The ART Of Business

What is Going On in Panama?

As a regular visitor to Panama, I've been "reporting" the past several years in this space on the progress surrounding the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Until recently, things were moving along reasonably well, despite some unforseen setbacks that had delayed the completion until 2015 (about a year longer than originally planned).

Undertaken nearly a decade ago, the creation of a third set of locks was intended to expand the capacity of the Canal expontentially, by allowing larger ships - and more containers- to traverse the 50-mile journey.

It is currently one of the largest infrastructure projects anywhere in the world.

Now, the completion date is in jeopardy and the project faces what is, potentially, a devestating crisis.

What started as a seemingly minor disagreement over payments with one of the major contractors from Spain has turned into a full-blown shutdown, with more than 10,000 workers now off the job.

Panama's President, Ricardo Martenelli, who is very vocal on Twitter, has called the folks at GUPU- the contractor- "double faced and immoral", as the row over the costs for the project builds.

For its part, officials at GUPU are saying that the intransigence of the Panamanian government could delay the project for "5 to 10 years- or more".

Even for those of us who have spent years across Latin America and come to expect the seemingly unexpected, this is a troubling development.

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