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By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
Colón City is soon to regain its title as the “gold coast” that for years was a thriving metropolis attracting businessmen and tourists alike who marveled at the beauty of its old quarter and the Afro Caribbean heritage. This was brought to Colon by the Antillean workers on the original Panama Canal construction, many of whom settled in the former Canal Zone.
That was in the past, and today it is a tired place fighting for survival after decades of neglect.
Juan Carlos Varela, who was elected Panama’s President over a year ago, promised to renovate the impoverish province and revive the decaying city with an ambitious plan that will restore it to its former glory. It includes passing a new law to convert the whole city into a free port, in effect expanding the Colón Free Zone.
If this bill is approved by the National Assembly, Panamanians and residents will be able to buy merchandise totaling $2,000 a year, duty free, from the stores inside the free port. This figure will be divided into $1,000 every six months.
Tourists and non-residents will not have limits on their retail purchases and they will have the ITBMS (Valued Added Tax) on their shopping returned, but the merchandise will need to be transferred to international departure points, such as airports or ports.
Severo Sousa, president of the Logistics Business Council (Coel) explained that it is not known what will be the mechanism used to register the $2,000 in purchases that Panamanians and residents will be allowed to buy.
It is expected that this project will generate employment, attract tourists and, most importantly, give the Colón Free Zone the support it needs after being hammered with municipal taxes, bad debts and a fall in its traditional markets.
According to Melitón Arrocha, Ministry of Commerce, the bill was discussed for months with the different sectors that will be affected by it such as the Colón Free Zone Users Association, the governor of the province, the mayor, and legislators, the Customs Authority and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The objective of the bill is to boost a prosperous, dynamic and successful Colón.
Arrocha added that this bill is part of other initiatives and actions that the Government is carrying out to renovate infrastructure and improve the quality of life of the people of Colón.