The Strike is Over - Dialog will start
Monday, June 27 2005 @ 10:00 AM EDT
Contributed by: Anonymous
There are still a lot of issues that remain to be worked out, but the big questions have been decided -- the law will be suspended and the strike is officially over, as of this morning.
This morning at 8:00 AM striking teachers (government employees) will meet in a general assembly and then later will meet with the Minister of Education to work out the final details. In any case, classes are still suspended today in Panama City, Colon, and Santiago. The minister of education is considering a move to extend the school year into 2006. Panamanian law requires 180 school days in the school year, and they cannot complete that because of the strike. The school year is supposed to end on 17 December 2005.
The striking doctors also expect to end their strike today. Last night the core of their organization (AMOACSS) met to discuss ending the strike, but the director of the Social Security System (CSS) René Luciani, and the Minister of Health Camilo Alleyne, could not attend. Another group of specialists did decide to go back to work. An umbrella group (COMENENAL) will meet today to formally decide to end the strike.
The construction workers did meet and decided to go back to work. Las reuniones continuaron anoche. The SUNTRACS union and CAPAC formally met and agreed to lift the strike. Construction workers go back to the job sites this morning at 7:00 AM. For their part, the president of CAPAC (the bosses) said that they promised not to fire any of the leaders or organizers of the strike.
And, the directors of the University of Panama will be meeting to decide when to open the university.
Ok. So, the strike is basically over and the dialog will now commence for 90 days. They will be talking until the end of September, at least. But here's the kicker - There are only so many things you can change in a contributory social security system to bring it into fiscal balance. The parties to the dialog will be discussing and arguing over these details, and for three months the news will be reporting daily on the progress over every little detail. In that way, the public will become better informed regarding the economics of the debate and the issues on the table, and will eventually come to understand the economics.
It's pretty simple really. Money in, money out. You can change how much people have to pay in every month (tax rate) and how long they have to pay in before they qualify. That's the "money in" side. On the other side you can change (raise) the retirement age, and change (lower) the amount that's paid out once you retire. You can slide those four factors up and down until you reach a fiscal balance.
And, there are four issues that the government of Panama has to address as part of the overall problem, and a reform of the social security system is just one part. The other two parts are a reform of the tax law which was already passed, and a need to clean up the government, increase transparency with regards to the spending of public money, and reduce corruption.
Those are the three things the IMF told Panama they would have to do in order to raise their bond rating to qualify for the big loans they will need to expand the canal.
On the corruption front, in the headlines this morning is a story that Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gómez, has open files on 13 employees of her own staff, including district attorneys, medical examiners, other low ranking officials, and even secretaries. Some of these people could end up going to jail. In other words, the guys in the government who put corrupt politicians in jail have to clean up their own house first, before they can go after the bigger fish.
I think there will be a parade of corruption cases making the headlines over the next few months. The government needs to clean up internally first, and then fry a few select bigger fish from past administrations. The real question which remains to be answered is how much will be for show, and how much will be meat and bones. They need to show the world they are cleaning house, but the real crooks are the ones who stole the most money from the people.
It's insulting to see the government waste time to prosecute some lowly secretary who maybe took $20 to move some papers around, when the most powerful ex-politicians either mis-managed or outright stole millions from the Panamanian people. When it comes to crimes of corruption, abuse of power, and stealing from the people, the first ones to fall should be the ones who stole the most. Not the little guys who frying as scapegoats to generate anti-corruption headlines. (Pardon the editorializing.)
But, the big news is that the strike is over, for now. There will be a discussion that will last at least 90 days, and then they can try again to pass a law to reform the social security system in Panama that will be more acceptable to the people.