Friday 22nd march 2024.

March 21, 2024


Last Wednesday, March 20, the Budget Commission of the National Assembly (AN) gave the green light to a series of transfers of items for an amount of just over $131 million , during a session that lasted just one hour and 57 minutes.

This is a significant amount considering that the year (and, therefore, the execution of the General State Budget Law corresponding to 2024) is beginning. That is why independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez believes that this year’s budget was “done poorly,” with errors in its planning.

The Budget Commission session this Wednesday began with the intervention of the Ministry of Education (Meduca). It was up to the Vice Minister of Infrastructure of that portfolio, Ricardo Sánchez, to request 37 transfers of items for $85 million.

The vice minister explained that the amounts are to cover expired terms, provide continuity to the ESTER technological platform , buy 85-inch interactive screens for educational centers nationwide and pay rent and travel expenses.

He also detailed that part of the money will be to comply with the implementation project of the National Digital Educational Transformation Plan and purchase desktop computers, among other programs.

Jorge González , vice minister of Economy, also attended the commission , requesting 18 transfers of items for a total of $29.1 million.

González explained that these resources will be used for “carryover” payments of expired accounts, as well as to cover the difference of the first item of the thirteenth month to officials of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).

In addition, González specified that they will allocate part of the money to the payment of expired terms of information and advertising, to the acquisition and implementation of related goods and services for the optimization of the technological infrastructure of the MEF and labor benefits to officials and former officials for salaries lost due to reinstatement ordered by the Supreme Court of Justice. In addition, payments for overdue vacations, representation expenses, contributions to social security and the master’s degree in Public Management with Emphasis on Modernization of the State to 15 collaborators.

The controversy arose during the session in the Budget Commission when it was the turn of the Tocumen International Airport, SA (Aitsa) , an entity that requested transfers for $17.1 million.

Its general manager, Raffoul Arab , mentioned that the funds were to meet commitments for goods and services, equipment received and obligations for 2023 and 2024.

During this support, Deputy Vásquez questioned the payment of per diems for meetings to the Aitsa board of directors, in which each official who participates is entitled to $850 per meeting.

Vásquez criticized that senior officials who earn generous salaries attend meetings for which they are paid $850. Instead, those board members who are not officers will be paid $1,000 per meeting.

“The normal thing is two [meetings] a month, that is, it is $1,700, and in the case of the manager it is a meeting that, additionally, is next to his office. And who has to approve that? They are themselves,” Vásquez highlighted.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Héctor Alexander , and the director of the General Directorate of Revenue (DGI), Publio De Gracia , were summoned by the plenary session of the National Assembly to answer a questionnaire of seven questions related to the economic income of the State. and late payment to public servants.

Among the questions approved in the summons, it is expected to obtain answers about the surplus collected by the State in the months of January and February of last year.

In addition, we want to know how the payment process for the bonus corresponding to 2022 for DGI workers, which amounts to about $9 million, is progressing, as well as the procedures for the payment corresponding to 2024.

Another question included in the questionnaire is how many officials have pending payment of the seniority bonus and why it has not been included in the general budget of the State.

“We have recommended to the Ministry of Economy and Finance that, if it does not have the funds, public workers have always accepted payment in negotiable documents to be able to collect that debt,” said deputy Leandro Ávila, one of the proponents of the subpoena. .

Ávila highlighted that, once these people are paid, these positions will remain vacant, around 25 thousand, and could constitute savings for the State.

Deputy Juan Diego Vásquez also proposed the summons of Alexander and De Gracia.

The cardiology patients of the City of Health are requesting the authorities of the Social Security Fund (CSS) for supplies, medications and more personnel.

Patients in hospital clothes came out to protest today, Thursday, March 21, as there are several patients who have been waiting for surgery for at least five months. ‘There are no supplies to perform catheterization, for example,’ said a patient on the third floor of cardiology.

The Ciudad de la Salud Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute began receiving patients in August 2022; At that time, CSS authorities reported that patients would receive personalized attention from nurses and specialists. In fact, patients do not complain about the care but about the lack of supplies for procedures, medications, and personnel.

The protest arises two weeks after the entity announced that inpatients and outpatients of pulmonology, cardiology and peripheral cardiovascular surgery would receive 100% specialized care at this institute.

The administration of Enrique Lau Cortés promised the performance of electrocardiograms, 24-hour holter heart monitor, reading of electrocardiograms and holter, as well as ergometry in hospitalized and outpatient patients. Echocardiograms and cardiac Doppler, transesophageal echocardiography, hemodynamic studies, coronary angiography, ventriculography, angioplasty with stenting, and intravascular ultrasound are also offered.

On January 17, the complete inauguration of the City of Health took place , with a cost of more than $1,000 million .

To date, the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition ( Acodeco ) has sanctioned 257 economic agents throughout the country for failing to comply with Law 1 of 2018 , which prohibits bags with polyethylene and encourages the use of reusable bags.

So far this year, the entity registers 26 fines in the first instance for B/.5,785 that were applied to nine department stores (B/.2,900); six supermarkets for B/.1,700; seven mini-supermarkets (B/.800); two clothing and footwear warehouses (B/.200); a pharmacy (B/.100); and a distributor for B/.85.

The most common fines are for not possessing the certificate of conformity, not declaring the costs of reusable bags and for charging a price higher than cost.

The money collected from the fines is used for recycling and teaching programs on topics related to polluting materials. Law 1 of 2018 promotes the use of reusable bags and prohibits the use of plastic bags with polyethylene, establishing that merchants may choose whether or not to charge for reusable bags.

The Mayor’s Office of Panama issued a decree prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as activities related to dances and music on March 29, Good Friday.

Decree 005 of March 6, 2024 establishes that all activities related to the sale and consumption of liquor are suspended on that date, from 12:01 am to 12:00 pm of that same day.

In addition, supermarkets and other establishments dedicated to other commercial activities must take the necessary measures to keep the area intended for the sale of alcoholic beverages closed.

The provision, also called “Prohibition Law”, orders the closure of canteens, bars, nightclubs, barbecues and cevicherias on Good Friday, also from 12:01 am to 12:00 pm that same day.

The use of music boxes, symphonies and audio equipment is also ordered to be suspended in the capital district. The performance of dance activities, karaoke or concerts enlivened by orchestras, ensembles, mobile units or other means of dissemination or reproduction of music is also not permitted.

The penalties for failing to comply with this decree range from $100 to $1,000 and agents of the National Police, Municipal Surveillance, municipal inspectors, justices of the peace, night justices of the peace and compliance officers are authorized to enforce the provisions of the decree.

The National Secretariat of Energy announced the new fuel prices that will come into effect starting this Friday, March 22, which implies a new increase.

It was announced that 95 octane gasoline will increase five cents, raising its price per liter to $1.10 ($4.18 per gallon), while 91 octane gasoline will increase four cents per liter, reaching a price of $1.00 ($3.82 per gallon).

As for low-sulfur diesel , it has been reported that its price will increase by one cent per liter, to remain at $0.94 ($3.55 per gallon).

These new prices will be in effect from 6:00 am on Friday, March 22 until 5:59 am on Friday, April 5.


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