Isthmian Update – Vol. 22#1

AMCHAM forms leaders

A total of fifteen principals of the Regional Education area of San Miguelito participated this year in the AmCham Leadership Program. This is the flagship program of social responsibility of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama (AmCham), which aims to identify the ideal profile of educational managers to develop skills through different areas of training, including training workshops, mentoring, coaching and company visits.

More parking

A total of $18.4 million will be invested in the construction of 659 underground parking spaces in Panama City. The Mayor of Panama has already awarded the contract to build 309 parking spaces in the Francisco Arias Paredes park, between Avenues Cuba and Peru, in the district of Calidonia, and another 350 under the craft market in the 5 de Mayo Plaza.

Expensive food

The basic food basket (BFB) increased $17.38 from January to November this year, according to the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition (Acodeco). According to the report of the organization, in January 2015 the cost of the (BFB) was $282.22, while in November it rose to about $299.60.

Fighting extradition

A team of lawyers in the United States will try to prevent former president Ricardo Martinelli being extradited to Panama, after the Supreme Court ordered his pretrial detention for “wiretapping”. The former Minister of Labor, Alma Cortés, confirmed that her U.S. counterparts are working in coordination with the team of lawyers he has in Panama – of which they are part – to find a way out on the issue of extradition.

Dollar alert

The US Federal Reserve (EDF) the institution that regulates the dollar interest rate, announced an increase of 0.25% for the rest of this year and part of next. For economic analysts, this variation is subtle and poses a great threat to the growth of Panama. A two-cent interest rate will be imposed on every dollar. If this pattern is transferred to a home financing of $40,000, the mortgage holder will be paying $800 more.

Stranded cruise ship

A luxury cruise ship ran aground on the island of Coiba, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. Windstar Cruises confirmed that the 9,975 GRT cruise ship ran aground at about 6:15 a.m., on December 22, while sailing near the island. The company said the vessel suffered damage to its hull, making it impossible to follow its course.

GUPC wants more money

When just 5% is needed to complete construction of the third set of locks on the Panama Canal, the contractor, Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) warned that the inauguration of the expansion could be delayed for six months, if the administration of the Canal “does not speed up its paperwork and payments to the consortium.” GUPC executive director, Giuseppe Quarta, said the consortium can finish the work in April, but that will be impossible if the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) maintains its current “bureaucratic pace of payments.”

Circulation Tax eliminated

The Government and the authorities of the Ngäbe Bugle area agreed to eliminate local tax for circulation of visitors. In return, a new police station will be built on its territory. Security Minister, Rodolfo Aguilera, said during a meeting, that the entity had budgeted approximately $60.000 for the construction of the police station in the region of Llano Tugrí and the appointment of 32 police units.

Maids’ pay increases

The Executive has decreed an increase of $25 (a month) for domestic servants in the New Year. The wages of these workers was not included in the 8.5% increase approved by the Minimum Wage Commission on December 18 for employees of large companies. The new arrangement was detailed in the Executive Decree 293 of December 22, 2015, signed by President Juan Carlos Varela and Labor Minister, Luis Ernesto Carles.

Highest tonnage

Panama Canal transits in 2015 showed the highest amount of tonnage in its 101 years of operations, 2.1% more than in 2012, when the last historic mark was reached. This was announced by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). This year the Canal moved 340.8 million PC/UMS tons (Universal System of Panama Canal Tonnage), 4.3% more than in 2014.

Government projects create work

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, said that the construction of infrastructure driven by the government, with investments of more than $6 billion, will generate more than 20,000 new jobs in the first half of 2016. “Employment linked to the construction sector will grow in a very important way for next year, due to the start of many works,” Varela said during a public event.

Lack of money

There will be a shortfall of $50 million in 2016 at the Panama University (UP). According to the rector of the UP, Gustavo Garcia de Paredes, to make this institution work well it requires a budget of $280 million. However, they were only assigned $230 million for fiscal year 2016. He said that projects concerning maintenance of the structures will be affected by lack of money.

Counterfeit goods

An amount of $130 million was the approximate value of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by the Superior Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Intellectual Property and Information Security Office of the Attorney General’s Office, from January to August this year . During the same period, in 2014, the figure was $49 million 357.56.

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