Friday 17th May 2024.

May 16, 2024


The Panamanian president-elect José Raúl Mulino already has the team that will accompany him during his mandate, thus marking the beginning of a new stage in the public administration of this country.

Mulino called a press conference this Thursday morning to officially reveal who will be part of the Cabinet. He appointed 14 ministers

The person in charge of the Ministry of the Presidency will be Juan Carlos Orillac , lawyer and spokesperson for the Mulino campaign.

Engineer José Luis Andrade , a businessman in the construction sector, will be in charge of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP); and Maruja Herrera , the head of Culture. Herrera already held that position between 2009 and 2014 when the entity did not yet have the rank of ministry.

Julio Moltó , former director of the National Police and the Security Council under the presidency of Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), will be the Minister of Commerce, and Roberto Linares , the head of the Ministry of Agricultural Development. Linares was director of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) in the Martinelli government. They will be accompanied by Beatriz Carles as Minister of Social Development.

Mulino has not appointed the Ministers of Education and Government. Niurka Palacios will lead the Ministry of Women. Palacios was vice minister of Social Development in the Martinelli government.

As reported on Wednesday, May 15, economist Felipe Chapman , 55, will be the head of the Economy portfolio. Martínez Acha , a 60-year-old lawyer and economist, will be the foreign minister.

The former mayor of Panama City, Juan Carlos Navarro, joined this group as Minister of the Environment.

Other figures who will make up the cabinet are Frank Ábrego , 61 years old, as head of the Public Security portfolio. Ábrego was the first director of the National Border Service, a position he held until 2016. While the current representative of the Central American Parliament, Jackeline Muñoz de Cedeño , will be the Minister of Labor and Labor Development of the next government.

In addition, José Ramón Icaza was chosen to occupy the position of minister of the Panama Canal. He will also be the Metas Secretary.

Fernando Boyd , doctor of dental surgery and specialist in periodontics, will be the Minister of Health.

Organizing public finances and State accounts, in addition to preparing a budget adjusted to income and recovering economic growth will be the first tasks of Felipe Chapman, Minister of Economy and Finance appointed by the new government administration.

“It was agreed to emphasize recovering the speed of the country’s economic growth. A very important goal is to work on the social progress and human development of the country. We are very aware that there are many poor and vulnerable Panamanians who have not been able to participate in the development of this country,” Chapman said this Thursday, May 16.

He specified that he will begin working on the Nation’s budget for the second half of this year and present a budget proposal for the year 2025.

“It will be a prudent budget with balanced accounts, to send a strong message to the Nation and the world that we are going to manage public finances prudently,” he stated.

He assured that the goal is to reduce financing costs for both the government, companies and individuals.

Likewise, it will work on a five-year plan that is sustainable, credible and achievable. “That allows us to comply with the Fiscal Social Responsibility Law.”

However, Chapman admitted that this law represents a straitjacket for the State.

“The Fiscal Social Responsibility Law that we have at this moment obviously puts us in a straitjacket and is an issue that will be evaluated seriously, and will be discussed with the main market players and with the financial institutions that have sent support to the country. “, said.

The deficit in public accounts occurs when income is not enough to cover the expenses incurred by the Government.

One of the challenges that Chapman will face is being able to reach this year’s fiscal goal when there are such high expenses with such low income. The limit of the fiscal deficit according to the Fiscal Social Responsibility Law is 2% as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

Chapman will speak with all the State’s creditors, both international and local, as well as with risk rating agencies. It is expected that these meetings will serve to publicize the strategy in fiscal matters, debt management and economic performance.

Chapman, an economist by profession, recalled that “the resources of the State are not infinite, the first thing that will be done is a prioritization of the allocation of resources in a responsible and technical manner. Seek a sustainable fiscal balance that allows us to access excellent terms and conditions to finance our needs, Produce a positive cash flow before paying interest and an important task is that we are not going to take on debt to pay interest.”

Chapman also expressed that we must build savings and be disciplined in spending.

This goal will be complex, since the increase in fixed expenses such as payroll or debt has reduced the country’s savings and investment capacity.

Chapman said he is not considering raising taxes for now. “Not that, that will be evaluated in due course.”

Frank Ábrego , who will be the head of the Public Security portfolio of the government of José Raúl Mulino , referred to the immigration issue and the possible closure of the border in Darién, between Panama and Colombia.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges that Ábrego will have in this entity will be to face the migration crisis in Darién, especially with the promise made by Mulino to “close” the border to prevent the passage of thousands of people who cross the jungle to arrive to Panama and then embark on the route to the United States .

According to Ábrego, “it is not impossible” to close the border, but he stressed that – as in other places with the same characteristics – there are already roads, paths and trails. “There is not one trail for drug trafficking and another for the indigenous people of the area. They use the same routes because that is already established,” he expressed.

In the opinion of the former director of the National Border Service (Senafront) , the closure of this border cordon is possible, but he clarified that a wall that goes from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean cannot be built either.

“This idea of ​​building a wall is impossible, but if tomorrow we declare a border closure and establish checkpoints where we can detain migrants, then proceed with deportation and repatriation, as the president talked about, I think that will reduce the volume of migrants at the border,” he stated.

José Ramón Icaza, Minister of the Canal and also appointed to head the Goals Secretariat, by the elected president José Raúl Mulino , will have among his priorities to follow up on the construction of a railway that connects the province of Panama with David, Chiriquí.

This is one of the most important infrastructure projects for the Mulino administration, which begins on July 1.

During the last electoral campaign, this project was one of the promises championed by the president-elect to reach the Presidency.

“In the Goals Secretariat we are going to be coordinating and integrating State projects with the different ministries and institutions… We are going to be following up on the fulfillment of each of these projects,” said Icaza.

Likewise, Icaza highlighted the continuation of the Children’s Hospital, a University City and oncological wards in the interior of the country.

In his role as Minister of the Canal, Icaza spoke of the importance of expanding the hydrographic basin, so that the Indio River is included and we can “continue advancing with this project that the Panama Canal needs so much to guarantee the reliability of the route.” maritime”.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has communicated the urgent need to propose legal modifications that allow the entity to build new reservoirs and expand the limits of the hydrographic basin it manages.

This would fall to the Executive, led by Mulino, after the Laurentino Cortizo government delayed decision-making and never responded to the Canal, when this entity requested the Cabinet Council to consider supporting the resolution approving the limits of the hydrographic basin, proposed by the ACP, presented since September 29, 2023.

According to the Canal administrator, Ricaurte Vásquez, the Indio River is the most efficient, fastest and least complex option from an engineering point of view, to solve the lack of water for human consumption and the passage of ships.

The next Minister of the Environment, Juan Carlos Navarro , assured this Thursday, May 16, that his commitment in the position he will assume is to “defend nature” and seek the definitive closure of the Donoso mine.

“We have the responsibility of ensuring an orderly closure of the mine, which is the position of the president [elect, José Raúl Mulino],” said Navarro, after his presentation as the next head of that portfolio.

He maintained that closing the mine will be a “complex” task, but one that they will undertake with great commitment.

Regarding the water crisis and the impact on the Panama Canal, he indicated that the expansion of the basin of this important waterway is required. He said that this “is not an option” and mentioned that the country is losing, this year alone, about 700 million dollars due to this water crisis.

The Panama Canal concluded maintenance work on the Gatun locks and increased daily transits to 31 ships as of this Thursday, May 16.  According to the schedule released in April by the Panama Canal Authority , it is expected that from June 1 of this year the number of daily transits will increase to 32 ships.

Under normal conditions, between 36 and 38 ships per day transited through the interoceanic waterway, but due to the prolonged drought that reduced the water levels of lakes Alajuela and Gatún, the Canal decided to reduce transits and also the draft of the vessels that can cross through the Neopanamax locks from July 2023.

The lowest number of traffic that the Canal has experienced in recent months has been 21 ships per day.

At some point it was announced that it would drop to 18 in February of this year, but the measure was reversed due to a slight recovery in the water levels of the lakes at the beginning of this year and had remained at 24 due to the maintenance carried out this month.

The ACP also announced that as of June 15 of this year, the maximum draft allowed for the Neopanamax locks, that is, of the expanded Canal, will be increased. The draft will increase from the current 44 feet to 45 feet, allowing ships to carry more cargo. The deeper the draft, the more load they can pass.

“This adjustment guarantees safe navigation, while considering the projections of the level of Gatun Lake and other operational requirements,” the ACP stated at the time.

After a year of restrictions, the Canal has estimated that it will stop receiving between $500 million and $700 million during fiscal year 2024, which runs from October 2023 to September of this year.

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