Isthmian Update – Vol. 21#3

PSA container port moves forward

The Minister of the Presidency, Alvaro Aleman, presented to the National Assembly the draft law for the contract between the state and PSA Panama International Terminal, SA (a subsidiary of the Singapore Port Authority) for the construction of a container port in the former Rodman Naval Station, on the Pacific side of the entrance to the Canal. The award includes a land area of 31.7 hectares for a period of 20 years, renewable. “The concessionaire will invest $350 million,” said Aleman.

Cargo flow through ports improving

Figures released by the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) show an average of more than 500,000 TEUs (containers of 20 feet) were moved each month in the Panamanian port system last year. The numbers signal an improvement from the slowdown that had been affecting foreign trade in the region, according to industry analysts. Preliminary data shows that the Panamanian port system, which consists of five ports, ended 2014 with a movement of 6.7 million TEUs, a growth of 2.9% compared to 2013, when the number totaled 6.5 million TEUs.

CFZ beset by shrinking trade

A series of conflicts which befell Panama’s Colón Free Zone (CFZ) heralded a dismal year-end closing for 2014. Trade fell by more than $3 billion and, up to June 2014, nearly 5,000 jobs were lost as a result of one of the worst crises faced in the history of the commercial enclave. All of this was predicted by Severo Sousa, ex-president of the Colón Free Zone Users’ Association. Trade for the year ended down 12%. Official figures show commercial movement of $24 billion last year compared to $27.4 billion in 2013.

A manhunt in the spy case

The former commissioner of police, Rony Rodriguez, alias “Didier,” is being hunted by the authorities, because he is suspected of knowing where the lost telephone and computer tapping equipment is and might be using it. Rodriguez was considered by many as the “right hand” of Gustavo Pérez, one of the five executive secretaries of the past administration’s National Security Council, currently detained pending the investigation. Auxiliary Prosecutor, Marcelino Aguilar, revealed that he had “clear evidence” of the involvement of former administration officials in the case of illegal wiretapping. “The tests show direct participation of former officials of the Security Council. We are talking about former officials and former executive secretaries during that period,” said Aguilar.

MEDUCA audit underway

“We have changed the way we work in MEDUCA (the Ministry of Education),” said Comptroller Federico Humbert as he left a meeting with the Minister of Education, Marcela Vasquez Paredes. “We have already appointed auditors in all bodies of that agency,” he said during a “courtesy call” on the minister to explain the new procedures. The comptroller reiterated that “the methodology for public procurement will change radically.”

Hurtado asylum request rejected

Panama’s government refused to grant refuge to the former head of Colombia’s intelligence agency, María del Pilar Hurtado. In 2014, Hurtado lost her asylum status in Panama. She is currently wanted by Colombian authorities. An anonymous official source reported to the Efe news agency that “A final rejection was issued” to Hurtado’s request for asylum. The National Office for the Care of Refugees under the Ministry of Government (Interior) rejected the request “following procedures” of international standards, the source added.

The fight for the right to free parking

The country’s business sector is at war following the approval on second reading of Bill No. 10, which amends and adds articles to Law 45 of 2007 by introducing measures on the right of consumers to use free parking at local malls. Article 56-A provides that every consumer has the right to use, for two hours free of charge, parking at commercial premises where they are making purchases of goods or receiving a service.

Electric tariff subsidy secured by state

The National Economic Council (CENA) authorized the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) to transfer, as the trustee, a contribution to the Rate Stabilization Fund (FET) for the first half of 2015, amounting to $32,500,000. With this transfer to the electricity distribution companies, the cost of the fee simple low voltage (BTS) for customers who consume up to 400 KW/h per month will be subsidized.


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