Week in Review January 24

TOUCHÉ

The Panamanian government announced that it suspended the purchase of two vessels from the Colombian Navy for about $30 million because of a pending bilateral tariff dispute that was decided in favor of Panama by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The purchase of the vessels, agreed last October, “was suspended until we can resolve the trade dispute,” said the Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Augusto Arosemena, during the presentation of his management report for 2016.

PUFFING UP

Two claims before the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce presented by the consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) increased the amount of alleged overcharges in the construction of the third set of locks of the Panama Canal to $5,667,576,000. The figure claimed by GUPC is higher than the $5,250 million of the entire expansion project and exceeds by $2.555 million the amount of the original contract that was for $3,118 million.

LAW COSTS

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has invested $80.2 million in legal expenditures since 2007, as regards judicial support in the implementation of contracts, variations and consultations during the execution of the Panama Canal expansion project. This sum also includes the defense of claims in all instances that were approved to settle disputes with contractors.

BRIBE MYSTERY

In addition to the former director of Special Projects of the Ministry of Public Works, Carlos Ho, the Comptroller General of the Republic is auditing the accounts of a second person for the corruption allegations of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in Panama. The Comptroller, Federico Humbert, announced this process, but preferred to keep in reserve the names of the others involved. He also considered that the alleged bribes that the company paid to Panamanian officials exceeded $59 million, a figure that the construction company’s managers told US authorities.

ALL CLEAR

The development of complementary activities by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) such as a concession for the port of Corozal, is allowed by the constitutional title, in addition to the organic law. This was the response to a complaint filed by attorney Guillermo Cochez .

POWER CUT

The revenues from the sale of electricity from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) closed the 2016 fiscal year with $66.8 million, a decrease of 34.6 million if compared with the $101.4 million that was achieved from revenues in this business year for 2015.

FREE PORT

The technology platform to be used in Colón Free Port is 95% ready, said Panama’s Minister of Commerce and Industries (Mici), Augusto Arosemena. He added that this platform will connect with the National Immigration Service, the National Customs Authority and the Electoral Tribunal to determine what products can be bought by Panamanians and foreigners.

PANAMA BOOMS

Panama is the country with the highest economic growth in Latin America for the 21st century. It will also be one of the most dynamic in the medium term. A growth of between 5% and 5.5% is expected for the end of 2016, an amount not yet released. And by 2017, the institutions that make these kinds of projections point to an acceleration of growth.

TRADE DROP

The world economic situation, impacted by the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and lower-than-expected economic growth in the United States, caused a red spot in the activity of all ports of the country. This is revealed by the figures of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP). According to the numbers of the government agency, in the first ten months of last year, activity in the National Port System fell by 11.8%.

SHORT RESPITE

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department (OFAC) extended the operations license to Soho Mall until March 10, 2017. It was learned that General License No. 4E replaces in its “totality” licence N° 4D dated August 19, 2016.

SHAMEFUL

Faced with what she described as a “shameful submission of the government” for what may be a “modern form of colonialism”, the independent deputy, Ana Matilde Gómez, requested a full report on the outcome of official efforts aimed at safeguarding the operation of two important communication medias of the country. “It is not only the right to work, it is also the possibility of closing the circulation of the oldest newspaper in the country,” said Gómez about the problems of La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo, due to the consequences of sanctions under the “Clinton List” of the US Treasury Department.

MORE SUPPORT

The advisors to the Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives, Leah Campos of the Republican Party and Eric Jacobstein of the Democratic Party, met in Washington with the delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) that traveled to that city to “discuss issues of freedom of the press” among which was included the situation of the newspapers El Siglo and La Estrella de Panamá. Eduardo Quirós, president of Grupo Editorial La Estrella and El Siglo (GESE) is part of the group that is scheduled to meet, in addition, with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza.

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