June 21, 2021

The monthly salary of $ 26,600 to the head of the Channel creates controversy in Panama

The increase in the salary of the new administrator of the Panama Canal, which went from about 15,000 to more than $ 26,600 per month, has unleashed a wave of criticism against that autonomous entity, considered the best face of a country marked by social inequality and precariousness of your public services.

The capacity of Ricaurte Vásquez, the economist who took the reins of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), the state-owned company with a special chapter in the Constitution that expects revenue in 2020 of about 3,426.1 million is not discussed of dollars and contribute to the State about 1,824.1 million dollars, above the historical figure of 1,786.41 million in 2019.

The Constitution of the country says that the Panama Canal “constitutes an inalienable heritage of that of the Panamanian Nation” and that its administrator, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), is “an autonomous legal entity under Public Law (.. ) that you will not be subject to the payment of taxes, duties, fees, charges, contributions or taxes. “

The board of directors of the ACP is composed of eleven directors, of which the president of the Republic designates 10, including the president of the entity, while the rest is elected by the legislative body.

What is in the eye of the hurricane is the magnitude of the salary adjustment and the “nothing common” procedure that took up to $ 26,667.67 monthly income of Vasquez, who was already within the structure of the ACP between 1996 and 2006 as Minister of Channel Affairs and chairman of its board, deputy administrator and chief financial officer.


The adjustment includes the base salary of $ 14,666.67 plus representation expenses for $ 12,000. It was approved by the Board of Directors of the eleven members, after an evaluation commissioned by two international consultants on the profile of the new administrator and the salary that corresponded to him.

The authorities have not informed which consultants they turned to, how they were selected, or how much they paid for their services.

The new salary was determined before Jorge Quijano’s relay was chosen at the head of the Canal and ended up being “a sum less than half of what the consultants had suggested,” the minister said in a video released by the ACP for Canal Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the road, Arístides Royo, former president of the Government of Panama from 1978 to 1982, still a military dictatorship in force in the country.

Thus, the salary of the administrator of the route through which 6% of world trade passes with that of similar charges in homologous companies was added, Royo added in his statements in response to criticism arising from the matter.

The issue has echoed in the National Maritime Union (UMN), which has requested Royo to hire those same consultants to advise Vásquez on the salary of Canal workers, some of whom have already publicly complained about the situation.


Luis Ernesto Carles, former Labor Minister and current deputy for the opposition Panamanian Party, was the one who ran the curtain over the “unusual” salary accommodation made to Vasquez by the Board of Directors of the Canal Authority.

Carles, who on Twitter asked on January 20 how it was possible for the new salary of the ACP administrator to rise to more than 26,000 per month, told Efe that the Canal is a public company that belongs to all Panamanians and not a private one in which an adjustment of this type may or may not be viable.

“It has neither foot nor head this adjustment, it has no legal basis or legal support, it has practically been an arbitrariness of the Board of Directors, and even more embarrassing to come to tell us that a foreign company had to come to suggest what the salary of the Canal administrator, “said Carles.

The parliamentarian recalled that the administrator Vasquez earns much more than $ 26,000 because he has a series of prerogatives that cause a “burdensome investment” to the Canal, which “pays a house with domestic service, gardeners and butler”, and of which ” it has to be stripped. “

Carles believes that the executives of the Channel “have to revoke that resolution” that increased the salary to Vasquez, and this go public to say that his salary will now be $ 15,000, more or less what the previous Quijano administrator accrued between salary and expenses of representation.


Constitutionalist and university professor Miguel Antonio Bernal told Efe that “the waste of wages by the ACP is not only in the case of the administrator.”

Bernal recalled that it is a public and notorious fact that the ACP maintains a level and regime of salaries that it inherited from the US administration of the Canal, when the waterway “was considered a ‘non profit base’ (base without benefits) and was governed by Other criteria “non-commercial.

The professor stressed that “it is foreseeable that the policy of very high salaries among certain ACP officials will continue, since no one supervises its Board of Directors.”

“All we are seeing confirms that the Canal lives with its back to national reality, and that the promoters of these inequalities want us to have a country at the service of the channel and not a channel at the service of the country,” Bernal said.

Sergio García, of the International Center for Political and Social Studies (Cieps), told Efe that because the Canal is a public company “it does not seem justified” the increase approved to Vásquez.

“If it were a private company, the matter could be handled with the discretion that one wanted. Being a public company, in this case the administration of the greatest Panamanian good, one that is linked to the country’s history and represents a liberation process national, is not the most common or appropriate procedure, “said Garcia.

He added that the situation “does not fit the socioeconomic reality of the country” and “does not fit the problems of inequality, the calls for austerity on the part of the Government and the recently stipulated increase” to the minimum wage in the country, from 3, 3% on average.

The average minimum wage in Panama is about $ 500 per month and the average salary barely reaches $ 1,000 per month.

According to World Bank data, Panama is one of the 6 countries with the highest social inequality in the world.


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