Tourism Minister Meeting With National Assembly On New Tourism Law

Tuesday, October 30 2012 @ 12:43 pm EDT

Contributed by: Don Winner

A group of opposition Deputies and the Administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama, Solomon Shamah, are meeting in the Blue Room of the National Assembly to reach consensus on Bill No. 481, which sets rules for incentive for the promotion of tourism in the country. The full National Assembly began at 9:30 am, but after 20 minutes the President of the National Assembly, Sergio Gálvez, requested a recess so that Members could provide their recommendations to Shamah.

The meeting between Shamah and the opposition Deputies is behind closed doors, and has been going on for at least two hours. It was learned that among the Deputies participating are Jorge Ivan Arrocha from the Panameńista party and Juan Carlos Arosemena from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). One goal of the meeting for the opponents to submit their modifications to the project, and suggestions for improvement.

After a consensus is reached the discussion on Bill 481 will resume before the full body of the National Assembly. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Heads up. This Bill probably contains an element Solomon Shamah has been trying to get passed into law for years - a prohibition on short term apartment rentals. Shamah is owned by the large hotel owners in the country, and they have convinced him that short term executive apartment rentals are unfair competition for hotels. He first tried to outlaw this practice with a Resolution from the Tourism Authority, however that effort was so clearly unconstitutional in that it changed some of the basic tenants of private property ownership, that they were immediately forced to issue another resolution and backtrack. After that debacle, Shamah has repeatedly stated (I asked him myself) that he intends to have this concept passed in law. I suspect it's in the draft, but I have no way of knowing for sure at this point.

Why It's Important: There are thousands of foreigners who have purchased apartments or houses in Panama with the expectation that they would be able to rent them out as short term property rentals for part of the year, and then use the properties themselves during a few months of the year. Many people are "snow birders" who only arrive in Panama City when it's cold up North. They rent out their apartments from April until November, then show up here when it starts snowing there. The government of Panama literally marketed property ownership in this manner, starting in 2005 until today. If Solomon Shamah gets this issue passed into law, it would do great harm to private property ownership in Panama. It's not the fault of these property owners that the government of Panama allowed a massive over building of hotels in the past several years. Occupancy levels are way down because of the glut of new rooms on the market, and it will take years for the numbers of tourists to grow to fill all of those rooms.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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