Panamá,25º

21 de Jan de 2020

Nacional

Another bad week at the palace

It’s been a bad week for outgoing President Martin Torrijos and his team. But there have been so many bad weeks and months, that maybe t...

It’s been a bad week for outgoing President Martin Torrijos and his team. But there have been so many bad weeks and months, that maybe they haven’t noticed it, or just don’t care as they scramble to the trough in a last desperate effort to fill up their pockets and bring to fruition one of Ricardo Martinelli ’s campaign slogans: “Arriving with empty pockets, leaving as millionaires.”

The worst example was when the outgoing legislators, whose time in office expires just one month from now, decided they wanted to be paid an extra two months. The comptroller said “no deal”, leaving the feeders squealing at the trough.

BOUNTY GUARDS. They then passed a bizarre “law” giving security guards for the next five years to all of the former Presidents of the Assembly during the PRD reign. This based upon the near $1.5 million used by Pedro Miguel Gonzalez , wanted in the US for murder of an American soldier, will mean charges of millions paid by the taxpayer. A transparent gesture to protect Gonzalez from US bounty hunters?

Then followed a group of business interests, close to the present government pushing for ratification of millions of dollars of deals. Again they got a frosty reception from the comptroller, leaving them sweating at a time of high humidity (today’s weather forecast a high of 31 degrees, feeling like 50 degrees). Let’s hope the new president turns up the sauna.

JUST GOOD FRIENDS. The denouncement made this week about a hydro contract, cancelled by the government for “non-compliance” and passed to Carlos Slim , second richest man in the world, and a close friend of the outgoing president, means that, proven or not, he departs under a cloud of suspicion. But when was the last time a president exited with a squeaky clean image?

PUBLIC SERVANTS. Meanwhile hidden behind the battle cries on both sides over the conversion of thousands of administration employees to full time staff, with allegations that these are political appointments, leaving little room for the incoming regime to follow the same path, there are concerns among many government workers.

The belief runs strong that all civil servants are a bunch of inefficient time servers and, in Panama they’re there because of who they know, and not what. The same belief exists in other countries, with the exception that at the lower levels who you know is rarely important. People do not flock to government service because the pay is usually minimal.

But in all jurisdictions there are employees, often underpaid, and overworked who do their best, can be helpful and sometimes even come up with a smile. Hard to do when you can’t pay the rent on your miserly pay.

The British civil service, which has been around for longer than most seems to have come up with an administration plan that mixes merit with service, and has been copied around the Commonwealth. Civil servants are employed in various grades. If they wish to move up the ladder they have to have a combination of time, demonstrable ability on the job, and pass a civil service examination, marked by independent examiners. A similar method has been used by maritime organizations and police forces.

Let’s hope the political bickering will cease, and Panama’s public servants will be better housed, better paid, and better supervised. The latter can only be achieved if the top rungs are filled with people with talent and not just family or political connections.

THE BUCK STOPPER. President elect Martinelli has on one hand been able to roundly condemn those lining up at the trough but some ugly clouds were hovering on his horizon as he makes the transition to the desk bearing the sign: “The buck stops here.”

Making the rounds during the week were strong comments about the money to be spent on his inauguration on July 1, while children are dying of malnutrition in Indigenous villages. But hey, everyone loves a party, and those villages are out of sight. Remember how much money people sent to a group of promoters, to make sure that a Panamanian teenager was made Latin American idol, on the same day that a kid died from lack of food?

More worrying must have been the reports that Supreme Court Judge, Winston Spadafora , was seen dining with Jean Figali and the recently named anti-corruption czar. Spadafora, an appointee of another scandal ridden president, Mireya Moscoso , once ruled in favor of Figali in a dispute with the government.