investment continues to channel into the country’s economy through “ongoing reinvestment of profits,” totaling $1.64 billion this year. “This demonstrates companies’ confidence to invest in our country,” he said.

National production on the rise

National production figures, as measured by the Monthly Index of Economic Activities (IMAE) grew 5.11% in September as compared with the same month last year, and 4.64% cumulatively from January to September 2014. For two months running (August and September), the economic activities surrounding construction and the exploitation of mining, electric and water resources have all shown positive rates of growth. This in part translates into increased amounts of building and housing permits and higher rates of water and electricity consumption.

The latest tourism figures

For the third trimester, the number of visitors to the country has increased by 4%, leading some to expect improvements to the Gross Domestic Product as related to hotels and restaurants (which showed a decrease in growth of 1.4% for the first semester). Money spent by travelers to Panama between January and October 2014 is estimated at $2.82 billion, an increase of 5.4% over the same period last year. The average duration of time a tourist stays in Panama is 8.5 days, during which each person spends $1,537 or $181 per day. The figures come from the Statistics Department of Panama’s Tourism Authority (ATP).

A new Brazilian destination for Copa

The Panamanian airline, Copa Airlines, inaugurated a new daily flight between Panama City and the Brazilian city of Campinas, the eighth destination of the airline in Brazil. “We are pleased to connect to Campinas in Brazil with our extensive network of routes,” said the CEO of Copa Airlines, Pedro Heilbron. He recalled that Copa’s “network includes, besides Panama, cities throughout Central America, 14 destinations in the Caribbean, four in Mexico, 12 in North America and nine in Colombia, among many other destinations.”

Darien to help bridge energy gap

Panama and Colombia are pending environmental licenses so they can begin the work on the electrical interconnection project, which covers a 600 kilometer line with capacity of 400 megawatts. This was confirmed by the Secretary of Energy, Victor Urrutia, who said that this interconnection will begin operations in the first quarter of 2018. According to Urrutia, this project would generate a decrease in costs to end users.

Dams will be opened to control lake levels

The ACP recently announced that the water levels of Lake Gatún and Alajuela have reached the maximum levels for Canal operations. The ACP issued a warning to communities living along the shorelines of the rivers that feed the Canal to exercise caution due to the scheduled preventative release of water from the Gatún and Madden dams. “We remind these groups to pay heed to the sirens that may be issued for the remainder of the rainy season, as these sounds indicate the dam gates are being opened,” said an ACP spokesperson.

Clayton residents protest La Foresta road project

The Association of Property Owners and Residents of Clayton (APRECLA) have taken legal action to halt the sale of lots that border the La Foresta roadway project. The lawyer for the group, Harley Mitchel (hijo), presented arguments before the Supreme Court of Justice questioning the “juridical viability” of the sale of these properties, currently administered by the Unidad Administrativa de Bienes Revertidos (UABR), and necessary for the project to move forward. Mitchel also filed a lawsuit to halt the project last year, claiming that the La Foresta road will affect protected areas that form part of the Camino Cruces National Park. So far, UABR has not been prevented from auctioning the properties in question, leading Clayton residents to take their protest to the streets.

BRIGHT OUTLOOK

The country’s economic prospects are very encouraging, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Luca Antonio Ricci, IMF mission chief, said the country will grow at an average of 6% over the next five years.

Tamburrelli under house arrest

The former director of the National Assistance Program (PAN), Giacomo Tamburrelli, is being investigated by the Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, Lizzett Chevalier, as part of the judicial process that is looking into an alleged embezzlement scam and “crimes against the public administration.” After a 12 hour inquiry early this week, Tamburrelli was placed under house arrest as a “cautionary measure.” The case concerns a contract for $45,000,000 for the purchase of dehydrated food intended for distribution among primary and middle school students throughout the country. During the interrogation, Tamburrelli declared “Martinelli ordered me to make the contract.”

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