Thursday 22nd December 2022.

December 22, 2022

For the second time in less than three years, the mills that crush the stone in the Cobre Panama project will reduce their speed to a minimum, after the Ministry of Commerce and Industries published resolution No. 2022-234 in the Official Gazette, in which establishes a period of 10 business days for the Minera Panamá company to present a temporary closure plan where the maintenance and care of all areas within the project is guaranteed. The closure ordered by the MICI, after the mother company First Quantum did not sign a new contract to continue with the extraction of copper, is similar to the mandate of the Ministry of Health in April 2020, when coronavirus infections increased within the concession of 13 thousand hectares. But now there is a big difference as it is a legal limbo, with the risks of losses, the challenge of preserving the workforce and the pressures of reaching an agreement with the Panamanian State to reach a contract that protects the concession. Daniel Esquivel, adviser to the office of MICI minister Federico Alfaro Boyd, commented that the plan that the company must present must include the cessation of mineral exports and a minimum operation of the processing plant to avoid the deterioration of the equipment. “A project of this magnitude cannot be completely stopped, because that would generate a depreciation of the investment and that is not what the government intends,” he explained. In the resolution published on the night of Monday, December 19, it is established that once notified, the company must submit the care and maintenance plan within a period of no more than 10 business days. Once the document is approved, there will be two business days to start executing it. The MICI adviser points out that the company should have no problems presenting the plan, because it already went through that process in 2020. In addition, he indicated that any mining project of the magnitude of the Donoso mine must have a maintenance and care sheet in the event of any force majeure event. Yesterday, the risk firm S&P Global Ratings put First Quantum Minerals’ B+ and issuer ratings under review with a negative perspective due to the risk that the maintenance and care order required by the Government of Panama represents for the company’s finances and that they comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of 2017, which declared Law 9 of 1997, which facilitated mining activity in Donoso, unconstitutional. The Mining Chamber of Panama maintained that the Government’s decision to order the closure of the commercial operations of the mine puts at risk the contribution of 4% to the gross domestic product made by the Cobre Panama project, as well as 72% of the exports of the country, which depend on the sale of copper. Esquivel, meanwhile, specified that Minera Panamá has 5 business days after being notified to file a reconsideration appeal against the resolution that orders the presentation of the maintenance plan.

The first judge to liquidate criminal cases, Agueda Rentería, argued that the prescription of the criminal action decreed in favor of 337 people in the case of irregularities in the economic compensation to owners of red devil type buses, occurred due to the slowness in the processing of the case. This statement is contained in Mixed Order No.10 of December 12, 2022, with which Rentería opened a criminal case and decided to prosecute 198 defendants. In the document, Rentería warned that “the statute of limitations implies impunity for a crime that caused a significant patrimonial damage to the State.” However, she acknowledged that this investigation involved many people and therefore required multiple steps. Regarding the 198 investigated who will be prosecuted, she stated that the investigation carried out by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office showed that the Transit and Land Transportation Authority (ATTT) never had a record of all the red devils that operated in the capital and San Miguelito. She added that this lack of control “caused a debauchery that hit the treasury.” According to Rentería, the State paid “in excess” to bus owners who did not even provide the transportation service. She also recognized that there was a lack of action by the ATTT and the transport organizations, who had to act ex officio in the face of irregularities in the compensation process. Among those called to trial there are 79 officials who worked in the ATTT, inspectors of the Comptroller’s Office and the Secretariat of Goals of the Presidency of the Republic and legal representatives of public transport service providers. In this group are, for example, the former directors of the ATTT Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, Marcos Mora, Ventura Vega and Roberto Moreno.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Janaina Tewaney, and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Federico Alfaro Boyd, traveled to the United States on the Tuesday afternoon. Tewaney was due to meet yesterday in Washington with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, as announced in a statement. “The short-term mission will allow high-ranking Panamanian officials to hold meetings in the North American country with John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for International Strategic Studies (CSIS) and with Gina Raimondo, United States Secretary of Commerce,” reads the brief statement. Both ministers will return to the country today.

The collaborative cost of living index of the platform, fed with data from immigrants and returnees living in various countries, ranks Panama City as one of the most expensive to live in Latin America. The platform that seeks to guide people who want to emigrate from one country to another, collects the prices of both basic services, such as food, housing rental, payment of children’s education, clothing, footwear, transportation, care products personal, to daily expenses such as having a coffee among others. The Expatistan report states that in Panama City a family of 4 people needs at least an income of 3,394 dollars a month to pay for their basic expenses. While a person must have a salary of 1,665 also to cover their needs for rent, food, transportation, services and other needs. The cost of living in Panama is more expensive than in 88% of Latin American cities, occupying number five in the ranking among 32 metropolises evaluated by expatriates. The first place in the list of most expensive cities to live according to is occupied by Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands, followed by Nassau in the Bahamas in second place, Bridgetown in Barbados (third place) and Montevideo, Uruguay, fourth. After Panama City, which ranks fifth, is San José, Costa Rica, in sixth place. Santiago de Chile also appears in seventh place among the most expensive cities, followed by Guatemala City, in rank eight, Caracas, Venezuela in ninth place and Monterrey in tenth place. The data presented by the platform indicates that the cost of living in Panama is 102% more expensive than in Bogotá and is more or less the same as in San José, Costa Rica´. When compared to Medellín, Panama City is 84% ​​more expensive In fact, Panamanians usually travel to Colombia and specifically to Medellín and Bogotá, as an economical alternative to vacation, because the exchange differential makes it an affordable destination. For example, a meal from the executive menu of the day in an expensive area in Panama can cost at least 17 dollars, in Bogotá that same menu costs 31,645 pesos, which at the exchange rate of 4,763 pesos per dollar on December 21 would be about 6.64 dollars. Having a cappuccino in an expensive area of ​​Panama City such as the Costa del Este or the banking area can cost $5.46, in Bogotá it would cost 9,762 pesos, that is, $2. The rent for an 85-square-meter furnished apartment in the expensive area of ​​Panama City, taking into account that the calculation is made by expatriates who come to work in the country, would average $1,270, while in Colombia it would cost in 3 million 70 thousand pesos that calculated in dollars is 644 dollars per month. Another comparison is made with the cost of fuel, a liter (1/4 gallon) of gasoline in Panama City costs 1.28 dollars, while in Bogotá it is 2,829 pesos, only 0.59 cents.

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