Wednesday 5th June 2024.

June 4, 2024


The elected president of Panama, José Raúl Mulino ; and the current president, Laurentino Cortizo , met this Tuesday, June 4, for the second consecutive day as part of the transition for the change of Government.

This Tuesday’s meeting took place between economic officials at the headquarters of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF). Mulino was accompanied by his appointed Minister of Economy and Finance, Felipe Chapman ; Camilo Valdés, appointed to the General Directorate of Revenue (DGI); and Jose Ramón Icaza , Minister of Canal Affairs and Secretary of Goals, among other figures of the new government.

Present for the outgoing administration, in addition to Cortizo, was the head of the MEF, Héctor Alexander ; the Vice Minister of Economy, Carlos González; Jorge Almengo r, vice minister of Finance; and the general director of Revenue, Publio De Gracia.

Cortizo’s transition team is headed by Saleh Asvat, Secretary of Public-Private Partnership.

The head of the transaction from the incoming government, Aníbal Galindo, was also present at the meeting.

This is the second formal transition meeting, after yesterday, Monday, the meeting was held in the Security area.

Public finances have been under scrutiny in recent years due to the high level of debt and high expenses due to the size of the State.

Panamanian public debt is close to $50,000 million. The balance of the country’s total debt closed at 49,769 million dollars as of March 31.

Between July 1, 2019, when President Laurentino Cortizo’s term began, and March 31, 2024, the total balance of Panamanian debt has risen by $21,184 million.

In recent years, the country did not give effective signals to reduce government spending and limit the size of public debt, while the economy faced significant challenges in achieving sustainable growth rates. This led the international rating agency Fitch Ratings to lower the country’s investment grade.

The outgoing Government indicated that Minister Alexander and his work team provided the president-elect and his companions with technical and updated information on the current situation of the State’s public finances, as well as the execution of the budget for the period of 2024.

President Cortizo’s administration reiterated that it will make a transparent transition with detailed information to the authorities that will begin their constitutional functions as of July 1. The meeting lasted about two hours.

The Social Security Fund (CSS) operates with a board of directors whose positions have expired, when it should be a robust body, with power and autonomy, responsible for setting the policies for the operation of the entity, as well as supervising and monitoring its administration. .

The board is made up of 12 main members. Three of them are representatives of the employer sector; another three are the delegates of the unionized workers; a representative of retirees, another of public servants, a representative of medical unions, and three officials who enter each presidential administration.

It turns out that of the 12 main members, there are five whose five-year term has already expired. These are the three representatives of the workers’ sector: Miguel Ángel Edwards, Guillermo Puga and Gregorio Guerrel.

In the same condition would be Roberto Valencia, representing public servants, and Manuel Pérez, who occupies a position on the board to give visibility to pensioners and retirees.

In addition, Aida Michelle de Maduro, representing the employer sector, left her position in 2023, when she decided to accompany Melitón Arrocha in his race for the presidency of the Republic.

Maduro told this newspaper that his departure was definitive. His chair is empty.

Meanwhile, Camilo Valdés and Fernando Méndez, also from the employer sector, were appointed in the incoming government of José Raúl Mulino, so it is understood that as of July 1 they must leave their positions.

They were appointed to the CSS in October 2019 and ratified in 2020, but – technically – they are outside the CSS board and their current priority is supposed to be the start of the government’s transaction period.

Méndez was appointed as vice minister of Housing; and Valdés in the General Directorate of Revenue.

Raúl Fernández, independent deputy (2019-2024), will be part of the team of president-elect José Raúl Mulino .

Mulino nominated him as the next director of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Authority (Ampyme) , a position that must go through ratification in the National Assembly that will be installed on July 1.

Fernández, who has a degree in Law and Political Science from the Latin American University of Science and Technology, is part of the independent bench (along with Juan Diego, Gabriel Silva and Edison Broce).

He failed to be re-elected in the last elections on May 5 as an independent deputy. During his administration, he presented several projects, among which the one related to teleworking was approved.

Before becoming a deputy, Fernández worked as a legal assistant at the firms Benedetti & Benedetti, Galindo, Arias & López y Solis, Endara, Delgado y Guevara. He was also a senior officer in the Maritime Court of Panama.

He was a founding partner of the Consulting and Law firm since 2009 and is a member of the National Bar Association.

Agents of the National Police and personnel of the Public Ministry have seized nearly 500 packages with drugs in the last few hours, in operations carried out in Pacific waters and in a Panamanian Atlantic port.

The Public Ministry reported that the Drug Prosecutor’s Office of Colón and Guna Yala, together with agents from the National Police, seized 155 packages with drugs that were inside two containers in a port on the Atlantic coast.

It is detailed that one of the containers came from Brazil, destined for Italy; and the other from Chile and destined for Türkiye.

Meanwhile, the National Police reported that the packages were inside five briefcases.

On the other hand, the authorities reported that on Monday they seized 404 packages of drugs on a boat in waters near the island of Punta Coco, in the Panamanian Pacific.

In this operation, with agents from the National Aeronaval Service, two people were arrested and placed under the orders of the competent authorities.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will no longer provide care to migrants in the province of Darién, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) confirmed to La Prensa , after an interview given by Víctor Escobar , responsible for Latin America for the organization, to this medium, where he indicated that they were still waiting for a response from the Panamanian authorities.

The Minsa reported that at the Darién Gap, the dangerous natural border between Colombia and Panama, used daily by hundreds of migrants on their way to North America, Doctors of the World-France (MDM-France) will provide care .

The MSF organization today, June 4, has been three months since it suspended medical and humanitarian activities for migrants in Darién, by “order” of the Panamanian Government, due to the lack of a “current agreement” with the Minsa.

The health authorities made the decision after a review of the compliance reports of the agreement they had with the organization to provide health services in the province of Darién.

In that sense, last May the general director of Health, Melva Cruz , stated that, depending on what this review revealed, the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre, will decide whether or not to renew the agreement.

With the evaluation of coffees in the varietal category, the Best of Panama cupping began on the morning of this Tuesday, June 4 , in its twenty-eighth version. 21 judges from Bermuda, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States participate in the tasting tables. 42 guest judges participate in the event.

It should be noted that there are 72 lots of coffee in the categories: varietal, washed geisha and natural geisha, from 59 Chirican producers. These lots were selected last week by expert Panamanian judges.

Suzuki Taroh, who has been participating as a judge in this event for nearly 10 years, said he was surprised with the flavors and aromas found in each cup tasted.

“There is a lot of quality in the processes applied by coffee growers and that is being demonstrated at the cupping tables,” explained Taroh.

The best samples from this cupping will be taken to a virtual auction, a scenario where Panama coffee has obtained surprising prices.

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