Week in Review
CANAL WORK ADVANCING
After five years of work at the end of May this year, the expansion program of the Panama Canal has an advance of 40%, says the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). The project design and construction for the third set of locks, the main contract program developed by the consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) has, on average, a 26% advance.
CFZ LAND SALE
Although the government announced in early July this year it would send to the National Assembly the new rents in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), businessmen still do not know what the new rates will be. The Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, announced in May that they are waiting for the valuation of land to produce the documents for the National Assembly when they begin regular sessions in July.
SHIP REPAIR HUB
Balboa Drydock, strategically located at the Pacific exit of the canal would become one of the key pieces in Panama to develop a logistics center for shipbuilding and repair for America. At least that’s the plan of the consortium MEC Shipyards, which made the best economic offer – $99.1 million – in the second round of bidding by the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) for a concession of 20 years.
POLITICAL SLIP UP
President Ricardo Martinelli was forced to withdraw a controversial bill from the National Assembly, including the naming of three judges to the “Fifth Chamber” of the Supreme Court, and end the special sittings of the assembly after violent clashes and widespread opposition across the country. The government remained true to its style and finished a marathon of surprises with the appointment of the three new judges. The winners were: the former vice-president in the government of Mireya Moscoso, Arturo Vallarino, now a member of the Democratic Change Party, the former candidate for deputy, Lilia Herrera of the Democratic Change Party and the hitherto vocal on the Public Procurement Tribunal Anabelle Padilla. Civil society and political groups responded by reiterating their opposition to the decision. In the same sitting, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, received boos from people in the gallery when presenting the bill to sell 49 percent of the shares held by the Government in the telephone company Cable & Wireless. “Out, out,” “crap” were some of the slogans shouted at the minister, while many turned their backs as he could still be heard clearly presenting the project to sell the shares. Some 30 national organizations then agreed to join in a united front to defend democracy against the government’s intention to approve the sale of the shares and ratify the judges.
The director in charge of the Budget of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Roberto Lugo, presented his resignation, it was confirmed by the minister Frank De Lima. Lugo’s resignation became known during the protests that took place at the National Assembly against the sale of shares in joint ventures and the ratification of judges of the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court.
The full Supreme Court granted a habeas data to the Environmental Advocacy Center (CIAM), which requires the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) to provide access and copies of the file that contains an investigation of Minera Petaquilla SA, and its affiliates for violation of environmental law. The reporting judge Jerome Mejia, in his judgment delivered on 28 March 2012, noted that the Legal Department of the Anam is required to respond to the request for access to documents submitted on February 24, 2010.
Tocumen International Airport SA, the company that manages the terminal under the model of a private company, does not intend to use the assets of the airports of David, Rio Hato and Colon to acquire more debt. This was stated by the entity manager, Juan Carlos Pino. In these three airports, which were recently transferred to Tocumen SA, investments are being made for about $140 million.
Article 2 of Decree No. 65 of June 5, 2012, bearing the signatures of President Ricardo Martinelli and the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, states that “the Tocumen International Airport will handle the management of terminals in David, Rio Hato and Colon, as well as assets and liabilities, including assets that are intended for operation and development.” Furthermore, it indicates that the CAA will continue executing all navigation processes for their functioning.
Some 14 articulated vehicles, including a van with goods from the Colon Free Zone, have been stolen in the last four months once they have crossed the Paso Canoas border to Costa Rica. Manuel Mora, president of the National Freight Chamber (Canatra), said there was fear among the carriers to travel to Costa Rica, because once they enter the territory of the Central American country they are attacked by an alleged gang operating on the border.
What is there in common between the famous 54 hectares of beach at Juan Hombrón and 1,400 hectares granted under concession to extract sand along the coast of Chame and Capira? An investigation by La Prensa revealed more than one connection from one case to the other with the participation of the young resident of Chorrera, Hellen Sue Scott, of the law firm of Ellis & Ellis, or the intervention by employees of the parents of the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu Bagatelles.
The export of canned goods has had a rebound so far in 2012, compared to the same period last year, said Maximo Garcia, owner of the Productos Lux, S. A. (Proluxsa). ‘We would like to increase some more, but it is very difficult because the market is very competitive for canned food and controlled by powerful international companies,” said Gallardo.
The export sector of nontraditional products (cucurbits and pineapple) is undergoing one of its toughest tests. The contraction of the European market and the devaluation of the euro against the dollar caused it lower income by about $100 million and reduce the number of hectares for export. These diminished from 5,600 to 2,000.
Landfills in the area of mangroves in the Bay of Panama and the possible construction of a viaduct in the Old Town continue to provoke reactions and some see the initiatives as a “negotiation”’ by the Government. The Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela, warned that the ruling of the Supreme Court which suspends the protected area status of the Wildlife Refuge is a sequel to the personal interests of government leaders.