If you have been watching local TV and feel that Panama’s 2014 presidential election campaign is underway you could be right.
According to a report seen by La Prensa inn the first seven months of this year, the President's Office spent $8.3 million of taxpayer money on advertising and promotion. The information came from a report from the Ministry of the Presidency which was seen by the newspaper.
On TV there are commercials showing President Ricardo Martinelli, playing soccer with kids, opening public works, hugging children, passing out certificates to students, shaking hands with grateful workers ... the stuff of electioneering.
The massive promotional spending was not provided in the budget of the Palace of the Herons says La Prensa and according to the report, the initial budgeted amount was $2.9 million for the year 2012. But the figure rose through special appropriations and transfers of items.
"We must regulate government advertising. Citizens have witnessed how all governments abuse it, and in recent years we have seen this abuse has increased. There are millions of dollars that should be devoted to education, culture and sports, " said Carlos Gasnell, of the Panama champter of Transparency International.
This week, President Ricardo Martinelli defended the ad spendingclaiming that so far his administration has spent less than other administrations.
The data come less than two yearsfrom the campaign of 2014, and at a time when the Ministry of Finance has decided to implement a policy of containment of public spending and cutting items to other institutions.
The head of the government’s Social Development department, Guillermo Ferrufino, who aspires to be the presidential candidate for the ruling party, has nocomplaint about the alleged use of state resources to promote its image. Says La Prensa.