President Varela’s First 100 Days In Office: A Progress Report
The slowdown always comes as everyone is waiting for the answers after the elections in Panama: Who is going to stay, who are the new players, what projects are getting canned, and what are the new administration’s priorities?
Five months later , and it seems like the May post-election “slowdown” was more like a 24-hour speed bump.
One sign of things to come: the local economy (and more importantly the international investment community) seems to have welcomed the new President with open arms: this month’s GDP numbers (6.3% growth YTD) included a staggering 26% increase over last year’s figure of foreign direct investment to the tune of $575 million.
Long story short, that means big players like the World Bank and the Andean Bank seem to think that Panama’s new leader (and the country he’s been chosen to lead) are on stable enough tracks to warrant some heavy investment.
President Juan Carlos Varela has recently completed his first 100 days in office and we’ve already seen a number of major announcements. He’s allocated funds to ramp up Panama’s tourism efforts, announced social initiatives like education reform and social housing projects, and made it clear that he will define Panama’s environmental priorities by creating a separate department of the environment with its own top level executive division all starting 2015 when the new state budget kicks in.
Varela has managed to delay an all-out trade war with Colombia, pacify the various feuding labor unions, and keep feeding the beast of an economy that his predecessor Ricardo Martinelli managed to whip into a frenzy starting in 2009.
Of course, Panama still has major problems to face: the public education system remains in shambles, the witch hunt against the former administration’s record setting corruption is just getting started, and the government continues to push the debt ceiling higher and higher. But I for one am confident that President Varela can keep the party going up through the day that the Panama Canal expansion project is completed.
Then an even bigger party begins…