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REGIONAL REPORTMEXICO & CENTRAL AMERICA


Panama: progress


and problems


Robert Boyd, ceo of ships’ agency Boyd Steamship Corporation, said the number one megaproject in Panama right now is in the mining sector. First Quantum Minerals’ huge copper mine project should begin operations by the end of 2018. Costing USD6.3 billion, it will have an output of 85 million tonnes per annum by 2020. An expansion to 100 million tonnes per annum is expected for after 2022. Boyd also highlighted AES’s 350 MW combined- cycle natural gas power plant, which should come online later this year, and the USD165 million cruiseship port under construction by a consortium including China Harbour Engineering Company and Belgian company Jan de Nul. Panama’s economic growth is around 5 percent in general (down from 10 percent), he continued. With extensive coastlines and a number of ports, it is a major transhipment hub for container traffic. Its heavy lift traffic includes imported wind turbines, luxury yachts, pipes for hydroelectric projects and steel. The country is not a major industrial power:


come to Mexico to manufacture and export their products to the USA and take advantage of the agreement. But I do not believe an eventual change on the rate of duties could stop investments,” he said. According to Colunga and Melchor, who are confident that NAFTA will remain intact, there could be significant consequences should the agreement fail, including a slowdown in GDP growth, a reduction in foreign investment in Mexico, devaluation of the country’s currency and inflation.


In any case, negotiations are ongoing; uncertainty about Mexico’s July elections is not helping matters. Many large-scale projects could remain on hold until later this year or early next as a result; investors tend to hold back until results are confirmed and there is more clarity regarding the new administration’s priorities and policies. Candidates preparing for the elections are betting on growing the domestic economy, remarked Rafael de los Santos, managing director of project cargo specialist Tradelossa. In addition, he noted that several sectors and private investors in the country are trying to pass a set of rules, frameworks and priorities to these candidates in order to help boost the economy.


“Who will win and how they will manage the priorities of these different industries… I


40 May/June 2018


not executing projects. For instance, the third bridge [over the Panama Canal] has been waiting to be built for four years already; the previous government had it ready to go.”


Robert Boyd said Panama’s current number one megaproject is in the mining sector.


finished goods tend to be brought in. Boyd considered “Most project cargo is related to aggressive government expenditure in Latin America. Our current government’s main strength is


do not know if anyone can answer that,” he said. “On July 1 the country will be on the edge of its seat. We are trying to look at things in the longer term – there will be industries that need to be served, although which ones they are, we do not know.” Alamilla is taking a positive view. “The elections are an important issue, due to the


A fourth (delayed) bridge project is scheduled for completion in late 2020 or early 2021. According to Boyd, government infrastructure projects include the construction of a 100 km four-lane highway with bridges and overpasses; work on this is due to begin in mid-2018. Plus, a new terminal at Panama City’s Tocumen Airport is scheduled for completion this year; its construction has involved diverting the Tocumen River as well as the addition of four new direct-access highway lanes to the airport. One of the major challenges in Panama, as elsewhere in the region, is corruption. Boyd noted that billions of dollars of public money have been stolen, and the country’s ex-president is in jail. On a more positive note, with elections approaching next year, today’s government may well increase spending to attract votes. “The current president has one more year [in office]. I hope he starts some road and bridge projects before he leaves because the next government will be more likely to continue with projects that are already under way,” Boyd said.


perception that the economic stability and current business conditions such as the energy reform could change. However, those deep reforms need a qualified majority in the congress and then approval from all the governments of the states in the country so that they can take effect.


“That is something that even a president cannot do by himself. So all the structural political conditions are safe. I do not believe this could prevent any projects or investments coming to Mexico.”


Diversification


I do not believe an eventual change on the rate of [NAFTA] duties could stop investments – Alan Alamilla, lTM Projects


As reported recently by HLPFI, renewable energy development costs fell to record lows last year. In Mexico, costs fell to levels that were unthinkable even a year or two ago, for both onshore and offshore projects. Given the fall in oil and gas activity, the diversification of Mexico’s economy is encouraging. Servygru, for instance, is currently doing well out of the mining industry, as well as wind and solar power. Other important sectors for project logistics companies include automotives and heavy steel manufacturing.


Renewables are certainly keeping Yusen


busy. The company has just completed the installation of one of Latin America’s largest solar arrays in northern Mexico, plus another large project in central Mexico in


www.heavyliftpfi.com


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