Panama politics: trending up
The election last week of Juan Carlos Varela as president could be a a step forward for Panama.
Or it could be more of the same.
In the positive scenario, Varela helps ensure that there is good education and decent medical care for one of three Panamanians, who currently lives below the poverty line.
Finding money isn’t a problem.
A fight against corruption – one of Varela’s main campaign promises - produces billions of dollars each year for public services.
Varela in addition persuades the Panamanian business community to pay more taxes.
As Panama’s biggest liquor producer, Varela is credible among business people.
Plus, there is money in Panama.
Only China has during the past decade has had comparable rates of economic growth.
Panama is one of the world’s most important transport hubs, including the canal, and an airport with more Latin American and Caribbean connections than any other.
Panama City is in addition Latin America’s second-biggest financial center, after Sao Paolo.
In the negative version, few Panamanians agree to pay more tax.
Varela can’t make them pay.
His party has only 12 of the 63 seats in Congress.
Plus no one fights the war on corruption, including Varela, who during the past two years attacked systematic fraud in the public sector, but whose roots are in the same system.
But on the eve of a new administration, Varela should get the benefit of the doubt.
The new president takes office July 1.