Temas Especiales

10 de Dic de 2023


Empty stands for empty promises

As Panama, along with the rest of the world, braces for a possible swine flu pandemic, a few irreverent thoughts have been sent to me by...

As Panama, along with the rest of the world, braces for a possible swine flu pandemic, a few irreverent thoughts have been sent to me by wary readers. One suggests that the Martinelli and Herrera campaign rallies of Sunday and Tuesday should have been cancelled, following the example of Mexico closing theaters and even banning attendance at important championship soccer games.

The soccer games were still played, but to empty stands. Only the TV cameras recorded the event. Now that’s a thought. Empty stands for empty promises. At home you can press the mute button and read the lips, and all those free food hand outs could have gone to feed the poor.

By some estimates, the election campaign, has already cost around $50 million. That’s over $16 per person, or $80 for a family of five. Even at current inflated food prices that’s a lot of beans and rice.

ENFORCEMENT. Reading through some of the election propaganda I haven’t yet spotted any references to enforcement of existing laws, only promises of more statutes. Which brings me back again to the lack of enforcement of traffic laws in Panama.

Yesterday I watched as a delivery truck tried to turn a corner behind Saint Tomas hospital. After six minutes I had to leave, while the driver was still edging forward and backwards trying to avoid crunching parked cars. One of them was diagonally parked across the corner in front of the Law Society offices. Hopefully it didn’t belong to a lawyer. If our traffic police can’t enforce parking under “no estacionamiento” signs, or on yellow lines, perhaps they could at least book, and ideally tow, those parking within 15 feet of a corner and/ or a fire hydrant.

Corner parking presents a problem not only to turning trucks, but to all drivers edging their way into streams of traffic, without being able to see in either direction. On my same walk yesterday, I checked out the hydrant at the National Hospital on Cuba Avenue. Blocked as usual by an expensive car whose driver was too lazy, or too poor to use the car park fifty meters away.

JULY 4 CELEBRATION. Just in from Isla Viveros, the millionaire paradise island in the Las Perlas archipelago. July 4 will mark the opening of an 80 slipway marina. The air strip is already in place and construction of the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is underway. The fairway grass on the first holes will be in place early in the rainy season, and ready for play by year end.

READING HABITS. Standing in Dante’s on Calle 50 recently, I witnessed an unusual event. Someone, was reading a book while waiting for a friend. Compare that with other cities where thousands of commuters on trains and buses have their eyes glued to a paper back, even if it’s only Harry Potter or the latest pot boiler. But they are reading.

While our legislators argue over education standards and the issuing of degrees, no one seems to have recognized the value of instilling a love of reading into students. Even poor passing grades can be enhanced by experiencing the world through other eyes. Books are expensive for families struggling to survive, and lending libraries are virtually non-existent. Without the arrival of a 21st century Carnegie the problem needs some creative thinking. We could start with school lending libraries. But first the culture of reading has to be introduced. Perhaps the next education minister will be a reader and willing to share passion with the citizenry. The danger? Readers become thinkers.

Meanwhile Panama City must be high on the list of the most magazines per capita in the world. In banks, restaurants, office lobbies, expensive looking glossy “magazines” litter the tables. But don’t expect much valuable reading material. Most of them are heavy on luxury item advertising, and paid-for adulatory articles on prominent businessmen, and pages of society photos; but, if no one has learned to read, who cares?

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