Week in Review March 6


Panama will outperform Chile as a result of greater economic growth, but the measure does not reflect persistent inequalities. Panama will be the country with the highest GDP per capita measured by purchasing power parity in Latin America in 2018. This is the projection made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Taken into account are the calculations that point to Panama as the fastest growing economy.


An improvement in the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean and in international trade would support Panamanian growth. The global situation and dependence of the Panamanian economy for its foreign trade – mainly due to its impact on port activities, that of the Colon Free Zone and the Panama Canal – slowed the expected growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) during 2016.


Users of the Colon Free Zone indicate that amid the challenges they face is the good news that the business model of the commercial emporium is not exhausted and that it has the capacity to continue growing, according to one of the findings of the study by one of the consultants, Bain, which has not yet been presented in its entirety.


Panama and Colombia, far from finding a solution to the commercial problems generated by the imposition of tariffs by Colombia, take up the problem and go again to the World Trade Organization (WTO) although the body’s decisions have not been decisive in the conflict. The two countries have been facing off since June, 2013, over a mixed duty made by Colombia on the import of footwear and textiles from the Colon Free Zone. However, now both Panamanian and Colombian business associations have sent a message to the authorities of both countries to find a definitive solution to the trade dispute that continues to affect trade between the two countries.


With an investment of $1,150 million and a 30% advance, the AES Colón Natural Gas Plant is maintained, after work began on Telfers Island in May 2016. The multi-million dollar investment includes the generation plant, a regasifier, a gas storage tank, a dock, and a truck loading station for liquefied natural gas distribution.


The Cabinet approved a Bill which seeks to increase fines on companies or businesses that continue to hire foreign workers without work permits. The Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) reports that with this Bill the fines are modified. That is, they will be greater and progressive. Through a statement, Mitradel notes that the first time the fine will be $500, the second time $1,000 for each foreign worker without the respective work permit, while the third time the fine is fixed at $10,000 without considering the number of foreign workers .


Male parents of newborns within a marriage or family union may be permitted time with their babies. The proposal would be presented to the National Assembly by Sulphy Santamaria, Minister-in-charge of Labor. The project establishes that all the parents of newly born children enjoy five free calendar days, from the mother’s date of birth.


Professional guilds and the Minister of Public Works (MOP) will coordinate how the auditing evaluation of infrastructure works will be done. They will start with the Coastal Strip 3. Civil society activists asked the Comptroller, Federico Humbert, to audit the works questioned for corruption scandals, especially those done by Odebrecht, and not to make an “evaluation”, as was proposed.


The lawyer who created companies allegedly for Ricardo Martinelli’s sons to receive bribes, arrived in Panama from Mexico. Evelyn Vegas Reynaga, who was detained, is the lawyer who managed companies that, according to Swiss prosecutors, served to deposit millions of dollars for the Martinelli Linares brothers, that allegedly corresponds to Odebrecht bribes. The lawyer was detained by the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. The Attorney General’s Office raided the offices of Vargas and the Martinelli brothers.


For the second time since he was extradited in January, Colombian-Panamanian businessman, Nidal Waked Hatum, failed to persuade a federal judge in Miami to release him on bail, so he can be with family members while his case unfolds on money laundering, the Miami Herald reported. The trial will start on October 30, according to information published in El Nuevo Herald. Nidal was arrested on May 4 in Colombia and on January 19 of this year was extradited to the US. Frank Tamen, the prosecutor assigned to the case, told the court that the government needs 10 days to file its case against Nidal. The defense claims that it will take two to three weeks to present its evidence.


The call by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, beyond being seen as favorable, must be observed with great suspicion. Political scientist Richard Morales, also warned that Trump could be looking for an approach with the Panamanian president to achieve something favorable to his (Trump’s) management with Latin America.

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