At the end of November the G20 , the group of 20 countries of the most important economies in the world , will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina . The United States, Mexico and Canada will sign the revised Naphtha, which will henceforth be called Usmca.
Argentina will seek an economic package that oxygenates its weakened finances, while Russia will get the international community to turn a blind eye to its abuses in Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia will shake the dismemberment of a journalist in Turkey. Thus, in this way each country will take its agenda looking for the imprimatur of the members of the exclusive club. All, except one, China is the guest of honor, the most beautiful and dazzling girl of the party and that despite the drum rolls of Mr. Trump, is the business partner with which the entire planet wants to do business.
After the G20 Summit, the president of the United States will travel to Colombia; while the president of the People’s Republic of China will travel to Panama for two days. Panama … not Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela or Cuba. If not, Panama. This chess maneuver of world geopolitics can be misunderstood by Panamanian politicians and become a lost opportunity.
I am afraid that President Varela and his advisors, in the aftermath of an interruptus government, may look for “short handles,” that end up engaging Panamanians for generations to come in projects without any rhyme or reason and really miss what this moment may represent.
It seems that there was an intention to sign China’s free trade agreement with Panama during this visit by the Chinese president, and in the absence of that agreement, the limousines could focus on the loan to build the train from Panama to David. That is to say, this would be a catastrophe because the country would acquire a debt of some 6 billion dollars, equivalent to the cost of expanding the Panama Canal to execute a project whose profitability and related benefits are extremely doubtful.
Panama must have other urgent priorities for our national development. There is no drinking water in our neighborhoods, we have a terrible garbage collection system, our education system is outdated and we lack food security. If the Chinese financing were really so generous, the priority projects should be the Bayano water treatment plant (800 million dollars), the extensions of line 1 of the Metro to Chilibre, line 2 to Pacora, line 3 to Chorrera, for example.
Perhaps the greatest added value would be in rebuilding the physical plant of Panamanian education: imagine 200 schools of excellence, each with 100 classrooms, with their respective computers and internet services, cafeterias, laboratories, school gardens, libraries, auditoriums, gyms, swimming pools, and with track of athletics with a soccer field included.
These schools would be extended day and would become the mainstay of the Panamanian 21st century, since it would transform the education of future Panamanian professionals. A study by Singularity University, a project of Google and NASA reveals that 60% of the jobs that students who are in elementary school will do, do not exist yet.
Beyond what Panama obtains in the short term from China, it is necessary to weigh the strategic relations with the United States and the role of Panama in the Central American and Caribbean region. There are those who maintain that Panama must build a highway that breaks the buffer of Darien to unite us commercially and logistically with South America.
Putting aside the social and environmental disaster that this would be, it is very doubtful the economic viability of moving cargo from Medellin to the Port of Balboa, if Colombia already has its own ports cheaper than what we have in the Panamanian Pacific. Opening the Darién plug would not suit the United States either, and China does not have the interest to destabilize Panama and therefore Central America.
The northern triangle of Central America needs a Marshall plan to rebuild the economies, public services, citizen security and capacities of the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In this way, the citizens of our sister countries would not have to face the terror of gangs or the inability and inefficiency of their own governments.
It is very convenient for Panama that the migratory caravan that went north, passing the border police of Mexico and the United States, does not become a movement towards the south of Central America.
Likewise, our entire region is the victim of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. China has extensive experience facing these same phenomena and is also a world leader in technology and innovation to face climate change.
The gap left by US policies over the past 30 years, since Henry Kissinger conceived the Caribbean Basin initiative in 1983, is reflected in the lack of assistance for the development of the region. What has brought as a consequence for Central America that the coyotes traffic human beings, the cartels are taken advantage of for the transfer of drugs and the generalized insecurity of our sister countries cause millions of Central Americans to have moved to Mexico, the United States and Canada. This brain drain and export of human capital is a devastating tragedy for Central American development.