Isthmian Update March 3rd

Answer the question

Isthmian Update March 3rd. A federal prosecutor of a European country is investigating the Martinelli Linares brothers for alleged money laundering. Evelin Vargas Reynaga, who was a lawyer for the brothers – Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, sons of former president Ricardo Martinelli – answered a questionnaire sent to her by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating her former clients for allegedly receiving bribes from Odebrecht. Staff of the Attorney General’s Office recently raided the offices of Vargas and the Martinelli brothers.

It wasn’t me

The judicial authorities have not only taken care of protecting those close to the government in the Odebrecht case, but have also sought to distort a dossier provided by the Swiss authorities. After the security minister, Alexis Bethancourt, filed a complaint which only mentioned ex-officials and political enemies, the entity in charge of providing justice decided to investigate the lawyer Evelyn Vargas, and her relationship with the company Promotora y Desarrollo Los Andes SA.

At long last

The Amador Causeway road improvement and expansion project is almost completed. The works are being carried out by the Panamanian construction company Ininco, whose contractual delivery date is February 28. The work, which cost $67.3 million, has some minor works to finish like gardening, landscaping and electricity, among others, reported the Ministry of Public Works. The road is already completed.

More funding

Tocumen, S.A., will return to capital markets this year to obtain the funds it needs to continue the Air Terminal upgrade plan. Preliminary figures indicate that the airport will need $150 million. In May 2016, Tocumen launched a second bond issue for $625 million, but the inclusion of Waked International on the Clinton List of the Office of Asset Control in the United States, one of the largest concessionaires of the airport, slowed down investors.

Visiting the girls

Former general, Manuel Antonio Noriega, received the approval of the judge of compliance of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, Roberto Sánchez, to be moved temporarily from his residence. In this way, the former strongman of Panama will be transferred from the house of his daughter, Sandra Noriega, to the residence of another of his daughters, Lorena Noriega. A press release from the Judicial Branch states that the change of residence is due to Sandra being in Colombia from Friday, February 24 to March 5, 2017, participating in an “ordinary congress”, of which no further details were given.

High insecurity

Although President Juan Carlos Varela has announced the coordination with various security levels to reduce crime rates, the public does not believe that will improve security in the country. This is the main concern of the Panamanian people, and according to the latest Dichter & Neira survey, 82% of citizens think that insecurity will continue.

An eye for an eye

With great concern, Colombian businessmen see the measure taken by the Panamanian government to increase import tariffs on some products from countries where a commercial agreements are not in force. The Cabinet approved increasing import tariffs on items such as coffee, wood board, paper towels, aluminum profiles and certain wires and cables, which would come into effect on March 15 and add to the Executive Decree that increased significantly the temporary tariff on importing flowers, mineral coal, cement without pulverizing or “clinker” and garments.

Get over it

Colombia and Panama have been facing off since June, 2013, over a mixed duty made by Colombia on the import of footwear and textiles from the Colón Free Zone. Now Panamanian and Colombian business associations sent a message to the authorities of both countries to find a definitive solution to the trade dispute that has been affecting them for more than three years and that continues to affect trade between the two countries.

Taiwanese training

Through three scholarship programs to study various careers, the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) will train countless Panamanians, who will be selected in contests this year. Panamanian students will be able to choose from business administration, communication, IT, logistics to tropical agriculture, among other careers. There are more than 31 English language courses, two doctorates, 21 master’s degrees and eight undergraduate degrees taught in 20 Taiwanese universities.

Natural Gas Plant is advancing

With an investment of $1,150 million and a 30% advance, the AES Colón Natural Gas Plant is progressing well, after work began on Telfers Island in May 2016. The multi-million dollar investment includes the generation plant, a re-gasifier, a gas storage tank, a dock, and a truck loading station for liquefied natural gas distribution.

Controlling the media

The National Council of Journalists (CNP), the Journalists’ Forum and the Panamanian Broadcasting Association (APR) rejected a draft bill presented at the National Assembly, which they claim is intended to regulate editorial content of the media, veto the profession and commercial spots. This new initiative adds to others that “have tried to control the freedom of the press in Panama”, said the organisations.

New flight to Cartagena

The low-cost airline Wingo, of Copa Holding Company, opened recently its flight between the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias and Panama City. “It just landed the first plane of our new route Cartagena – Panama! All thanks to you,” the company shared on its Twitter account.

Isthmian Update March 3rd: Give them a chance

“In Panama there is a lot of talent, but entrepreneurs need more opportunities and we want to give this to them,” said the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture Panama-Israel, Ilán Shatz, who has companies in Panama and has been living in our country for seven years and believes in Panamanian talent.

Back to school

More than 3,300 new teachers joined this school year 2017 in the educational system, confirmed by the Minister of Education, Marcela Paredes. According to the head of education system, 1,086 schools were repaired throughout the country, which represents 70% of schools that have been refurbished. Maintenance and repair were supported by government and private companies.

Social divide

“Inequality is an issue throughout the region, but in the Panamanian case, a solution must be found,” said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in an exclusive interview with the daily La Estrella de Panama. To address the problem of inequality, Bárcena argues that it is important to control inflation and boost employment. “Inflation control allows people to have better access to buy food at lower prices in general, and employment is the key to closing gaps in inequality,” said ECLAC’s executive secretary.

Unjustified increases

Property developers keep hiking property prices and the Authority of Protection to the Consumer and Defense of the Competition (Acodeco) received hundred of consumer complaints about this problem. It is calculated that all the increases put together amounted a total value of $1,408,105. The entity said that it verified a total of $ $2,046,548 recorded as increases due to the increase in prices of construction materials, according to property developers, but only $638,443 were justified, a figure that represents 32% of the rises.

Private school donations

The National Union of Private Educational Centers (Uncep) reiterates that there are regulations that clearly establish that private schools that carry out activities such as “tied up sales” or request for inputs not linked to learning can be subject to penalties of up to $25,000, said Katya Echeverría, vice president of the guild.

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