Thursday 24th August 2023.

August 23, 2023


The management of the National Bingos was in the public eye on Tuesday, in the Budget Commission of the National Assembly, the day that Edgardo Forero, manager of the entity, supported the budget for 2024.

During the day, the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez, disapproved of the high salaries and the deficiencies that the National Bingos present. It was a scenario similar to the one that occurred in 2022, when Vásquez questioned the manager of the institution because a relative of his wife was part of the payroll of the gambling institution.

On this occasion, the independent deputy called attention to the lack of sustainability and the little action of its authorities.

“You are not sustainable, you are spending people’s money and I am going to give you information on how you can be more sustainable: that the manager, who does not support the institution, does not earn $6,000,” said the parliamentarian in the Budget Commission of the National Assembly.

In fact, Vásquez criticized that in the national bingos they have large salaries, but they are not bearing fruit and they are not selling cards either. He even regretted that only about 300 people go to bingo on weekends.

“I hope that the person that wants to go wherever they want to play and is not condemned to a bingo room that doesn’t work, opens three days a week and has holes in the ceiling,” he said.

When questioned, Isidro Bermúdez, a lawyer for the National Bingos, responded that he entered the institution on May 16 of this year, with which he said he was unaware of any flaws or weaknesses there. However, he considered that bingo should be more supported.

While Forero mentioned that they solved with the support of the Comptroller General of the Republic, the lack of regulation of the income from the sale in the bingo stores.

For the National Bingos, the Ministry of Economy and Finance recommended a budget of $1.1 million for 2024, and everything will be for operation.

Ricardo Lombana , founder and presidential candidate of the Movimiento Otro Camino (Moca) , is already reluctant to agree to an electoral alliance with what he calls “traditional parties” and conditions any agreement with Cambio Democrático (CD) and the Panameñista, for the elections generals of May 5, 2024.

“Today, the three candidates from the traditional parties represent more of the same. And it’s a mistake to think that Panama’s problems are solved if [Ricardo] Martinelli doesn’t win. It is more serious than that,” said Lombana, in a conversation with journalists and members of the board of directors of Corporación La Prensa, SA (Corprensa), yesterday.

Lombana arrived accompanied by part of his work team: Julio Linares, Jorge Quijano, Leonor Calderón, Jorge Conte and Andrés de la Iglesia. His sister was also with them. His was María Laura Lombana.

“There is no possibility that I go down in favor of a traditional party,” he remarked. Then, he put a condition: “If they recognize that they are co-responsible for what is happening today and step aside, we can talk. But there is no such commitment.

Communication with the other groups is, at this moment, virtually broken and the only agreement that Moca is currently working on is one with the candidates for free application who are in the Vamos coalition, led by the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez .

“That is our natural alliance. To do otherwise is to go against everything the movement has stood for since its founding,” he noted.

The last day to communicate the electoral alliances to the Electoral Tribunal (TE) is September 30.

José Isabel Blandón, also affirmed this Wednesday, that whoever is going to lead an opposition alliance, facing the general elections next year, will be defined in the coming weeks.

With this, Blandón denied what José Alberto Álvarez, of the Social Independent Alternative Party (PAIS), had previously announced.

Álvarez had said that Rómulo Roux, presidential candidate of the Cambio Democrático (CD) party, would head the political alliance between the Panameñista Party, CD and PAIS.

“Neither Roux nor I have agreed who is going to lead the alliance,” said Blandón, who described Álvarez’s statements as unfortunate. What’s more, Blandón asked Álvarez to take this issue of alliances more seriously.”

For his part, Roux also told the media that until consensus is reached on issues of national interest, no one thinks about who will lead the political alliance with a view to the 2024 elections.

“We are going to continue talking […] This is not an electoral alliance,” said Roux, arriving this afternoon for lunch precisely with Blandón and Álvarez.

At the end of the meeting, the politicians reiterated that the talks are ongoing. The boards of CD and Panameñismo, each on their own, would be ratifying the alliance on September 16.

It must be remembered that between Friday September 1 and Saturday September 30 is the period for political parties to formalize their alliances before the Electoral Tribunal (TE) .

The technical table to analyze the adjustment of the minimum wage will be installed next week, announced the Minister of Labor and Labor Development, Doris Zapata, who was present at the presentation of the labor report of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama.

“We are going to install and analyze this issue of workers’ income at the minimum wage table, which will be installed next week. We are going to analyze the cost of the basic basket and where the economy is going, ”she said, detailing that on August 30 it will be formally installed.

She recalled that this table will be made up of representatives of the government, private companies and workers.

The study presented by the Chamber of Commerce revealed that in Panama the average income is 728 dollars a month and 7 out of 10 Panamanians earn less than a thousand dollars.

It is also estimated that 28% of the employees, that is, 299,617 people, earning between 600 and 799 dollars, only 3% earn from 3,000 dollars onwards.

The cost of the food basket measured by the Authority for the Protection of Consumers and Defense of Competition (Acodeco) was located at the end of June at 271.73 dollars the lowest cost, at 290.17 dollars the average and the highest cost was 324.39 dollars .

While the Ministry of Economy and Finance reports that the Basic Family Food Basket at the end of April this year was at 345.19 dollars.

The last minimum wage adjustment was made in December 2021 and came into effect from January 1, 2022 until the end of this year, 2023. On that occasion the adjustment ranged between 1.5% and 2% in some activities.

The labor minister indicated that reducing unemployment is a challenge that must be undertaken by a joint effort between the public and private sectors.

She said that this year they expect the unemployment rate to decrease by at least 3 percentage points.

“The National Institute of Statistics has stated that unemployment is at 8.9% and we must remember that at the peak of the pandemic we reached 18%. We have been recovering positively and we aspire to a further 3% reduction”. indicated the minister.

She argued that one of the concerns is focused on also reducing the number of people in the informal market.

It was specified that they will reinforce the work to give young people tools to enter the labor market and gain experience, given the youth unemployment rates presented by the Chamber of Commerce.

On the morning of this Wednesday, August 23, 2023, five criminals robbed the Banco General branch located on Ernesto T. Lefevre Avenue, in Panama City.

In videos captured by witnesses, the criminals can be seen wearing masks, caps and after committing the robbery, left in a gray van.

No injured or deceased persons were reported, confirmed the National Police, the bank itself and the Public Ministry. So far no people have been apprehended and the amount of money that was stolen is unknown.

Two criminals were the ones who entered the bank and another three subdued the security agent, detailed the Superior Prosecutor Julio Villarreal, in charge of the investigations. To escape, they used violence on the bank’s security door.

For their part, the Police reported that they were carrying out operations to find those responsible for this criminal action.

Later it was announced that the vehicle allegedly used by the criminals to flee the bank was abandoned on third street, in the Río Abajo sector. The car was stolen.

For its part, Banco General pointed out, on social networks, that both clients and collaborators are safe. The assaulted branch will be closed for today and will reopen today Thursday. The Primary Care Section of the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office is conducting the corresponding investigations.

It should be remembered that on July 25 there was also a robbery at the branch of this same bank and which is located in El Ingenio (Betania), from which the sum of $28,500 was stolen.

In this regard, prosecutor Villarreal said that there is “a lot of similarity” with the previous robbery of this same bank, so he does not rule out that there is an organized group specifically to commit this type of theft.


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