Monday 24th October 2022.

October 24, 2022

The Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) highlighted in its weekly letter that the authorities are distant from the needs of civil and business society. In its message to the ‘Camera opina’, released this Sunday, the private sector highlighted that this distancing from the government is demonstrated by the recent floods suffered in the city of Colón, due to lack of maintenance of the drainage pumps. Likewise, it is stated that the deplorable state of the Pacific Logistics Corridor, lack of bridges, the constant claims of citizens for broken roads and lack of water in some communities is a reflection of this situation. “Addressing the state of the national infrastructure is not only a duty of the State so that the different actors of society can carry out their daily activities, but we have also indicated that, to the extent that these public works are attended to and maintained. The much-needed formal jobs will be generated that help the country’s sustainable recovery, and improve the personal and family situation of our citizens”, is expressed in the Cciap letter. The business association pointed out that the case of the floods in the province of Colón as a result of the lack of action through a pump maintenance program resulted in an economic impact of more than $15 million per day. Similarly, it is highlighted that the lack of maintenance programs for road, sanitary and rainwater infrastructure, among others, is more worrying, because it is deteriorating the standard of living of Panamanians, the image and competitiveness of the country. “When we present our Country Agenda document with short- and medium-term action recommendations to the presidential candidates – including the current president and his team – we point out the attention of these sectors as essential to be able to promote competitive economic growth; today they require immediate attention, before this means a real debacle for the country as a whole. In your hands is the power to generate the necessary changes”, adds the Cciap message.

New “economic aid” comes to light where the beneficiaries are close relatives of deputies of the Republic. On this occasion, it is the son of the deputy in government Roberto Ábrego (circuit 8-5), of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) . And it is that, according to the digital media Foco Panamá, which released the information on October 22, Diego Ábrego Díaz received financial aid of 190 thousand dollars from the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu). It should be remembered that Ábrego, in addition to being a deputy, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority, a position he took office on April 13, 2020. In the case of his son, documents from the Comptroller General of the Republic indicate that Ifarhu, an entity directed by Bernardo Meneses, sent the corresponding paperwork for his endorsement on August 5, 2020. And it was on August 10, 2020 that the Comptroller endorsed the document. In other words, it was a procedure that lasted just five days.The digital media Foco Panamá initially reported this week that Paola Testa Rodríguez, daughter of the deputy and co-party of Meneses, Zulay Rodríguez, received an economic aid of 61 thousand dollars. Both  Meneses and the ruling deputy herself assure that the aid was given to Testa Rodríguez based on her academic and sports skills. La Prensa also revealed that María Alejandra Panay Marín, daughter of Quibián Panay, received an “aid” to study in England for an amount of 81 thousand 730 dollars. The first disbursement, for $59,230, was made in October 2021 and the second, for $22,500, was endorsed in February 2022.

The result of the long debate on the reforms to Law 37 of 2009, which decentralizes public administration, supposes increases in the amount of funds available to local governments. This, facing a pre-election year in which the National Decentralization Authority (AND), elevated from secretary to authority in the government of Laurentino Cortizo, could have a budget of $343.1 million in 2023. Although the reforms agreed to increases in transfers to local governments, progress was made in terms of oversight and citizen participation. “The fight against inequality forces us to resume the serious debate of bill 364, which reforms Law 37 of decentralization, to efficiently attack the needs of our communities,” said deputy Crispiano Adames, when he was re-elected as president of the National Assembly on July 1, 2022. The initiative was widely discussed in the first debate in the Municipal Affairs Commission, which is chaired by the deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Javier Sucre, who in turn is one of the proponents of the bill. Each municipality will have a budget of at least $1 million a year. If you do not achieve that amount by appealing to your own collection and the aforementioned method, a solidarity formula will be applied. Other transfers of funds are contemplated there, such as $110,000 base to each community board and municipality by the AND. These must be allocated as follows: 80% for investment and 20% for operation. In addition, part of the operating budget will be for the training of human resources and community members.”Citizen participation and accountability, as a mechanism of transparency in the management of public funds, will be an essential requirement in the process of programming, planning, execution and comprehensive  development of the sectoral projects that are executed in the municipalities”, It is part of the approval.The result of the public hearings will be “binding”. Finally, it was approved to include three people from civil society on the AND board of directors. The requirement is that they be linked to municipal development. These three people, with voice and vote, will be part of the board of directors made up of 11 people, mainly ministers, representatives of municipal associations and other officials. For the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez, who participated in the discussion in the Municipal Affairs Commission and has been a defender of citizen participation and decentralization, the allocation of resources to local governments must be accompanied by a “transfer of capacities and knowledge”. “It is not giving more money to the representatives and mayors, but giving them more responsibility and money to fulfill those responsibilities,” he told La Prensa . He added that it is “fundamental” to ensure the existence of “institutional and citizen oversight mechanisms.”

So far in 2022, the security forces have seized some 100 tons of drugs, a figure that is on track to exceed the record of 128.7 tons, imposed in the 12 months of 2021. The Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino , reported that the largest amount of drugs has been seized in the provinces of Colón and Panama. Precisely those two provinces, according to data from the Public Ministry updated to September this year, are the ones that lead the number of homicides with 39% and 22%, respectively, of the total of 369 homicides that have occurred in the country in the first 10 months of the year. The thesis of drug prosecutors and police agents is that, when a seizure occurs, the immediate consequence is one or two homicides, generally committed by Creole gangs, some with connections to international organized crime, such as the Clan del Golfo de Colombia. According to Pino, through the “Istmo” operation, in the last few hours the National Aeronoval Service (Senan) seized some 2,800 packages of drugs (close to three tons), between the Guna Yala region, the ports of Colón and the Jicarón Island, in the south of Veraguas (near Coiba). Most of the drug comes from Colombia and the Caribbean. José Hernández, commissioner of Senan, recently pointed out that a lot of drugs enter through the Gulf of Urabá and lately drug traffickers move away from the coast of Panama, to avoid interceptions. On the Pacific side, they are using speedboats and are sometimes captured near Punta Burica, almost on the border with Costa Rica. Drug seizures in Panama have increased, after on February 11, 2021, Panama inaugurated the Regional Naval Air Operations Center (Croan), with the support of the United States, and which monitors the so-called southern triangle of the region (Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia). On October 17, the governments of the United States and Panama approved the purchase and donation of a King Air 250 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), with an approximate investment of $12.6 million, which is intended to support operations to counter traffic and illegal fishing, as well as humanitarian relief efforts, including search and rescue.

After two years of absence due to the covid-19 pandemic, yesterday, the traditional meeting of student music bands was held on Avenida Peru, Calidonia corregimiento. Drums, lyres, clarinets, trumpets and other musical instruments were combined in a celebratory atmosphere for 10 days of the national holidays. The event, organized by the National Charity Lottery, was held in its 24th version and included the participation of 22 schools and 13 independent bands.The organizers highlighted the participation of some 3,000 students from official and private schools who paraded in the categories of lyre and music bands. There will also be trophies for the best team of batuters, battalion and  the best escort. The parade, which began in the old Bella Vista theater and ended in the vicinity of Calle 31 Calidona, began with the presentation of the music band of the Panama Fire Department. The Lottery reported that nearly $25,000 in prizes have been awarded to be distributed to the top five places in the lyre band category and the top three places in the other band category. This will be for the purchase of musical instruments and trophies.

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