Friday 9th September 2022.

September 9, 2022

The Minister of Canal Affairs, Aristides Royo, presented before the plenary session of the National Assembly, the draft budget for the Panama Canal for fiscal year 2023. The budget for the interoceanic highway amounts to $4,652.9 million and contributions to the National Treasury would be $2,544.6 million, the highest to date. Ricaurte Vásquez, administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), stressed that the projections in this budget are conservative since the situation in the world is not similar to what was experienced a couple of years ago. “We think that the situation of the European conflict [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] is not going to be resolved in the short term. The other situation is that the restitution of many of the supply chains, especially those that come from Asia to the United States, are not going to move with the same agility”, Vásquez affirmed upon leaving the Assembly. “There is a widespread estimate that there may be a global recession next year and that may affect us,” he added. The budget proposal also includes other payments to the Panamanian State in the amount of $246.9 million. For 2022, the Canal has budgeted contributions to the National Treasury for $2,497.2 million. Subsequently, the Assembly will inform the date on which the ACP must support this project before the Budget Commission.

Mayors, deputy mayors, corregimiento representatives and their substitutes will be able to exercise functions in their communes and community boards and, at the same time, work in other State entities and charge for that. This is how it is contemplated in a preliminary bill that rests in the Municipal Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, an initiative that confronts the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, which last March declared unconstitutional paid licenses in the government. The legislative proposal says that they will be able to continue exercising the public office they held before being elected, as long as it is not in simultaneous work shifts. In addition, they will have the power to request leave without pay and may not be dismissed during the period in which they exercise their functions as mayors or representatives. Before the Court issued the ruling against paid leave, the Comptroller General of the Republic reported that 172 corregimiento representatives (of a total of 679) and 30 mayors (of a total of 81) had taken advantage of this benefit. A proposal that is in the National Assembly seeks to revive the disputed privilege of double salary for mayors and corregimiento representatives. This, despite the fact that in March of this year the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) declared unconstitutional the figure of paid leave, because it represents a jurisdiction or a privilege. However, the PRD deputies Daniel Ramos and Javier Sucre do not consider it that way and presented Bill 99 to the Municipal Affairs Commission – chaired by Sucre –, which was accepted last Tuesday. The document revives the figure of the double post for local authorities, with a modification to Law 37 of 2009, which decentralizes public management in the country. To do this, they drafted articles that establish that every corregimiento representative, his deputy, the mayor and deputy mayor, may “continue to exercise the public office they held before being elected, as long as it is not in simultaneous work shifts.” While another article says that “the government institution where he worked before being elected will adapt the working day so that he can fulfill his new functions.”

Five former ministers of the government of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal will go to trial for the alleged commission of the crime of embezzlement, as part of the case of the allegedly irregular sale of grain through the defunct National Aid Program (PAN), acts that would have caused a property damage of $12.3 million. The decision includes former ministers Frank De Lima (Economy and Finance), Guillermo Ferrufino (Social Development), Jaime Ford (Public Works), Roberto Milton Cohen Henríquez (Presidency) and Lucy Molinar (Education). The decision was adopted on September 2 by Judge Agueda Rentería, First Liquidator of Criminal Cases, who also called another 44 people to trial, including Adolfo Chichi De Obarrio, Martinelli’s former private secretary. De Obarrio has been out of the country since December 25, 2014 and there are demands on him for processes that are being carried out in various judicial spheres. Among those called to trial also include the merchant Mario Martinelli Berrocal and Abraham Williams, former PAN executive assistant, as well as Adrián José De La Guardia, Aldo Mangravita, Pablo Ruiz Obregón, Roberto Brin, Tomás Escalona and Massiel Heurtematte. The investigation began on August 21, 2014, when the then deputy of the Panameñista Party, José Luis Varela, revealed in a television interview the alleged existence of cost overruns in rice purchases made by the PAN. According to Varela’s statement, the PAN purchased a quintal of rice for $80, when in the local market it cost $25. An audit report prepared by the Comptroller General of the Republic, in 2015, revealed that higher prices were paid than those that the Agricultural Marketing Institute had and that the final destination of the grains was unknown, among other aspects. Another of the elements that Judge Rentería took into account when drafting her decision was the statement by Rafael Guardia Jaén, former director of the PAN, who confessed that he received direct instructions from Adolfo de Obarrio on who to assign the contracts for the supply of grains.. Guardia Jaén agreed to a collaboration and penalty agreement with the prosecution, in which he provided details of how the contracts were assigned in this case. He said, for example, that the 10% profit he obtained from managing the contracts was shared with Abraham Williams and that for this they created the company Lora, SA The judge also relied on the statement of the protected witness identified as Milagros, who gave details of how the contracts were handled. Rentería set the trial date for November 13-24, 2023. La Prensa consulted former Minister Molinar about it and replied as follows: “I had written a whole explanation but I don’t think it’s worth it. You have shown so little seriousness that it is not worth giving statements. I hope they act responsibly.” Meanwhile, Franklin Amaya, who represents Ferrufino, assured that the ruling has not been notified, so he cannot comment without seeing the document. Something similar was answered by Cristóbal Arboleda, who defends Cohen Henríquez.

This Wednesday ended the first microcycle of the month of September of the Senior Men’s Soccer Team, under the command of Thomas Christiansen. During the last three days, the national strategist and his coaching staff trained with some players from the Panamanian Soccer League (LPF) at the Luis Ernesto Cascarita Tapia stadium, always in the morning. Christiansen spoke with the media present at practice and shared the following: “glad to see new players; It was one of the goals. Everyone’s predisposition has been very good and everyone has done well. Some have had a very favorable evolution. Seeing them on weekends with their teams is not the same as seeing them here up close. Now I have more information, I see how they work and get along with other players”. “Next week, from Monday to Wednesday, we will have another microcycle with some of the same ones from this week and new ones that we want to see,” he added. On the other hand, he informed that the call for the friendly against Bahrain will be a mixture of players from abroad and from the LPF. The purpose, he said, is for them to learn and acquire knowledge. “If I have to be working in the morning, afternoon and night… it’s my job. In the federation we are training the technicians and the coaches of the clubs have enough knowledge for the players to learn”, he concluded.

The regular prices of 95 and 91 octane gasoline will register a new decrease, while low sulfur diesel will rise again, according to the rates that will be in force between September 9 and 23. According to the Resolution of the National Secretariat of Energy, 95-octane gasoline will cost $1.08 a liter ($4.11 per gallon) per liter for, 91-octane gasoline $1.05 ($3.89) and diesel $1.22 ($4.62), in the cities of Panama and Colon. For the rest of the country, prices show a slight variation due to transportation costs. It is important to highlight that the state fuel subsidy is still in force in the country, leaving the price frozen at $3.25 per gallon. With the new prices, the State will subsidize $0.86 per gallon of 95-octane gasoline; $0.64 for a gallon of 91-octane gasoline and $1.37 for a gallon of diesel.

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