Friday 25th August 2023.

August 24, 2023


The board of directors of the National Assembly , led by PRD member Jaime Vargas, would be prioritizing the bills that the Executive has presented.

This was denounced on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 23, by deputy Crispiano Adames, former president of the legislature.

According to Adames, in the almost two months of Vargas’ administration, some 11 projects have been approved, of which 2 have only been the initiative of the deputies. The rest are Executive projects.

“I would like you to explain to me if the method is going to be like this, in order to be more relaxed,” he said.

He recalled that the constitutional function of the deputy is to create legislative initiatives. “Because if we are going to be discussing all the Executive bills here, I mean, we are going to be a little more rested. I would like you to explain that to me, ”Adames reiterated before the plenary session.

Vargas responded instantly. He asserted that all the bills that reach the General Secretariat of the Assembly “are being discussed, without giving privilege to the Executive.”

The Panameñista deputy Luis Ernesto Carles joined Adames’s complaint. He said that despite the fact that the plenary session’s agenda includes a variety of bills for discussion in the second and third debates, presented by his colleagues, the Vargas presidency only meets for an hour or an hour and a half.

He recalled that according to the Internal Regulations, the deputies must meet in plenary for a minimum of four hours. “You have to debate, but here they close the session when we haven’t debated for an hour,” he said.

In fact, on Wednesday afternoon the plenary approved bill 883 in a second debate, which allows the Agreement between Panama and the Republic of Ecuador on air services, signed in Panama City, on April 20, 2022. They also endorsed Bill 884, which approves the agreement between Panama and Turkey, on Cooperation in the Field of Tourism, signed in Panama on April 28, 2022. Both presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, the Legislative plenary session approved Bill 1047 in its third debate, which modifies and adds articles to Law 10 of 2010 that creates the Fire Department, an initiative presented by the Ministry of Government. In the third debate, they also endorsed bill 1039, which modifies and adds articles to Law 3 of 1985, which establishes a preferential interest regime on certain mortgage loans, which was presented by the Ministry of Housing.

In the session of this Thursday, August 24, President Vargas came out of the way of criticism.

“I want to clarify to the country that yesterday (August 23) a colleague questioned here that this board of directors is only passing the projects of the Executive when it is not true,” he said.

He added that the board of directors that he chairs meets every week with all the heads of bench where they reach consensus and bring various projects to the agenda of the plenary session.

“The colleague (Adames), when he was here, I think he never or rarely held an extended board of directors,” he said.

The real estate sector will be able to continue selling new houses with a part of the interest subsidized by the State, with the changes proposed by a bill presented by the Executive in the National Assembly.

This Tuesday, Bill 1039, which reinstates preferential interest for mortgage loans, was approved in the third debate. They had begun to expire in December 2022 without an extension being made by the Executive, until now.

The preferential interest tranches would look like this:

  1. Homes that cost between 45,000 and 80,000: 4% for 10 years
  2. From $80,000 to $120,000: 4% for 8 years
  3. From $120,000 to $150,000: 2% for 5 years
  4. From $150,000 to $180,000: 1.5% for 5 years only for apartments in Panama and Panama West.

The validity of the benefit will be extended until December 2025, leaving the next government the option of extending it “with the same terms that we are doing or changing some terms” in the words of Rogelio Paredes, head of the Miviot Ministry of Housing and Territorial Planning ( Miviot).

The person in charge of Miviot presented the project before the National Assembly on July 19. He passed the first debate on August 9 and the second debate on August 21.

This project was agreed upon with the Panamanian Chamber of Construction, Convivienda, among other business associations.

In Panama, the purchase or promotion of electronic cigarettes over the Internet is prohibited, and those who sell and promote them will be penalized in accordance with the provisions of the Sanitary Code established in Law 315. Although this means that their use in the Isthmus is illegal, Panama has become the epicenter of cigarette smuggling in the region.

For the Association for the Reduction of Damage from Tobacco (ARDTP), consumer autonomy must be ensured, protecting rights to choice and the right to information and education of the citizenry regarding what are alternatives to smoking.

Its spokesman, José Recuero, commented that the problem with Law 315 is that an alternative to the traditional cigarette has been prohibited without a scientific basis.

According to Recuero, the total prohibition of the devices does not allow appropriate sanctions or control for the electronic cigarette and, by not being able to regulate it, its consumption comes from the illicit trade. “Any alternative to smoking has become contraband,” he said.

Recuero added that electronic cigarette consumers are being treated as addicts, and that contraband is being promoted with its total ban in the country.

The spokesman indicated that the current law truncates the citizen’s right to choose what he wants to consume by not having constant regulation or information for the consumer, creating a morbidity.

“They are treating the electronic cigarette as a drug instead of an alternative,” Recuero said.

Panama has a selective tax for the importation of certain products. This special tax includes alcoholic beverages, and all tobacco derivatives, as well as the original transfer or sale of these products by local manufacturers. Essentially, it is a tax that must be paid by those people who use or consume products that are not among those of first necessity. Currently, in the Isthmus the rate of the selective tax on the consumption of cigarettes is 100% of the sale price to the consumer .

For Alejo Campos, regional director of Crime Stoppers International, public safety is the biggest concern since electronic cigarettes are easy to move and hide.

According to the regional director, excessive cigarette regulations and others that seek to impose more direct taxes on traditional cigarettes create and strengthen parallel illegal markets. In addition, to seize the smuggled product, the person must be captured in the act of commercialization, that is, the sale itself, otherwise their property cannot be confiscated.

Although in Panama these smoking alternatives are prohibited, Law 315 does not prohibit the importation of these products in free zones such as Colon, as long as their purpose is export and re-export to a third country.

Due to this, the Association of Latin American Industrialists asked Panama to strengthen prevention, prosecution and sanction measures against cigarette smuggling that has been reported in recent years.

Some 150 families from the districts of Panama and Chepo were affected due to the instability of the climate in the country, a situation that was associated with tropical storm Franklin.

According to the National Civil Protection System, there are 583 people affected, 10 citizens with disabilities and five pregnant women.

In Panama, the affected areas were: 24 de Diciembre, Don Bosco, Las Garzas and Río Abajo. Homes in El Llano, Las Margaritas and Chepo were also affected.

Two families were affected on the night of this Wednesday, August 23, due to the obstruction of the sewage system and the overflow of the Rabo de Puerco river in the Río Mar and El Porvenir neighborhoods, in the township of Puerto Armuelles, district of Barú, province of Chiriquí .

The provincial director of the entity in Chiriquí, Armando Palacios, said that in the community of El Porvenir six people were affected: two adults and four minors (2, 5, 7 and 12 years old), as a result of the obstruction of gutters.

While in the Río Mar neighborhood, two older adults with visual and mobility disabilities were affected by the overflow of the Rabo de Puerco river.

Three people have been apprehended in the last few hours for their alleged relationship with the robbery that occurred yesterday morning, Wednesday, at the Banco General branch in Parque Lefevre, Panama City.

On this issue, the director general of the National Police, John Dornheim, reported that three vehicles allegedly used to commit the illegal act have been recovered. According to Dornheim, the weapon held by the bank’s security agent was also located.

The raids were carried out in the Pueblo Nuevo and Río Abajo sectors. As part of these actions, 34 reeds with alleged drugs were also confiscated.

According to what has been collected from the investigations, there were five criminals who committed this robbery at this bank branch in Parque Lefevre. Two criminals were the ones who entered the bank and another three subdued the security agent, explained Superior Prosecutor Julio Villarreal.

The suspects are expected to appear before justice, while the operations continue to find the apprehension of other people involved.



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