Isthmian Update January 31

Bad tourist season

Isthmian Update January 31: The tourism sector registered a low growth in 2016. Representatives of the private sector believe that the number of visitors must grow at an annual double-digit rate to reverse the negative trend of 2016. The main Panamanian indicators registered a rate of year-over-year growth, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) projection.

Tax bills

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Miguel Hincapié, presented at the National Assembly six bills on tax matters and international cooperation agreements. The first bill submitted was approved under the Convention of Mutual Assistance in Tax Matter;the second project approves the cooperation agreement framework between the Government of the Republic of Panama and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a government body of Canada for the strengthening of institutional capacities through the acquisition of goods and services.

House arrest for former dictator

Former general, Manuel Antonio Noriega, will leave the jail “El Renacer” and will be put under house arrest, but the best kept secret is when it will be effective. His lawyer, Ezra Angel, told the local and international press that the measure of keeping secret the day of Noriega’s transfer is due to security reasons. He is to undergo an operation for a brain tumor.

No more price control

Business guilds are still evaluating the possibility of filing a lawsuit to abolish the government’s price control on food. According to traders, this measure was initially introduced (in July 2014) as a temporary one, and the government has decided to extend it indefinitely.

The Panama’s bank system connection

The Panamanian banking system was used by companies linked to the Odebrecht construction group for the transfer of $59 million from Swiss banks accounts. The Swiss authorities asked the Panamanian Attorney General’s Office to investigate these accounts in Panama. As part of the findings in Switzerland, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has identified bank accounts in the name of Constructora Internacional del Sur in two Panamanian banks.

Frozen assets

Through a statement, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, sons of former President Ricardo Martinelli said that they are meeting, through their lawyers, all requests for information about their accounts made by the Swiss authorities. This comes after local media reported Switzerland had frozen $22 million in bank accounts belonging to Martinelli’s sons.

Organic coffee

More than 60 small producers in Los Santos received theoretical and practical training on the management of coffee plantations with little or no use of chemical products. Attendees were trained in soils use and mineral nutrients; disease and pest control; coffee production systems; social and environmental sustainability; biodiversity in coffee plantations and sustainable agroforestry management.

Terrorism report

The National Commission Against Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism and Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction presented to the press and the private sector of the country, the report called: “Risk Assessment of Panama for the Prevention of Money Laundering and The Financing of Terrorism”, which identifies and classifies economic activities as low, medium or high risk for money laundering.

In limbo

The investigation of the “Panama Papers” will be suspended temporarily, said the Attorney General, Kenia Porcell, after explaining that the decision is due to the presentation of a request of constitutional guarantees. “At the moment the investigation is going to have to be suspended, because the First Superior Court of Justice technically has taken away the investigation and I say so because, before the presentation of a request (not clarified by whom) has ordered the suspension of the enquiries and asked to return the original files,” said the Attorney General during a press conference.

Good results

Panama’s economy grew 4.4% between January and November 2016, revealed the Monthly Economic Activity Index (IMAE) of the Comptroller’s Office. According to the official report, during this period the trade, transport, storage and communications, banking, agriculture and construction sector showed favorable behavior. The electricity and water services, hotels and restaurants and the exploitation of mines and quarries also showed good results.

Bad grade

For the fourth time in the past eight months, President Juan Carlos Varela’s administration has obtained bad results with less than 40% of those consulted being happy with his performance. This is the result of the latest Dichter & Neira survey, published recently, in which the president’s approval fell from 41% to 37% compared to December.

High interest rates

The increase in the interest rate loan, that some banks have announced, may further slow the economy, experts say. Economist Augusto Garcia said that this measure could affect the Panamanians expending power and, therefore, will find difficult to obtain personal and mortgage loans.

Brazilian luck

More than $9 billion in contracts were awarded between 2006 and 2016 to Brazilian construction company Norberto Odebrecht in Panama, which also benefitted its partners and subcontractors, who are now suspected of involvement in the bribery scheme. There are open investigations in Brazil, USA and Switzerland. Only on line 1 of the Panama Metro, which was tendered in 2010 for a total of $1,452 million, Odebrecht had 55% participation, the Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, SA (45%) and the French company Alstom which supplied the carriages (5%).

Isthmian Update January 31: Depressed exports

Exports of Panamanian goods fell for the third consecutive year in 2016, according to statistics compiled by the Comptroller’s Office. Official figures showed that exports of goods decreased by 9.1% in the period between January to November 2016, compared with the same period of the previous year. Export in 2014 exports fell 3.4% and in 2015 decreased by 12.2%.

Promoting Panama

Some 22 companies and experts from the Destination Marketing Organization of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) join force to attract the largest number of clients possible to the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) which will take place in Madrid- Spain from January 18. In the first four days of the fair Panama has managed to arrange 450 appointments with travel agencies in Spain, Russia, Portugal, Argentina, Poland, and Lithuania, among others, that have shown interest in promoting Panama as a leisure and pleasure destination.

Russian trouble

The construction of the new embassy of the Russian Federation in Panama, located in the residential area of Albrook, remains in the eye of a storm, as this monumental work goes ahead despite several lawsuits that have been filed against the company Remstroy Alekss, for allegedly not having construction permits, operating permits and as well as dozens of Russian citizens working without work permits.

Too many foreign students

The entry of students of other nationalities into the education system could become a heavy burden, said Diógenes Sánchez, secretary general of the Panama Association of Teachers (Asoprof). The teacher leader said that the most notorious problem is overcrowding in the classrooms.

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