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VOL. 15 #4 -- Jan/ Ene 23 - 29, 2009
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IsthmianUpdate

Some of the news in Panama

Urged to protect Coiba
Conservation groups and supporters of the Coiba National Park called on president Martin Torrijos to fulfill his promise and return the exclusion zone in the Pacific, which prohibits the use of purse seine fishing nets for catching tuna. On June 30 through a law on maritime trade, the National Assembly repealed Article 11 of Law 44 of July 2004, better known as the Coiba Act, which created the exclusion zone.

Ship tracking system in place
The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) implemented the System of Distance Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRIT), which reveal at any time the location of the 8,000 ships in the Panamanian registry. Following a tender in which four companies were checked by the evaluating committee, the contract was awarded to awarded to Absolute Maritime Tracking Services Inc. for a total of US $11.2 million.

Bankers urge recovery plan
The Panama Banking Association (ABP) proposed that the government start “as soon as possible” an economic recovery program through the National Bank of Panama and banks operating in the banking center. “This means that the State boost the economy through local banks to provide loans in sectors that generate jobs and wealth for the country,” said the new president of the ABP, Moises Cohen, in his inauguration speech. He also said that the banks operating in Panama have shown strength, thanks to policiesthat have always been conservative. Because of this, at present the banks are not suffering a crisis as big as the one in Europe and the United States.

Low cost housing help
The enactment of the law that grants mortgage subsidies to borrowers from the Banco Hipotecario Nacional (BHN) will benefit about 100,000 Panamanian families in the districts of San Miguelito, Panama, Arraijan, Chiriqui and Veraguas, it was reported by spokesmen for the Legislature. The bill seeks to do justice to this group of citizens who for over 25 years have paid up to US $25,000.00 for housing originally valued at US $5,000.00.

South Korea trade
The ambassador of South Korea, Kim Gwang Keun, met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade, Severo Sousa, to strengthen trade between the two nations and “explore approaches to reach a free trade agreement,” it was reported by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

New buses “Stupid”
Former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares described as a “Ñañeria” (stupidity) that drives President Martin Torrijos to promote the Transmóvil public transport project. Perez Balladares, who was in favor of a light rail system, justified his comments because the capital city does not have adequate highways for moving the new bus units.

Electricity tariff accusation
The Panama Union of Industrialists (SIP) criticized the government for not having made a significant reduction in the electricity tariff. In a communiqué, the industrialists said that it is not true that there has been a decrease in the amount charged and that the impression of a lower cost is not correct.

Tico bank offering
The Popular and Community Development Bank of Costa Rica plans to make an equity offering of between US $30 million and US $40 million on the Panama Stock Exchange. The bank manager, Gerardo Porras, informed the press that Costa Rica is in the registration process and opted for the Panamanian market because it offers greater opportunities.

Objections to cell phone towers
While the company Digicel, S.A. is offering cell phone service throughout the country, protests against the installation of antennas by Desarrollos Inmobiliarios Internacionales S. A. (Claro Panamá), continue to generate concern and inconvenience for the residents of the suburbs of Altos de Romeral, and Villa Lucre and Villa Zaíta. Several communities have rejected the installation of cellular antennas near their residential neighborhoods. This week, the Ombudsman admitted two new complaints about the installation of communication equipment. The residents of Villa Zaiter in the district of Summit, brought a complaint to the regional office in San Miguelito about installation of a cellular antenna in a field near their homes.

Gambling profits soar
The growth to a level of more than half a million tourists, coupled with the high occupancy of hotels, has resulted in 11% growth in gambling during the past year, said Antonio Alfaro, president of the Association of Gaming Administrators (ASAJA). He added that once all taxes are paid to the Panamanian State, net earnings for the casinos could reach US $285 million.

Milk production down
The production of grade pasteurized milk shows no sign of recovery. From January to November 2008, production decreased by 9.2% to a record low of 57.8 million liters of milk according to the monthly indicators of the Comptroller’s Office. The figures show a fall of 5.8 million liters less when compared with the 63.6 million gallons produced in the same period of 2007.

Ports continue growth
Despite the world financial crisis that has negatively affected international trade, Panamanian ports continued to thrive in 2008, according to official reports by the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP). Reports published by La Prensa , from January to November, 2008, Panamanian ports moved 4.3 millions TEUs, up 300,000 TEUs over the total moved in the entire year in 2007.

Red hot Virgin
Virgin Atlantic, one of the world’s leading long-haul airlines, has unveiled a £ Sterling 6 million campaign to beat off the credit crunch blues highlighting why it’s still “red hot” after 25 years of flying.

Jazz Festival
The 2009 Panama Jazz Festival was held on the stage of the National Theater, with the big gala night in the Anayansi Theater and the Cathedral Square, where it was free. This first class cultural event was organized by Danilo Perez with the support of the Panama City Mayor’s Office and the private enterprise sector with national and international guests such as Cuban Dionisio Jesus “Chucho” Valdés, saxophonist Wayne Shorts, as well as the acclaimed bass player John Patitucci.

In addition, the event featured musical clinics established by the prestigious colleges Berkley School of Music of the New England Conservatory, the Golandsky Piano Institute and the Conservatory of Puerto Rico, institutions that have turned to Panama in Latin America as an auditorium for conducting hearings that will identify future stars of the music world, stressed Danilo Perez. More than 12,000 people enjoyed the event that presented over 60 national and international artists.

Candidates disinterested
Presidential candidates were slammed by political and civic leaders who described as disregard and lack of interest that the three presidential candidates did not attend the presentation of public policy proposals developed by the Foundation for Economic and Social Development of Panama (Fudespa). Ricardo Martinelli, Balbina Herrera and Guillermo Endara were notably absent from the signing ceremony of a document that proposes more than 200 specific actions to solve the problems of public transport, security, education, poverty and energy in the country. So far, no candidate has submitted proposals to govern. The Foundation raised a new challenge to the presidential candidates: to create the Ministry of Public Security

Cervical cancer vaccination
A total of 17,629 girls aged 10 received the first dose of the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which prevents cervical cancer. The National Immunization Schedule of the Ministry of Health (MOH) began the program in October last year, and to date there have been 22,000 doses of the vaccine against HPV given.

Civic leaders sue National Assembly
Several legal cases against the National Assembly were brought a group of civic associations for its refusal to discuss, approve or reject the security decree laws created by the executive with extraordinary powers. The civic organizations alleged that the measures adopted could lead to militarization of the security forces. Angelica Maytín, president of the Transparency International Chapter of Panama reported that the courts are assessing the measures taken because of the negligence of the Assembly on the theme.

Northern Europe promotion
A Panamanian delegation of businessmen and the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) promoted Panama in Europe as a tourist destination. They attended the Norway Reiseliv fair, the Matka (Finland) and Vakantie (Netherlands).

French bank exits
The global financial crisis is already having an impact on the local market, which is preparing to give a premature farewell to Natixis Bank, the number four of France, with just over a year since it began operations in Panama. The decision was reported by the Superintendence of Banks late last month and is “completely linked to the international crisis,” according to the Panamanian branch manager, Pierre Téreygeol.

Gasoline prices
The gallon of gasoline rose by US $0.25 last Saturday, while diesel rose by US $0.20. The new price caps will govern until January 30, with a gallon of gasoline of 91 and 95 octane costing US $2.08 and US $2.22 dollars, respectively. Meanwhile, light diesel will be at US $2.10 and improved diesel at US $2.13.

Noriega may appeal
John May, one of the lawyers of Manuel Antonio Noriega, said last week that if the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of the former dictator to block his extradition to France, his lawyers will take the case to the US Supreme Court and also appeal to Hillary Clinton, the newly appointed Secretary of State in the government of Barack Obama.

Inflation 8.7 percent
Inflation in Panama in 2008 was at 8.7% it was reported by the Comptroller’s Office, with the publication of the consumer price index (CPI) for the last month of the year. That was double the rate recorded in 2007, which was of 4.2%.

Social Security payroll up
The Social Security Fund (CSS) will spend about 22% of its 2009 budget to pay a payroll of US $413.7 million, or an additional US $24 million over 2008. This figure will increase by US $10.5 million if the institution agrees with the administrative employees today to give a pay rise of US $60 and an annual bonus of US $200 in exchange for suspending their work stoppage.

Tourism appointments
President Martin Torrijos appointed the four private sector representatives who will sit on the National Council of Tourism. Jaime Campuzano of the Chamber of Tourism of Panama, Ernesto Reyna of the Panamanian Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies will serve on the National Council over the next five years and.Gloria Velásquez Clavel, of the Association of Airlines in Panama, and Sarah Brown, of the Panamanian Association of Hotels. will be on the council for three years.

Presidents discuss drugs
To address the problem of drug trafficking, the presidents of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe; Guatemala, Alvaro Colon; México, Felipe Calderón, and Martin Torrijos of Panama, met at the Playa Blanca Hotel in Panama.

Higher crime penalties
President Martin Torrijos passed the bill that amends the Criminal and Judicial Codes. The new law increases penalties for illegal possession of firearms, damage caused by public servants, theft from tourists and money laundering. There are also changes to the Judicial Code on crimes referred to obtaining bail for release

Banana problems continue
For five years the government has been financing the Multiple Services Cooperative of Puerto Armuelles (Coosemupar), a private organization on which it has spent more than US $16 million and can still not solve its problems. Today, nearly five months after Coosemupar had its operations paralyzed there are 3,200 hectares of bananas totally deteriorated, a daily newspaper reported.

Bank profits hit a high
The profits of the national banking system for the first time exceeded one billion US dollars at the close of November 2008. With just one month to complete the year, the banks reported earnings per thousand to US $1.050.5 million.

Fenosa for sale
The National Authority of Public Services (ASEP) reported that it closely follows the procurement process, through which the electricity company Union Fenosa will sell all its assets to the Natural Gas Company, also of Spain, for US $25 billion. This transaction is scheduled to be completed in February.

FBI recovers Panamanian artifacts
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) yesterday handed over to Panama 100 pre-Columbian ceramic pots of the XII and XVI centuries stolen in this country and discovered in the United States. The pots, discovered during an investigation by the FBI in Portland (Oregon), comprise of a series of pieces of pottery and gold jewelry that experts have dated as from between the years 1100 and 1500 AD.


High marks for Panama


Budget Travel has made their top ten list for '09 and Panama is on it!

Panama has been rated as one of the top ten destinations for 2009 by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine and website (www.budgettravel.com). Budget Travel, which offers travel guides, travel tips, and advice on trip planning, restaurant recommendations and city guides, calls Panama one of”the best value hotspots for the New Year.”

The report states that Panama must be seen in 2009 because: “Panama has led tourism growth in Central and South American countries for two years running, posting back-to-back 20 and 30 percent gains in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Last year, the country surpassed the one-million-visitors mark, welcoming 1.2 million leisure travelers. That’s about how popular Costa Rica was in 1999—before it emerged as a solidly mainstream destination. Compared with Costa Rica, Panama has more animal species and a larger amount of preserved terrain filled with colorful macaws, monkeys, and endangered shore birds.”

Attractions like the Jazz Festival and Carnavales in Las Tablas are noted as well as tips on how to save on hotels. The list also includes Hawaii, Cambodia and Berlin.


Expat author's steamy Bocas
mystery now in paperback

By Jacob Ehrler


Author Cindy Cody is an
original expat. She transmits
the Panama gives experience
to her readers.

So you wake up in Panama one morning and think you’ve gone bananas! Sounds like something that could have happened to most of us “expats” living down here – and more than once. But all readers will have the chance to do so with the second release of expat author Cindy Cody’s book “Banana Bay” in paperback. Set in Panama, the adventure-comedy-drama novel tells the adventures of a perky blond insurance investigator from the northeast.

Like Cindy, the main character in the book hails from Boston. Matti Maitlin is torn between two lovers and thrust into a million dollar insurance scandal set in Bocas del Toro, where Cody guides her character through a windy mystery which is both intriguing and personal. Depending on how “Panamanianized” each reader is, one will enjoy identifying with, analyzing or learning from the cultural innuendos and endless local details which give this fun book its unique flavor.


Cindy Cody's Boston best-seller
"Banana Bay" is now available in
paperback. The comedic thriller
drama is set in Bocas del Toro
and the book is full of details
about the banana industry, the
Bocas province and Panama.
It is an entertaining read for
those who are getting to know
the country as well as those
who know it well.

Cindy, who became an expat at age 30 by buying two one-way tickets to Paris with her husband, traveled the world and ended up in Panama in 1994. There, she rolled up her sleeves and dug in deep, interviewing new friends about the local banana industry. Matti’s character takes a bit from herself, admits Cindy: “Like me, she speaks Spanish and English, loves to travel and is attracted to handsome men of all nationalities.” The book does get a bit steamy.

The book was originally released in 2004 only available in hardback and became a "local author best-seller" in Boston. Other books by Cindy Cody include the comedic “Hubba Bubba” (2008) about a wealthy but unhappy New York venture capitalist who attempts to escape his old life and winds up on a hotel boat on a Caribbean island. Cindy now lives in Boquete with her husband and two dogs.

“Banana Bay” in its new paperback version is on sale for $14.99 at Gran Morrison on Via España, Hombre de la Mancha (Airport and Albrook), Exedra Books, and in Chiriqui at Bookmark in the town of Dolega. All of Cindy’s books are also available at www.amazon.com and direct links for purchase available at www.cindycody.com as well as more information about the author and her books.


Pedasi group unites big players


Jesse Levin organized
the meeting.

The Pedasi Foundation held its first meeting this past Friday the 16th at the Miramar hotel in Panama. A group of international and domestic investors,environmental conversationalists and “green” development specialists were present.

The organization pledged to address community development issues ranging from the betterment of health services to the implementation of a private charter flight initiative to stimulate tourism in the region. Additionally, the foundation will work to preserve the unique culture and traditions of the region through empowering the local community to be an integral part of the development process. More information is available at www.pedasi.org


From left right to left / de izquierda a derecha: Jon Hanna (Blackberry in hand),
Robert Shapiero, Niel Herman, Steven Muller, Roy Sternberger, Joel Jelderks,
Luigui Mantovani, Annette Clement, Julio Clement, Maudy Bom, DanMoreinis,
Leor Feder.


From left to right, front row / de izquierda a derecha, adelante: Alan
Morrison, unknown, Luis Borrell, Ursula Kiener, Ovidio Díaz, Donnie
Estrada, Lori Fair and Betsy Hooper


 

 
 
 
 
 




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