MEF Plans to “Reactivate” Economy in Bocas del Toro

MEF Plans to “Reactivate” Economy in Bocas del Toro

Monday, July 19 2010 @ 03:02 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 5
This morning Panama’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, one of the people who traveled with president Ricardo Martinelli and who participated in the meetings with banana workers in Changuinola in the province of Bocas del Toro, He spoke on the Channel 13 Telemetro morning news broadcast about the major projects they have planned to improve the economy and the quality of life for the people who live in that area. He said the area has a tremendous potential for development in the tourist sector, as well as the “reactivation” of the banana industry. Vallarino said while in Changuinola they met with the local police officers who are stationed there, who said they felt “surrounded” during the protests. He said that during the trip they not only focused on the problems related to the strikes and protests, but they are also looking at longer term infrastructure investments in things such as improvements in drinking water, for example. Vallarino said they would be coordinating with Costa Rican authorities to replace the old and decrepit bridge over the Sixaola river. Most of the improvements are in infrastructure such as the electrical interconnectivity. The area of Changuinola has always relied on a power generation plant owned and operated by the Bocas Fruit Company, and now the government has put Changuinola on the grid, and will be buying the existing local distribution system from the company in order to lower local electricity rates. Vallarino said that due to the remoteness of Changuinola and the rest of the province of Bocas del Toro, the costs of living for many basic items such as cooking gas and other things which have to be imported are higher. He said this situation will improve with the pending construction of a new and modern four lane highway to connect Chiriqui to Bocas del Toro. The first section of this new road, from David to Boquete, has already been granted on bid, and from there the road will be extended all the way to Bocas del Toro.
Declining Banana Exports: At one point in time Panama exported more than 40,000 boxes of bananas, and this year that has dropped down to just 12,000 boxes. Part of the problem is that there was just one company responsible for most of that exportation – Chiquita. He pointed out that in contrast, in Costa Rica they are exporting more than 120,000 boxes. Vallarino pointed to a preferential tariff rate for Europe which would allow Panama to deliver 22,000 boxes and they have to make up the difference in production and exports. He pointed out that all of these problems are interconnected. For example if the bridge over the Sixaloa river was in better condition then local growers would be able to access the port of Limon in Costa Rica to send their products to foreign markets. (Telemetro)

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