Monday 11th December 2023.

December 10, 2023


With three weeks until the end of 2023, different sectors of the country are demanding that the government of Laurentino Cortizo present the new general budget of the State for the fiscal year 2024, a project that was not discussed in the National Assembly in ordinary sessions.

In a statement, the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) considered that the adjustment to the budget, announced by the authorities, should be structured in a way that significantly reduces operating expenses, generating current savings and allocating resources to the priority public investment.

“The originally presented budget project must undergo a total re-engineering through which the disproportionate and opaque amounts allocated to entities such as the National Assembly, an institution without investment projects and where austerity has never been reflected, are forcefully reduced.” , he highlighted.

The union suggested that the budgets of key entities such as the National Cancer Institute, the Children’s Hospital, and the Specialized Higher Technical Institute (ITSE) should be prioritized, among others, which “affect the quality of life of citizens.”

“In addition, it is necessary to significantly reduce the state payroll, eliminating as soon as possible unnecessary and duplicate positions in the public administration, which are only a vehicle for politicking and corruption,” he said.

“It should be noted that the reduction we demand is not equivalent to the sacrifice of education, this is unacceptable. An education budget must be proposed with relevant objectives that do not increase expenses, but rather reflect investments aimed at improving the quality of the Panamanian educational system in a measurable way,” they add.

The results obtained by Panamanian students in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) once again revealed the weaknesses of education in Panama.

Despite slight improvements in science and reading, students are far from reaching the average for Latin America, much less that of OECD countries .

The data shows that the country improved its scores compared to four years ago in key areas of learning: reading, mathematics and science.

For example, in reading, in 2018 the score obtained was 377 and last year it was 392. That is, there was slight progress.

While in mathematics, four years ago the score was 353. Now, in the new OECD report, the score obtained was 357, four points more, which is not statistically significant.

In the science area, 388 points were obtained, which represents 23 points more than the 365 in 2018.

The former Minister of Education and president of the Trinka educational organization, Miguel Ángel Cañizales , indicated that one of the obvious failures of the educational system lies in the average number of effective days of classes (which in Panama is 200 days), traditionally reduced by strikes and strikes for reasons unrelated to education.

In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that each day of class interruption is equivalent to three days , due to its negative impact. This, without taking into account the damage to the mental and emotional health of children and young people.

Furthermore, during the recent strike, students in public schools lost 27 days of classes, while in private schools the teaching-learning process was not interrupted. Indeed, when blockages on public roads prevented it, the method of combining distance learning through the use of technological platforms with in-person classes was applied.

At least 17 companies showed interest in the million-dollar public tender to take charge of the hospital waste collection service of the health facilities of the Social Security Fund (CSS) .

During the approval ceremony, companies learned more details about this public event for better value, whose reference price is $58.7 million.

According to the tender document, the contract will be valid for 62 months from the notification of the contract or purchase order.

Waste management includes the collection, transportation, treatment and final disposal of hazardous hospital waste from CSS health facilities nationwide.

“It is justified by the fact that due to the nature and importance of this service, under no circumstances should the administration allow dangerous hospital waste to accumulate, since this would cause a health crisis of incalculable dimensions, both for the executing units and for the general population and the environment, so it is imperative to maintain the service continuously and uninterrupted,” the report highlights.

The Panama Metro reported that the extension of line 1, to the Villa Zaíta sector, is 92% complete in the component that corresponds to the station and the railway viaduct.

According to the Metro administration, the bus interchange and parking building registers a progress of 45%, while the Edilberto Culiolis Polyclinic, of the Social Security Fund, has a progress of 41%.

Likewise, it is detailed that work is currently underway on the installation stage of all the station’s auxiliary systems. Progress is being made with the floor and roof finishes, and it is reported that the station is being built at a good pace.

“The civil work of the viaduct has been completed satisfactorily. With respect to the railway systems, the track and catenary installation work has been completed, in parallel progress is being made with the signal cabling installations and fiber optic connections for the link of this extension with Line 1. As well as with the preparation of the traction substation that will provide power to this extension,” reported the Panama Metro.

Dynamic tests with the trains are planned to be carried out in the first quarter of 2024 and it is estimated that the extension of line 1, viaduct and station, could be operational in the second quarter of 2024.

The 2.3-kilometer work was awarded in July 2019 to the Panama North Line Consortium (OHL, Mota Engel), for an amount of $177 million 967 thousand 848.

The extension to Villa Zaíta will benefit about 300 thousand people in the northern sector of the province of Panama and the project includes a terminal station, with a capacity greater than 10,000 passengers at peak hour.

Figures recently published by the Comptroller General of the Republic show a sustained increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Panama.

In 2022, $2,906.18 million came in from this item. A year earlier, in 2021, FDI was $1,646.28 million. In contrast, in 2020, the year of the pandemic, only $172.1 million in FDI was recorded.

The previous three years marked FDI as follows: $3,895.23 million (2019), $4,750.50 million (2018) and $4,281.83 million (2017). In relation to these numbers, it has not yet been possible to exceed the annual amount of FDI achieved in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

It is worth highlighting some trends that historical figures reveal: the average FDI per year before the pandemic was around $3 billion, but it was reduced in 2021 and 2022 specifically, that is, the pace of FDI growth has not yet recovered. .

Regarding this, economist Felipe Chapman, from Indesa, recalled in the past Café con La Prensa that there is potential investment of $5.7 billion according to the environmental impact studies registered to date, although he clarified that it remains to be seen if that potential will be translated – or not- in real investment.

“FDI has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Although Panamanians have experienced difficult crises and have been resilient, companies and multinationals are very nervous and disappointed in our [Panama’s] ability to manage this crisis. I don’t know if that is going to translate into an even greater reduction in FDI,” he commented at the forum on November 21.

Minera Panamá , a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, sent a message this Saturday, December 9, to the Panamanian authorities to clear the land routes that give access to this project in Donoso (Colón), as well as the port, which remain blocked.

The company states that the continuous blocking of access to the mine has prevented the delivery of equipment and supplies necessary to maintain the environmental stability of the site.

They affirm that productive operational tasks have ceased and are under measures of environmental stability and asset integrity, after on December 6 they received a notification from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) instructing them to end activities .

“Without these supplies, environmental management of the site will soon become increasingly difficult and could lead to potentially significant environmental effects,” stated a statement from Minera Panamá.

They reiterate that in order to comply and avoid environmental damage, access by road and through the international port must be urgently cleared.

“The company requests assistance from the authorities, in accordance with national regulations and international treaties, to allow the company to comply with the above request for which it requires receiving critical supplies,” the company adds.

Three of the five people who robbed a jewelry store in Punta Pacifica on December 7 reached a consensual sentencing agreement during a hearing held on Saturday, for which Judge Oris Medina sentenced them to 108, 120 and 144. months in prison for the crimes of aggravated robbery and illegal possession of a firearm.

Medina, judge of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, also decreed the precautionary measure of provisional detention for the other two people identified as participating in the robbery: a man and a woman.

They are accused of the alleged commission of a crime against collective security in the form of aggravated robbery, as a primary accomplice and secondary accomplice.

During the hearing of multiple requests, held until late at night on Saturday, December 9, Medina based his decision to order the provisional detention measure on the “existence of procedural risks such as: danger of flight or inattention to the process and due to the serious nature of the crime and the crimes charged,” details a statement from the Judicial Branch.

Prior to that decision, the judge legalized the arrest of the five detainees and validated the formulation of charges.

The lawyers announced the presentation of an appeal, which will be discussed on December 22 at 8:30 am at the Plaza Fortuna Accusatory Penal System facilities.


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