Now that the supermarket baron is on the way out and the booze king on the way in, there are things in Panama that we hope will change over the next five years. Mind you, we hope. That's not the same as having high hopes, because we haven't. So here's the list:
- The real estate market needs to crash. Where do these promoters think we are; New York? Paris? London? Prague? $2,750 per month for a tacky studio in a bankrupt tower with a view of Panama's sewage system - are you guys for real? Casco Viejo is nice, but it's not Cartagena, in case you didn't know, and frankly every other small Spanish, French and Italian town a sort of looks like it, and is MUCH cheaper. Panama's real estate - purchase, but even more so the rents - is ridiculously overpriced. Pay first world prices for shoddy construction and cheap finishing in a generic tower in a third world city that can't decide whether it wants to be like Miami or Dubai. It's such a joke that it's a national disgrace. So we hope that market tanks, tumbles and crashes.
- Everybody in the legal system back to school. It's not just that the Public Ministry and the Judiciary are corrupt; they also can't read and much less write coherently. As a result, they don't understand their own laws, don't read verdicts that may serve as precedents - hell, they can hardly spell the names of the people involved right. Yes, it's that bad.
- Marketing courses for the "entrepreneurs". Obligatory. Not just the Panamanians, but also the foreigners. Especially the foreigners. We are completely fed up with all the drivel about rolling hills, bilingual country, crystal clear water, and so on. Hefty fines for anyone who still claims that Panama is a "bridge of the world" or the "heart of the universe". It's none of that. They say that Easter Island is the world's bellybutton and that makes Panama the world's what? Right: The world's asshole. Get used to it. So, everybody who uses the words "paradise" or "luxury" or "lifestyle" in marketing materials related to Panama should be shot, immediately, in front of their families. Same for websites in English written by people who don't know English and write gibberish. Like this latest find, a scheme called DreamSpear, which recycles a bunch of defunct companies into internship opportunities for people who are dumb enough to believe that they can learn business skills from failed entrepreneurs who write some of the worst web copy we've ever seen. Take. Them. Away.
- Get real about energy efficiency. The MultiPlaza shopping mall consumes as much energy as the entire town of Santiago. Because everything in Panama is left to "the market" and that market is dominated by project developers and other scum, there aren't any energy conservation initiatives to speak of, let alone alternative energy sources that don't depend on fossil fuels or killing the indigenous population.
- Break the back of COPA and get a budget airline in. A return flight to Bogotá costs about three times as much as a flight to Fort Lauderdale, at less than half the flight time. Time to tear apart the airline cartel that keeps prices artificially high in the entire region, that doesn't allow a free market and real competition to develop and violates thus our right to travel and be mobile. Plus COPA's customer service is a disaster.
Got anything to add to our list? Do so in the comments!