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Assembly repealed Article 11 of Law 44 of July 2004, better known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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.