Sunday, Feb 28, 2021

Cortizo will make changes to his Cabinet, but Carrizo and Sabonge will continue to be ministers

Cortizo will make changes to his Cabinet, but Carrizo and Sabonge will continue to be ministers

After 11 months in office, President Laurentino Cortizo considers changes in his Cabinet, but the ministers, José Gabriel Carrizo and Rafael Sabonge, will remain in their positions.
President did not specify the names of the ministers that will change, although the Minister Counselor José Alejandro Rojas said that his name is not being considered to replace Héctor Alexander in command of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) .

According to Rojas, it is incredible damage to the homeland that some people with a political agenda do to at times like these. These people are betting on separating the president, the vice president, and us inside. Based on what is around the networks, Dr. Alexander has the highest knowledge, experience and credibility. The president and the entire Cabinet supports him and is our light on economic issues. With him there is nothing less than the highest respect, admiration and we have great teamwork.

Carrizo and Sabonge have been questioned about the management of purchases and contracts in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The anti-corruption prosecution even opened an investigation into the Panama Solidario modular hospital , built at a cost of $6.9 million, not including medical equipment. Sabonge is also being investigated by the Administration's attorney, Rigoberto González, for two complaints: first, for having rejected the proposal of a Chinese company to condition the Amador convention center in a temporary hospital with a thousand beds, and second, for the alleged use of structures used in the construction of the modular hospital.

“When you point, you must have the evidence. Until the Public Ministry presents me with the evidence, I will not make a change," said Cortizo.

"With the things that I have spoken to Minister Sabonge, I personally do not see him doing anything corrupt. As a human I may be wrong. It was me who made the decision to build that hospital”, he added.

As for Carrizo, the Transparency and Access to Information Authority (Antai) investigates the Ministry of the Presidency, an entity that since last March, when the Government decreed a state of emergency, managed funds to deal with the pandemic. At least five ex officio investigations are processed by the Antai for these purchases.

“In the Ministry of the Presidency, not a single purchase order was issued, and the Comptroller's Office did not endorse any. That they were managed through the Ministry of the Presidency so that they could be expedited”, he pointed out.

Regarding the economic reactivation plan, Cortizo acknowledged that there is some dissatisfaction in the business sector, but recalls that the plan was prepared by the ministries of Health and Commerce, with the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama .

“We worked with Dr. Roberto Artavia, from Incae, and McKinsey helped us 'probono'. That plan has necessary and also specific guidelines, according to the sector", and the President pointed out that in terms of online commerce, "what was done in Panama in two months is equivalent to what has been done in five years." He stressed that online government procedures allow for greater transparency, and "it takes away the discretion of the official."

In this regard, he added that the digital solidarity bond of $80 corresponding to the month of June has already been delivered to the 77,000 new workers whose employment contract has been temporarily suspended, due to the virus.

"More than 600,000 electronic vouchers go directly to the beneficiary. We know who bought, where they bought and what they bought. That is much better than having a $20 four bond book.”

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