Golfers need not go without their fix in Panama.  There are a variety of courses spread far and wide, some private, some public.  Some of the courses catering to members only are The Panama Golf Club (Club de Golf) near Tocumen, and the Santa Maria golf course edging the Costa del Este area of the city.


In an effort to focus only on the area where I market real estate, and have become somewhat an expert, I will keep to courses within a couple hours drive of the city, but there are courses further out, such as the Chitre Golf Club, Valle Escondido near Boquete, Lucero near Boquete, and the Changinola Golf Club located near Bocas del Toro.


In the are of Panama City, and the beaches of the dry arch, you will find many beautiful and challenging golf courses open to the public, including the Tucan Country Club, Summit Golf & Resort, Coronado golf course, Vista Mar, Costa Blanca, and Bijao.


Tucan Country Club:  This is an 18 hole, par 72 course with 7,561 yards for the pros, 6,925 for us regular fellas, and 4,624 for the ladies.  Located beside the Panama Canal near the old Howard Airforce Base, the course provides a feel of the tropical rainforest with distant city views.  Enjoy the 19th hole restaurant and proshop before calling it a day.


Summit Golf & Resort:  Also a canal zone club.  Located in Camino de Cruces National Park, this course offers a magnificient rain forest golf experience as well.  Summit is a semi-private club offering 18 holes, a welcoming club house, a pro-shop, and restaurant.  American designer Jeffrey Myers is responsible for the appealing layout of this 72 par championship race, offering 6,626 yards.


Coronado:  Created by the famous designer Tom and George Fazio, this 72 par 18 hole, 7,116 yard course offers a challenging day of golf, even if you consider yourself a pro.  The course is located inside the gates of Playa Coronado,  only an hour drive from the city, which boasts some of the largest luxury beachfront homes in all of Panama.  The club also offers the Hotel Coronado Panama, restaurants, pro-shop, and 9 hole par 3 executive course.


Vista Mar:  Located just 10 minutes up the road from Coronado, and only 20 minutes from the new Scarlett Martinez International Airport, this course may be the best in all of Central America.  Designed and maintained by the international company of architect J. Michael Poellot, this course offers spectacular ocean, lake, and mountain views.  The 72 par, 18 hole course lies in the center of the exclusive Vista Mar Golf & Beach Resort, so if you like it enough, set up residence, or just a vacation hang-out.


Bijao:  Now, just a little further up the road from Coronado is Bijao.  Luxury living, and a beautifully kept 9 hole, Ron Garl desined course.  Enjoy a beautiful pro-shop, the nearby Sheraton Bijao Hotel and beach club, and stunning sea and mountain views.  This resort truly is a pleasure.


Costa Blanca:  This property and golf club are known by many names.  Located behind the Royal Decameron all-inclusive resort, the property is also commonly called Decameron, Costa Blanca, and it's proper name, the Mantaraya Golf Club.  There are a multitude of hotels in the area, making it easy to enjoy the Randall Thompson designed 18 hole course.  Or arrange to rent one of the many villas lining the fairways.  


Now, tee up!!!


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MAY 6, 2014 10:34AM

Panama Dodges a Bullet

Panamanians voted on Sunday against the efforts of their president, Ricardo Martinelli, to stay in power even though he was constitutionally barred from seeking reelection. It’s not an overstatement to say that in doing so, Panama overcame the greatest challenge in it’s 25 year-old democracy.


For several years Martinelli looked for a way to get rid of the constitutional ban on reelection. He couldn’t do it through a constitutional amendment since the vote of two separate legislatures is required to change the Constitution. And given that polls consistently showed that public opinion was firmly against the idea of introducing consecutive presidential reelection, a referendum was also out of the question. Thus, Martinelli tried to pack the Supreme Court with three new justices. The idea was that a friendly Supreme Court would rule that the ban on reelection was unconstitutional (as occurred in the case of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua). However, Panamanians took to the streets and Martinelli backtracked. Then he opted for a less overt strategy: supporting a successor and appointing his wife as his vice-presidential candidate. As Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Martinelli moved his queen to stay in power.


Despite a legal prohibition to do so, Martinelli actively campaigned for his candidate José Domingo Arias and his wife, while viciously attacking their rivals. His government spent millions of dollars in publicity and the president toured the country giving away goodies such as digital TV boxes and inaugurating infrastructure projects (he ordered that the new metro in Panama City not charge a fee until after the election). It is ironic that while Panama has been the most outspoken critic of Venezuela in Latin America, Martinelli’s government engaged in similar electoral tactics as those of Chavismo.


Fortunately, it didn’t work. Juan Carlos Varela, who is Martinelli’s vice-president turned bitter rival, handily defeated Arias by 39.1% versus 31.7%. Panama City’s former mayor, Juan Carlos Navarro, came in third with 27.9%. Even though Martinelli accepted his candidate’s defeat, he didn’t call Varela on Sunday to congratulate him, claiming he had lost his phone number. That doesn’t bode well for a smooth transition. Martinelli is well-known for holding bitter grudges. After splitting with Varela, the National Assembly he controls voted to increase taxes on liquor sales to fund a subsidy for elderly people. As it happens, Varela’s family owns a rum-distillery.


One of the areas where Varela could find a nasty surprise is in public finances. Total government debt (in absolute terms) has increased by 70% during Martinelli’s watch and it wouldn’t be too surprising if the incoming administration finds that the fiscal figures have been doctored to make them look less grave. The Martinelli administration has already engaged in accounting tricks such as postponing payments, relying on turnkey projects to build infrastructure, and taking public enterprises off the books to feign a lower fiscal deficit.

The high levels of government spending have been masked by the fact that the economy grew at an annual average rate of 8% for the last 5 years. While the economy was growing at such a high pace, the fiscal deficit and the public debt (as a percentage of GDP) seemed under control. However, now that the economy is decelerating, the fiscal iceberg is becoming more apparent: the central government deficit was 4.4% of GDP last year. And, after years of declining thanks to high growth rates, total public debt as a percentage of GDP (39% by the end of 2013) is expected to start rising again in 2014.  


Varela will also have to deal with the cronies that Martinelli placed in several key posts such as the Comptroller General, the Attorney General and the head of a recently created tax authority with vast powers. Varela will also face a National Assembly with a majority that belongs to Martinelli’s party.


If Panamanians want to avoid having a president with authoritarian leanings, they should look at amending the Constitution (but not holding a Constituent Assembly as some propose) so the executive doesn’t enjoy so much power in appointing key officials in the government. For example, the next president will be able to appoint four Supreme Court Justices (out of nine), one Electoral Court Justice, and six board members to the Canal Authority (out of eleven), among others. It’s too much power to place in a single person. The constitutional reform should also grant greater independence to the Judiciary.


Panamanians dodged a bullet on Sunday. But their ability to do so in the future depends on restructuring their institutions in order to have a weaker president and a stronger republic.

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Well today is the day we find out who with take control of Panama for the next 5 years.  The current administration is the party Cambio Democratico, led by Ricardo Martinelli.  His replacement running for the president is Jose Domingo Arias. 


Mr. Arias has two very strong contenders, with Juan Carlos Navarro heading up the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and Juan Carlos Varela heading up the Panamenista Party (PP).  All have run strong campaigns.


Many say that a decision made be the Cambio Democratico may have hurt their chances to win the next govenment.  I don't pay a lot of attention to politics, and maybe I should, but that decision had something to do with appointing Ricardo Martielli's wife as the Vice President if Mr. Arias wins.  Many believe this would give Mr. Martinelli another 5 years in office, and they may reject the party based on the principle alone.


One hitch with Panamanian politics is that if the current governing party looses office, so does every government employee.  The new governing party rehires party loyalists to hold all govenment positions, so it can make it difficult for the government employees to vote based on their concience, rather than their livelihoods.  


It's very interesting to watch, and I am sure whoever takes the next presidency will do a fantastic job!!

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This country takes their elections seriously!!!  Almost everyone goes to vote, largely because if they are govenment employees, or have family members employed by the government, their jobs are at stake.  So, not terribly suprisingly, alcohol sales become illegal for 2 or 3 days. 


Normally, on any given weekend in my Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood, I can hear the music from various shakers blasting up and down the streets, bouncing off the neighboring highrises, and can even watch a few drunken rowdies mosying up and down the streets, or smoking with beer in hand on the balcony.  It's kind of nice actually.  The latin tunes, the sound of people having a good time.  It's refreshing, coming from a society where we have the right to ask a person to turn the music down at 11, and usually do.  Here, the music thumps all night long.  The party really is only beginning at 11.  There are many Sunday mornings that I am crawling out of bed to make my coffee, and can watch the partiers still having a nice time, watching the sun come up.  Well not this weekend!!


I sure hope the needy remembered to stock up!!  

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