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Thursday, October 18 2018 @ 08:23 PM UTC

Local Municipal Governments About To Lose Even More Functions and Power

PoliticsPolitical scandals involving the Mayor of Panama City, Ricardo "Bosco" Vallarino in recent months, have contributed to opening the way for the national level Executive (president Ricardo Martinelli) to take over responsibility for some of the functions that have traditionally been handled by the municipalities. The first was the creation of the National Cleanliness Authority (ANA), set to begin operations on 3 January 2011, through which the central national government took the responsibility for garbage collection in the nation's capital away from the city municipal government. Mayor Vallarino himself said at the time the creation of the ANA would "allow the central national government to accumulate even more power, when the global trend is for local governments to have more independence and to manage their budgets independently." Vallarino accused the Executive having "caused the garbage crisis," saying he was getting hit by "friendly fire."

The weakness of the alliance is not only that, but also in the constant attacks against Vallarino by members of Ricardo Martinelli's Democratic Change political party. The conflict in the alliance prompted President Ricardo Martinelli to call for Mayor Vallarino's resignation.

Slip-ups continue: The announcement made by the Minister of Public Works, Federico Suarez, that he has submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for the regulation of signs and billboards in the country, threatens another duty which has traditionally fallen to the local municipal governments. This, even through Suárez said with this proposal they will not take away the functions of the municipalities, who are responsible for issuing the permits for the placement of such advertisements.

Also the possibility that in 2011 there still will not be any new license plates available, is another Achilles heel for the municipal governments, which charge a road tax. Stickers were distributed this year because the Mayor's office did not provide the proper documentation in time to make the new license plates. In addition, they are forecasting a $10 million dollar deficit for the end of the year.

Jorge Gamboa Arosemena, from the Panameńista political party, said the central national government of Ricardo Martinelli is dismembering (the municipal government of Bosco Vallarino) and reducing the instances through which Vallarino can act, with the sole purpose of concentrating additional political power. "The focus of power on the executive threatens local governments and creates a dictatorship," he said. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: I suspect that if Bosco Vallarino or the other larger local municipal governments such as San Miguelito and Colon were doing a good or great job in handling their responsibilities, then there would be no need for the national government to step in, take over, and get the job done. The truth of the matter is that these local politicians squeal about "concentration of power" but in reality what they fear is losing their leverage, and ability to squeeze people for bribes - in the case of the placement of billboards, for example. Garbage collection, license plates, and billboards have always been great money makers for the municipal governments, and now Martinelli is taking their toys away from them. Next up - liquor licenses.

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