Tuesday 13th September 2022.

September 13, 2022

The candidates for a candidacy by free application continue to search for citizen support at a dizzying pace to obtain the required signatures and thus appear on the ballot for the 2024 elections. Since the process of collecting signatures began on August 15, the pre-candidates for President of the Republic, deputy, mayor and corregimiento representative have collected a total of 267,922 supporting signatures. A record figure according to the Electoral Court (TE) , taking into account that in 2018, in the first four months, they collected 90 thousand signatures. Only this Sunday, September 11, 13,325 signatures were registered, with the collection systems, highlights the TE. In its report on Monday, the TE detailed that for the pre-candidates for the position of president, 65,205 signatures have been registered; for deputy, 96,281 are counted; for mayor 34,943 and for corregimiento representative 71,493. The entity adds that the five mechanisms made available have had “a resounding success”: through the User Service Center (CAU)  147,132 signatures were collected; in multi-service kiosks  36,556 ; through the “app”  73,845; in books for areas of difficult access, without internet connectivity,  1,998; and in the offices the figure is  8,391 . The activists of the pre-candidates for free application have until Monday, July 31, 2023 to collect signatures.

The rector of the Autonomous University of Chiriquí (Unachi), Etelvina de Bonagas, defended this Monday, the salary increase in favor of administrative staff and teachers for the year 2023. “These are rights acquired by law and approved by this Assembly,” said the official during the support of the university’s budget, which amounts to $95.6 million for 2023. “We have to standardize salaries” with other universities, the rector told the Budget Commission of the National Assembly. According to the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez, in the budget of the Chirican university there is an increase of $6 million for the next year in salary for the staff. Additionally, an increase of up to $48 thousand in representation expenses is also highlighted. De Bonagas indicated that the university has 400 professors with a doctorate and 600 with a master’s degree.

Despite the fact that similar issues have been addressed in both instances of dialogue, Paulina Franceschi, executive coordinator of the Bicentennial Pact , considered that what has been achieved is not comparable with the conjunctural response that social groups and the Executive have sought in response to the crisis. At the single dialogue table that has been taking place since July in Penonomé. Basic food basket, social security, access to public services and the cost of medicines were among the topics discussed in both instances. “There is convergence between what was agreed and signed at the single dialogue table and the pact. Therefore, the pact provides greater legitimacy to what was achieved in Penonomé”, Franceschi stated. She stressed that the pact and what was agreed upon emanates from more than 200,000 citizen proposals. The single dialogue table results from a temporary and punctual need, she said. Franceschi argued that since they are different methodologies, the results have other scopes. For example, she referred to the fact that short, medium and long-term solutions were born from the pact. In the case of the dialogue, it is unknown what will happen when the decrees expires, such as the one that regulates the price of fuel, which expires on October 18. The implementation and fulfillment of the agreements reached in the pact and the commitments signed at the dialogue table have turned out to be one of the great challenges of both processes. From the executive decrees emanating from what was agreed in Penonomé, at least three claims of unconstitutionality have arisen before the Supreme Court of Justice . These are Executive Decree 215 , which creates the Citizen Commission against Corruption, and Executive Decree 16 , which sets the maximum gross marketing margin for some imported products of the basic basket. The discussion at the dialogue table seems stagnant, with no light on when a second phase will begin or how to proceed with the integration of more sectors into the discussion and follow-up of the proposals. in the case of the pact, a high-level commission also designated by executive decree has already delivered “a proposal for a follow-up mechanism for the implementation of said agreements,” Franceschi explained, adding that the government promised to implement in the two years that remain 40 actions that impact 28 agreements reached. Franceschi stressed that the participatory aspect on which the Bicentennial Pact is organized is its greatest strength. She referred to the presentation of Bill 855 by the Ministry of Agricultural Development, which establishes the state agri-food policy and collects 11,000 citizen proposals on this subject. The Executive has not made any other announcements about public policy initiatives or proposals to present to uphold the agreement. Franceschi made a call to “make a deep reflection… let’s put aside interests and seek the common good.”

More than half or 15 of the 25 ‘turnkey’ contracts that the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) has put out to tender since 2019 have already been endorsed by the Comptroller General of the Republic. In total, the MOP plans to award 25 projects in which the contractor will provide the funds to carry out the work and then the State will cancel the debt through a schedule of two payments previously established in the specifications. The Comptroller ‘s Office has given its approval to 15 contracts and about 10 have an order to proceed or have begun their execution process. Rafael Sabonge , Minister of Public Works, assures that these projects that will be developed in the 10 provinces and two indigenous regions will promote economic reactivation. Faced with the fall in State income, due to the unemployment suffered by the economy in the midst of the respiratory pandemic of the coronavirus, the Government established the scheme of works with financing included to tender infrastructure projects.To date, the MOP has awarded 21 contracts totaling $944.5 million. There are three tenders that are stopped due to claims filed by the participating companies, and the other that is in the review phase of the proposals received, which is  for the rehabilitation of the streets in the province of Colón. For the improvements in Colón, four offers were received, the cheapest being the one presented by the IRC Constructores consortium, made up of the companies Itecpa, Retaneq and Concor, which offered $27.7 million. One of the tenders that is waiting for the claims filed with the General Directorate of Public Procurement (DGCP) to be resolved, is that of the expansion of Vía España that will create exclusive lanes for Metrobus units. This project would begin at the intersection of Vía España with Avenida Porras and would end in the sector of Vía Cinquantenario. In this process, the MOP had awarded the contract to the company Centroequipos, but the DGCP annulled the order after accepting an appeal filed by the company Constructora Urbana, SA Another act that is stopped covers the rehabilitation of streets in 11 villages in the capital city, after Public Contracting accepted six claims filed by companies or consortiums that do not agree with the score received by their proposals. The project, which represents an investment of $86 million, was divided into four contracts for the repair of streets in the districts of Ancón and Alcalde Díaz (1); Bella Vista and San Francisco (2); and Parque Lefevre, Juan Díaz, Tocumen, Pedregal and Mañanitas (3). While line 4 contemplates repairs in Calidonia and Santa Ana. The third tender that has not ended due to claim actions is for works on streets and roads in the village of Boquerón, province of Chiriquí, where an administrative investigation is being carried out due to the alleged falsification of the data presented by one of the proponents.

If the Executive approves Bill 342, which invalidates actions by the National Authority for Public Services (ASEP) to free the easement of electrical projects, the cost of these investments will be higher. This is what Iván Barría warns, former manager of the state Electricity Transmission Company, SA (Etesa) and who had to face delays due to conflicts with landowners during the construction of the third transmission line. Bill 342, which only consists of 5 articles, was approved in the third debate last week. It was presented in 2019 by the deputy of Veraguas and the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Eugenio Bernal. “With this law it would be more expensive to build lines due to the abuses of landowners and the time for negotiation would be infinite,” warns Barría. The bill was sent by the National Assembly to President Laurentino Cortizo on September 8 for his approval or veto. The most affected would be the projects of renewable sources such as solar and wind, because it is necessary to build new transmission lines for these plants, some of which are currently under construction. What was approved with the vote of 38 deputies, eliminates article 138-A of the sole text of Law 6, which regulates the electricity sector, and would render without legal effect any administrative process initiated by the ASEP since 2013 in which it has applied the procedure summary for the use and acquisition of easement for electrical projects. “This is disastrous and unnecessary because the ASEP does not authorize expropriations, it is only easement rights,” says Barría. In his opinion, Panama already pays a very high right-of-way cost percentage compared to neighboring countries or even Europe. “We are paying almost the cost of the land to go pass through even though the owner of the land remains the owner,” he says. For every renewable energy project built in the country, it is almost certain that new transmission lines will have to be built to connect to the main grid. With the current regulation, it is possible to negotiate because the owners of affected lots know that if they do not accept, forced entry can be requested. Barría recalls that at the time he made a comparison and Etesa paid almost $60 million in easement for the third electricity line, which is 300 kilometers long, while in Spain for a similar project they paid about $10 million for the easement.

More articles