Out in the cold
Isthmian Update May 22nd: The Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca (MF) cannot undertake new fiduciary activities in the British Virgin Islands, after the authorities of this country implemented a series of sanctions against the them for being involved in a global scandal over alleged irregular activities. On April 29, the Financial Services Commission of the British Virgin Islands announced the ban on MF, plus assigning them to an auditor who will have to report to the authorities on the activities of the firm.
To carry out the Panama Canal expansion it was necessary to cut down trees. However, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reports that for every hectare affected, it planted twice the amount of trees. The ACP emphasizes that the construction area used for the third set of locks has been reforested, covering 854 hectares in the basin under the program of environmental incentives over 6,000 hectares. They are reforested with native species such as balsa wood, lignum vitae, oak, cedar, espave, harino, corotú, and fruit trees, such as mango, cashew and breadfruit, among others.
The value of permits for construction, additions and repairs went down by 10.2% from January to March 2016 compared with the same period of 2015, according to the latest figures published by the National Institute of Census and Statistics (INEC). Similarly, non-residential construction decreased by 25.8%; while residential works increased by 12.7%.
Although the flow of visitors from January to March 2016 fell by 2.4%, meaning that there were less 18,067 travelers than in 2015, Tocumen International Airport remains the entry port with more passengers. In 2015 during the first quarter 762,603 people went through it, this compared to 744,536 who visited the country in the same period of 2016.
Customers who have outstanding credit obligations with Balboa Bank & Trust will continue paying them in other places, which will be timely informed, said the interim bank manager Francisco A. Escoffery. The statement said that during the period of administrative and operational custody of the bank, all the usual operations of deposits and withdrawals from accounts, are temporarily suspended.
Different organizations and unions of taxi drivers in Panama announced a strike and a concentration near the Church of Carmen, in protest and rejection of the operation of the Uber company in the country. The taxi leader, Rafael Reyes, said the strike arises from the refusal of the National Government and the authorities of the ATTT to put a stop to the technological platform that the Uber company successfully operates.
The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) repealed the restrictions on the registration of vessels from the Islamic Republic of Iran and authorized a waiver of up to 100% in fees and charges payable by these ships, when they enroll in the Panamanian merchant registration. The order was signed by the director of the AMP, Luis Barakat. Ships flying the flag of Iran are authorized to sail under Panamanian registry. He struck down a decision issued in March 2007 prohibiting ships to register here.
Private schools began to inform parents about increases in the cost of tuition and monthly payments for 2017. The argument to support this measure is, according to them, the high costs of education. The rise in the monthly payment proposal in some schools ranges between $22 and $75, depending on the grade, some parents said. The legislation requires that the school management notifies the parents of the increase six months before the registration period.
The expanded Canal will allow the passage of ships with capacity to load up to 14,000 TEUs (20-foot containers), which contrasts significantly with the maximum size of 5,100 TEUs that the actual locks allow. Although the present Panama Canal can not handle neo-panamax ships, ports of the country have had positive experiences with this type of vessel. Such is the case of the Port of Balboa, administered by Panama Ports Company, that broke a record by loading a ship with 10,546 movements.
Collaborators and friends of the commercial emporium of Waked International S.A. (Wisa) belonging to the Waked family, sanctioned by the US for alleged money laundering from drug trafficking, on Sunday morning conducted a walk along the Coastal Strip to show solidarity.
The attendees, lively, and dressed in white, chanted slogans such as “We want to work for the Wisa Group.” People showed posters of the group of companies that are affected by the measure taken by the United States and the consequences this may bring to their jobs.
Isthmian Update, May 22nd: Again the specialty coffee of Panama receives the best evaluation by 17 judges from Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Taiwan, the United States and Nicaragua who came to the version XX of “The Best of Panama”. The tasters expressed having been captivated by the quality, taste and aroma of the more than ten varieties of coffee, which demonstrate the efforts of specialty coffee producers in the Chiriqui highlands.
The Panama Canal expansion will test port systems that are analyzing investment and return that can be had from larger vessels, said the International Association of Ports and Terminals (IAPH). The president of the IAPH, Santiago Garcia-Mila, said in an interview with the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, that the issue becomes more relevant to port systems, since the expansion of the waterway also affects the entire logistics chain.
The National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG) rewards the organizations that have made significant progress in providing services to citizens through technological solutions and modernizing their systems. The Evaluation Commission responsible for analyzing more than 25 projects submitted consisted of representatives of the Panamanian Chamber of Technology and Communications (CAPATEC), the Technological University of Panama (UTP) and the Innovation Department of AIG, said that entity in an official communication.
High speed monorail
President Juan Carlos Varela signed the financing pact with Japan for the construction of a high speed monorail between Albrook and Future City, adjacent to La Chorrera. This immediately opened discussions on a railway connecting Panama with Chiriqui. First to propose the railway was the former president Martin Torrijos. “Why not take advantage (of the fourth bridge) to build a freight and passenger railway serving exports of Panama and Central America?,” he suggested in remarks to Telemetro Channel 13.
As a crucial part of training for the opening of the new locks, the Panama Canal has hired the vessel M/N BAROQUE to train personnel prior to the inauguration on June 26. The contracted vessel will be used to perform various voyages per day through the new lock of Agua Clara, on the Atlantic. This vessel, in addition to sailing through the new locks and validate procedures, at the same time will be training pilots, tugboat captains and deck assistants.
Panama Colon Container Port Inc (PCCP) and its new administration, announced that they will soon start construction of the long awaited container port on Isla Margarita, Colon province.
The construction includes a container yard with a capacity to handle up to 2.5 million TEUs per year, with four docks occupying 1,200 meters of water frontage and the first with the ability to serve Neo-panamax ships. The project will make it one of the most important ports in Panama and provide thousands of jobs for the province of Colon and the country during the construction and subsequent operation.
The daily newspapers La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo has not yet requested the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) an extension of the license that would allow them to maintain a relationship with US entities, suppliers or customers. This was announced by the president of the Editorial Group La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo (Gese), Eduardo Quiros, who indicated that they were operating on the current 60-day license granted. He added that the OFAC issued a license for companies and US citizens who can continue to have a relationship with the dailies until midnight on July 6. He said the situation of the group “is highly complex.”
A group of businessmen held a fourth meeting to continue drafting a document that will improve the sustainability of youth employment. René Quevedo of the Private Sector Council for Educational Assistance (COSPAE), said there has been a drastic loss of young people who do not get employment, which has caused marginalization in the workplace. This has happened in the last 10 years and is worse since 2009.
Representatives from more than 90 countries worldwide, which manage 80% of world container traffic, met in Panama in the Intermedia Conference of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH 2016). The prospects for the port industry and business networks aimed at exploiting new markets are also on the agenda of specialists in the shipping forum.
On May 13, 2016, an earthquake measuring 6.7 jolted at least three provinces in Panama, causing minor material damage, and it was also strongly felt in Costa Rica, but no injuries were reported. The quake had at least 17 aftershocks with magnitudes between 6 and 2.4 on the Richter scale, the national director of SINAPROC, Arturo Alvarado, said. The event was recorded at 1:35 a.m., at a depth of 9 kilometers in latitude and longitude -82,386 7,035, 85 kilometers southwest of Coiba island.
The journalistic profession, complemented by digital tools to enable collaboration of 400 journalists worldwide, allowed the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to share the secrets of the Panama Papers, the largest financial filtration in history. Just under a year ago, forty journalists met secretly in a room at the National Press Club, a few meters from the White House, to talk about John Doe, the pseudonym with which the unknown individual appeared before two journalists from the German newspaper “Sddeutsche Zeitung,” a source who claimed to have information of historical significance.
Cabify vs taxi drivers
A new competition is heading to Panama this month for taxi drivers. This time it is the Spanish digital transport company Cabify, like the controversial Uber platform. The manager of Cabify, Camilo Sarasti, reported that among the aspects that make them different from others are their fixed rates per kilometer, without being affected by traffic delays and the possibility of making a reservation in advance for service via a “call center” 24 hours in advance.
VIPs at Canal opening
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, and several Latin American leaders will attend the June 26 opening of the expanded Panama Canal. “President (Michelle) Bachelet of Chile has confirmed, plus the presidents of Honduras (Juan Orlando Hernández) and El Salvador (Salvador Sánchez). President (Jimmy) Carter, of the United States, and some leaders of the Caribbean are in a confirmation process. This is a historic moment for Panama,” said the vice President and Foreign Minister, Isabel De Saint Malo.
Isthmian Update May 22nd: CEC to build ITSE
The CEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation) consortium won 563 points and presented the best economic proposal, for $176,163,900 for the design and construction of the Higher Technical Institute East (Itse). Eight construction firms participated with their proposals. The estimated price was $178,594,288.63. Odebrecht scored 535 points by presenting a proposal for $232,934,248.00. The consortium FCC-ITSE scored 532.5 points for a bid of $189,792,875.20. Meanwhile, the consortium Meco and Central Rapiparedes Edificadora reached 562 points and proposed to build the project at $180,759,641.32.