It’s hard to think about anything other than COVID-19. It’s not just the fact you can’t move about freely, or that suddenly you don’t have a job to go to, it’s that this invisible monster impacts every aspect of daily life. Almost everything is out of your immediate control. Keeping focused and planning for when we return to some kind of “new normal”, is the only thing keeping me centered.
Social Distancing and Curfew Enforcement
The government continues to take strident measures in terms of implementing social distancing. We can only go out three days a week and for a maximum of two hours each day. No one is allowed out on Sundays. It used to be we could do food shopping, pump gasoline into our vehicles and go to the bank on our allowed days. Now, the banks have very limited hours and most everything can be accomplished online. We haven’t driven anywhere, so the tanks remain full and no longer can we just waltz into the Riba Smith grocery store and pick up our favorite bread.
This week, I stopped by my Riba Smith in Panama Pacifico, only to be told I would need to stay an appropriate distance from a personal shopper who would take my list and bring out my goods. The young woman was very pleasant and efficient; almost everyone wore masks and gloves. I didn’t tell her I never make a list, but rather go in see what looks good, so I told her I’d be back and promptly went to the car and started writing. A new experience.
Chafing At The Strict Rules
Panamanians chafe at the idea of having limitations put on their individual freedoms and there have been some flare ups, especially with men, who tend to challenge the rules much more often than women. There is, however, a strong police presence keeping social peace. A friend needed to take someone to Tocumen International Airport the other day for one of the last humanitarian flights out of the country, and since it was a day when only men were allowed out, she had a secure a letter from the US Embassy and negotiate her way through several checkpoints. She admitted to it being “a bit exhilarating!”
Some Issues Resolve
Other issues we used to worry about, no longer really exist. Before COVID-19 we worried about the flow of illegal immigrants into Panama, but that has virtually stopped. Many of those seeking entrance to Panama came through the Darien region which boarders Colombia. To give you an idea of what the Darien is like, consider it is the only break in the PanAmerican Highway that starts in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina.
Things Are Working
The good news is that the strong government initiatives are working. We still have seen too much loss of life—126 deaths at the time of writing with 4,467 confirmed cases—but we are so much better than most countries. The curve continues to go up, but we have seen a flattening and a reduction in hospital admissions. Our health system is strained, but it is managing. There is social peace.
Panama to Rise After the Crisis
While the United States and Europe continues to reel from various hot spots and the economic meltdown, Panamanians learned that Moody’s, a highly regarded financial ratings company headquartered in New York, released a report that said “Panama was poised to rise after the COVID-19 crisis.” That is incredible positive news!
The company noted that “one of the great strengths that act in favor of Panama at the time of being evaluated, is the continuous flow of contributions made by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to the central government, the logistical role of the country in the region and expansion capacity, which profiles the country in 2021 as the richest in Latin America.”
According to Moody’s, the rating, which will be critical as we move forward after COVID-19, was based on four factors: “a strong economy, strong institutions, fiscal policy and the ability to recover from a risky event.”
The Faster the Better
So, the quicker we start to recover, the faster we will rebound from this pandemic. It doesn’t look like schools will reopen this academic year and tourism might not fully rebound until high season beginning in November. But Panamanians are mostly showing their resolve to work together to move forward. Banks are providing forbearance on mortgages, credit card bills and utility payments for the next four months. Food distribution to those in need has been massive and successful. Business located in Panama such as PepsiCo continue to donate in terms of man-hours as well as financially. The Panama Canal has continued operations under strict guidelines and safety measures. The huge copper mine, Cobre Panama, one of the largest in the world, has been ordered closed, but the electricity produced there continues to successfully contribute to Panama’s national grid.
Join Me for A Webinar
There are so many factors, some good, some not so good, which will impact Panama’s future after this unprecedented event, I wanted to share this knowledge with anyone who might want to listen via an hour-long webinar on Wednesday, April 22nd at 10:30 am central, 11:30 eastern. It’s complimentary and I won’t even be the one presenting. I am thrilled to report that Jose Manuel Bern, the president of Empresas Bern and an advisor to the current Panamanian president, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo will bring insights on where Panama will be after this crisis. Bern, one of the most respected developers in Panama, will present insights not usually shared with the public. There will be time for questions and answers after the presentation of “Panama’s Future After COVID-19”. I’d love for you to join us. Click here to register and gain access: