RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Panama’s president, Laurentino Cortizo, announced on Thursday a US$12 billion public investment plan to boost the recovery of the economy, hard hit by the pandemic, in a speech in which he declared himself “optimistic” about the future of the country and which was delivered on the second anniversary of his government.
The plan includes projects such as constructing line 3 of the capital’s Metro and the extension of line 1; the construction of a tunnel under the Panama Canal, new hospitals, schools, and power transmission lines.
Cortizo also spoke of the implementation of projects under the public-private partnership for US$1.5 billion and other investments that will generate thousands of direct jobs.
Panama’s gross domestic product (GDP) collapsed by 17.9% in 2020, a consequence of the crisis derived from the pandemic, while unemployment climbed to more than 18.5% and informality to more than 52%, from 7.1% and 45% recorded in 2019, according to official data.
“Let’s be optimistic,” the president asked, after listing the investments made and the policies implemented so far by his government to recover employment and productivity and stressing that projections by international agencies place GDP growth this year between 8% and 12%.
Representatives of the economic sectors and analysts maintain that the Government lacks a recovery plan and needs to inject liquidity into the domestic market to boost consumption.
ONE MILLION VACCINES AGAINST COVID-19 WILL ARRIVE THIS MONTH
Cortizo was emphatic in affirming that the national vaccination program against covid-19, which began on January 20, “is the most important public policy for economic recovery”.
Panama, a country of 4.28 million inhabitants, has already applied more than 1.55 million doses – of the more than 1.85 million it has received – from the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca, its only suppliers for the time being.
The President announced “the arrival during July of one million doses”, and reiterated that his Administration, with the purchase of more than 9 million portions, has “guaranteed a sufficient quantity of safe and effective vaccines for the population’s vaccination over 16 years of age”.
“If the vaccines continue to arrive as scheduled, we will be able to celebrate the new year, God willing, without the need to wear masks in open spaces,” said Cortizo.
“My Administration has rendered and will continue rendering clear and transparent accounts”, assured Cortizo, and reminded that “all entities that manage pandemic funds are obliged to render reports 5 days after the end of the state of emergency,” declared last year.
The Government, he asserted, “does not tolerate and will not tolerate any case of corruption”, and proof of this is that complaints have been filed for the scandals of rape of minors in shelters, for illegal vaccination, and the irregular use of food bags destined for those most affected by the pandemic.
“I call on public servants to serve and not to serve the public (…), I call on citizens to denounce responsibly”, said Cortizo.
The Panamanian chapter of Transparency International (TI) warned Thursday that opacity and the absence of a fight against corruption had marked the performance of Cortizo’s government.
“As of July 1, 2021, the third year of the current Administration begins. A change of course to strengthen institutions and end abuse in public resources and impunity is imperative. Continuing to ignore the growing citizen unrest is very dangerous for everyone,” said the NGO.