Week in Review October 19

Expensive education

The constant complaints about the high cost of private education has generated a great conflict between parents, school owners and the Legislative Organ. There are at least five bills proposing reforms that could affect the money families put aside for their children’s education. The new bills propose such things as tax incentives for parents; the expansion of the so called “Universal Scholarship”, only given to students who go to schools where the annual tuition is up to $1000 and the elimination of the donations schools demand from the parents.

Investment for CFZ

“It is important to know the amount of money necessary to implement a series of initiatives aiming to help the Colón Free Zone, to be able to exploit its potential”, was the advice of the former President of the Republic, Martin Torrijos. His statement came after the publication of a report on the free zones made by the Brazilian company BAIN Brasil Ltda..

Social Security Forum

Panama will host the World Social Security Forum from Monday 14 to Friday, November 18. The challenges and future of the social securitysystem will be analysed by more than one thousand experts from 155 countries. The event is organized by the Panama Social Security (CSS) and the Social Security International Association (AISS) and will be the biggest world meeting dedicated to professionals and administrators of the sector.

Profitable crop

Planting oil palms is very profitable for farmers who can obtain a revenue of more than 47%, according to the Ministry of Agriculture Development figures. In the Chiriqui province alone there are 23,000 hectares dedicated to this crop; the rest are distributed in the provinces of Colón, Bocas del Toro, Darién, Veraguas, Los Santos and Chepo, Panama East, generating more than 10,000 jobs.

Security Conference

Recently a delegation led by the Panamanian Deputy Minister of Public Security, Jonattan Del Rosario went to the XII Security and Defense of the Americas Ministers Conference (CDMA) which took place in Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting was called and presided over by Frances Forbes, CARIPE Community Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM – IMPACS) with the support of the United Nations Program for Development, to assess the feasibility of organizing an International Conference in Panama, whose main topic will be ways to stop terrorism and the adoption of  a regional strategy to prevent and deter this scourge in  Latin America and the Caribbean.

Saving El Siglo Group

The Foreign Affairs Minister and Vice-president of the Republic, Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, said the Government is trying to find a solution to solve the problem of Grupo Editorial El Siglo y La Estrella (GESE), which could be closed at the end of the year. Its main shareholder, Abdul Waked, was included on the ‘Clinton List’ of the U.S. State Department after he was accused of money laundering, although nothing was proven. Saint Malo had a meeting with the Editorial Council of the newspapers to discuss the matter.

Cargo movement

Panama Ports Company (PPC), administrator of the Balboa and Cristobal ports, handled more than 280,000 tons of cargo up to October of this year. To achieve this, the company invested more than $5 million in equipment and infrastructure.

Bill to protect patients

A bill to regulate clinics, medical centers or health facilities that perform plastic and reconstructive medical procedures and surgery, was presented in the National Assembly. According to the Revolutionary Democratic Party deputy, Edgardo Forero, the bill seeks to protect patients from unscrupulous people who carry out surgeries without having the proper qualifications. Many people have died after being treated by individuals posing as medical doctors.

Sexy classifieds

The Commission on Communication and Transport of the National Assembly approved on first debate a bill which bans classified sexual content in media advertisements, said a National Assembly statement. The initiative was proposed by substitute legislator, Agustín Sellhorn, who said many ads are “morally dubious, undermine moral standards and may cover up illegal activities or public health issues.”

Profitable expansion

In the first three months of operation, the Panama Canal’s third set of locks contributed more than 5% of the 330.7 million tons and $1,933.1 million in income from tolls recorded by the waterway. Preliminary figures showed that 238 neo-panamax ships, totaling 18.2 million tons, crossed through the new locks of Agua Clara and Cocolí between June 26 and September 30, the last day of the Canal’s fiscal year, 2016.

Lower growth

The lower growth of Panama was confirmed by international organizations. For the economy this translates into fewer jobs, reduced revenues, increase of informal workers, decrease in investment in social work and a dropin trade, according to the economist, Juan Jované. In the first half of this year the World Bank predicted that growth would be 6% for 2016 and 2017%, however this same body is now predicting a growth of only 5.6% this year.

24/7 CSI

The Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (IMELCF) will have to operate 24 hours with the introduction of the new accusatory penal system (SPA), but without the appropriate budget. Dr. Humberto Mas, director of IMELCF has said that the new system is more demanding in terms of management techniques, the use of chains of custody and expert guides. One situation that worries the director is the lack of staff. “We need more human resources to meet the 24 hours a day requirement”.

Shopping spree

The discount event known as Black Friday, will be held in Panama on Friday November 25, the same day as in the United States, where originally this tradition began. However, from 2017, it will be held in September. The decision to change the month was taken by the Panamanian Association of Shopping Centers (Apacecom), a new association that brings together 11 commercial centers, the main ones in the capital city and the one in Chitre, Herrera province and Santiago Mall in Veraguas province.

Total disconnection

Romulo Roux, general secretary of the Democratic Change Party (CD) said the government of Juan Carlos Varela is disconnected from the national reality. The opposition politician said Varela’s administration has not understood the needs of the people, such as security, employment, health and provision of basic services.

Good performance

Tocumen S.A., management seems to be good, according to a study commissioned by the Panama Institute of Corporate Governance (IGCP) to assess good practices in five state owned enterprises. Tocumen stands above the others (ENA Etesa, Idaan and the Panama Metro) when it comes to filing of documents with the Panama Stock Exchange (BVP). It is the only EPE that answered the BVP questionnaire, a requirement of the securities regulator.

Helping farmers

The need to expedite loans to farmers to avoid a slowdown in exports and improve the current agricultural legislation will be some of topics that will be analyzed in a National Dialogue for Agro, which seeks to find solutions that will be discussed in the Panama National Assembly, according to government sources. There will be 14 interprovincial discussion tables and the Dialogue will start on Friday, October 14 and finish on Monday, November 14. A national forum will take place on Friday, February 2017, in Divisa, right in the middle of the country.

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