10 de Ago de 2022


Battling budgets and diablos rojos

Like most of us, governments have to juggle their income and work within a budget. That leads to decisions more difficult than choosing ...

Like most of us, governments have to juggle their income and work within a budget. That leads to decisions more difficult than choosing between a visit to a show or a restaurant.

Their decisions are usually a matter of urgent priorities, much closer to the choices facing the disadvantaged in our society - food or shoes and bus fare for the kids.

In Panama, the new administration is demonstrating its eagerness to tackle many problems from health to housing, security to prisons, transportation to education and for each there are sincere advocates pressing their causes.

But in the end, the government purse has a finite amount of money, and what goes into one department’s pocket often means a shortfall in another’s.

President Ricardo Martinelli is also working hard to make sure that money doesn’t disappear into invisible pockets.

An urgent priority is public transport that has bedeviled successive governments, often because of a reluctance to tangle with the transportistas (bus owners) who tend to put profits ahead of concern for their passengers or pedestrians.

After the recent carnage involving buses and trucks, the government is moving to install global positioning systems to monitor speed and to ensure that buses travel on their designated routes, and actually complete them.

Too often, drivers who have spotted some potential passengers waiting at a stop do not go to the end of the line but dump their remaining passengers and return.

A worthy checking system, but operating on its own will only make a dent in the casualty rate.

How does a global positioning system indicate when a bus careers through a red light, swerves from lane to lane without signals, challenges other vehicles, drives astride two lanes, picks up and deposits passengers while sitting in a center lane, or parks across intersections and belches out cloudes of black carcinogenic fumes?

And how will it monitor the quality of drivers?

The problem is, of course, the system, where many buses are rented out by the day, to drivers without the necessary qualifications for someone who has the lives of people in his hands. The race to pay the rent leads to carnage for passengers and pedestrians.

The GPS has to be combined with increased police checks.

How many times have you seen a bus clearly breaking the law while transit police stand idly by chatting on a street corner?

Driver education is desperately needed and those owners or drivers who have been charged with impaired driving from drugs or alcohol, should be permanently removed from behind the wheel.

The idea of some of the present operators being involved with a new system is scary stuff indeed.

I once visited a company that operated an “executive humiliation” course, forcing senior staff to hit the road for a couple of weeks as door to door salesmen. It worked.

Maybe some of those in charge of Panama’s transport could take time off to travel in a diablo rojo and get a worm’s eye view of life as a passenger. In other jurisdictions, prominent legislators, even big city mayors, travel to their daily tasks on public transport.

With a new transport system in the works can we hope that Panamay not be be far behind?


While the residents of Bella Vista breath a temporary sigh of relief that the annual booze, sex, noise and garbage fest that goes under the name of Carnival will not be on Cinta Costera, residents of Ancon have reacted loudly to the latest suggestion that it be moved there. Not just another NIMBY ((Not in My Back Yard) protest. It’s not wanted in anyone’s yard.


The Panama Developer blog of Sam Taliafierro, inventor, entrepreneur and developer contains sad but inspiring news this week. Sam has been battling cancer for most of the year, with the same indomitable, spirit that makes him a treasured asset for Panama.