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Monday, July 28 2014 @ 06:18 AM EDT

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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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HS: Hundreds of Finnish firms operate in Panama

Money MattersPanama, which is known internationally as a tax haven, hosts owners and managers of hundreds of Finnish firms, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The paper reports that some of the firms were established for normal commercial reasons, or because an owner of the company lived in Panama, but some may have been set up for tax planning purposes.

Finnish firms’ presence in Panama was revealed by a large data set which Helsingin Sanomat obtained from a British hacker, who used it to reveal tax avoidance in Germany, among other countries.

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Foreigners Claim Money Deposited In Coacecss

Money MattersThe liquidation of the Savings and Credit Cooperative Employees' Social Security Fund (Coacecss), has raised the concern of foreign investors who put their money attracted by the offer of interest.

Enrique Arrocha Rubio, the legal representative of foreigners who lost $ 80 million following the sequester of Coacecss, said it was time for the delivery of the money that had been deposited.

Arrocha explained that Coacecss had until February 2013 to return the money to the foreigners and people with some college savings which was $ 32 million. And now they calculate that by April another $7 million would be added to that total.

The lawyer said the corporation has only $ 32 million and they do not have the financial capacity to deal with these payments.

He added if there had not been an investigation and subsequent intervention, demands worth millions of dollars would have been filed by the foreign investors.

A total of 15 cooperatives and more than 15,000 customers had savings with Coacecss. (TVN)

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Fortunes Are Exposed - "Money Leaks" Scandal Splashes Panama

Money MattersThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based in Washington DC, revealed how worldwide millionaires use tax havens to hide their fortunes.

The research team, composed of 86 journalists from 46 countries, had access to 2.5 million secret files detailing the management of 120,000 offshore corporations and foundations, and 130 thousand people, in which European and Asian millionaires are recognized.

The Consortium said that the amount of analyzed files is 160 times superior to the files of Wikileaks.

Although most cases revealed yesterday were linked to Islas Vírgenes, Panama is also noted as one of the havens used by these millionaires. (Prensa)

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The Liquidation of Coacecss Will Impact Other Cooperatives

Money MattersA total of 15 savings cooperatives had money on deposit in the Savings and Credit Cooperative of the Social Security Fund Employees (Coacecss), which has been ordered to be liquidated.

According to Ana Giselle Rosas de Vallarino, the Director General of the Panamanian Autonomous Cooperative Institute (IPACOOP) which is responsible for regulating this market, efforts are being made "to ensure the highest proportion of the return of savings" to Coacecss depositors. The liquidation of the fifth-largest cooperative in the country will indirectly and importantly affect the clients of the 15 organizations that invested part of their funds in the Coacecss, which was intervened last year. Coacecss has about 15,000 customers, people who are associated with the CSS who had their savings on deposit, as well as third parties and non-members who have also made deposits. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: They are still trying to figure out exactly how to return what's left to the various customers. Without a doubt money is missing, and no one is probably going to be seeing 100% of the money they had on deposit. I would be alert to the "some pigs are more equal than others" phenomenon which is common in Panama. Meaning, those with political connections or clout might get their money back, while others are screwed out of their savings or deposits. Hopefully, there will be an across the board sum. For example - let's say 70% just to name a number. It would be healthy and sound and honest and transparent if the government would simply announce that all depositors will receive (for example) 70% of what they had on deposit, and all deposits will be treated equally. Thus, the "pain" would be evenly spread among all. However, you and I both know "this is Panama" and the chances are good that some people in privileged positions will walk with 100% (or more) while other will get the shaft. Now, who's making those decisions...

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