Week in Review March 22

COMEBACK

After a well-known bad year, Panamanian ports began 2017 with a strong expansion in their economic activity, according to statistics from the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP). According to figures from the AMP, the movement of TEUs (29 ft container equivalents) grew 17.5% in January 2017. In this first month, the ports moved 597,000 containers, up from 508,000 in January 2016.

PUSH ‘N PULL

The pilots, deck officers and engineers of the Panama Canal and the administration of the waterway are facing off in a dispute that seems to have no truce. After accusations and denials by both parties, the organizations that reunite the captains, deck officers and marine engineers of the canal reiterated that there are plans to privatize the tugboat service that operates on the interoceanic route.

NEW RECORD

The Panama Canal set a new record in February, the third consecutive one, reaching “a daily average of 1.18 million tons of the Canal (CP/SUAB) system, with the transit of 1,180 vessels,” said the administration of the waterway. Last February was the third consecutive month of records, since in December and prior to January, the Canal reached tonnage records in a month after registering 35.4 million (1.14 million per day) and 36.1 million CP/SUAB tonnes, respectively, according to the official data.

EXPOCOMER

This year, from March 22 to 25, the thirty-fifth version of Expocomer will take place, which will have more than 14,000 square meters for exhibition and will have the participation of more than 650 companies representing 37 countries, distributed in more than 850 exhibition modules. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, organizer of the event, Expocomer seeks to promote trade and industry as the ideal event for the presentation of new products and services.

FUNNY FUNDS

About $14 million has been processed by the National Assembly in an estimated 4,000 collection procedures, from July 2014 to date, for donations, subsidies and economic support. Most of these grants do not come from natural persons, but from non-profit associations, many of them linked to deputies, as well as municipalities, communal boards and private interest functions. Much of the $14 million does not seem to have reached its final recipients, The daily newspaper La Prensa obtained testimony from several alleged beneficiaries of the financial aid, and all agreed that they received checks offered by the assembly then changed them at the National Bank of Panama, but only received a fraction of the total cash amount. The assembly has another formula to manage money whose point of ending is unknown. It is the combination of donations with the issuance of contracts for professional services. There have been $68 million in various contracts for professional services (from July 2014 to December 31, 2016). As with donations, much of the contract money does not reach its final recipient. A structured method in the assembly gave the deputies a numeric code, in order to keep their identity secret when withdrawing checks with the donations. After a meeting between different groups, five auditors from the Comptroller’s Office met at the assembly. The audits contemplated by this team will be made on the donations and payments of contracts for professional services. The assembly has lost sight of its main functions, assuming the role of the Judicial Branch and the Comptroller General. Several sectors were evaluated in view of the decision to form a commission to investigate the infrastructure contracts of the last three constitutional government periods and to appoint three of its members to examine the administrative processes for the management of community donations and support.

TRADE STALL

Colombia requested the World Trade Organization (WTO) to have a compliance panel verify if it complied with the ruling favorable to Panama over a dispute of a mixed tariff imposed by the South American country on the import of textiles and footwear. It has been 45 months since the trade dispute between Panama and Colombia started (June 2013) and the situation has not yet been resolved. Usha Mayani, president of the Colon Free Zone Users’ Association, said that they hoped that the situation would have been resolved by now.

WOOD SALES

The export of wood, especially teak, is an activity that has been growing in Panama. In the past year, 3,500 containers were exported and about 5,000 are expected by 2017, which generates economic income to the order of $20 million. Darío Gordón, National Director of Plant Protection at the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) said that, according to the National Association of Reforesters and Allied Products of Panama (Anarap), Panama will become the leading exporter of timber in Central America and the second of Latin America, after Ecuador.

MINING POWER

Petaquilla Minerals copper mine will sell energy to the State. The copper project will pay 2% of its net turnover to the Panamanian State. The Ministry of Government is analyzing the future of the Petaquilla Minerals concession, which was paralyzed in the extraction of gold at the end of 2013 due to lack of funds. The mining company, First Quantum, is advancing in its project to extract copper, also in the district of Donoso province of Colon.

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