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Thursday, August 21 2014 @ 06:11 AM EDT

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Government Recovers Noriega´s Funds

Money MattersThe president, Ricardo Martinelli, announced today the Government of Panama recovered $ 539,343 of the funds held by the former dictator, Manuel Antonio Noriega, and the former Defence Forces in the Bank of Credit and International Commerce (BCCI).

The president posted on his Twitter account saying "the government just recovered $ 539,343.83 in funds of Noriega and defense forces of the international bank BCCI. Less attorney fees."

It is noteworthy that in 1990 the Luxembourg-based BCCI admitted in federal court in Florida, had bleached Colombian drug money, which ended with the arrest of seven executives, including Amjad Awan, who confessed to be Noriega's bank advisor.

Awan was responsible for the BCCI in Panama and in 1988 he reported to be Noriega's personal banker, who he said had a secret checking account with at least $ 25 million. (Panama America)

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Struggle In SICOTRAC Causes Delay In Compensation Payment

Money MattersThe internal conflict of the Union of Public Transport Drivers (Sicotrac) has delayed payment of compensation to 100 drivers of the Veranillo transportation lot, including 25 other lots, according to Gabriel Lanza, undersecretary of defense of this group.

The battle comes from the realization of two conferences in December 2012, a situation operated by the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) and recently was failure of the Judge II of Work in favor of Manuel Argüelles, as general secretary of this association of carriers.

According to Lanza, unless signed by the General Secretary, the required formalities by the Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT) for payment of the $ 25,000 of compensation can not be completed. According to the official, this will cause a protest on the streets this Wednesday.

Nicolás Brea, ATTT Secretary General, said in the lot of Veranillo, only 35 bus drivers haven't been paid, however, he did not specify the amount of compensation that are pending in other lots.

This medium also sought to know the version of the Ministry of Labour officials, but they did not respond to calls or messages. (Siglo)

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Panama Is No Longer A Tax Haven

Money MattersThe President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, said the policies implemented in recent years have allowed their country to stop being considered a tax haven.

"Panama is a great little country, which is under construction today," said Martinelli during his participation in the World Economic Forum on Latin America, which opened today in Lima, Peru, by President Ollanta Humala.

The president included "the mistakes all Latin Americans make, there were employers who did not want to engage in politics," and he added, saying "people want things to change."

He said Panama "has made a major transformation of the errors committed by the previous government" and to be "virtually excluded by the stigma of being considered a tax haven," and now it has double taxation treaties and free trade agreements with countries like the United States and the European Union.

He also announced soon he will sign trading agreements with Mexico and Peru, which will allow Panama to enter the Pacific Alliance.

Martinelli also said the Panamanian government has begun "an aggressive infrastructure building program", including the "largest airport in Latin America," which will be ready in 2014, as well as the construction of highways, hospitals, markets and homes. (MiDiario)

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Panama Issued A Global Bond Of $ 750 Million For 2053

Money MattersThe Panamanian Government, today, issued a new global bond in the amount of $ 750 million in the international market, with 2053 as its deadline, and a steady coupon of 4.30% a year, informed an official source.

The issue received bids for over $ 4,500 billion, by investors from the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America, said the Panamanian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) in a statement.

The economic perspective is favorable for the public finances of panama, where they were able to obtain a final efficiency of 4.30%.

The transaction was led jointly by the investment banks: Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse.

According to the document, the last issue of a Global Note of Panama was made in 2009, with its deadline in 2020 and the yield was 5.22%, which means the cost of borrowing fell by more than 90 basis points and the term spread over 30 years.

Compared to the 2036 Global Bond 6.70% coupon, the Panamanian reference, in its long term before today's broadcast, financing costs decreased 240 basis points.

Even so, the country's efficiency spread to 17 years.

The 2053 Global Bonds issued by Panama is only surpassed in Latin America by the transaction made by Mexico in 2010, on the occasion of its Bicentennial, which expires in 2110.

The MEF highlights "the results of this new issue reflects the confidence of the international financial community in Panama and is a recognition of the economic and fiscal performance of our country."

Given the successful placement of this new Global Bond, the average weighted cost of debt was reduced from 5.37% to 5.32% and the average deadline of 11.6 years was extended to 12.8 years, reducing the exposure of the portfolio of debt in Panama to risks of refinancing and of the market.

The Panamanian government debt now exceeds $ 14 billion, equivalent to 40% of the gross domestic product. (Panama America)

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Expocomer Has Filled 8,000 Hotel Rooms in Panama

Money MattersThe XXXI 2013 Expocomer that started on Wednesday, 17 April 2013, has generated additional economic transactions for Panama beyond those being completed in this commercial showcase, ranked as one of the largest in the country.

The president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama, Irvin Halman, said Expocomer has generated more than 8,000 hotel room nights, in addition to all of the services being provided to those participating in the show, such as transportation, restaurants, and flights filled with people who are coming into and out of Panama, elements creating a positive economic impact.

Halman said for the moment, the exhibitors and organizers are currently taking statistics from this year's show, information that will be announced in a press conference.

He also said Expocomer is a regional level meeting where exhibitors from more than 35 countries have to opportunity to test the receptivity of the Panamanian market and buyers.

This year's Expocomer ends today, Saturday. 20 April 2013.

The exhibition occupied a space of 14 thousand square meters and it was necessary to expand to the area outside of the Atlapa Convention Center. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: If you've got nothing to do in Panama City today, it's always fun to hit the Expocomer (Commercial Expo) at the Atlapa Convention Center. There has been an explosion of new hotel rooms coming on the market in the past few months, so anything that fills hotel rooms is important. Occupancy rates have plummeted because there are now so many more new hotel rooms available.

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New Colombia Taxes Screw Panama Colon Free Zone

Money MattersFailing to bill around $300 million, because the exportation of footwear and clothing from the Colon Free Zone to Colombia has been affected, because of the authorities of Colombia raising taxes, according to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ricardo Quijano.

"We have to go to the seventh round of negotiations in June," said Quijano, when he was asked about the Free Trade Agreement in which Panama negotiates with Colombia. He answered "We will see how it goes. We are a little concerned with Colombia by a new law which passed in March,this law has raised taxes on shoes and clothing ranging from FTA to Colombia ".

"We're doing a really hard job and sending a message saying we do not agree with what has been done. We believe it is not fair. We have to put some pressure on the authorities in Colombia to make it as it was before or make them remove this tax, they said they would deduct this tax at the beginning of April and it was not going to stay at this level" said Quijano. (Critica)

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State Debt Is Over $ 15 Billion

Money MattersThe balance of public debt in March amounted to $ 15.031 billion, reported by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), exceeding the amount the institution had foreseen for 2015.

Since Ricardo Martinelli took office, the debt has increased by $ 4.229 billion, equivalent to all contracts awarded for the Panama Canal expansion.

However, in the public records it shows no balance for pending contracts. This government won more than $ 3.4 billion with this contracting mechanism, which the project company is also responsible for funding.

Before the end of Martinelli's term, this government will have paid most of the commitments made in turnkey contracts, but the next administration should end up canceling projects, such as the third phase of the Cinta Costera, the convention center and others.

Only between March 2012 and March 2013 the recorded balance debt grew nearly $ 1.360 billion. (Prensa)

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New Cases Of Tax Havens Linked To Local Companies

Money MattersPanama is back on the list of tax havens for important figures all around the world.

Several publications, as a result of international journalistic investigation, called 'Offshore Leaks', showed this information.

The publication is about two cases, in Venezuela and Argentina, in which the millionaires, closely linked to the governments of both South American countries, are the protagonists.

La Nación newspaper yesterday published an extensive report which details how the parliamentary secretary, Juan Héctor Estrada, with firms registered in the Virgin Islands, Panama and Uruguay, has formed a network of companies in several countries considering tax havens. He referred to the creation of the company Mirth International Corporation S. A. registered in 1991. The research highlights the work done by the studio to record Kuzniecky & Co Star Corp Morrison society, registered in the Virgin Islands in 1994. Both companies have served as connections to move money in other countries.

The same scenario occurs with the investigation against the Venezuelan government officials and Moris Beracha and Francisco Illarramendi, where the signing of Panamanian former Comptroller, Dani Kuzniecky, appears related to companies which had to do with money movements outside the borders of Venezuela. (Estrella)

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Deputy Violates Law By Raffling Car And Motorcycles

Money MattersThe National Assembly Deputy from Coclé, Dana Castañeda, gave away more than $ 11,000 this year in a raffle that included a car, two motorcycles and cash, violating the law of gambling.

The Gaming Control Board forgave the offenses that could have cost her up to $ 100,000 in fines.

Castañeda says she did the raffle using her own money, although she advertised the raffle on flyers as a government "project" in her circuit.

She has received at least 4 million dollars - or about one million per year - in the four years that the Ricardo Martinelli administration has been in power.

She has also given away building materials purchased from a store owned by her uncle, through the National Assistance Program (PAN), a business which has grown by more than 149% thanks to sales to the PAN. (Prensa)

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Public Transportation Chaos Costing Businesses $180,000 Per Hour

Money MattersPrivate companies are losing approximately $180,000 because their workers cannot arrive to their jobs on time.

This has been happening since 15 March 2013 when the Metro Bus system was introduced in the last nine trunk routes of Panama City.

This was stated to La Prensa by the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, Irvin Halman.

"The impact that we calculate at this moment is about $180,000 per hour due to the delays, in costs to businesses. This delay is the concept employees arriving late to their jobs," said Halman.

SOLUTIONS

But how this be fixed?

For Halman, the solution to chaos in the public transportation system does not necessarily depend on the introduction of more Metro Buses, as has been suggested.

Other issues still remain to be resolved, such as the lack of points of sale where bus riders can recharge the electronic swipe cards they use to pay for bus fare, exclusive bus lanes, as well as the frequency and control of street closures being caused by the mega projects currently being built in Panama City, he said.

"Some solutions they are suggesting will not fix the problem, which is why we want the measures that will work be the ones that are implemented to actually solve the problem," he said.

He added that for these steps to be functional, it is required that the Transit Authority take the lead in this situation.

CURRENT REALITY

While the authorities are seeking a solution to a problem that has been going on for almost a month, commuters continue to live an ordeal to get from one place to another in the capital city.

Claudia Barcenas, a resident of El Valle de San Isidro, told La Prensa that leaving her home to go do work has become an "ordeal."

Barcenas said although she is not required to arrive at her job - located in Bella Vista - at a fixed time, she leaves at 8:00 am from her house to board a Metro Bus that uses the corridor, for which "I have to wait about two hours."

"I don't have a fixed time to enter work, thank God, but I leave my house at 8:00 am to get to my job at 11:00 am. I always spend from 45 minutes to an hour and a half waiting for a bus, because there are buses that if they are needed on another route they put up a sign saying they are in transit and they leave you waiting," she said.

Also, another user, but in the sector of Veranillo in San Miguelito, Yesena del Rosario, said in this sector the problem she and her neighbors face is when they are trying to return to their homes.

"I leave at 5:00 pm from my job at Frangipani Avenue, and arrive at my home at 9:00 pm. The traffic jams are endless and the people who are standing on the bus end up sitting on the floor because it's too many hours and they can't take it anymore," she said.

Del Rosario specifically complained about the buses that are on the Tumba Muerto - Veranillo - National Brewery route.

"One gets on the bus out of necessity, in order to not be late for work, but this is a waste of time because you have to get off at some point, and then after that all of the buses are full and they do not want to stop. Therefore, it's not working," she said. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Between now and the next general national elections in May 2014, the administration of Ricardo Martinelli will be doing whatever is necessary to make sure this upgrade to the Metro Bus system is a political positive. Right now, more people are complaining than praising the new system. The good news is that now there is a "system" that can be fixed and tweaked, which in itself is a major improvement.

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