There is an old saying that the government and its deputies should keep in mind in their rush to sell the Colon Free Zone lands – “If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.”
The free zone has been working very well for many years as a great source of employment and income for the city of Colon.
It is also the envy of many other regional free zones, particularly Miami, that is right now embarked on a scheme to make itself the “Trading Hub of the Americas” (See The Bulletin, October 8).
Purportedly the reason for the rush to sell the free zone land is to fill a $400 million hole in the national budget. But there are too many unanswered questions, such as why 76% of the proceeds would go to infrastructure projects in other parts of the country that are of no benefit to Colon. Another is who will be the new landlords of the Colon Free Zone?
The government of President Guillermo Endara was given the perfect solution to recover Colon’s one-time glory as the “Gold Coast” by turning the whole town into a free port. In what was otherwise one of the country’s best governments, Endara turned it down with a veto, obviously under pressure from vested interests? No succeeding government has had the foresight to revive a plan that would solve many of Colon’s problems.
Now an administration that prides itself on being “a government of change” is tinkering with one of the country´s most solid and working economic hubs.
Only time will tell whether Miami and other competitors have the last laugh at Panama trying to fix something that ain’t broke.
This post is also available in: Spanish