- Presidencia de la República de Panamá
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said today he will approve bill 659 that establishes the General State Budget for the fiscal period 2019, for 23,669 million dollars, despite changes introduced to exempt some public entities from inspection.
"When you govern you have to look for the common good of citizens, and in that search for the common good I feel that what is convenient for the country is the approval of the State budget," Varela told reporters at a public ceremony.
The president said this is so "even though we disagree with some issues" that occurred during the discussion for approval in the third and last reading in the National Assembly (AN, Parliament) last Wednesday, October 31.
Varela acknowledged that it was a "very strong debate, and until the last minute we were close not to approve the budget since there were issues unaceptable to the Executive."
The important thing is that we will have the State budget "that will allow the continuity of public works by 2019, and especially job creation," said Varela.
The amendments in the budget were qualified as "goals" or "legislative branch".
The ex-attorney general and independent deputy Ana Matilde Gómez was the only vote against its approval, for the change of some articles that soften or exempt controls to the AN, in the hiring of temporary personnel, and to other entities such as Social Security, sports associations and boards.
"It is not right, I think it is not right, we should not exonerate any kind of tax; on the contrary, the Assembly needs the support of the MEF (Ministry of Economy and Finance) to develop a good personnel structure", said Gómez.
The private company expressed today its concern about the modifications that, they said, "would directly benefit public entities" such as Parliament.
The National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP) stated that the approval of bill 659, which establishes the General Budget of the State, not only includes changes in terms of legislation on public finances, but also includes rules that promote the relaxation of controls in these institutions.
The business union requested "to clarify to the nation the basis of these modifications, since they contain intentions to avoid the corresponding inspection and dispute the provisions of the Law on Public Procurement".
"We are concerned about how to seek to approve bills that allow contracting without the minimum controls the law requires for the use of public funds."
The approved budget of 23,669 million dollars, after being readjusted upon request of deputies, is the last fiscal year of the Government of President Varela, and the next administration that assumes on July 1, 2019 will be responsible for its execution.
Last July the Executive introduced a budgetary bill for 23.318 million dollars but on October 4 was returned by the Legislative Budget Committee to be redrawn up.
The approved bill provides an adjustment of 350 million dollars in addition to what was initially budgeted by the MEF.
The budget considered the adjustment approved by Law 51, which amends Law 34 on Fiscal Social Responsibility; and Law 38 of the Savings Fund of Panama (FAP), increases to 2.0 percent the fiscal deficit, close to 350 million dollars.
It was estimated with a nominal growth of 6.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 2 percent of fiscal deficit.