Monday 29th January 2024.

January 28, 2024

This week, the National Assembly discussed at least four law proposals that in total involve the creation of three new districts and 16 new townships in the provinces of Panama, Bocas del Toro and Darién.

Rupilio Ábrego, substitute for PRD deputy Benicio Robinson , presented the bill that creates the special district of Bastimentos in the province of Bocas del Toro, and also gives life to three townships in the new district: Bahía Honda, Quebrada Sal and Solarte . A similar proposal was vetoed by the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , in 2022.

For Olga de Obaldía , director of the Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, these modifications are due to political and not technical criteria.

“Each new township represents, as far as I understand, more than $300,000 additional dollars to the public treasury at least, not counting the discretionary distribution of decentralization,” he said.

An editorial in La Prensa explains more about the townships.

The fever of creating townships continues, even on the eve of the elections. Why are so many townships created? The answer is irremediably linked to the fact that all townships receive funds from formal decentralization and parallel decentralization. There are millions of dollars allocated to these political units, and at the rate we are going, within a few years we will have more than a thousand townships that will consume a good part of the State’s resources. One would ask, what is wrong with the townships receiving money to satisfy the needs of their inhabitants? The answer is that there are no such benefits, but for a handful of politicians who see the opportunity to control the money. Part of this money will end up in their pockets or those of their loved ones, and they will pay political debts with appointments to their community boards. With enough numbers, they could control municipal councils, which means more money in their pockets. This hemorrhage of state funds must have a limit. We have already witnessed what happens with the money that goes to these townships, and although the damage to the State’s assets has been proven, those responsible enjoy total impunity. And the worst thing is that they want more.

In the pavilions of the different prisons in the country, the authorities continue to find weapons, drugs and money, things that are supposedly prohibited in these detention centers.

In the last seven days, the public force carried out 10 searches in various prisons in the country and seized 16 firearms, 300 ammunition, 580 cell phones, 1,200 sharp objects, illicit substances, more than 4,800 dollars, gallons of fermented chichas, roosters fighting, among other items.

The confiscations were carried out in the La Joya, La Joyita, Nueva Esperanza penitentiary centers in Colón and in the Veraguas Penitentiary Center.

Juan Pino, Minister of Public Security, reported that several members of the public force have been dismissed for “inappropriate conduct” within these prisons.

“These behaviors cannot be admitted. He who crosses the line, there is no turning back,” he asserted.

Figures from the Ministry of Public Security indicate that during 2023 they seized 1,587 drones in different prisons. Meanwhile, so far this year they have already seized three.

Sustaining an electoral tournament focused on concrete proposals and solutions, completely distanced from perks and clientelism that have distinguished past electoral tournaments, is what should predominate in the campaign ahead of the general elections next May.

That is the call made by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) to the candidates for popularly elected positions who will participate in the May 5 contest.

In its weekly statement, the union advocated for an approach that addresses critical issues such as institutions, education, water challenges, health, employment and entrepreneurship, considered fundamental issues for economic reactivation. They also urge debate on issues such as human and social development.

“Panamanians deserve a change not only in the way the campaign is traditionally carried out, but also for us to seek to focus attention on the issues that truly matter for the sustainable development of Panama,” highlighted the Chamber.

The Cciap warns that civil society and unions will be more vigilant, that the fight

previous (2019,) to clientelism “that buys votes and does not propose real solutions with concrete execution plans.”

They will also remain observers and demand a campaign based on principles and respect for human dignity.

In addition, it will make available to each presidential candidate the conclusions of Agenda País, a document that they prepared together with civil society.

“Institutionalism is an essential component for the proper functioning of any democracy. Therefore, we urge the candidates to proactively address strengthening our government institutions,” he noted.

In the opinion of the union’s board, it is imperative to consolidate citizens’ trust in the system, guaranteeing transparency, accountability and respect for the laws.

“Without strong institutions, it is not possible to achieve any type of long-term development,” the Chamber stressed.

The fight against corruption is another cornerstone that cannot be ignored during the campaign, he added. That is why they urge the candidates to present clear strategies and concrete measures that seek to strengthen the integrity of the State and promote an environment conducive to investment and economic development.

In this way, he maintains, confidence is generated in the population in their institutions, an element that they consider fundamental for the development of a country and that “we have lost in Panama.”

Cciap also highlighted that the reactivation of the Panamanian economy must occupy a central place in the candidates’ proposals.

“The post-pandemic economic situation requires a strategic vision that stimulates growth, encourages investment, employment and entrepreneurship.

On February 3, the electoral campaign and propaganda begins. This period will end on May 2.

For the Presidency of the Republic there are eight candidates in the race: Melitón Arrocha (free nomination), José Gabriel Carrizo (Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Maribel Gordón (free nomination), Ricardo Lombana (Other Path Movement), Ricardo Martinelli (Realizing Goals and Alianza), Zulay Rodríguez (free nomination), Rómulo Roux (Democratic Change and Panameñista Party) and Martín Torrijos (Popular Party).

In addition to the position of president, 71 deputies will be chosen for the Assembly, 81 mayors, 701 township representatives, 11 councilors and 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).

Bill 1007, which will replace Law 1 on Medicines of January 2001, has not yet been sanctioned by the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo. 10 days have passed since its approval in the third debate in the National Assembly.

The various patient associations are waiting for the Executive to sanction in the coming days the project that regulates medicines, supplies, devices and other products for human health, as well as their public acquisition, and other provisions are dictated.

This proposal was presented to the National Assembly on March 29, 2023 by the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre, and was approved on January 17, 2024, with 45 votes in favor and one abstention.

For the moment, the Medicines Technical Board, created in 2022 to address the shortage and high cost of medicines, held its first organizational meeting this week to regulate the new standard and formed two work teams: one in charge of purchases and another of administrative or regulatory aspects of the law.

The director of Pharmacy and Drugs at the Minsa, Elvia Lau, explained that there are several aspects of the law that are already regulated by decrees, such as the national supply plan, the medicines observatory, the national medicines policy and a pharmacovigilance guide.

Lau explained that the regulations will establish international purchasing criteria, supply guarantee and selection criteria for new analysis laboratories, among other crucial aspects on the subject.

She highlighted that once the law is passed, the National Drug Pricing System (Sinprem) will be created , which will allow drugs to be purchased for public facilities and so can solidarity pharmacies (pharmacies that are already established and wish to buy drugs from prices acquired by the State). The authorities hope to reduce prices between 20% and 30%.

Former Panama soccer team player Luis ‘El Matador’ Tejada died this Sunday, January 28, during a recreational league match in the San Miguelito district.

According to first reports, Tejada – 41 years old – would have felt discomfort in his chest and then fainted. Those who were present at the game tried to revive him without success. They took him to the emergency room of the Generoso Guardia Polyclinic in Santa Librada.

Matador Tejada is, along with Blas Pérez , the team’s top scorer. “I don’t believe it, my partner left me,” Blas Pérez commented on his X social network account.

President Laurentino Cortizo also reacted to the death of the top scorer. “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Luis Carlos ‘Matador’ Tejada, Panama’s legendary national team goalscorer.”

The former president of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela, also remembered the player. “Thank you Matador for inspiring so many young people and making the dream of an entire country come true! Rest in peace,” he said.


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