Panama blacklisting sends country reeling

Varela Committee members Mark Pieth and Joseph Stiglitz report their findings in Brussels. The government ignored the warning signs.

THE GOVERNMENT   and Panama’s private sector were left reeling by Sunday’s announcement from the 28  countries of the European Union that the country has been included in a new blacklist of tax havens along with 16 other territories.

But   with the country tarnished by near-daily revelations of corruption at the highest levels of government,  a real estate industry used to launder drug money and a flawed  judicial system which  grants impunity to those who have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the public coffers and accepted massive bribes from entities like Odebrecht, while the administration continues  to hand out lucrative  direct contracts,  the decision will not come as a surprise.

The Panama Papers revelations sent shock waves around the world and the government’s efforts to paper over the cracks with an inquiry committee largely composed of local power brokers led to the early resignation of two distinguished outsiders, a Nobel prize-winning economist and a famed Swiss law professor. They declared themselves hamstrung by restrictions imposed by the country’s leaders who, when the scandal broke had the founders of the law firm at the heart of the scandal. acting as advisors to the administration.

The “outsiders”  did not go quietly but issued their own report in  Brussels at the heart of the EU, calling for quarantines for tax havens. The administration was wearing blinkers and earplugs,

In an age of information overload, successive administrations continue to live in a bubble, acting as if “news”  of goings-on in the isthmus take weeks to reach the rest of the world as it did when The Panama Star was founded in the mid 19th century.

Odebrecht, Finmeccanica, Martinelli, Financial Pacific  “New Business”  the Supreme Court-National Assembly impunity pact, Waked and more have not gone unreported.

The EU reserves the right to impose sanctions on the countries that make up the list, which will not be able to benefit from economic development funds according to the conclusions, signed on Sunday.

La Prensa reports that The EU decision provoked the “overwhelming” repudiation of the private sector and the Government, which recalled its ambassador to the bloc, to assess damage control.

The president of the National Council of Private Enterprise, Severo Sousa, said that the country should adopt a more vigorous position and suggested that the public and private sectors dialogue to make decisions, without ruling out “retaliatory measures”

Threatening to use small arms against a giant power block will not work.  Flushing the corruption toilets, including the judicial system would be a better starting point.