Monday 18th December 2023.
December 17, 2023
This weekend the movement in the shopping centers of the capital city was significant, to the point that at a certain moment it was difficult to enter some malls.
After noon this Sunday, in the Albrook shopping center the influx of public was massive. In some businesses, there were long lines at the parcel stores.
People sitting on the side of the aisles was another image that caught attention. They were people who preferred to wait for their companions with their previous purchases outside the stores.
A weekend that coincided with the fortnight and the disbursement of the thirteenth month’s allocation in the private sector, generated a significant movement of people to businesses since Saturday.
A week before Christmas Eve, it was inevitable to see dozens of people withdrawing paid-for toys, others buying clothes for the end-of-year parties and some looking for a gift for a loved one.
The pedestrian area of Central Avenue was another of the sectors that came to life since Saturday, after 38 days of protests and blockades (between October and November) against the mining contract.
Likewise, it was difficult to move from one point in the city to another, whether by public transportation or by own car; The capital city is experiencing a weekend like few others, with a warning of high levels of wind chill due to the relentless sunny weather.
Some department stores maintain discounted merchandise, trying to get out of the inventories that they have been carrying since before the December season due to the shutdown that the country had between October and November of this year,
This weekend the influx has been greater and is noticeable not only in the corridors of the shopping centers, but also in the streets and in the parking lots of the plazas. Everything crowded.
The Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) called on the Government to react to the different social and economic scenarios that the country lives and give signs of how it will proceed in the face of these challenges.
The closure of the Donoso mine, the reformulation of the general state budget for 2024, the austerity measures and specific actions to alleviate the ravages suffered by thousands of producers, small and micro-entrepreneurs after the unjustified stoppage last month, are some of the situations posed by the business community.
“Citizens demand answers, transparency, leadership, responsible actions and, above all, transparent and constant communication. However, the feeling is the opposite, that nothing is simply happening, there is no coherent, realistic and much less immediate reaction,” is reflected in the weekly letter from the Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Adolfo Fábrega.
After the ruling of unconstitutionality by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Donoso mining contract it is highlighted that with this decision the operational challenge is just beginning to orderly close the mine.
However, it is noted that this is a responsibility with sufficient environmental, financial and human risks for the Executive to have demonstrated some diligence.
“Instead, all we have seen is an insufficient statement, forced by public opinion, with supposed future measures, issued by the same authorities responsible for the disaster where they have taken us and evidencing a great conflict of interest.”
The Cciap warns that to date it is unknown how the mine closure will proceed and that every minute that passes increases the risk of an environmental catastrophe if immediate actions are not taken.
“The absence of actions by the National Government has been constant and inexcusable; Letting the ball pass and kicking it forward seems to have become the normal form of public administration, without facing the serious consequences that derive from that immobility; or worse yet, trying to carry this crisis quietly and under the carpet until the current administration ends.
Regarding the general state budget for 2024, the business sector emphasizes that it is only known about an alleged reformulation announced by the Minister of Economy and Finance, and that this also occurred due to citizen pressure.
“Likewise, it is stated that there is concern regarding the president of the Budget Commission of the National Assembly [Benicio Robinson] who is defiant and arrogant, who does not seem to have learned anything from the widespread citizen complaints and fatigue. This is a critical issue, which will have enormous repercussions, not only on the administration that takes office in just six months, but on the entire national economy.”
Another aspect that the Cciap urges leaders to pay attention to as soon as possible is the consequences that the agricultural and tourism sectors are suffering, due to the violence and intransigence of radical groups that blocked the country against authorities that could not guarantee fundamental rights. of free transit.
It is recalled that these sectors continue waiting to know what plans the current government administration has to support them in redirecting a situation that will in fact produce losses of all kinds.
“Seeing everything about which no measures have been taken, it seems secondary to resume the demand for an austerity plan by State institutions, but it is not. The country’s economic outlook is difficult, with the possible loss of investment grade, and its effects on the cost of financing for everyone. The significant challenge of resuming a fiscal consolidation process that generates trust and the scenario of international arbitrations, all of which requires us to embark on an era of austerity and true commitment to the responsible management of public finances.
The Executive and Legislative bodies have not agreed to define a new general budget of the State for 2024, with less than 15 days until the end of 2023.
A scenario that generates uncertainty in the face of the economic challenges that the country faces, especially due to the ruling of unconstitutionality of the Donoso mining contract, the shortage of water for the operations of the Panama Canal and the deficit in the Disability, Old Age and Death of the Social Security Fund.
- Last August, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Héctor Alexander, presented to the National Assembly a draft general budget of the State for a whopping $32,754 million, about 5 billion dollars more than the current year’s budget.
- However, the Budget Commission of the Assembly, chaired by Congressman Benicio Robinson, president of the ruling party, the PRD, recommended “ readjustments” for $780.2 million.
- Last Thursday, December 14, Deputy Robinson expressed: “I don’t know what Minister Alexander is doing, what the Executive is doing, but what he has to do is approve what we allocate. But if he doesn’t have that, then let’s move on to the next phase.”
- Article 272 of the Political Constitution establishes that if on the first day of the fiscal year the general budget of the corresponding State has not been approved, The project presented by the Executive Body will come into force, even if it has not been voted on by the National Assembly. This would mean that that $32,754 million project would instantly become the general state budget for 2024, on January 1.
- If the Executive Branch, through the Cabinet Council, approves another draft general budget of the State and would call the Assembly to extraordinary sessions, it would have two advantages in its favor. If the new project were not voted on by the deputies, it would be this new budget proposal that would come into effect on January 1.
- Another scenario: Suppose that the majority of deputies decide to reject the new budget project, that is, either in the Budget Committee or in the plenary session of the Assembly National, then what is contained in article 273 of the Political Constitution would apply, which establishes the following: “If the National Assembly rejects the general budget project of the State, the budget of the previous year will be considered automatically extended until the new budget is approved and the items provided for in the rejected budget project with respect to public debt service, compliance of the other contractual obligations of the State and the financing of public investments previously authorized by law.”
- What happens? This would mean that the 2023 budget, for an amount of $27,579.4 million, would be extended in everything, except what corresponds to the payment of the public debt and State contracts authorized by lawThis constitutional mandate becomes the main shield of the president’s government Laurentino Cortizo to approve a new, more realistic budget project and convene the deputies to extraordinary sessions, so that they approve it. Otherwise, in 2024 the 2023 budget would come into effect again. He who laughs last, laughs with the Constitution on his side.
The Panama Fire Department reported that in the early hours of this Sunday, December 17, a fire occurred in the landfill of Cerro Patacón, a situation that generated dense smoke that covered some sectors of the capital city.
Ángel Delgado, from the Fire Department, reported that they received the alert around 3:00 a.m. and that upon arriving at the scene they located two sources of the fire and at approximately 1:00 p.m. They were already almost extinct.
“It was necessary to send personnel from the stations of Calidonia, Carrasquilla, San Miguelito, and a tanker from the Juan Díaz area to fight the fire,” said Delgado, who stated that the situation is under control.
He added that the burned spots were cooled and in turn covered with earth, with material provided by the Cleaning Authority.
“About 25 units worked and the causes are unknown because when the first vehicle arrived, the fire was already declared.”
From very early on, some sectors of Panama City were covered with the dense smoke that arose from the fire. Even on social media, some residents of the northern and metropolitan sectors of the district of Panama and San Miguelito expressed their discomfort due to the smoke and foul smell.
In the first months of the year, nearly 20 fires were recorded in the Cerro Patacón landfill; In one of them it took 10 days to put it down.