Friday 28th October 2022.

October 28, 2022

The complaint filed to investigate the case of the granting of economic aid to relatives of politicians by the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) was admitted by the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) . The entity, led by Elsa Fernández, reported in a statement that the decision was made through a resolution on October 27, 2022. “In this way, an administrative investigation is initiated that seeks to know what is the procedure used for the allocation of financial aid and scholarships, what are the criteria for its granting and the officials involved in this process,” Antai said. “The present investigation contemplates the carrying out of various procedures to verify the facts denounced and the respective rendering of accounts,” he added. The complaint was filed by the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño. It was recently revealed that some of the beneficiaries of the financial aid are Diego Ábrego Díaz, son of deputy Roberto Ábrego, who received $190,000; Kathy Ramos, Gender Director of the National Assembly, who was awarded $15,000; the daughter of deputy Zulay Rodríguez ($61,000); the daughter of the secretary general of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay ($81,000), and the ex-partner of independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez ($99,000), among others.

Three members of the National Police were arrested this Thursday morning, October 27, in the so-called “Operation Foreigner” against a criminal network in the province of Colón. The Minister of Public Security, Juan Pino, explained that these are three lieutenants who are allegedly linked to a group of drug traffickers. “They are troop officers, they were finishing their career,” he said. “They crossed the line and now they must face justice, because it was a judicialized operation. It is a disgrace to the uniform,” added Pino. He said that nine more people were also apprehended in the operation. They seized firearms and money.

In three days, this week, nearly 600 irregular Venezuelan migrants have been repatriated to their country, according to figures released by the National Migration Service. These are the Venezuelan migrants who are leaving and entering the temporary shelter located in the La Locería sector, district of Betania. Since last Friday these migrants were located in this warehouse after deciding not to continue the journey to the United States.Most of these Venezuelan migrants had the objective of reaching US territory. However, with the decision of the United States to restrict the entry of Venezuelans who arrive in Panama or Mexico illegally, hundreds of them gave up continuing the trip and want  to return home. A good part of these people are returning from Central American countries and the rest chose to stop the journey on Panamanian soil. According to data from the Panamanian Migration Service, this Thursday morning, 200 Venezuelans arrived at the Albrook terminal and were later transferred to the La Locería temporary shelter. The Panamanian immigration authorities reiterate that Venezuelans who cross the border into Costa Rica, as part of the usual migratory flow when they arrive in Darién from Colombia, must have the corresponding visa to enter when they try to return. If they do not have this visa, they cannot pass through the Paso Canoas point (Chiriquí). However, dozens of these travelers manage to enter the country through informal roads or trails. Migration Panama reported that until this Thursday in the reception centers of Darién, there are registered about 1,900 migrants.

The risk implied by the insufficiency of funds of the exclusively defined benefit pension subsystem is an element that acquires greater weight in the assessments that risk rating agencies make of Panama. Moody’s changed Panama’s outlook from stable to negative, while affirming the Baa2 long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings on October 25.Maintaining the investment grade is a positive element because it improves the possibilities of accessing international debt markets at reasonable costs. As the economist Carlos Araúz pointed out, the risk  that Panama will not pay its debt is small. But the negative perspective is a wake-up call, a warning, focused on the lack of urgency in addressing the crisis of the pension subsystem in the Social Security Fund (CSS). In its assessments, Moody’s details three conditions that are generating enormous fiscal pressure and that influenced the change in perspective: the funding needs of the pension system, salary increases for civil servants and the rise in state transfers in the form of subsidy.The rating agency recalled that to date, practically no progress has been made on the pension system reform front. The governments of Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela did not recognize the crisis that was coming, while that of Laurentino Cortizo, although he tried to do the same, had no choice but to address the issue, when the actuarial reports predicted the bankruptcy of the subsystem exclusively defined benefit, due to the huge payments to be made, the increase in the number of retirees and the limited financial reserves. In 2021, the Cortizo administration established a national dialogue to develop a reform recommendation. However, “this was in vain, since the pressures derived from the IVM have intensified. A similar situation has arisen with respect to tax revenues. In the last four years, tax revenues have decreased relative to gross domestic product (GDP), and the deficit has been partially offset by increased transfers from the Panama Canal Authority in previous years.In a context of growing spending pressures, the absence of a comprehensive plan to shore up government revenues is likely to make it increasingly difficult to meet the targets  set by the fiscal rule in coming years, he stressed. Moody’s said that the lack of reforms denotes weaknesses in policy management and represents a factor that, if not corrected, will materially undermine Panama’s credit profile and negatively affect sovereign credit  prospects.“This says a lot about failing to act, knowing the seriousness of the problem, and knowing the solutions that exist. How are governments not acting like a good father of a family and instead opting for total inaction to correct the problem of CSS”, asks Pablo Gutiérrez, a financier specializing in risk management and insurance. Araúz, for his part, indicated that “it is evident that this administration will continue to borrow to meet operating deficits that translate into less money for health, education and general welfare for the people.” This aligns with Moody’s comments, which recalled how governments have been steadily increasing payroll spending over the past decade, accounting for 31% of total spending in 2021, up from 20% registered in 2013. This, driven by a continuous growth of the work force in the public sector and the salary increases that are approved in the so-called “special laws”. Spending on transfers, which includes subsidies, was relatively stable between 2015 and 2019, at around 20% of total spending, but has skyrocketed since the pandemic, reaching 24% of spending in 2021. Although the agency acknowledges that social spending related to the pandemic will be phased out, cost-of-living considerations linked to higher inflation will likely limit a reduction in government subsidies.

The Ministry of Public Works (MOP) awarded the contract for the rehabilitation and maintenance of the three stages of the coastal strip and the Amador causeway for a global amount of 33.2 million, after resolving some claim actions presented by some companies that participated in the solicitation. This bidding process was divided into three lines and includes improvements to the pedestrian zone, green areas, playgrounds, as well as repairs to pedestrian and vehicular bridges and replacement of slabs along the highway. Through resolution 76 of October 26, the MOP granted the first line of maintenance and recovery service for green areas, infrastructure and roads of the Amador road  to the Chirican company Ininco, which offered a proposal for $4.3 million.Meanwhile, Constructora De León, SA managed to be awarded the second line for the maintenance and recovery service of green areas and roads of coastal strip I and II for $12.3 million.   While the Cinta Costera Panama Consortium, made up of the companies Gramas y Jardines, SA, Constructora Maos, SA, and Multiservicios Modernos, SA, won the service and maintenance contract for stage III of the coastal strip for $10.7 million. In recent weeks, citizen discomfort has intensified due to the evident lack of maintenance along the three stages of the coastal strip and on the Amador Causeway.

The 2022 edition of the television project Heroes for Panama will have the participation of eight participants, the organizers of the event confirmed yesterday. The program carried out by TVN returns in person after the restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic and among those selected there are seven women and one man. The event’s gala will take place on November 16 at 8:00 pm and the nominated heroes are Suky Yard , from Fundación Vida Mujer with the cause of preventing gender violence and supporting victims; Thais Coronado , from Fundación Corazón Nuevo and her support for patients requiring heart transplants; and Adrián Almeida , from Fundación Remar with his contribution to resocialization, family restoration and support for homeless people. In addition , Ana Teresa Meneses , from the Psoriasis Foundation, participates with her volunteering and raising awareness about this disease; Elibeth Ceballos , from the Municipality of Panama with the empowerment of children and youth with disabilities through swimming; and Helga Barría from the Fundación de Rescate de Alimentos and its initiative for nutrition, zero hunger and rescue of discarded food. They are also in the final phase of Heroes for Panama Sandy Watemberg , from the environmental organization Marea Verde and the cause aimed at caring for the environment and sustainability; and Giselle de la Hoz , from the Piero Rafael Martínez de la Hoz Foundation and the psychological support and handling of significant grief.

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