Spanish version

POLITICS

Debate begins over decentralization bill

The bill would give local officials control over millions of dollars.

It was presented by President Juan Carlos Varela.

Spanish version

Temas:

The Committee on Municipal Affairs of the National Assembly began the discussion today of the government decentralization bill.

The initiative presented by President Juan Carlos Varela will allow the allocation of at least $175 million to the 78 municipalities of the country starting next year. Each municipality would receive at least $500,000.

Minister of the Presidency Álvaro Alemán reiterated that the bill seeks to give local officials control over projects in their areas.

"This aims to provide answers to the communities," said the minister.

Panama City Mayor José Isabel Blandón said that he supports the bill even though the city will be getting a smaller share, in terms of its allocation based on population.

"This project opens a new era for Panamanian democracy", he said.

Administrative Prosecutor Rigoberto González has added two provisions to the bill. One prohibits local officials from using public funds for political purposes and the other to require citizen participation in the process of programming, planning and implementing projects carried out in the municipalities.

Gonzalez said that the inclusion of the two articles seeks to "set clear rules" on how the money will be spent.

"We need to establish mechanisms that ensure that those who manage public funds do not engage in party politics with these projects," he stressed.

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