This month, President Martinelli inaugurated the Scarlett Martinez Airport in the district of Cocle. The $53 million, two-year project modernized the 1970 US-built airstrip that’s located in Rio Hato, just 15 minutes drive to Coronado and 2 minutes from Playa Blanca.
Resort owners, residents, and travelers to Panama are all excited by the possibilities that this international airport brings, including increased connectivity to North America and the ability to fly directly to the beach and not have to drive in from the City! Not unlike the Guanacaste airport in Costa Rica, Scarlett Martinez could literally transform Panama’s beach regions.
In other development news, the new $200 million convention center on the Amador Causeway has moved to a 24-hour a day work schedule to make up for lost time, with the goal of delivering all three buildings that comprise the new convention center space by the end of next year.
How are all of these projects getting paid for? Well, one way is the Canal, which just sent the 2012 profit payouts to the state. This year’s figure was 980 million dollars, and that number is expected to double by 2017 when the canal expansion project is completed.
The biggest concern being voiced by Martinelli’s critics is the historic debt level that the government is taking on. Much of it is being financed by organizations like the International Development Bank and Andean Development Bank, two huge entities that often loan money to nations with many strings attached. For anyone that’s ever read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (great book by the way), the future obligations and backroom deals mentioned in the memoir really strike home about what’s going on in Panama and one has to wonder about the string of mining and drilling concessions that have been awarded recently.
The silver lining is that Panama’s debt to GDP levels and debt per capita still pale in comparison to more developed nations like the US.