A promise revoked
PANAMA. President Ricardo Martinelli’s plans to buy a new presidential jet, despite his electioneering promise that he would use his ow...
PANAMA. President Ricardo Martinelli’s plans to buy a new presidential jet, despite his electioneering promise that he would use his own, private plane for presidential missions, have brought him his first taste of widespread public criticism.
It is not only the fact that he has reneged on his word, but also that he has gone ahead and asked for the purchase to be made without calling for public bids for the contract, that is raising eyebrows.
“Just as we objected when Martin Torrijos wanted to buy a plane, so we are objecting when the new government wants to do it, and all the more so when he buys it by direct contract,” said Enrique Montenegro from the National Front against Corruption.
”This is not the time, least of all when they are proposing to raise taxes to cover the deficit left by the previous government.”
The economist Juan Jovane agreed with him, saying: “the money should be used to solve the most pressing problems of the people.”
He said that the purchase of a new plane through a loan with HSBC bank would raise the country´s public debt.
He also compared the decision to buy the plane without going through a public bidding process as comparable to what happened recently in the Ministry of Education when contracts to remove fibre glass from school ceilings were given out arbitrarily.
Martinelli’s spokesman, Demetrio “Jimmy” Papadimitriu, defended the decision saying that the current presidential jet is no longer safe for long haul flights and, for reasons of security, it is advisable to replace it. He said the plane is not only used by Martinelli but also serves to fly other people, particularly sick children, overseas for medical treatment.
“The presidential plane has had some problems and we do not want another tragedy to occur like the 2008 government helicopter crash when 11 people died,”.
The old HP-1A Gulfstream II jet was built over 40 years ago and bought for $7.3 million during the administration of Perez Balladares (1994-1999). The replacement will cost around $17.9 million.