Week in Review December 31

TRANSITS UP

Some 500 transits were registered in the expanded Panama Canal up until last week, amid a decrease of revenues from fewer transits of smaller ships. According to figures from the Comptroller’s Office, up until October, there was a 6.8% decrease in the transit of ships through the Panama Canal and $51 million less in tolls compared to the same period of the previous year.

PAID UP

Panama Canal Authority (GPA) administrator, Jorge Quijano, said that “all contracts” of the expansion “have been closed and claims paid”, with the exception of the new locks, in charge of the consortium GUPC, led by Sacyr, whose resolution is in the hands of third parties. The last complaint settled, bilaterally, on an unspecified date, was one of the consortium made up of Spain’s FCC, the Mexican ICA and Costa Rican company Meco, which settled for “11 million dollars” compared to the “$41 million” requested by the companies”, said Quijano in an interview with Acan-Efe in his office in the building of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

AMP GIVES TOUR

The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) organized a technical visit to the area where the cruise terminal of Amador is planned to be built. Jorge Barakat Pitty, administrator of the AMP, explained that with these visits the interested bidders know the technical and economic conditions that they must consider to present an offer consistent with the requirements that appear in the sheet. Based on this, some of the salient aspects to be fulfilled were highlighted, such as the harmonization of the work with the environment.

AMP LANDLORD

The cruise terminal to be built on the island of Perico on the Amador causeway will be operated by the State, it was said by the administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), Jorge Barakat. Originally it was planned to tender a concession for a private operator to manage the infrastructure, but the official said that the biggest cruise operators suggested to the government that the operation be done by the State.

FAIR RETURNS

International fairs have become a spearhead for Panamanian companies. This year, some 145 companies, supported by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, participated in the Seafood International in Brussels, Intermodal South America, Posidonia Fair in Greece, Fivah, Seafood Expo in North America and Food Taipei, SCAJ Japan 2016, among others. As a result of these meetings, businesses are estimated to have earned over $55 million in 2016, said Vice Foreign Commerce Minister, Néstor González.

PRESS DANGER

The newspaper “La Estrella de Panamá”, the oldest in the country, with 167 years of publication, is being threatened to stop its press at midnight on January 5, 2017. On that date the term of the license granted by the Office of Asset Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department expires after the main shareholder of the Wisa group – which includes the newspapers “La Estrella de Panamá” and “El Siglo” was included on the “Clinton List” for allegedly acting against the US financial system.

LACK OF EVIDENCE

“The same American government has said that it has no evidence that this particular company has been involved in any illicit acts,” said the deputy and president of the Panamemista Party, José Luis “Popi” Varela, during a visit to Grupo Editorial El Siglo y La Estrella (GESE), 22 days before the expiration of the type 3 license – at 12:01 a.m., on January 6, 2017 – granted by the Office for the Control of Foreign Property (OFAC). Varela indicated that it is necessary to “defend” both media.

TRADE UNBALANCE

The Panama Industrialists Union (SIP) said that in the last 20 years Panama has signed more than 60 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which have reflected a growing deficit in trade in goods. By 2015, the value of exports of goods to the rest of the world, according to the Comptroller´s Office was roughly $695.7 million, while imports totaled $12 billion.

PLEA REFUSED

A second incident seeking the nullity of the investigation carried out by the Attorney General’s Office on the company Pele System, for alleged costs on a contract with the Panama Maritime Authority, was rejected by the Criminal Court. The appeal, filed by lawyer Miguel Batista, alleged that the prosecution exceeded the term for the investigation.

JOB SLOWDOWN

Recruitment plans for the first quarter of 2017 are modest, it was revealed by the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey. According to the result, 13% of employers expect an increase in their hiring levels, 5% anticipate a decrease, 79% expect to stay the same and 3% do not know. The Net Employment Expectancy (ENE) is + 8% once the seasonal adjustment has been made.

FINANCE POWER

To finance investment projects, including the third power line currently under construction, the State-owned transmission company, Empresa de Transmisión Eléctricas, S.A. (ETESA) will see its debt rise to $763.7 million by 2020. The financing comes from commitments with CAF (Latin American Development Bank), issuance of bonds and commercial loans, said Etesa manager, Iván Barria.

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